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Elysium Flare
Publisher: VSCA Publishing
by Pierre S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/12/2018 12:23:27

ELYSIUM FLARE is a RPG based on a mix of Fate Core rules and an earlier Fate version, set in an advanced cosmopolitan setting of several alien species including Manichae (Humans). Each arm of a galaxy is the home arm of a different alien species, but many other species exist in a cosmopolitan way in the Hub of each arm. Things are more rustic on the Rim, and in the Gulf between arms things are the least developed where stars exist, not to mention that Horrors spawn in the Gulf areas. Sometimes a star empire wants to try to harness a Horror for its ambitions, but that always ends...badly.

A discussion of Fate Core rules follows but it's a little cursory. The rules have certain adaptations. There are a total of seven PC alien species, rules for creating Associations as characters, Starships designed as characters (Weapons and Armour are set up as very limited characters too), and Things (special devices). There are 3 "Physics" in this universe: Natural, Mystical or Psychic. An alien species might excel more in one type than in another. Your spaceship could jump across space using any one of these Physics but you have to maintain it appropriately with the same technology.

Star-systems are generated with tables of Aspects on a point-buy system. A default Aspect for a typical world costs zero points, but more bizarre Aspects cost more, up to 4 points. Aspect tables are grouped according to Trouble, Culture, Environment, History, and Proximity (how many star-systems are close by). It costs more to have a very isolated star-system than one with neighbours. The outcome of this table also determines how you sketch out the sector of space. There are tables for Hub, Rim and Gulf worlds and tables for worlds in each of the species Arms of the galaxy.

Rules for character combat and spaceship combat round out the end. One difference from Fate Core is that a Zone has a "clutter" value which costs effort (shifts on an Athletics roll) to move into. On the other hand, more "clutter" benefits you if you are trying to hide from gunfire. Clutter is not a rule in Fate Core, but it was found in the earlier FATE 3.0 as a "pass value". Spaceship combat uses a player-character centered system where their ship has a "reticle" showing what other ships are right in front of you (center circle), then what is to the side of you (middle rings) and finally what is directly behind you (outer ring). Combat maneuvers decide if enemy ships are favourably or unfavourably placed. A few ship-types are mentioned and an Index rounds out the 132-page book. The book is written in a breezy style so it's not that much larger than a typical Evil Hat World Book of 50 pages, but there are many star-system Aspect tables in the page-count. The setting is kept pretty open, the only details are in the traits of the alien species and the star-systems that are likely to result, but you have to make up your own setting details with Associations as a starting-point.

All in all, a good Fate Core-type game although the rules might not be so understandable to a beginner.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Elysium Flare
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Aliens & Asteroids
Publisher: Gallant Knight Games
by Pierre S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/22/2018 17:48:51

Aliens & Asteroids is a great, not over-large game focusing on combat-mission SF similar to movies such as ALIENS or STARSHIP TROOPERS. The game-system is named Inverse20, where you roll a d20 to get a number equal to or less than a Target Number (TN). Rolling a 1 (or the exact Target Number) is a Critical Success, rolling a 20 is a Critical Fail. Actions are sometimes taken with an Advantage, in which case you roll 2 d20s and take the most advantageous roll, or at a Disadvantage (roll 2 d20s and take the least advantageous roll). There can be only one Advantage or Disadvantage situation and, if you are somehow receiving both, they cancel out. This kind of scheme is familiar to players of D&D 5th-ed.

Characters are defined as belonging to the Dominion Space Forces. They have 7 basic physical and mental Attributes, determined by rolling 2d3 and adding 8. There are a few Secondary Attributes which are derived from the first ones. Characters also accumulate certain Traits, based on their planet of origin or career path. There are military soldier-type characters but also specialists in other careers who are essential to pulling off a successful mission. Soldiers get to go hog-wild with an assault-rifle, others get a handgun, but all may add special gear. Traits and gear may add to an Attribute-based roll or confer an Advantage. Not having the right gear, not having the right skill Trait, or situational problems might confer a Disadvantage to the roll. Damage is always figured in d3 or d6 rolls with modifiers, and some weapons have special effects. Armor resists damage, but if the Armor Resistance rating is overcome, Armor Points absorb the excess damage until the armor is worn away.

