Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tommy's Take on San Francisco: The Ruins by The Bay



We haven't revisited Interface Zero here on the blog in a while, and they just released San Francisco: The Ruins by the Bay, so it seems to be as good a time as any to go back to it.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: In order to get the most out of this book, you will need the Savage Worlds rulebook (Explorer's or Deluxe should work fine) and the Interface Zero main book. The rest, such as Zeeks and Boston, are entirely optional. San Francisco is only 67 pages and $8.99, which at first seems like an uncomfortable disparity in price versus content, but there is a LOT of text on these pages, both in crunch and in fluff.

This one follows the format of Boston, complete with a running "commentary" by users on the Deep that is both funny and occasionally informative...like learning that folks read even less in the future than they do now. While the sideline commentary isn't the main attraction, it does have some helpful insights about the city.

San Francisco has been brutalized by a massive earthquake which has dropped the population to about 12,000...and people from around California ready to move in and get at the remaining natural resources (which are comparatively abundant in SanFran versus other areas). We get a breakdown of each area of the city here, with helpful tidbits like how The Deep isn't accessible all over the city, for instance, and your credits are no good: It's cash and trade only. The neighborhoods are Castro (a counter-culture wilderness full of non-humans), Chinatown (yeah, THE Chinatown, now in the grip of the Ascended Dragon Tong), Daly City (which is where Hybrids tend to congregate), Mission (which is almost a theological stronghold, not surprisingly), Pacific Heights (which includes Alcatraz), Portrero Island (home of toxic water and brutal scavengers), Presidio (the military base, now ran by the Cascadia Expeditionary Force), Richmond (another hotbed of gang activity), Sunset and the Western Addition.

All of the factions in SanFran are also covered, like the Angels of Mercy (who are anything but), the Daly City Hybrids and The Flood (who are information brokers).

New character creation options include some new Edges (like using a Sword-Whip or being a feral throwback) and a Hindrance (basically a nanite infection), as well as a pair of new Hybrid options (rat-men and bull-men). A couple of new occupations round out the character creation options. Not nearly as robust of a selection as we usually see from IZ books, but you gotta let off the gas at some point.

More equipment is added, catalog style, wiith my personal favorites being the Sword-Whip (or Swhip) and the Wasteland Chopper, which is a motorcycle with a front-mounted machine gun.

City Trappings, which were introduced in Boston, are expanded further here, with trappings like Brown Outs, Humans/Hybrids Only and Kingpin (where there is a powerful force at the top of the food chain in the area), which allow you to mechanically differentiate the neighborhoods. It was a nice touch in Boston and a nice touch here.

There is also an extensive set of Salvaging rules and tables, with the potential for catastrophe (like setting off a booby trap or finding a wild animal).

There are no Savage Tales, but there are several plot seeds which have a "Offer/Complication" set-up to them. They include a brutal fight club at the Cow Palace, a war over water, and a communications outage (with notes on just how the PCs can get involved, and how things can flip on them).

Lastly, the book includes a slew of NPCs, mostly generic stats for each gang followed by stat blocks for their leaders. Again, pay special attention to the sideline commentary for extra insight into the gangs and their leaders.

WHAT WORKS: Once again, Gun Metal Games packs a lot of info into a small book, with some nice crunch (I like both Hybrid options, as well as the expanded City Trappings and the Salvaging rules). The art is lovely, probably my favorite art yet in the IZ line, and there's always something cool in their equipment sections. A couple of relevant sidebars are reprinted from earlier books, not taking up too much space and ensuring that this is usable with just the Savage Worlds rules and IZ setting book.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I like the layout, other than it seemed to be too bright and clean. I also would have preferred the Hybrid packages with the other character creation stuff. Just would have been handier. For some reason, San Francisco just didn't grip me, but I think it's more of a "I'm a middle of the country guy"...I'm kind of intrigued with what we might see when IZ covers a section closer to home for me.

CONCLUSION: A worthy product for the crunch alone, and some of the best art I've seen in the IZ line yet. I doubt I'd ever intentionally set a game in San Francisco, but I'm just not a California guy (I tend to avoid the same region in Deadlands as well). Even if you're like me, however, you'll find stuff that you can use elsewhere in your IZ games without having to try too hard. Also, pay attention to the sidebar conversations: They're not just filler. Not my favorite book in the Interface Zero line, but still a great product.