Fading Suns Revised Second Edition (RPG)
By Ron McClung
Fading Suns Revised Second Edition marks the resurrection of one of the best RPGs “you have never heard of.” In 2007, Redbrick Limited of New Zealand acquired the Fading Suns license from Holistic Designs, Inc. Upon obtaining the license, Redbrick released a new version of the core rulebook, available in PDF, hardback, and softback versions. Originally published in 1996, the game developed a considerable following, appealing to a variety of role-playing game fans across the world.
Written by Andrew Greenberg and Bill Bridges, known for their work at White Wolf Games, the game is rich in background and depth. One might describe Fading Suns as Frank Herbert’s Dune meets H.P. Lovecraft. However, it is much more than that. It is a lesson of human existence, faith, and how we are doomed to repeat the lessons of the past if we do not learn from them.
In the dawn of the 6th millennia, humankind has reached out to the stars and built a vast empire. At one time, the Second Republic ruled the known worlds and was a relative utopian society, spanning many worlds with unimaginable technology advancements. However, the Second Republic collapsed several centuries ago after mankind squandered and fought over their prosperity. A new Dark Age fell over the known worlds for a thousand years until a new empire arose from the ashes.
This new empire is considerably human-centric, with most other sentient species subservient in some fashion. Human society in the 6th millennia is modeled after our own Middle Ages. Humans control known space through three ruling groups. First there are the Nobles, made up of five major houses and several minor houses. Next is the League of Merchant Guilds, made up of five major Guilds and several minor guilds, representing those who trade and produce. Finally the Church, made up of five sects, protects the souls of the known worlds. The emperor, a noble granted the title by a majority of the factions, rules over all.
The Church is modeled somewhat after the medieval Catholic Church, complete with an inquisition. The Church tightly restricts technology through the Inquisition, for they see man’s over-reliance on it as the cause of the Second Republic collapse. It is heresy for one to put more faith in technology than in the Pancreator or God. The Church’s power is bolstered by something called the fading suns phenomenon, where stars are literally vanishing at random for unknown reasons. The Church sees this as a sign of human failing and hubris.
The League, through the Charioteers Guild (Pilots), strictly controls travel through space which is done through ancient gates that mankind discovered throughout the galaxy. These gates were apparently built by an ancient race dubbed the Anunnaki. The Nobles on the other hand are the elite political power ruling over the commoners and controlling most of the wealth.
The game system is called the Victory Point System. It uses a single 20-sided die for tasks and 6-sided dice for damage when needed. Fans of Fading Suns either love or hate the game system. Those that hate the system, however, have overlooked it or reworked the system’s shortcomings in favor of the great game universe. The system gives a gritty realistic feel to the game. It focuses on the players’ role-play more than dice rolling and statistics. It is very flexible and customizable, as many of its past fans have discovered.
The Redbrick’s revisions include considerable reformatting, a much larger table of contents, an expanded index, incorporation of errata, an additional adventure, and some additional tables in the back. The new layout is much better than the 1999 2nd edition book. A newly formatted character sheet is included in the back. I found the new tables invaluable.
The authors liken adventuring in Fading Suns to the medieval “passion plays”. In many ways, Fading Suns deals with grand themes universal to human experience while at the same time allows for classic storylines of sci-fi and fantasy. Intrigue can and usually is a big part of this game universe, but swashbuckling adventure can be found also. Fading Suns has elements of both science fiction and fantasy and appeals to both types of fans.