The Dominion setting and alien races are covered, and your characters are encouraged to read massive tomes on the Dominion's history and political structure, as they ride through a B.A.N.C.E. Gate to jump to the adventure. Okay, okay! Maybe all they care about is to be pointed to the right opposition and to fight it! Technology, drones (assorted robots), weapons and gear are covered, there is a chapter on Refereeing and guidelines to set up and run a set of missions, finishing missions, and levelling up. A few alien and creature stats are given with guidelines and tables on designing your own. There is finally a sample-adventure, "Graduation Day", where the graduation of a squad of fresh recruits graduating on Luna is interrupted, and they are asked to investigate strange goings-on nearby.

This is an effective, digest-sized 111-page book which does what it sets out to do. I managed to join an introductory teleconferenced game run by the main author, reconning a dead asteroid-base that stopped broadcasting, and our characters had a nervous exploration and restoration of the floors to find out the cause. Diverse character types meshed well, each playing their part. You get a lot of SF mileage from what the players put in, all the great stuff like gear and squad-banter from movies and TV shows.

So what are you waiting for? Crack open the airlock, drop the ramp, and let's have a Bug Hunt!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Aliens & Asteroids
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CT-ST-Starter Traveller
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/22/2018 16:54:39

A great game, and no game has yet touched its fame for science fiction tabletop RPGs. Traveller covered all the "space" things in a detailed setting called the Third Imperium, a unified star community ruled by an Emperor. Traveller spawned an extensive series of supplements, which you can take or leave as needed for the emphasis of your particular game, whether star merchants or space mercenaries or explorer scouts.

Star sector maps are laid down in hexagons, each is a parsec (3.26 light-years), and starships have Jump Drives which can Jump anywhere from 1 to 6 of those parsecs but each Jump takes a week. There is no faster way to get news or goods across the stars, so the political feel resembles 18th-century sailing. The Imperium is held together but its size is causing strain. The Imperium also borders on alien empires which range from coldly neutral to hostile.

The Traveller Starter edition (1982) did some reorganization of the original LBBs (Little Black Books) of 1977 and presents all the tables of the game in a separate booklet, cross-referenced to the pages of the rulebook.

Traveller is "old school" and the best way to learn it is to take its systems one at a time. Randomly generating star-maps is particularly fun, with the main world in each system defined as to size, atmosphere, population, and government with rolls of six-sided dice (only). Nowadays the fans offer web-based computer utilities to instantly generate vast tracts of space, or use the defined Imperium maps already available online. The personal combat system, in basic Traveller, is NOT on a grid-map but more abstractly defined with "bands" similar to a football field! There are also rules for trade (buy low, sell high of course), which is easy to do as you note the characteristics of the world you're going to (Trade Codes like INdustrial or Non-Industrial, Agricultural, etc.) which give bonuses or penalties to the negotiated price of cargo. Nothing is a sure thing, however! The starship combat, in the original version, is not gridded either, but takes note of what you have for weapon turrets and rolls the damage to the other ship and what sub-system was damaged.

Definitely a solid science fiction experience.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CT-ST-Starter Traveller
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Evocraft RPG
Publisher: Evocraft RPG
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/26/2018 15:51:34

Evocraft is a game with a comprehensive framework for world creation, with explanations to construct a world in detail. You can create a world map and distribute temperatures and rainfalls to create different geographical climes. Then tables are given to generate plants and animals, each with features both mundane and exotic. Cultures can be developed on the roll tables in five Eras: from primitive through medieval and Renaissance, modern and then post-apocalytic. There are extensive notes on blending aspects of an old Era into your new Era. A few layers of spirit-worlds are detailed as well with Nature Spirits, Farlanders, and even more powerful Great Ones on the furthest plane, resembling gods. The "illustrations" are charcoal or ink drawings and patterns evocative of initial, simple cultures, sometimes of a playful nature.

There is a rules system but it is on the simple side involving a dice-pool system. The more six-sided dice, the more chances to be successful (count 5 or 6 as one success), and varying factors and modifiers give you more or fewer dice (roll up to 36 d6's, they say!). This is a little better compared to world-creation games like MICROSCOPE: the fun is derived not only in world and history creation but in actually playing out something in the world setting with fully numerically defined characters. Microscope will play short scenes with described characters but returns to large-scale world creation as soon as the scene's "question" is resolved. Evocraft has fully-rendered characters with skills and numbers for continuous RPG play.

The main book is over 200 pages, and there are 3 Era books 50, 100 and 100 pages each, with a sheet collection for character sheets (3 kinds for different eras) and worksheets. This is extensive material which is heavy on the world-building aspects. The StoryTeller (GM) may opt to use discretion in all the random tables and make judicious choices rather than totally random rolls, to ensure the world makes sense. The StoryTeller may even "subcontract" the design of the world and involve players in the designs.

