Much more than an adventure, Rotten to the Core is a sourcebook to Libreville, Gabon - the Earth end of the Beanstalk (introduced in the Earth/Cybertech Sourcebook - with plenty of the sort of information that you'll need if the party ever visits.
It dives straight in with what sounds like corporate propaganda extolling the virtues of Libreville (with sarcastic comments from the hacker community in the margins). Calming down and becoming more objective, we then learn about sightseeing in the town. The wealthy live well, and corporate employees have a safe and sheltered life in gated communities but there is a large underclass in the slums known as Mudville. Maps, tables of costs and even random encounters are provided to facilitate the running of a visit to Libreville, whether passing through or as part of your plot.
Next comes a section on how Libreville is governed - which is complex enough to provide plenty of scope for intrigue, if you enjoy that kind of adventure. Governance of the city is split between a Corporate Board (representing the various corporations headquartered here) and a democratically-elected Mayor and Council (most of whom are in corporate pockets...). Law enforcement is also split between several organisations, including police departments, corporate security, the Beanstalk's own personnel and even the French Foreign Legion (don't get in their way!). Suspects who survive arrest are handled in accord with the proceedures of whoever caught them. Many 'public' services are also privitised, with 25 ambulance services competing for your custom, an expensive fire brigade and cheap electricity. Water and sanitation are also contracted out, but to a single provider in each case.
The following section is entitled Cooperation and Competition, and talks about the corporate scene, describing a selection of the big players. This useful information is followed by a section on Going Shopping. The retail experience depends on where you decide to go, of course, with downtown being eye-wateringly expensive and the mudville slums described as 'interesting'. Most of the city prefers credcard use, many places frown on cash if they'll even take it at all, apart from in mudville - there anyone with a credcard is assumed to have stolen it! A discussion of the black market and what you can get there is followed by sections on nightlife, mudville and the lives of the rich and shameless.
Then we get to the adventure proper, Rotten to the Core. This is very 'cyberpunk' in style and begins with a visit to a friend who works in a well-guarded corporate building... and naturally, things go downhill from there. The party will get a swift tour of Libreville (well, the police and others are chasing them after all), with plenty of opportunities for interaction and combat when absolutely necessary - there are some places where getting into a fight is not a good idea, however there are others where it's the main way of doing business. The adventure is well-supported with descriptions, maps and NPCs.
Overall, this is an enjoyable and interesting book. The adventure itself is fast and furious, whilst Libreville has plenty of potential if you want a good setting for urban, cyberpunk or corporate intrigue adventures.
Return to Rotten to the Core page.
Reviewed: 5 November 2015