R. Talisorian Games, copyright 1994
What you get/need
For $28, a complete system for rules, magic, and building funky gadgets. All you need then is two decks of regular poker cards and some notebooks for your players.
Concept - 6
Picture a world of steam-powered superscience and clandestine sorcery. Picture walking into a gentleman's club and seeing Sherlock Holmes involved in an esoteric discussion with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Next to him, a Dragon is discussing the marketing possibilities with the Dwarven inventor of monofilament. Imagine living in a world where old-fashioned chivalry and honor rest side-by-side with a world moving rapidly into the future. A world straight out of a Victorian Era pulp novel on absinthe, where Good is Good, Evil is Evil, Melodrama is the norm, and the adventure always ends with a bang.Sounds confusing? Yes, at first, but once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless. Plus, it's the perfect antidote to gothic-punk!
Character Creation - 6
Simple and fun. Pick a sample archetype from the book, or make one of your own. Assign your levels to your statistics, and begin writing down your character's history in a notebook (your character's "diary") No, there's no character sheet; you write all pertinent information in a diary format. All munchkins are advised to leave the area. As an additional note, all abilities are improved by in-game practice, not experience points. (There, that should clear out those @%$*&! munchkins!)
Playability - 5
Intended to be smooth, the system can slow down, especially for people who aren't used to it's mechanics. You use poker cards instead of dice. Each card has a number that it corresponds to. Also, the suit of the card (hearts for social interaction, diamonds for thinking, etc.) determines how well you do. The total between your relevant skill plus the bonus on the card you play is compared to the difficulty assigned by the Host. Simple really, but can get bogged down if the player is trying something complicated or more than one player is attempting something. To top it all, the system varies slightly when the character is using magic or duelling. Also, IMO, characters with higher abilities will usually romp over those with weaker abilities. Something like a White-Wolf style "botch", while not in keeping with the Victorian Pulp setting, would make the game a little more interesting. Don't misunderstand me, it's an easy system....once you get the hang of it. Definitely not for beginning players or gamemasters.
Writing - 6
Crisp, clearly presented, easy to read, and a fun read to boot! One of the few books that I'd say was written better than White Wolf or Deadlands. Anyone with any game savvy knows that's HIGH PRAISE.
Highs - Excellent writing, a fun setting, a fairly easy system, perfect for roleplayers, and guaranteed to repel munchkins. A must for any serious gamer!
Lows - The setting may not be to everyone's taste. Could use a character sheet for easier reference. Not for inexperienced gamers or gamemasters.