Evocraft is not as detailed in the rules aspects. If your style of play involves a lot of "crunch" and preoccupation with attack-styles, armor and hit locations, this may not be for you. However, if you want a lighter, story-based rules treatment with your characters confidently placed in a detailed setting with geography, flora, fauna, history, culture and even gradual mutation to a whole different era, Evocraft will satisfy groups who want to collectively create.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Evocraft RPG
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Evocraft Space
Publisher: Evocraft RPG
by Pierre S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/04/2017 13:37:15

Evocraft Space is an 83-page book which carries over some of the same systems from the Evocraft game. Evocraft is an extensive 400+ -page text principally concerned with world-creation and development of a society through any or all of five eras (Primitive, Medieval, Renaissance, Modern and Post-Apocalypse). It also has game rules so that characters generated (in any era) could be played using a dice-pool system. What it did not have was any provision for spacefaring outside the home world, so that's what the current book addresses.

Evocraft Space has a similar rules system. Players' characters have a small list of main skills, utility skills and derived stats which define their character. Characters also have a defined science-fiction Trade which allows them to do specific functions with specific Tools (only major pieces of equipment are defined, and each adds more dice to the pool depending on character level in the Trade). For any action, determine the pertinent skill of the character which will translate into a dice-pool of d6 dice. Having a set of 36 miniature d6's is recommended.

Then when all the bonus dice to the dice-pool are figured out, roll them all and count each "5" or "6" as a "success". The more successes are accumulated, the more the successful action has achieved. Sometimes there is an opposing roll from a passive object being acted upon, or an NPC, in which case you count only the number of successes you had more than the opposition's number ("passing successes"). An Epic Fail can occur if you have no successes, or rolled more 1's than successes.

The artwork is simple, with a cover in colored pencil or possibly pastel, and black-and-white art inside.

The game has two distinct phases: world creation and then character play. World creation uses charts and random rolls to fill Word-Fill blanks in descriptive phrases about a planet. Each blank refers to a chart where you pick a word or make a d100 roll to pick. Worksheets are in the back of the book which can be copied to fill in the results. Quick planet generation or full planet generation is offered, but there are large spaces on the sheets for Interpretation of the results. You are given some guiding questions to help you write up what the world is like based on the word-fills.

Overall, because of limited room, this is a much shorter system of charts than what was used to generate a setting in Evocraft. Evocraft had an extensive system to generate bands of latitude on the home setting and what the climate in each band would be like; an Earthlike world with breathable atmosphere was intended. Evocraft Space is more free-form to be able to generate airless or exotic environments.

Charts provided include word-lists for configuration of a planet (number of stars, number of moons, atmosphere, a word-fill paragraph about the people, about cities, current events, conflicts and mysteries and quests), one chart each. There is enough here to generate adventure seeds, but shorter than the multi-era world development in original Evocraft. There are also word-fills to create creatures (monsters and their abilities), plants (with details about any medicinal uses) and playable humanoids inhabiting the planet.

Character generation has a distribution of points to determine the main skills of Fight, Tech (each player must also pick from a list of SF Trades), Persuade (with a choice of persuasion methods such as Charm, Reason, Deceive or Seduce and more), and Mystic ("the force"). Players also distribute points for secondary utility skills: Strength, Agility, Breaking Barriers, Searching, Sense, Tracking, Foraging and People Observation. There are a few derived Stats based on Skill formulas. There are rules for Combat and rules for what each Trade can do. There are no extensive equipment lists, but instead a system to design Tools which are like major, critical pieces of equipment for a character (characters start with one primary and one secondary Tool). If a character is in the right trade, their Tool gives them a bonus number of dice into the dice-pool. If someone is unskilled, they might still use the Tool but very badly (Tech skill in dice but with no added dice). There is also a mention of Droids, a mature technology of robots defined very simply in terms of level of function.

Mystic powers are covered by combining a Power Base (type of mystic action) with an Element (a type of target or material the power acts on.) Using Mystic powers has consequences; the character accumulates positive or negative Fate Seals depending on whether they used their power for good or ill, and these may create an in-game consequence.

Finally, there is a 3-page section on spaceships (and by extension lesser vehicles). Ships can come in various sizes and this determines the number of rooms and hallways they have, from a single-cockpit fighter to a whole stellar city. Big ships are less maneuverable but may be able to move faster in hyperspace than smaller ships. Interstellar travel is VERY fast and measured as anywhere from 50-100 light-years per SECOND, so expect a Star-Wars-like environment of fast travel. No trip in the galaxy takes longer than a bus trip across America!

