Engine Heart: Lights and Power rounds the whole thing out

You can Build Him Too.
I've written several posts either about Engine Heart, the expansions created because of the Kickstarter, or even little papercraft things that caught my interest. I created a Google+ Community. I've gotten friends to chip in even though you pretty well can get the digital materials for free.

Yes the old post that started this mini-obsession still links to the 2010 PDF. Until Viral changes the link or takes the PDF down I'm keeping it pointed there since it's always good to see where things began. Last post i made was more or less 'Viral's giving the new version away and that I think that's awesome while only glossing over the changes. Now I'm going to try going a little more in depth and go on about the Power and Lights revisions.

The short version: Power and lights didn't get as big of a make-over as the Core Rules, but it didn't need nearly as much since with the core rules established it exists to either allow Player Groups to tell their own stories, or tell a story to them. However the additions are welcome and help organize things nicely.


A Story of Stories

Comparing the original and the revised edition isn't going to show that many differences other than a few grammar changes and some mis-spellings caught and beaten into shape. However two features stand out; an actual table of contents, and a master list of every feature and defect from the core and all the minimod booklettes that've come about because of the kickstarter as well as telling you where each one's from.

My personal opinion is Viral should have bundled everything into one book, and I hope he does for the print version. Give us the core book first. Then Power and Lights since all of the scenarios presented there seem to connect between eachother to tell a coherent story, or at least give the basis for an overarching story, and round it out with the individual kickstarter-born minimods to let players have more toys to play with and a master list of features/defects at the back. Then again for PDF's I think the 'everything in it's own place' approach works since it reduces on loading and memory footprint you're going to have to deal with, especially when trying to load on a kindle or nook to look up this or that in the middle of a game.

P&L doesn't give you a real starting point such as 'you are a robot from x or y place.' Instead it gives you several potential starting places each with their own set of problems and sortof leads you along a road going from country to city... where the City itself could be home to any number of threats listed in other Minimods in addition to the AI vs AI 'war' going on.

'The Farm' Takes you to a small farm that, in spite of the lack of humans, is still busy getting ready for planting season, or harvest or maintaining it's equipment in spite of any need for it's corn having long gone away. If you come here, probably to use their power dock, you'd better work and if you're there not helping the harvest the locals are liable to see you as a threat to it.

Let's say you manage to get away from this farm and move on. You'll soon find an 'Enclave' of three bots somehow managing to eek out an existence of sorts in spite of the apparent lack of a power grid to draw power from and dust storms that tend to make solar panels useless. They aren't exactly hostile, but not forthcoming about the hows of their day to day. There's secrets they don't want uncovered.

Unfortunately this trio isn't even the biggest problem in the area. 'the Factory' is. An AI controlled factory that's long ago forgotten what it's supposed to build or why and only knows it must gather materials and build. Yet the only thing it builds are scavengers that gather more materials and new parts to keep itself in working order. It cannot be reasoned with or bargained only avoided or destroyed, and even a child is a dangerous thing when it has an army at it's command.

Let's say you get out of there. Great you're alive... but stuck in the metaphorical middle of nowhere. You're low on Power and possibly in need of repairs and maintenance work. Just when it seems you're winding down to become just another husk on the side of the road you catch sight of an 'Oasis' One staffed by robots promising repairs, fresh fluids, and Power. Nevermind how unsettling they might seem that's just the lack of juice to your CPU doing the thinking. C'mon in.

Business done there you're bound to meet all sorts of oddballs along the 'Road'... Nevermind this ins't a location so much as just random things you might see between Here and The City... though why you'd wanna go There is beyond me. It's got two AI's warring for control. Green being civil services and Red being Military and Defense. Personally out of the two I would prefer Green if I had to choose but I'd much rather find a nice quiet little community to eek out an existence and try building a little something for myself away from it all.

You want to stay and see what you can see? Maybe catch a show at 'Luck E Dog's'? Alright but the majordomo isn't going to like it if you try getting the performers to leave. Not into showbiz You say? Want to stop by the 'Menagerie' instead to see real and synthetic animals? Sure the place has seen better days, and management's a bit off it's meds thanks to not having any customers but it's nice enough I suppose if you're into that sort of thing.

Your travels might take you to the 'Border' of Red controlled territory. You have to step lightly else you'll be caught and reprogrammed, but there's a black market open for business and talk of a UFO that got shot down not too long ago. Think your CPU can handle all the excitement?

It's all very well written and it's easy to tie each little section into others weaving a larger interconnected story. Maybe the roamer from the enclave occasionally visits the farm, or your group found one of the little swarm/catcher bots while escaping the harvester of doom then had to run for all you could from the Factory after breaking free only to find the oasis of cannibals  There's even hints left open to use or not that the human race can be revived and there's a trio of mega machines that are tasked with guarding copies of a gene bank that the menagerie AI would dearly love to get it's logic probes into because it wants the rarest of species; Humans.

You can even weave in features from the other minimods into this ongoing story, or break each element down and use bits and pieces in your own thing. The best part about this book is it doesn't force you to go A to B to C to whatever. It isn't 'on rails' so much as 'on a slightly easier to roll along section of ground.' I like the approach since it gives lots of freedom, and that is only allowed because the writing's good enough to hold up to being teased apart from a carefully packaged and managed collection and still have lots of fascinating.

What's added isn't much, but it's helpful; A table of contents lacking in the orignal helps ou find what you want, and a master feature list so you can at a glance sorta figure out what you've got to work with. Sure it'd be easy to think you don't have enough information to work with just off a list but going from personal experience coming up with a half dozen 'bots for a personal setting just being able to see a name list can help jog other details out like point cost and the like.

It does what it's supposed to do by giving you a toolkit to work with and possibly follow along on if you want more than just a vague 'oh-kay here's what'd be awesome.' Combine this with Engine Heart's wal-mart knockoff mini-introduction as a potential launchpad and you've got a campaign setting that goes from 'just woke up' to 'repopulating the world with humanity. along with lots of slapstick nonsensical fun or heart wrenching bleakness between.

I look forward to seeing if Viral does anything new with the place. It's Fun. It's Inventive. I'm probably going to run this through NaNoWriMo this year... only without the superheroic wtfery I did with Modempunk.
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