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Ancient Echoes: A Sourcebook For Cetacean Characters
by Brian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2012 01:47:49

Just received this product in the mail, bought it as a Print On Demand product (my first). It looks brand new (which it is), and now I am wondering why this has not been done earlier. I know there are other sites out there, but DriveThru is the only one I trust. The company they use for POD, Lightning Source, did a great job, and I will be ordering more soon. Thank You.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancient Echoes: A Sourcebook For Cetacean Characters
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Blue Planet v2 Player's Guide
by Brook C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2011 22:47:34

Fascinating setting with lots of opportunity and conflict. Not necessarily as narrowly aquatically focused as you might have thought, though the sea slays plays a big role in the setting.

Somewhat like Shadowrun is cyberpunk/fantasy, Blue Planet is WildWest/cyberpunk, depending upon how you play it.

The system itself seemed fairly streamlined, and efficient.

For me, the big draw was the imaginative setting in an enjoyably written book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blue Planet v2 Player's Guide
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Blue Planet v2 Player's Guide
by Rob S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/19/2011 19:35:16

The Blue Planet game is a hard science fiction setting, with a richly detailed world in which to play.

Combat and skills are pretty streamlined, and combat damage is often brutal w/o GM intervention. Bullets hurt, man!

GMs have to be careful to keep players from becoming too powerful with BioMods, or the GM needs to keep up with appropriately powerful adversaries.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blue Planet v2 Moderator's Guide
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/17/2010 07:01:26

Although billed as the game's "Moderator's Guide" this book is really a wonderfully-detailed introduction to Poseidon, the Blue Planet itself. GMs running games where characters have spent a long time on Poseidon may wish to consider giving them limited access, while people in search of a detailed setting for just about any game - particularly a science-fiction, visiting other worlds one - might find it of use even if they don't particularly want to play the Blue Planet RPG.

The first page is scene-setting, a short story about a National Geographic photographer arriving on Poseidon with a mission to get a picture of an aboriginal for the magazine's front cover. In a way, this sums up what makes this game different from so many others. Fascinating as the life of a photo-journalist might be, it's not the first thing that most of us think about when creating a character from a game, yet this fits wonderfully into the Blue Planet concept.

Then comes the Foreword, which is the one bit directly addressed to the GM. This consists in the main of ideas about designing campaigns and setting the mood of your games and provides a few thought-provoking ideas even for an experienced GM.

The vast majority of the rest of the book is devoted to a detailed description of Poseidon: history, geology, ecology, geography and oceanography. It's all wonderfully detailed, and every corner is packed with little snippets that inform local colour and inspire ideas for adventures... and that's before you start reading the 'Access Denied' sidebars where specific scenario seeds are supposed to be located! The whole place comes alive with loads of detail, enabling you to be confident about running adventures just about anywhere on Poseidon.

At a quick glance, a GM might think that this book ought to be open to players as well, particularly those whose characters are not newcomers to Poseidon. But there is too much of the hidden background, material that might feature in your adventures, for this. The way it's interwoven makes for a good and inspiring read, but it does mean that you can never say, "Read the section on Second Chance" to a player who is trying to find out about that particular settlement.

After Chapter 1: The New Frontier, we come to Chapter 2: Beyond the Frontier which looks in more detail at the oceans of Poseidon. This starts off with a survey of the basics of underwater effects - pressure, light penetration, temperature, currents, etc. - to the sort of level that a diver might know. It tries to clear up popular misconceptions and provide a solid scientific footing for what follows. The next bit starts to look at the ecology of Poseidon's oceans, what you are likely to find there and how it all links together into a coherent whole. There are plenty of dangers to encounter, from storms and bacterially-infected water to actual creatures that might wish to make you their lunch. Each beastie is presented with behavioural and appearance details as well as combat stats, so characters who have ecological interests can be encouraged to study them during their explorations.

Chapter 3 is called 'Alien Legacy' and opens with the transcript of a necropsy of what is believed to be a sentient species native to Poseidon. This moves on to a detailed discussion of the native 'aborigines' who are intended to become a major plot element and source of mystery for the game. This is a chapter that players should definitely avoid! It explains what they are like - biologically and psychologically - as well as how they fit into the environment... and why they are there! Suffice to say this is something nobody on Poseidon (except, perhaps, the Aborigines themselves) know, and GMs should be wary of how quickly and how much of this they reveal during the course of their campaign. Full disclosure could alter the entire pattern of life on Poseidon. The chapter winds up with a collection of myths and legends about the aborigines, mostly wildly inaccurate, but who can say? Good ones to feed to inquisitive characters and watch them investigating all manner of false trails.