The last quarter of the book has most of the various word-tables (a few were in-text) and sheets to photocopy for characters, ships and planet-generation worksheets, as well as map paper (arranged in 8x10 grids reminiscent of Traveller except it is 8 down and 10 across.)

Overall, the book is fairly short and simple and has a relatively abbreviated world generation compared to original Evocraft. Some of the details about producing a Tool are a little off: some combinations of Tool Bases and Tool Types didn't seem to make sense. One Tool Type: "Turf" (operating on ground, walls, barricades, and natural features) was not actually assigned to any of the Tool Bases as a possible thing for the Tool to work on.

But the game overall is a simple, low-crunch game encouraging a collaborative effort to design a set of worlds and put simple characters with a short-list of key Tools inside adventure SF situations. For those who want more, there may be supplements sent down the pipe later.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Evocraft Space
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FARFLUNG: Sci-Fi Role-Play After Dark
Publisher: Sanguine Productions
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/03/2017 17:02:31

Farflung RPG is a solid addition to the games using the Powered by the Apocalypse rules system. The setting is a generic madcap far-future with a long list of inspirational material given at the back such as The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy, Barbarella, and many more. Choose from 24 character types representing professions or very oddball entities of the Universe: archivists, career soldiers, energy-beings, shape-shifters, former dark "despicable" commanders of thousands of minions who have fallen on hard times, sentient spaceships and so on. All characters have standard Moves, and each character type has an additional playbook of special Moves befitting its type. If a character type has a mad power, it is balanced by limiting shortfalls in something else. There would be a lot of fun in seeing how character types will complement each other and work together, and even...fall in love? Yes, there are Moves for seduction activity, not to be blatantly sexual but possibly for the SF amusement of having a hard-bitten PC alien fall in love with a NPC gas-cloud and such. The author is getting at something like this with the game's subtitle "Sci-Fi Role-Play After Dark".

Another reviewer went into detail about the game mechanics. I will mention the organization of the book. The hardcopy is a well-manufactured hardcover. One key thing is the introduction which explains the game in 3 perspectives: if you never played an RPG, if you played a computer RPG, or if you have played other tabletop RPGs. This is good to ease beginners into this tabletop game. The Powered by the Apocalypse system gives players a lot of essential information up-front on the character sheet (and in 4 pages of "playbook" for each character type) to try to slot any conceivable action into one of their Moves, which is handled easily with a 2d6 die-roll. A good GM will still be needed to explain things to new players. I'm sure any lapses in rules procedure will be forgivable as long as players have fun with the zany, gonzo nature of the world.

Next are descriptions of the basic characteristics of the character (the 6 "quantum particle" attributes), health, points in time (History-x and Future-x points which are spent back and forth to power certain Moves) and general procedures and dice-rollings of the game. It then lists general Moves common to all players, and then an exposition of the 24 character types and their Moves. Characters can suffer "damage" in 3 types: Doing (physical), Thinking (mental) and Feeling (emotional). Depending on their character type, they have the ability to divert damage of one kind into each of the two other kinds (indicated by filling in an arrow on the health circle which is divided into 3 parts for these 3 types). Then the back half of the book gives a sampling of several types of "opponents", some notes on conducting the game, various optional rules, and the bibliography of sources of inspiration. Optional rules include the X-Card system first proposed by John Stavropoulous, which can veto GM or player actions or plot elements if a player is uncomfortable with something. I personally don't agree with this since it smacks of "snowflakeism" which clashes with RPGs where you might adventurously be called on to storm the beaches at Normandy or something.

All in all, Farflung is a PbtA system tweaked for goofy, zany far-future characters for a light-hearted time, with possibly some elements of romance if desired (which I would tend to X-Card until these are annihilated at the molecular level.)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FARFLUNG: Sci-Fi Role-Play After Dark
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Icar
Publisher: Rob Lang Games
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/17/2017 15:35:16

A solid far-future SF RPG! Humans live in a galactic arm that has for the most part been taken over by Droids, descended from automatons of the humans' own creation. The Droids almost extinguished the humans but are now preoccupied with in-fighting. The game mechanic is smooth and ready, but the main thing is the exotic details about the Droids and the far-future human civilization. Illustrations cleanly support this vision with ample descriptions of settlements, megacities, vehicles and gear. There are 2 game supplements so far.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Icar
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Post-Apocalyptic Genre
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
by Pierre S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/18/2016 15:39:22

This supplement for the Cypher System offers information to apply the rules to a post-apocalyptic genre, where modern-day civilization has fallen and characters must scrounge and fight their way through living in a wrecked world ("He is Max, and he is quite mad.") For the Cypher System there is some need to define things that fall outside the modern, horror or SF rules to suit postapocalyptic tropes, and this 32-page supplement works well.

