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Welcome to ZAIBATSU (pronounced "zEYE-bat-soo"). To play this game you need to get hold of a few friends, a couple of six-sided dice and an attitude. Finally you need to get a survival instinct. You won't be playing for long without one. Then again, ZAIBATSU is less of a game and more of a training manual for the urban nightmare that is near-future Tokyo.

Take Gibson's "Neuromancer" and related short stories; the visual kick of "Bladerunner", "Black Rain" and "Akira"; take the format and tangled firefights of Bullfrog's "Syndicate" game and splintered shards of Medieval Japan. The result is ZAIBATSU; roleplaying Japanese cyberpunk. Mean and moody manga. ZAIBATSU isn't watered down cyberpunk, near future elements from the best sources are here: replicants, lasers and cyborgs. All set in Gibson's futureworld: Tokyo gone global. Tokyo. The world's capital, largest, most high-tech, most happening city on Earth. Japanese culture is prevalent in many nations, just as American was in the 20th century. And the players are at the heart of this vast superpower. This is unique to ZAIBATSU, as is the world's retrogenics technology. Forget cybernetics in the traditional roleplaying game sense; with tech out of date as soon as it leaves the production line, no sucker is going to trade meat for metal if his new arm, say, will be redundant in two months. Now, updating the meat, that's something else... By the time we build a "stronger, faster" cybernetic arm or leg to replace the real limb, we will undoubtedly be able to regenerate a limb with clone technology. It's not too far away. The next step is to augment the DNA to grow a stronger limb, and after that use DNA viruses to alter existing limbs. Etc, etc.

Most of the rules in ZAIBATSU have been left to a minimum. Some may find this disturbing or annoying, but previous experience with other games has shown a distinct lack of atmosphere in supposedly fast combats. Keep combat fluid and verbal, fast and confusing. These are fast, and should be played that way. When you encounter something not in the rules - make it up! After all, that's just what I did in designing the game. The character design rules in particular are brief and to the point. Again this is for speed of play. It is not difficult for the player (or indeed the referee) to memorize the characters' skills since each has only six, with only one value (you've either got it or you haven't).

Tokyo data can be culled from travel guides: the "Rough Guide" or "Lonely Planet Guide" are best, "Fodor" will do. Also the Japan National Tourist Organization will mail out free leaflets and street maps on request. Write to: JNTO, 167 Regent St., London W.1.

Paul Elliott

Canterbury, Kent

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