The final chapter is called 'A World of Hurt' and details the state of affairs back on Earth. There's a lot of political background: structures, personalities, organisations and history... enough to make players glad their characters have gone to Poseidon (or make them want to leave if you choose to start your game there. It's not just Earth, the whole Solar System is covered. Although it's brief, there is enough should you want to run parts of your campaign here.

Overall, this provides a lot of resources to enable the GM to make his campaign come to life: background, atmosphere, plots and plans of people already there... this is a living world your characters are visiting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blue Planet v2 Moderator's Guide
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Blue Planet v2 Player's Guide
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/17/2010 06:58:52

While described as a "Player's Guide" (with the provision of a "Moderator's Guide" for the GM), this book actually contains everything you need to play Blue Planet. Naturally, the other books will enhance your experience greatly, but this is the only one you need!

The book opens with a chapter entitled 'Welcome to Poseidon' and does just that. Poseidon is the planet, reached through a wormhole whose other end is in the outer reaches of our solar system, that is the setting of the game. Being a water world, it's known as the Blue Planet. Apart from a few details on what a role-playing game is, etc., it's written in character, the narrator being a resident of Poseidon who has been hired to make a promotional/introductional recording for the benefit of newcomers to the planet.

A bit of background: the year is 2199, over an hundred years since the wormhole was discovered and the first exploratory missions mounted through it which discovered the Blue Planet. Since those glorious days, things have gone badly wrong on Earth, with the Blight destroying much of the world's food producing capability, and civil disorder on a grand scale. Minor details like maintaining contact with an offworld colony fell by the wayside, and the colonists on Poseidon decided that they'd been abandoned and got on with things for themselves, developing their own ways of providing those items that they'd expected to receive from supply ships. Once Earth began to recover from those dark days, thoughts turned outwards again and ships were sent through the wormhole once more. The original colonists, who now thought about themselves as 'natives,' were none too pleased to have external influences, particularly as those connected with government thought they still were in charge while megacorporations saw Poseidon as a place to be exploited. Things got worse when a substance known as 'Long John' was discovered, a xenosilicate that appears to aid longevity and have other beneficial effects... except to the bit of the planet it's being mined from, of course.

So, the world your players will enter is one with many tensions and issues, as well as the more natural dangers of an unfamiliar environment. I've found that it's best, at least for your first game, to require your players to be newcomers to Poseidon, so that they can enjoy exploring the new setting as well as interacting with the people already there and the plots you choose to throw at them. It's up to you whether you encourage them to read the introduction - there are downloadable copies available, they don't all need to buy the book! - or use it as a guide to your own introduction through role-play and description.

The second chapter gets down to the serious matter of character creation. Each character is described by a range of values for his attributes, abilities, aptitudes and skills. Your attributes are your basic mental and physical capabilities. These may be changed if you choose to have your character genetically modified, or for him to have 'biomods' - cybernetic implants - added after birth. Abilities are things like jumping, your senses and how good you are at picking up languages. Aptitudes, fixed during character creation, are a measure of your innate talents rather than your training - just as some people are good at music, but have never had a formal lesson in their life, for example. Finally, skills are the things you have actually been taught. There are a range of 'training packages' based on your background and career choices. It's not a quick character creation process, but it is one that encourages - indeed, almost forces - you into having a good idea of who your character is before you begin to play him.

Chapter 3 is entitled 'Character Profile' and takes you further into developing the personality and depth of your character. What drives your character? Duty? His faith? A thirst for revenge? Sheer curiousity? What is his usual attitude to those he meets? And so on. You'll also want to come up with a name, and know what he looks like. Next comes a discussion of the sorts of roles that your character might fill - civilian pilot, for example, a scientist, law officer or some kind of scoundrel - with details of suitable training packages to take, what biomods you might have and the sort of lifestyle you'd lead. There are loads of examples and little stories about Poseidon people - flavour text that gives you ideas about what to become, who you might meet and might even inspire an adventure or two.