Apart from the cover photo there is no artwork or pictures. It begins with notes on setting up your campaign and choosing why civilization fell (zombies are an option, and you must decide if mutations and other things will exist as a result of the fall.) Ten character roles are suggested, giving the corresponding character Type and Flavor to choose from the Cypher system. Are you a Leader or Warlord? A brawny Bodyguard or Gladiator besting most others in violence? Do you have knowledge and skills passed down from the ancestors to be a Cobbler or Healer? The Technology Flavor is disallowed, as ready knowledge of tech devices is GONE. Each Role has modifications to the Tier system given in detail. New or replacement Foci and Descriptors are given as well.

A revised Crafting system is given. Scrounge for units of raw material classified into names like parts, junk, chems and circuits. When deciding what guns, vehicles or equipment to build, required amounts of materials and difficulty are set down to suit the ambience of a difficult environment with no hardware stores left!

Mutants and mutated animal characters are possible, which gives tables and lists of mutations and defects. Mutations can develop in characters in good old 1950s movie-style from exposure to (more) units of radiation (not true in reality, you just sicken or die; but conventions of the genre must be followed as best exemplified in the old Gamma World RPG, so the mutation system will be quite familiar to people). The supplement ends with a description of damage effects, a system for infection by the aforementioned zombies, weather effects and other rules. 3 pages of equipment lists with Cypher stats bring up the end.

Overall, just the kind of tailored Cypher System game you could want for PA settings.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Post-Apocalyptic Genre
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The GameMaster's Apprentice: Sci Fi
Publisher: Larcenous Designs, LLC
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/04/2016 08:22:29

[Review revised now that the rules have more adventure-generation information.]

This is a packed, information-rich deck of cards to assist the running of a science fiction RPG. It offers multiple fields of information. The individual cards are each printed on both sides of 60 cards, which makes it unclear which side to pick (draw a card, and flip it like a coin, maybe?)

A small wheel of numbers lets you make dice-rolls from d4 to d100. This is VERY handy to make dice-rolls in a secret way for the GM, or by anybody for general noise-reduction. There are fields on the card to allow you to randomly pick evocative first names, sights, sounds, smells, locations, and belongings (in case an NPC living OR dead is encountered) suitable to an SF environment.

The cards are adapted from their set for fantasy, and several fields of the card have different sets of icons that are perhaps more suitable to fantasy. There is a field for the Elder Futhark runes (the runic alphabet of the Vikings) as well as an icon for the Four Elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. This is not much of a drawback since they offer tables of "archetypal" meanings to help you imagine outcomes in any sort of RPG. There is a random verb, subject and object on every card that can add up to over a million combinations if you draw 3 cards. Parts of the cards resemble a more gamer-focused version of Rory's Story Cubes.

What is slightly imperfect about the game is that the instructions still insert a few fantasy examples and mention goblins, bandits in a forest, castles and so forth. They could hone their instructions to be more sharply SF in orientation (although some SF games such as Shadowrun might have no trouble mentioning magic or psionics). The instructions do offer suggestions to "transpose" the meaning of a draw to something more suitable to your game.

They describe how the deck could be used to generate encounters for a solo or GM-free game. An adventure generation scheme has been added to the rules more recently.

Overall, this is a beautiful deck of cards that can be used in different modes: evocative ideas for adventure design before the game, dice-rolls and random draws for the GM to improvise a situation or NPC on the fly, and suggestions for a GM-free game or for generating SF adventures.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The GameMaster's Apprentice: Sci Fi
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White Lies - Advanced Training: Hand-to-Hand
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/04/2015 15:47:35

"Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting!" --Carl Douglas

Although I prefer having Rules Companions released after the core rules of a game to be a big tome including lots of new stuff, the modular Admin Toolkit is an acceptable and flexible way for the Admin to add new features to their game.

Advanced Training: Hand-to-Hand is a supplement to White Lies, the spy game resembling old-school gaming (based on Dungeons & Dragons rules). Secret agents who opt for this Advanced Training will need to gain more Experience Points (XP) to advance to each new level. However, in return they will get to use some advanced hand-to-hand fighting techniques in a way that resembles "spells per day". Individual techniques can be used more than once a day, but the number of types usable per day are limited. There is no extra check or Saving Throw to make, and no special preparation once trained. Various kinds of strikes and defensive stances are described, organized in Techniques up to Level 3.

