Steampunk Musha Review
Steam implies the age of steam say late 1800s, punk indicates the inclusion of weird science, and Musha meaning Stir-fried (OK, I made that up) gives an indication of oriental flavor. Taking this we get an Oriental game with Western flavor and a willingness to combine with traditional fantasy. This is pretty much what you get with Steampunk Musha, a worldbook for the Iron Gauntlets RPG.
By Rick Hershey
from Politically Incorrect Games
$9.95 for PDF download from www.pigames.net
122 pages, Color map.
Let me start by saying the title put me off before I read a single word of content. In the recent decade everyone and their brother has been adding punk to their genre to indicate the inclusion of weird science. This alone wouldn't bother me too much. It is more how punk came to be attached to weird science, rather than to rebellion against authority. From Cyberpunk, to Cthulhupunk (Steve Jackson Games) to Steampunk. Now that I've had my little rant, I will try to be objective about this product.
Analyzing the title, Steam implies the age of steam say late 1800s, punk, as discussed above indicates the inclusion of weird science, and Musha meaning Stir-fried (OK, I made that up) gives an indication of oriental flavor. Looking at the cover art, which is the same for each chapter title page, shows an almost American cowboy with Japanese clogs and an oversized Katana, a kabuki with artistically licensed naginata, and a dwarf with pushknives (there is a better name for this, but I don't know it). Taking this we get an Oriental game with Western flavor and a willingness to combine with traditional fantasy.
This is pretty much what you get with Steampunk Musha. While this supplement for Iron Gauntlets provides it's own setting, the Core Book is needed as most of the backgrounds, and gimmicks are detailed there. This book does provide in exchange some patches for Iron Gauntlets, such as the inclusion of dessertfolk and countryfolk backgrounds. It also adds rules for firearms, steam and clock works, several new weapons and more styles and vocations. It also introduces the concept of kits, which are essentially completed character types.
Also with this supplement you get 3 more magic styles. This includes Kabuka dance based magic, celestial spirit magic and elemental magic. While the addition of 3 more systems, to the core system 4, may seem trivial to some, or burdensome to GMs who allow anything in print to occur within their game, it does allow GMs to fit magic more exactly to their view of their game world.
Steampunk Musha also includes some new races. There are human/animal hybrids, half-demons (oni), and spirit infused mechanicals. While the clockwork folk are not to my taste, anyone purchasing this for the punk portion of the title should be quite pleased.
This supplement also includes a setting. While it is definitely Japan based, it is decidedly not historical Japan on a new map. This is not to discredit the work that has gone into it, just to alert the history buff that this is not the Samurai game for him or her.
In summary, the writing and editing is well done. It is clear and easy to read. The watermark on some of the pages is distracting to me, but generally the layout is acceptable. There is a high signal-to-noise ratio, though the worked examples could cover a broader spectrum of results. The cover art is good, but its reprint with every chapter detracts form it. The other interior art is fair and in tasteful amounts. The weapons section could use more content, but the system is such that porting weapons over from other systems should be trivial.
Not a must have, but if you've purchased the Iron Gauntlets Core Book, have an extra $10 in your gaming budget, and like any of the 3 flavors in the title, give this supplement a shot.