Hazard Pay book

  • 33 Replies


  • *
  • Freelancer
  • Mr. Johnson
  • ***
  • Posts: 11141
  • Spouter of Random Words
« Reply #30 on: <05-22-12/0034:42> »
Can you show us where on the soul she touched you?

Si vis pacem, para bellum



  • *
  • Omae
  • ***
  • Posts: 587
« Reply #31 on: <05-28-12/1833:35> »
Finished reading the book a few days ago, plus the time to put a review together (and kill Diablo).

Hazard Pay is 168 pages long, divided into seven chapters: Snow Emergency, Protectors and Despoilers, Deep Sea, Arctic Wastelands, Space, Deserts, and Game Information. It has an honest numbers of illustrations, but no map.
I found HP most striking feature to be the complete absence of a common template for chapters. The length of the short stories at the beginning of each chapter varies from zero to six pages. Some chapters are IC Jackpoint postings only, other mix Jackpoint and rules or stats. One chapter, Arctic Wastelands, introduces as much as 80 OoC plot hooks over 28 pages, to be compared to a total number of... 80, because it's the only chapter that does so.

Snow Emergency is 3 pages long, plus 1 full-page illustration. It's a short story featuring Kane's name. Kane's character, not so much.

Protectors and Despoilers is 29 pages-long. The theme, pollution, is the same than Target: Wastelands first chapter. But while T:WL covered polluted places, HP covers ecologist organizations and dark magic practicers. It's kinda off-topic for a "the extreme environments sourcebook" as you only get very little information on actual places, like Yucatan, Northern California and Tsimshian.
The six ecologist organizations are the corporation Aqua Arcana corporation, the Astral Preservation Society, former Yucatan insurgents of Gaia's Forsaken, Globewatch hackers and technomancers, Shasta shamans and the United Talismongers Association. I notice five out of six are from North America, three from California alone. Also, four are awakened groups (with initiation strictures detailed), so it's a bit like being awakened nearly is the only reason someone would care about the environment in SR. As far as pure intentions can exist in SR though, the author made a point in giving each of them their share of dark secrets.
The second part features 18 blood mages, insect and toxic shamans, and 2 shadow spirits (the same two spirits present in Bogota in War!). Each of them has a description, stats, and the bounties put upon their head. What you have basically 20 manhunt runs waiting (at least if the written stats are not too low or too high for your PC to handle). The stats appear right next to Jackpoint comments (it's not put into box or anything) but it remained pleasant enough to read to me.

Deep Sea is 26 pages-long. That chapter is purely IC Jackpoint posting. It covers maritime and undersea activities and facilities, especially the Proteus arkoblocks, and the Yonaguni Monument.
While I previously saw the arkoblocks as stern monoliths battered by the sea, HP changed everything, with bright transparent sea cities for the rich and the powerful (the stern part still exists in the sub-level...). The population number, 2 to 3 millions per arkoblocks, are probably a bit off (it used to be a hundred times less in 2063 according to Shockwaves). Wuxing/Red Wheel floating prisons would be a nice addition to SR... if it didn't completely omit the fact that such prisons already existed in T:WL (the Revlup prisons near Antarctica). The part on Yonaguni Monument (which really exists) is a nice return of Fourth Age mysteries (it makes the reading slightly less pleasant that you're left for three pages wondering why the hell does not somebody simply astrally projects inside, before being told that one person attempted that, and never returned to her body). Overall, I think Deep Sea is my favorite chapter.

Arctic Wastelands is 48 pages-long. The chapter is about the polar regions, plus two pages on the Everest and K2. It dedicates 6 pages to local beasts (including flying reindeer from the North Pole), 7 pages to weapons, armors, vehicles and spells. In the north, it features information mostly on the Aleut and Athabaskan nations, plus a small bit on Algonkian-Manitou and Québec. Except Iceland, there's nothing outside of North America. And that's assuming you realize you're told about Iceland. The lack of a map is really annoying here, since the text refers to both "Thule" and "Thule Protectorate" within the Aleut, without ever explaining the former is Greenland and the later is Iceland. You may guess the first, but the other requires having either Target: Wastelands or the Sixth World Almanac world map. Next come information a number of Antarctica facilities and topics, plus Everest and K2.
As said above, the chapter features 80 plot hooks, spread over about 27 pages, usually two or three for each place described. Some are half a page long, down the specific tests and thresholds the GM should use at some point, other are nothing else but a repeat of the main text (K2 plot hook, I'm looking at you). Also, why does the six most detailed (and yet, most mysterious) locations in Antarctica get none? I'm still dubious at all those plot hooks. I ended with the (possibly wrong) impression of all of this being mostly filler, that hardly justify that chapter to be the longest in the book. You got to wonder if the book couldn't have been cut to 148 pages with little loss. Or use the word count to hint and suggest those hooks within the main text (making it a little bit less dry in places BTW), like SR sourcebooks has done for years. And still does, if you look at HP other chapters.