The "spell" structure will be inherently familiar to players, and as usual, pay close attention to the details and conditions for each Technique. Now get out there and knock some heads!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
White Lies - Advanced Training: Hand-to-Hand
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Bulldogs! Fate Core Edition
Publisher: Galileo Games
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/01/2015 17:03:06

Bulldogs! is a reworked version of a previous release for FATE version 3, re-released for Fate Core (there was also a d20 version). It is a game centered on the Bulldogs, space truckers for the TransGalaxy corporation involved in hauling Class D cargo in aging rust-bucket freighters, the shipments nobody else wants to take. Characters sign on with TransGalaxy for 5 years, and ply the space-lanes in a galaxy far, far away, in the wild Frontier Zone straddling the democratic but ruthless Union of the Saldralla and the theocratic Devalkamanchan Republic.

Bulldogs! is complete with Fate rules included, but the presentation may be a bit back-to-front. In exposing how a character is constructed, some Fate features may not be immediately explained, so people totally new to Fate reading this might need to flip through some pages and get things straight before making choices for their character's Aspects, Skills and Stunts.

Characters can be of 10 principal alien species: human-like Arsubarans, intelligent Robots, and 8 more, which were well-written and not just humans in funny costumes. Each species has species aspects and special abilities which cost Refresh points. Attitudes and sample names round out each description. Guidelines are also given to create your own species.

Characters cannot be created without first considering the TransGalaxy Ship they are in, and their Captain (usually but not always an NPC). Characters have 7 starting Aspects, but two are reserved for Aspects relating to your species heritage, one is tied to your the reason why you signed with TransGalaxy (which is your "Trouble" in this game), one to your relationship to your Captain, and two more Aspects resulting from how you "crossed paths" with Crewmates. Characters have a whopping 6 Refresh (but less if you pick a species with lots of inherent abilities, or if you want more than 2 Stunts or 2 Gear points.) Money is abstracted by 10 Credit boxes for major purchases -- but as a Bulldog, you have 9 of those checked, meaning you are in the debt of TransGalaxy principally.

The "dials" of these Fate Core rules are set up for bold action. There are 4 Conditions each with its own kind of Stress track: Winded, Angry, Stunned and Broken. Using up a track will lead to a Consequence related to that Condition, and depending on the level the Consequence may take some time to remove. Armor is in Mild (-2), Moderate (-4) or Severe (-6) varieties, obviously built to absorb stress of those magnitudes. Energy shields can be added to absorb even more as well. Weapons have light, medium and heavy categories and, depending on their category, can "bypass" one or more lower Conditions to deal Stress on a higher track. So weapons and armor can be powerful science-fiction tropes but operating on a soft, squidgy being who doesn't have much inherent defense. Like I said, a game built for bold, swashbuckling rock 'em sock 'em action.

There follows a standard discussion of Fate rules, a slightly reworked list of 18 Skills, and a discussion of Stunts appropriate to each Skill and the setting's style. Gear is covered: equipment meant to rise above the mundane, with information on creating your own and figuring out the gear's worth in Gear Points. Spaceship rules and combat are described. TransGalaxy is paying for your ship, fuel and basic maintenance, but refuses to pay for your adventurous "excursions" or ammo for combat or anything else you might have to do despite company policy! Larger categories of spaceships have more of the lesser Stress Tracks, and their powerful weapon categories can again "bypass" the lower Stress tracks of enemy ships. There follows information about Conflict design (including villains and their minions), and tying them together to make lengthy Adventures. A couple of pages on setting up campaigns with other kinds of characters rounds out the book.

All told, this is a strong, action-oriented Fate game with colourful aliens and working-stiff ethic!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bulldogs! Fate Core Edition
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White Lies
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/09/2015 14:44:38

Roughly coinciding with the release of the Bond movie SPECTRE, DWD Studios brings us "White Lies" with an appropriate gun-logo. Based on "white box" old-school rules, the rules system of classes and levels will be inherently familiar to the majority of gamers brought up on D&D. Combat rules can use both old-style Armor Class (AC; lower is better) or Ascending Armor Class (AAC; higher is better).

The familiarity is a powerful strength of the game. If people have the energy to explore a different rules basis, they could try DWD's game COVERT OPS, which also has an espionage setting.

