Interface Zero review: Part 1
Hey all! So I know I’ve been pretty quiet lately, moving and a few side projects have kept me on my toes, but what free time I have had has been spent withInterface Zero
It’s a Dystopian Cyberpunk game, very similar in tone to Shadowrun, but it’s for Pathfinder!
I’ve known a lot of people who want to get into Shadowrun but can’t really take the time or focus to learn a whole new system, this is your answer. It immediately grabbed my attention and did not let go. And now I have a minute, I wanna share it with you all. But more than just praising something I really like, I want to also hold it up as an example of game design done really well. To that end I’m going to do a few articles talking about different aspects of the book and what they do right and and wrong, what you can learn from them. So I’m going to start by talking about where your readers are going to start looking.
Everyone who I know will, upon getting a new pathfinder book, immediately zero in on the foundations of character building, the Races and the Classes. If you are creating a new setting, or detailing a large sprawling adventure, or exploring a major topic, it’s always a good idea to include something eye catching and exciting. Does Interface Zero do this? You bet it does! Let’s take a look at the races:
I read that and I was already hooked on the line, I was excited and more importantly, I wanted to know more. Once I did actually read about each of the races I was very pleasantly surprised. Each of these races is really well balanced and incredibly well thought out. In a lot of pathfinder games, Human tends to be the most popular choice, since they’re so easy to relate to. And of course they’re one of the most mechanically powerful in a normal Pathfinder game. But Interface Zero has made every race not only exciting and relatable, but also has balanced them very well against each other mechanically. My personal favourite is the Human 2.0, which is a genetically engineered “perfect” human. And what I love is that even with a concept like that they found a way to balance it against a regular human in a way that fits their world and keeps the game fair.
Each race has a different sort of vibe or feeling, and allows a player to explore a different side of the world. A vat grown simulacra has a very different view of the world than someone whose wealthy family paid to have them be born a Human 2.0 and they both have a different outlook from someone who is as much machine as human. This is how you introduce races properly, not just for aesthetic and statistical variety, but for giving your players different lenses through which they can view your world. Okay, Races check out. But what about classes? Let’s see:
Alright, this definitely checks out. A whole assortment of immediately evocative ideas and exciting character concepts are available. If your race is the lens you view the world with, then your class is how you affect the world around you. Thematically and statistically your class is possibly even more important than race, and these classes are rock solid. Even the names and roles that we see tell volumes about the world. This list of classes contains hints of government operations, an abundance of violence and harm, criminal activity, mystery, a thriving entertainment industry, and tells us a lot about the technology available, just from the names of the classes. This is how you tightly pack details of your world into every little nook and cranny.
Just looking at the race and class options alone can already stir up a ton of fantastic thoughts and possibilities. What came to mind right away for me: A simulacra that was genetically engineered to be the perfect cyber-noir detective, now trying to track the case of their own creation. An android medic that feels like a walking talking WebMD, diagnosing cancer and terrible maladies over minor symptoms. A hybrid catgirl/catboi idol taking over the charts with their phenomenal jpop. And a Cyborg Gearhead who interfaces with their sweet motorcycle directly and converses with it like a close friend.
And much like the races a lot of attention has gone into balancing out the classes. Hacker’s may be a stand in for wizards but the balance is so much better because of the nature of their hacking and the way the class is designed. A cybermonk is able to eschew many of the weaknesses and flaws of the traditional monk class, and even the Idol is given abilities that allow it to shine, and the game’s reduced reliance on direct combat is perfectly highlighted by the class.
If your book or homebrew contains major categories like this, pay a lot of attention to how they’re presented, make them easy to find and easy to understand. If you can tell half as much to your reader as Interface Zero than you’ve started off strong. Keep a cybereye open on the worldnet for my next article where I’ll keep talking about this book, and the pitfalls and benefits of referencing, using and lifting mechanics from core. It’ll be more interesting than it sounds really.