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Airship Pirates is set in a post-apocalyptic where most people and technology have been pushed back to an alternate-history Victorian era level of culture and technology. This review will give a general impression of the book, break down the contents in more detail, and conclude with my personal opinions. Additionally, while this is a review of the book, not of the system, since this is a core book the system will get a discussion anyway. In , the British invented a time travel device, which they put on an airship.
They then proceeded to travel back in time to improve history. They prevented the British from acquiring such a large empire, stopped the slave trade, and by there were unified democratic governments in North America the United States, but covering the whole continent , Africa, and Europe. The world was, essentially, at peace. The late s were then a traditional sort of steampunk setting, with Victorian fashion conquering the world, along with steam power and airships all over the place.
This movement gave birth to Victor Hypocrates, who advocated a return to older technology as a way to cure environmental problems. He became President of the U. By , this process was largely complete, leaving mostly three kinds of people in the world of Emperor Victor III.
There are the Neovictorians, who constitute the overwhelming majority of people still alive, and who live in the mega-cities — where innovation is punished and technology and culture are forcibly kept at the alternate-history Victorian level, but without any of the social advances that steampunk usually entails.
So there are airships and widespread steam power, but women are treated badly and most people slave all day in the factories.
There are also the Skyfolk, who escaped the ravages of the purges by floating entire cities well, really small ones, anyway into the air. The various cities have little in common, except that they hate the Neovictorians and they have a fondness for airship pirates. They continue to mostly lead nomadic existences. Your characters are, of course, airship pirates. If the characters are not Skyfolk then they have, effectively, abandoned their old way of life. On the bright side, this makes it a lot easier to read than some RPGs.
The editing seemed good. The overall layout works pretty well, with flavorful but unobtrusive graphics at the top and the bottom of each page. The writing in Airship Pirates did not stand out. The bits of short fiction were awkward. The art pieces, individually, were fine, but they were stylistically all over the place, and at least to me did not succeed at presenting a cohesive view of what the game world is like.
The construction of the book seems very sound. In addition to creating your own character, you have to work with the other players to build your ship, make sure you have the necessary skills to actually fly it, and select the non-pirate schtick for the group.
They all govern what you might expect them to. Players can choose from Skyfolk, Neobedouins, and several varieties of Neovictorian. Note that there does not appear to be any effort to balance the different options. There are about 30 to choose from, although any particular culture choice will knock this down to around Most cost 3 points, and there are about 50 to choose from.
They are often non-mechanical in nature some of them very non-mechanical — e. Players are to coordinate with each other to ensure that necessary skills are covered so that group is capable of navigating, fixing the ship, flying the ship, fighting a little, noticing things, etc.
Each schtick has a list of what skills can be chosen. The character creation chapter also spends 18 pages on a sample crew of six character sheet, full-page illustration, sort-of-full-page description. Rolls of 6 grant potentially indefinite additional rolls that can increase the number of successes. One success is all you need, although the number of successes can determine degree of success.
Internal difficulties to the roll such as being injured apply penalties by reducing the number of normal dice rolled by the player. A player gets a Foul Failure botch if the black dice roll more successes than the normal dice. If the player decides that all of this adds up to too many dice to roll, then three normal dice can be traded in for 1 automatic success.
As for the skills themselves, there are about 25 common skills and about 40 specialty skills and many of the specialty skills are skill groups.
Common skills can be used untrained; specialties cannot when using Common skills, a player can also add one each of normal and black dice to the dice pool, to give a chance of success and at a chance of a botch.
Melee attacks are always opposed skill rolls higher Init gets a bonus. However, when someone shoots at you, your options are either to give up your action to dodge, or just get shot to pieces — it seems really, really rough to lose initiative a couple of times in a shootout.
Extra successes are added in based on the number of extra successes on the attack roll. There are also an array of complications — armor reduces damage , fighting multiple opponents, mounted combat, dodging, cover, explosives, etc. Characters in the grey dice are at risk of falling unconscious, and characters who go past the grey dice will die if not healed within a few rounds.
If a character takes damage equal to or greater than Fortitude in one shot, then permanent damage may occur. Healing is based on Medicine skills rolls, and is relatively quick although not magical. This also includes the rules for chases and combat, although the chase rules have some real break points that can overwhelm anything else going on in the combat. Some fun spots include the strangely effective armor of a leather great coat for the guys or an armored corset for the ladies , and a bulky difference engine mechanical computer.
It also includes prices for lodgings, food, and alcohol — and airships and other vehicles although it seems unlikely that PCs will be buying something like that anytime soon — except for the amusing wheel-skates. If you buy the book, you probably want to start reading back here first before reading through the rules section.
Also, half of their page count is taken up with how to design your own city. There are also a few pages on Helium City, a neutral city that is the primary source of the helium needed to fly all those airships — and by extension, providing a place to have the players meet characters from the other cultures without a showdown breaking out. The concept of Steampunk at least to me emphasizes innovation, exploration, and liberation.
Overall, I was disappointed by Airships Pirates. The book did not do a very good job conveying the setting, and the setting itself felt like it was trying to do too much. Some of this was ordering of chapters — they book needed to drop you into the setting before it started setting out rules. Some of it was just the setting being muddled. To me, an RPG core book usually comes across as either a massive tome or as something where the writers are trying to jam as much in as possible in the limited space they have.
Airship pirates felt like it was stretching to fill its not-that-high page count — big font, whitespace, filler pages, etc. On the upside, I liked how the game pushed the players to create a cohesive group and to help make sure that the group was able to handle a broad array of challenges. Also, the way that melee combat was always opposed rolls seemed like an interesting take on the situation. You must log in to post a comment.
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Review of Abney Park's Airship Pirates RPG
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Tabletop Review: Abney Park’s Airship Pirates
This is a game of exploration, adventure, and swashbuckling combat. Someone screwed the timeline up It's The Earth's recovering from the Great Apocalypse of From the steampunk sky-cities of Isla Aether and High Tortuga come the airship pirates. You hoist the Jolly Roger, spin your propellers and take to the skies. Yours is a life of adventure, plunder and infamy.
Abney Park's Airship Pirates RPG (download)
Someone screwed the timeline up. It's The Earth's recovering from the Great Apocalypse of From the steampunk sky-cities of Isla Aether and High Tortuga come the airship pirates.