The rules are written in a breezy, easy-to-follow digest size. Five character-classes are presented, suitable to the espionage setting, with progression up to Level 10. However, adding a Hit Die to your Hit Points every level only succeeds if you have rolled greater than your last Hit Die advancement. There is a basic list of weapons, vehicles and other gear, more like distinctive classes of weapons, as the game says it will not detail fire-arms down to each model of revolver or hand-gun. Weapons and vehicles have various upgrades to enhance and distinguish a character's gear.

Not to be overlooked are several pages devoted to world-building. Akin to "random dungeon generation" but with a spy slant, this harkens back to several past DWD products and can be useful aids to players who are stepping over from the fantasy genre. The rules invite the Admin (GM) to roll on some random tables for the type of Enemy Organization, its location, descriptors, and its overall agenda. The Master Villain in the Admin game can be rolled for Type, Motivation, resources, henchmen and minions, and a big d100 table of Quirks ("Here, kitty, kitty...") Missions have random tables as to the number of "scenes" or "maps" and what type of mission objective each scene involves, a random table for the descriptions of the location, and a dual d100 table to give your mission a snazzy (or totally meaningless) code-name! Of course, these tables should be used more to review the tropes of the spy genre, and the Admin should make some judicious picks of what should make the most sense, rather than a totally random determination.

A few stats for opponents and a few choice animals ("Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?") are given, including a few stats for alien opponents in a setting where nations are in fact controlled by aliens from an alien conspiracy! A suggested organization for the player-characters, Bureau 19, is given, and a short sample adventure.

Overall, an excellent product with the aim of drawing old-school rules-players into the espionage genre.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
White Lies
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Uncharted Worlds
Publisher: Sean Gomes
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/06/2015 14:06:57

[rewritten review with a few corrections] UNCHARTED WORLDS is a generic science fiction game based on the Apocalypse World rules engine, and does a good job of explaining these rules.

Players define what their characters want to do, and these intentions are analytically classified into specific Moves. Players then roll 2d6 plus a Stat for each kind of Move. Rolls of 10+ succeed outright and definitely, but rolls of 7-9 succeed with some kind of cost or consequence. Players pick an Origin and two Careers for their character which grant the character various Skills, which define or enhance the 2d6+Stat roll. The Game Master presents the setting and story as usual, but must decide on the complications and setbacks, presents foreshadowings, and decides how unsolved problems get worse. The Game Master NEVER ROLLS DICE THEMSELVES. The Game Master is also encouraged to write games with elements that remain undefined, and turns these questions over to the players.

The way the rules are structured, the dice-rolling and Stat/Skill adds resembles Traveller on the front-end but the outcomes are non-numerical and reminiscent of Fate rules. The Game Master decides the meaning of "successes at a cost" and on occasion flips a question back to the players. Damage, for living beings and machines, is on a five-tier system, where untended conditions may get worse and turn into permanent "Debilities" that affect ability.

On some good skill-rolls, the player may define something about the game that is absolutely true (and the GM must run with that), or can collect and spend Data Points that improve the roll on informative Moves by +1 each.

The rules have skills to cover both exploration of unknown planets and urban adventures with political intrigue. There are chapters for qualitatively described medical operations and healing, weapons and gear, vehicles, trade and Debt (players take note of fulfilling Debt but there is no credit-counting in this game), factions (wealthy and powerful groups which have the function of Patrons in Traveller), starships and starship combat, and a sample adventure illustrating the loose plot-style that allows player input.

There is no game setting or star system generation scheme detailled here, although Kickstarter backers were said to have received additional material about planets and factions.

The author is fond of slipping in movie-quotes in the text, so I say to him, "A beginning is a delicate time." --Princess Irulan, DUNE. I encourage him to develop more adventures or material to demonstrate the game and bring out the strong points of the system.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Uncharted Worlds
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Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages of MYST and Beyond
Publisher: InkWorks Productions
by Pierre S
Date Added: 10/07/2015 16:32:16

As is well-known, MYST is a ground-breaking series of computer games which began in 1993, focused on exploration, atmosphere and puzzle-solving. There was almost no violence (except for a truly memorable turn by actor Brad Dourif as Saavedro in MYST Exile!) I would have been in the market for a MYST worldbook or compendium, and it was by chance I heard that a tabletop RPG had been made for it.

The rulebook starts off with 30 pages or so of typed and handwritten background letters for flavour, and that is my one reservation about the game. Using that for an introduction sort of clutters the beginning of the book. Fortunately, the base font of the .pdf made no attempt to be atmospheric or otherworldly, just a straight font to help me get through most of this massive but well spaced-out 338-page book (in a digest-sized format comparable to the size of the Fate Core rulebook).