Space is 31 pages. It starts with a 6 pages-long short story (thus twice as long of Snow Emergency, who got its own chapter) mostly about Orbital DK iconography, a young technomancer she met, and a space cruiser captain.
While Target: Wastelands wasn't very clear on the level of corporate control in space, Hazard Pay clearly states you cannot clmb up there without AAA backup (Game Information even forbids people with "combat-oriented augmentations" from getting up there without a special invitation) or a con of epic-proportion. The book nonetheless mentions 'independents' in several places, and you're left to wonder how do they get food and water.
HP introduces the Space Rescue Service (SRS), a new arm of the Corporate Court tasked with rescue and police operations in space. Where's the need for such an organization if only the AAA operates there? Not clear. But there now are hundred-meters long space cruiser with lasers and railguns, so who cares? The SRS tries to play on the coolness factor way to much for my taste (YMMV indeed). At some point I started wondering if the author's goal wasn't more to set the ground for a novel starring captain Thomas Hawkins (he ought to be portrayed by David James Elliott in the screen adaptation) rather than for set the ground for actual SR games.
Overall, the chapter left me unhappy. It doesn't help that it contains a lots of mistakes (typos, contradictions, continuity and RL sources). On the plus side, we get updates on the Kilimanjaro mass driver and the Panama Skyhook, with some major corporate dealings and arrangements. Maybe even too big for most teams to play a part though.

Deserts is 14 pages-long, and thus the shortest "background" chapter. It deals with deserts at large, the Mojave, Sahara, Gobi, Arabia and Australian Outback. Maybe it's because it came last, but it failed to leave me a lot of lasting impressions. The Mojave and Outback mostly are about local spirits. Sahara and Gobi contains some Desert Wars trivia.

Game Information is 11 pages-long, at the end of the book. Since every chapter got a different approach, that one is a mix of game information that weren't in the Space chapter, game information that were in the Arctic Wastelands and Deserts chapter, and three spells specific to one NPC in "Protectors and Despoilers" you probably had forgotten when you reached that point. It took me some time to figure out what 'Turn Blood To Ichor' was doing in the middle of survival spells...

I picked some errors listed in the errata discussion thread.

There are also a few more points I wanted to comment, without them qualifying as issues requiring an errata.

Page 15 - "From what she has said in conservations, Ibu Air is slightly over a thousand years old."
Ibu Air is a spirit, thus born during the Fifth Age.

Page 31 - Shadows to North America had the CAS primary naval bases in Mobile and Pensacola, leaving Norfolk in an unexplained limbo (though I can understand the UCAS/CAS split could have included provisions not to have a major military force within miles of Washington). Norfolk is mentioned in HP at least as a Marines garrison.

Page 41 - "Cloud cover obscures satellite imagery and prevents any corps trying to look down on things from capturing the entire incident on their satellites,"
Radar imagery actually work through clouds, and is already used nowadays on spysats.

Page 48 - Arkoblocks are the largest sea structures, and aquacities are the smallest. Which is kinda counterintuitive if you think on ground a block is smaller than a city, though on the other hand the "arkoblock" term has been long established (but as said above, their population used to be under 30,000).

Page 104 - "Ms. Johnson tells the team that she recently found out that her father has been an orichalcum prospector in Antarctica for the past few decades."
Unintentionally fun I guess, since natural orichalcum deposits were unknown prior to the Year of the Comet, 2061. So Ms. Johnson's father spent at least one decade searching for something that was considered impossible at the time. He did so in the right place though.

Page 105 - "Through an implanted stealth RFID chip, they have tracked the scientist to the Aztechnology facility on the Getz Ice Shelf."
Such an impressive feat would require a stealth RFID chip with a Signal rating of 8 at least. Long range localization actually is outside the intended purpose of RFID technology.

Pages 106/109 - UCAS-owned South Pole Point is one of the last government-owned stations in Antarctica, while Mendel Polar Station is Ares second station. McMurdo was a joint UCAS-Ares facility in T:WL and isn't mentioned in HP, but I guess this means it is now Ares-only.

Pages 134-135 - "As a tribute, the platform was one of the first objects recovered post-Crash 2.0, and crew was given hero’s burials. The station became a memorial on Earth."
Getting a space station back on Earth, even a small one, would actually require an impressive amount of work. Horizon people are crazy.

Page 138 - "With the loss of the Obelisk station in Crash 2.0, the NeoNET board of directors decided that it would be cheaper to replace it by recovering and converting Halo."
"So what happened to the Obelisk anyway? Didn’t it used to belong to Hisato-Turner Broadcasting back in the day?"
The question is never answered. The whole plot only makes sense if Novatech bought the station at some point between Target: Wastelands and System Failure, and had a profitable business going on that require them to replace the station (which they have yet to do ten years later). Horizon did bought Hisato-Turner Broadcasting, but it seems the package did not include the station since Corporate Enclaves said Horizon only assets in space were sats and personnel onboard Evo stations.

Page 145 - "She must have been a decently powerful initiate to cast that spell and keep it running until the right moment."
According to the rules, whatever the spell Force and the Magic attribute, the penalty for sustaining a spell is -2, so it doesn't appear to be such a feat. Force would matter if using a sustaining foci. But as far as I remember, being an Initiate or not doesn't.
« Last Edit: <05-28-12/1836:03> by Nath »


  • *
  • Newb
  • *
  • Posts: 99
« Reply #32 on: <05-29-12/0834:20> »
Wow, that makes it sound like the book could have used a run by an editor or three, a quality checker and then another editor.

From what I've seen of the books for a while, some are great, but many are riddled with problems.  Is there only one editor on staff and thus most books go to press unchecked, or does Catalyst not do quality control?

Not trying to be disrespectful or anything, I'm just confused as to why so many books seem to be all over the place all the time, when it seems like a lot of problems could be caught by an editor, or, in some cases, Microsoft Words spell check.
« Last Edit: <05-31-12/0208:23> by chinlamp »


  • *
  • Ace Runner
  • ****
  • Posts: 2294
« Reply #33 on: <06-01-12/1835:51> »
Thanks for the insightful and thorough review!!!!  +1 for you!!