The next chapter describes the 'Synergy' game system in detail. To see if you manage to accomplish a task, you roll 1-3 d10s, the number depending on your aptitude for the relevant skill. You then compare the lowest number that you roll against a target number, normally based on the appropriate skill and attribute scores you have. The target can be modified by how hard the GM thinks the task is to accomplish, and your aim is to roll less than the target number. OK, it sounds a bit complicated to start with, but once you are used to it it flows quite quickly and is very versatile, as the skills and attributes can be picked according to the precise nature of what you are trying to do, with the difficulty modifiers enabling fine-tuning of the target to aim for. Exactly the same system is used for combat, with initiative being determined by a roll using the combatants' Reflex attributes, and hitting people is a normal task roll based on your competence with the weapon you're using, with a few additional modifiers based on cover, range, relative movement of aggressor and target, and so on. To figure out what damage you've done (if you connect, that is) you roll 3 dice against the weapon's 'damage rating' modified by the victim's Toughness attribute and the value of any armour he's wearing. Each die that rolls equal or under the modified target scores a 'wound level.' That's pretty much it. Once you've grasped that, you understand how to play the game from the mechanics standpoint, although there are a few additional notes on damage from other sources (fire, drowning, etc.) and how first aid and healing work. Combat is intended to be fast and reasonably deadly, and it succeeds in this aim.

Chapter 5: Hardware looks at the equipement available. Being a frontier world, one of the things that careful note should be made of is the sort of power source the item uses, and how easy it is to recharge or fuel it. Kit is sorted by category: power cells, electronics, computers, communications, robotics, sensors, medical equipment and so on through diving gear to vehicles and weapons. There's a lot of futuristic, high-tech stuff here, but it's well-thought out and all sounds like it could work.

Chapter 6 continues this theme with a look at 'Biotech' - including both genetic redesign and implantation of both cyberwear and more subtle biomodifications. For those characters considering adding cyberwear once the game has begun, there are even notes on how long it takes you to recover from the operation!

Chapter 7 takes a detailed look at 'Future History' with a review of events since 2075, when the wormhole linking our Solar System to Poseidon was discovered. The Solar System was already well on its way to being colonised, and so no time was wasted in exploring this new gateway. Upon the discovery of Poseidon, the Athena Project was set up in 2078 to explore and exploit this new resource, and within a few years a full colonisation mission was underway. Unfortunately, this marked what was perhaps the high point in Earth technological cooperation, for not long after the eager colonists had departed the Blight struck. After giving the history of the Blight and its effects, the current state of affairs on Earth and the rest of the Solar System is detailed - good reason, it seems, to up and off to Poseidon if you can! This is followed by a parallel account of what took place on Poseidon, culminating in Recontact in 2165 and its effects on society, technology and the political situation.

Finally, Chapter 8: On The Frontier presents the current situation on Poseidon. The culture and outlook of the 'native' inhabitants, descendents of the original colonists, is compared with that of those people who have arrived since Recontact. The various institutions and corporations represented on Poseidon are also discussed, building up a good picture of the current state of affairs.

The book winds up with a timeline chart, a character sheet you can photocopy and a rudimentary index. (The Blue Planet fan community online has been working on more comprehensive indices to the complete collection of books.)

Overall, it's a fine book with a lot crammed into it, including both a game system and a beautifully-detailed setting. The scientific background of the game designers shines through in the way that everything hangs together and 'works' ecologically and scientifically - it's the sort of place you can really imagine being out there somewhere, just waiting to be discovered!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blue Planet v2 Player's Guide
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Ancient Echoes: A Sourcebook For Cetacean Characters
by John D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/18/2008 13:24:33

I am beyond delighted that RedBrick is re-releasing the Blue Planet v2 sourcebooks as PDFs (and high-quality ones, at that). I am especially pleased that their first release is the excellent and sadly long-out-of-print Ancient Echoes, a guide to the biology, history, and culture of genlifted cetaceans (in this case, bottlenose dolphins, orcas, common dolphins, belugas, and pilot whales, all available as player characters).

If you don't know Blue Planet, and you are a fan of any of the following [marine biology, well-researched but sense of wonder-inducing hard science fiction/biopunk, unique and evocative roleplaying settings], you owe it to yourself to check out BP. And since, for me at least, sentient cetaceans are the most fascinating aspect of the Blue Planet setting, this book is a real treat to finally have in electronic form. (I'm one of the lucky ones with a first-run print copy, but good luck finding one now.)

The PDF is clean and well-organized; the text is digital and crisp rather than just scanned from paper, and the bookmarks are thorough and sensible. But above and beyond that, this is one of the best sourcebooks for what I think is pretty inarguably the best hard SF roleplaying game ever made. RedBrick plans to support the Blue Planet line further as soon as the original v2 books are reprinted/epublished, and I encourage you to support them in their revitalization of an absolutely compelling, wonderfully gameable setting.

In short, Ancient Echoes and Blue Planet in general receive my highest possible recommendation.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancient Echoes: A Sourcebook For Cetacean Characters
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