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My Into the Steam review

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Into the Steam is the first full-size expansion book for Through the Breach, and focuses on the factions, geography and people of the Northern Hills outside of Malifaux. There is a map included in the normal format that Wyrd uses which is colorful if not exactly representative of scale. Many factions are at work in the Northern Hills, and the allegiances of the settlements and residents play a major part in their everyday lives.

Geography is also a major influence on the goings-on up north, and the main reason for most anyone to settle in the area is to mine for soulstones. Mines and the contract towns supporting them are scattered though the area, and the Guild and M&SU are the major players. The larger and significant towns are given detailed entries. Ridley is the only sizeable city in the north, and there is a unique relationship between the Guild and the M&SU. Ridley plays prominently in the Northern Aggression Penny Dreadful, so the extra information is a bonus. Hollow Point, Promise, and several affiliated mines are all detailed.

The Ten Peaks are covered, including the Temple of December which shelters the Cult. The Footprints, an area of rough terrain just north of Malifaux is covered, though its only residents tend to be bandits. There are plenty of adventure nuggets in the background section, along with the roles of the other factions (which are mostly minor compared to the Guild and M&SU) for Fatemaster’s that are looking for faction-specific angles. There is also a section on Condor Rails, which is the largest railroad company Breachside. The relationship between Condor Rails, the Foundry, and the Guild is fairly complex, and several of Malifaux’s major rail lines are detailed.

Character creation is handled through a process called the Assembly Line. As you might imagine, the Assembly Line is laid out from left to right. Fated created from Into the Steam are influenced by their Allegiance, which is the first card. The primary factions represented are Guild, M&SU, Resurrectionists, and Outcast, with smaller chances to be aligned to Condor Rails, Arcanists, Manufacturing, The Cult, Ridley, and Ten Thunders. There is a mechanic to flip for a character’s motivations regarding their allegiance. Body, Root, Mind, and Endeavor are the remaining cards in the Assembly Line, but there is an option to replace a single card with one that was set aside at the beginning of the process. There is also an option to create an Invested character, who replaces the Living characteristic with Construct, and gets several options.

The new pursuits are more specialized than those presented in the Fated Almanac, and seem more like careers. There are some great options for characters that want to control constructs without being a Tinkerer.

There are some great options for characters that want to control constructs without being a Tinkerer. The first option is the Animator. Animator’s use Cobbling points to build constructs and has options to increase the number and potency of the Cobbled under her control. Pro Tip; 3 Ranks in Explosives allows you to take Explosive Demise which you can add to your Cobbled.

Engineers use steam in place of magic to power constructs and are also capable of creating wild inventions. Pro Tip; If you make your Fated Invested, the Mobile Toolkit you start with can buff you.

Augmented are characters with Pneumatics that are much more combat orientated than the Drudge. Augments have the potential to become very powerful in close combat and add some impressive pneumatics. Pro tip; None, but this Pursuit has potentially one of the strongest close combat paths.

Primal is a type of Pursuit the game was missing, a dedicated character at home in the wilderness and able to gain animal companions, as well as having some nice buffs. Pro tip; Husbandry rank 3 allows you to take Man’s Best Friend Talent and get a nice doggie to start your pack.

The Illusionists takes prestidigitation to the next level, making more powerful and longer lasting illusions. Under the guise of being a stage magician, these spell-casters manage feats beyond belief. Pro tip; None really, but there is a new Magical Theory that is a no-brainer.

 The Mage is a pursuit that allows the player to pick Manifested Powers in place of gaining Talents specific to the pursuit. The Mage gives players with some outlandish character ideas a place to land, which is nice. The Mage is also able to manifest a Totem, allowing for more specialization. The nice thing about these spell casters is that they do not require a Grimoire. This is mostly a positive, but they may not start with as many spell options. Pro tip; Specialize in direct damage and become capable of dealing out some of the highest damage in the game per turn.

The Collaborator is a Social-based leader, with a decidedly combat role, able to provide significant buffs in combat, and also to inspire followers. This is another pursuit that the game was missing, and is very full of character. Pro tip; Use your 25 Scrip to buy a Machine Gun, Diato or Greatsword.

The Infiltrator is a deep-cover agent, and gains some very cool abilities like Disguised and Infiltration. Infiltration allows the Fated to request resources from her adopted organization. This has the potential to be a very interesting pursuit to follow. Pro tip; Take Flexible and get a Garrote, then stack Rams for some massive Critical Strike triggers against unaware opponents. Also, take Bureaucracy

Overall, the Pursuits are pretty balanced, but there are some combinations that might throw the balance of a campaign out of whack.

