The Age of Electrotech (Radiance House) is an expansion for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system and seeks to stand technology alongside the more typical swords and magic of the fantasy RPG fare. Before I delve too deep, I want to take a moment to explain my focus for this review. I’m a systems geek. Most people say that and they mean computer systems or something of the like; I mean any kind of system. What really gets my geeky juices flowing are flexible, beautifully designed gaming systems. You could throw me an RPG book that doesn’t have a scrap of artwork in it and as long as the system it details is great I’m as happy as a lich in a crypt. So, while I will make note of the visual elements of the Age of Electrotech, I’m going to spend more time talking about what it does, how it does it, and why that’s good or bad.
As I noted prior, AoE creates a science(ish) expansion to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game books. Magic and science coexist in a way that is delightfully sensible. Technology tends to be centered in urban areas where there’s more support and resources for it, thus driving the cost down and making it cheaper than purchasing magical alternatives that accomplish the same ends. On the surface this is a great concept and one that the authors, Alexander Augunas and Dario Nardi, carry through to the details and execute rather well.
The primary systemic change is the introduction of a Technician role. Technicians are sort of like mages, except they build devices that grant them their powers rather than tapping into the will of a deity or relying on mana. Some of the new additions and changes are superficial in nature, like battery power in place of mana and Tinkers in place of wands, but the Technician class is no mage copy with a few terminology changes. Gadgets, weapons, armor, and vehicles are all capable of delivering useful and devastating effects that run the gamut of possibilities. Want to see in the dark while detecting life presences and alignment? There’s a helmet for that. Want to be a mechanoid beast of the battlefield? There’s a powered armor suit for that. Want to be Ash from Army of Darkness? Can do, boss. You can even have your very own Guardians of the Galaxy style raccoon sidekick in the form of a Nashi (one of the two new races introduced). Come to think of it, AoE does seem pretty ripe for universe mashups, so if that’s your thing this is almost certainly in your wheelhouse.
In addition to the impressive array of gadgetry at the command of Technicians and their ability to build said devices, there are a series of “Innovations” like Fast Study (quickly analyze an enemy type) and Discover Opening (apply your knowledge from Fast Study in battle) or Lemon Driver (which lets your technician make better use of junky vehicles). Trades are also implemented, allowing you to specialize in such areas as Craftsman, Firearms, Junker, Motorist, Soldier, Symbiont (a sort of biotech technician with implants), Tinker, and Trap. From what I was able to gather during my time with the Age of Electrotech, it seems entirely possible to assemble a party solely of Technicians in a sort of Ocean’s Eleven style band. I respect that sort of built-in flexibility. Even further customization is available through archetypes tailored to the masters of the immateria. Your character can be a cyborg (exactly what it sounds like), electromedic, necrotech (necromancer via tech for the win!), transmoglomaniac (shape shifting techies) and a few others that are worth looking into.
Regarding the atmospheric stuff for the Age of Electrotech, I would have liked a bit more in the setting department. That’s not to say it’s difficult to pick up on the Firefly-Meets-Steampunk-With-Magic vibe, but I like a meaty universe. The mostly black and white artwork fits well thematically, helps some in the way of mood setting, and is of good quality.
My only real complaint about the Age of Electrotech is a minor one: I wish they’d provided a real step by step guide for the creation of original gadgets, Tinkers, etc for players to make it more feasible to do mid-game. In my experience, if a GM feels taxed by a process they’re going to be less inclined to allow it or they’re going to make it difficult as hell. If you’re like me and you want your character to leave a lasting impact on the world, the lack of guidance on new item creation might make it difficult for you to accomplish that.
All in all, Age of Electrotech provides a diverse set of character options, an interesting setting, and an overall solid foundation for an extended campaign or series of campaigns for your gaming group. It makes it possible for everyone in your group to trot out fresh Technician characters without creating difficulty. It even adjusts the economy according to availability of technological solutions based on population center size. Summing it up, on a ranking scale of Would Play It to Wouldn’t Play It, I give Age of Electrotech a hearty stamp of Would Play It approval.
This copy of Age of Electrotech from Radiance House was provided for review.