The game is based on Fate Core rules and, in order to be a stand-alone game, presents all the rules and Fate Core concepts adequately. The story-focused mechanics works well with the atmospheric setting of MYST focussing on character and interaction with people and environments. The Fate Core Skill list has been modified, with Skills such as Experiment, Research, Engineering (the Crafting of more complex machines) and Surveying appearing. The Actions have been significantly modified: Overcome, [create or take] Advantage, Discover, and Active or Passive Opposition as needed, with no Attack or Defend Actions as such. But if you truly want gritty Age Wars with invading Disco Dwarves from Dimension X (hello, Teenagers from Outer Space!) with depleted-uranium morningstars, and you must stop them with monomolecular slashwire nunchucks, Fate Core will let you do so. It could be just me...

The heart of Myst is its puzzles, and there is concise information on how to set up machine-like puzzles and how characters uncover the history of an Age (a pocket-universe or dimension). The game master need not have to sweat out having to do original puzzles if that is not their inclination. A puzzle can be handled as an abstraction to discover and overcome according to the Unwritten rules.

There is considerable information on the history of D'ni, laid out in chronological order, and the new wave of humans who have found the entry-point to the abandoned D'ni cavern under the New Mexico desert and are occupying the abandoned D'ni city, trying to recover the lost D'ni arts of travelling with Linking Books. Some are just day-trippers, maintaining a day-job on the surface, others are hardcore people occupying the city and even adopting D'ni clothes and mannerisms. Factions are developing among the humans, arguing about how to handle these discoveries.

There is little information about Ages set in the computer games (another supplement, maybe?). Atmospheric artwork throughout reinforces the game. Overall, a beautiful tome to complement your experience of the MYST computer games, and careful study will reward you with rich role-playing sessions.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages of MYST and Beyond
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Baroque Space Opera
Publisher: Mark Kowaliszyn
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/22/2015 09:20:35

Baroque Space Opera (BSO) is a worthy setting for Fate Core, for those who wish to portray far-future but hidebound cultures weighed down by traditions, and a high technology used to oppress the people, such as in movies like Dune, Lexx or the Chronicles of Riddick. At over 400 pages, it can do much more than a typical Fate World book of specific focus.

The galaxy has been ruled over by The Tyrant for the last 149,000 years. He died or was killed four times, but each time the establishment reconstituted him to preserve the status quo. There is an extensive history which generated a bewildering variety of factions, military forces and power-groups. Some groups are outcast but still exist on the periphery of the Dominion. The oppressive, crushing weight of history will strain your memory, but that's just perfect for this setting and characters even have to consult historian-NPCs just to keep it all straight.

The Tyrant has set up the 13 ruling Houses of the Pharistos, who are considered divine beings, enactors of the Tyrant's will, and controlling one aspect of commerce or industry through their Syndicates. Many use the symbology or trappings of ancient Egyptian, Sumerian or Mesoamerican cultures (is there a link?) The Pharistos in turn promote Elevated humans, humans indoctrinated by ritual to serve as intermediaries between the Pharistos and human workers. Technology (called Technosophy) is so advanced it becomes indistinguishable from magic, and in fact ordinary humans are taught that it is all run by the divine power of the Tyrant, if the right rituals are followed (pray before flipping the switch). However, the GM will not have to be technically minded to invoke the descriptions of genetic manipulation, nanotechnology (the Dust), resurrections to make Revenants, prana (psionic powers), faster-than-light travel with Voidships, and the cyberspatial domain called the Pattern.

The Fate Core rules are significantly modified. Notice becomes an Action that can be made with a Skill, rather than a separate single Skill. The Stress boxes often stack more points so that instead of the typical human Stress boxes of 1-2 or 1-2-3, you might have 2-3-4 or 3-4-5 or 3-3-3. Many superhuman Stunts abound and are listed as you pick a character Archetype. There is talk of revolt and overthrowing the Tyrant, and even many Pharistos are open to it, but a revolution from below with ordinary humans is not likely to succeed given the extensive physical and mental improvements of the ruling factions. A fight between regular humans and some Chimeras or Dominars or a Kundalini mentalist will toss the humans around like popcorn. Most fighting between groups will use the proxies of the Pharistos, as the Tyrant forbids direct conflict...

An extensive description of planets and other locations is included, and a map, and possibly you can fit the descriptions for these high-tech worlds into another science fiction campaign. The author thoughtfully adds a list of fiction for inspiration at the end, and a full index.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Baroque Space Opera
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