The Advanced Pursuits are Demolitionist, December Acolyte, Shapeshifter, Showgirl, and Silent One. Like all Advanced pursuits, these can be pretty powerful and care might be needed to pace the power of Fated following them.

There is a whole section of new General Talents, some of which are limited to Invested characters, but many others that can be used by any Fated which meets the qualifications. Talents for Archery, Flexible weapons, Martial Arts, Literacy, Teach, Pugilism, Heavy Guns, and Thrown weapons are all here, giving Fated with those skills some nice tricks.

There are three new skills: Culinary, Geography, and Grappling that give some new options, but the real big deal skill-wise in Into the Steam are the Skill Triggers. Available for a skill at Rank 3, there is a trigger for each suit and every skill. Fated that are able to consistently pull some nice triggers can give life to skills that may have been marginalized previously. Skills like Mathematics and Engineers now have use, and the combat triggers let players pull some nifty tricks. The skill triggers are very cool, and add some real character to the game. It seems like the vast majority of the triggers are well thought out, but of course some might cause imbalance in campaigns.

I was super excited to read the next section of the book, which gives expanded info on several arms manufacturers and their products. There are numerous new pistols and rifles, and there are now machine-guns in the game. The only problem I have with the rules for the machine guns is that they use the Stutter-Fire trigger exclusively, where I thought Burst Fire might have been more appropriate, but perhaps Wyrd is saving that for another book (Outcasts maybe?).

There are also some new Heavy weapon, shotgun, and archery options. The Melee weapon section needed some serious expansion after the Fated Almanac, and there about 10 new entries here as well as some new Heavy melee and Flexible Weapons (like the garrote).

The Armor section offers some higher-end armors, many of which will tempt Fated with Scrip to bur. Finally, the Pneumatic section gives many new augments for Fated that lose limbs. The Mercenary Brace allows for the addition of a melee weapon and mechanical additions may look lifelike, or add to the user’s health.

The Magic section gives some expanded info on Grimoires, and gaining new ones as the game progresses, and a mechanism to create them from random. There are two new Magical Theories and Variant’s for all the current ones. The next section deals with Manifested Powers, and gives some different options for developing them for Fated. Additionally, there are three new Magia for each of the four core Magical skills, adding a ton of new options.

There are new rules for Hazards starting with Environmental ones. There are Immediate hazards such as Floods, Ongoing hazards like Blizzards, Activated hazards like Landslides, and Personified hazards such as Fire that have a profile. This is a very cool addition to the Fatemaster’s toolbox, and gives plenty of examples, plus gives the template to create your own examples. There is a small section on Random encounters, which gives just the barest of frameworks for developing encounters on the fly. This section would be fantastic with some expansion.

The book wraps up with the Bestiary, and focuses on the Beasts and other natives of the North. There are rules here for a horse, and a couple of cool new Enforcers, the Arcanist Operative, and the Eccentric Inventor.

The final few pages are dedicated to two new ways to supercharge the opponents Fatemaster’s use against the Fated. The first is called Twisted and gives mutations to Beasts, and the second is Mechanical, which give mechanized upgrades. These are very well thought out and add options when Fated seem to be rolling over the competition.

Overall, this is a great book that fills a few gaps left from the two core books, and adds plenty of content for players and Fatemaster’s alike. The Alliance mechanic helps shape Fated in significant ways and really fits the character of the rest of the book. Being able to play as an Invested is fun and different for players who want to go that way. It seems like the new Pursuits are getting very specialized, limiting options for players that like to switch Pursuits to match the tone of the game.

 

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The bestiary is actually one of my favorite things about Into the Steam (and Under Quarantine). Its written as a personal journal that lays out a story as you read through it. I love flavorful things like that.

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Totally agree. All my players tweaked their characters (I offered them to) after me getting this book. It does offer so much to the players. Love the new paths, and the triggers.

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THIS MAN SPEAKS THE TRUTH

seriously, Into the Steam is one of the great supplements for gaming, period. I'd rank it up there with books like Gurps: Cyberpunk and the X Power series from D&D 4.0 as to just how much it did for the game, how amazing the formatting change was to help classes become more easily readable (side note: I'd gladly drop the extra scrip for a revised core book that revised the formatting to that of the more recent supplements) and just how nice it was to have all that lore relevant to the PCs presented in book.

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