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Strange Stars $9.99
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Strange Stars
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Strange Stars
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/09/2017 05:13:33

An review

This setting book clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a non-prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Old Earth isn’t even a legend anymore, even its location lost to the ravages and vastness of space and time. An undetermined time after humanity spread to the stars, the Archaics rose in their floating, crystalline cities, constructing a hyperspace travel network and engaged in planetary-scaled engineering; theirs was an age where a noble may rule a whole world – but, as Hari Seldon may have noted, all empires must end. The Great Collapse, which may have been as long as 1000 years past, took place, kickstarting a Dark Age of dissolution, where mysterious cultures rose and fell in what once was core human space: The mysterious Zurr, seemingly primitive, yet spread across planets, and the faceless ones, research-sadists, who replaced their faces with incredibly potent sensory apparatuses. When the long night ended, it was the radiant polity that rose, claiming stewardship of paleo-mankind and mastery over hyperspace travel: “We civilize; we do not govern. We end war; we do not wage it. We guard; we do not control. Our thoughts look always to the future.” – This is their creed and it reminded me in a positive manner of Rome’s excellent tripartite album “Die Aesthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit” on the concept of anarchy as a philosophical world-view, but that as an aside.

The default setting of this space opera setting would be the Modern Age ushered in by the polity’s radiant lords. The book classifies the sentient beings as sophonts – biologics contain humans, Star Folk bioships, etc. Moravecs are sentient, self-replicating robots and infosophonts are basically AIs, digital minds and other entities sans physical form that choose to live in the noosphere. As you may have noted, the books makes admirable use of linguistic terms to classify and categorize the campaign setting’s reality. And no, the book never devolves into a garbled mess, though, as often in good fiction, it takes a bit to get into the terminology of the setting. Really cool: Sample artworks explain e.g. clothes worn, weaponry, etc. in a concise manner that manages to squeeze a surprising amount of information on each page – a picture of a space captain, the afro-wearing, badass lady Stella Starlight, for example, feature sidebars on salvage and the lost ancient starships.

The book also showcases the hyperspace gates and their connections between regions of space – which would be as well a place as any other to note how this pdf is laid out, for the layout is brilliant: The artworks and bits of information are depicted in a manner not unlike the Star Trek/Star Wars almanacs – artwork, explanations, trivia, graphics – the similarity even extends to the advertisement mentioned before, which included an “action figure” in the artwork.

Anyways, we continue from the big picture to the more detailed observations of the regions of hyperspace – from the Outer Rim, where the vaguely feline Djägga live and places of interest include Fortuna IV, a gambler’s planet, Gogmagog, the planet of giant robot battles (!!) and Boreas, an ice-covered moon, where boreal sea life was weaponized, including bacteria that reanimate the dead. Yes, amazing. There also would be the Alliance (think of a smaller Federation), the Instrumentality of Aom, a theocracy founded on cold practicality (with Illuminatus!-easter-egg-nod), the Coreward Reach…have I mentioned phantasists selling mass-produced neural dreams and oneiric experiences? There is also the Vokun Empire, once fearsome conquerors in decline, who even have a slave-race of humanoid computers….and we even take a look at a cantina (Star Wars association obviously intended), with several NPCs noted, each of which featuring his/her/their own angle for adventuring.

Nomadic clades (the name for race employed herein) sans homeworld are also covered and so are pirates and other criminals – the sample artwork for the latter looking like a cross between a yeti and a tarsier. A list of most wanted, notes on the pharesmid syndicate – there is a ton of adventuring potential here. Where there are species and more or less peaceful societies, there are bound to be those outside – hostile species generally considered to be bad news. These include the Kssa, oviparous humanoids with reptilian characteristics, ruled by the Cold Eggs, the Ssraad (coincidentally somewhat similar to the classic, closed IP Slaadi) and we also talk a bit about psi and psionics and their roles in the galaxy.

The book also sports notes on terminology, a pronunciation guideline and concludes with 5 basic operation guidelines, each of which coming in 8 variations – these are one-sentence hooks to develop.


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. The layout by Lester B. Portlyis FANTASTIC: With the extremely high full-color artwork density (there is an original piece on almost EVERY page) and the cool structures reminiscent of classic scifi almanacs, the pdf is a beauty to behold. The pdf sports no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment – if you can afford it, I’d strongly suggest getting the PoD-version. The book is worth it, production value-wise.

Trey Causey’s Strange Stars is frankly inspiring in the best of ways. When I saw the page-count for the book, I did not expect much, particularly considering the density of artwork herein. It is BAFFLING how much flavor and information the author managed to cram into the pages – there are a ton of inspiring tidbits herein, enough to inspire campaigns galore. While I really wished this book was a really huge campaign setting, I have seen a ton of books with 3 or 4 times the pagecount deliver less – this is a great supplement if you’re looking for some inspiring nomenclature, ideas, etc.

As an aside: The astute reader may have noticed some serious potential for crossover regarding the history of Strange Stars and Starfinder – the ideas contained herein can be added to Starfinder pretty easily…and yes, the same holds obviously true for Traveller, Stars Without Number, etc.

How to rate this, then? Well, the lack of bookmarks for the electronic version costs that version a half a star (4.5 stars, rounded down), but the print-version I’d consider to be 5 stars + seal of approval. As mentioned, I’d suggest getting the PoD-version.

Endzeittgeist out.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Dillard R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/16/2017 10:04:18

A bit expensive for just 32 pages...if you want your books to be jam packed with writing. If you go with the author's "bottom up" method of universe creation it won't be such a problem. And if you like evocative art to get your juices flowing then this is right up your alley.

If you were to cross Guardians of the Galaxy with the Heavy Metal movie and toss in a dash of MST3K you are begining to get the idea of what this setting can be. However, since this is a Player driven creation you could really use whatever comparisons you want.

This would be a great framework for any group that wants to explore/create their setting as they go, because it has enough info to get your creative juices flowing without putting you in a strait-jacket.

There is a Fate Core add on that you can purchase separately, because this is a system agnostic product.

I didn't give it 5 stars because I wanted more. However the concept is intriguing and well executed.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/13/2015 13:49:37

Every so often you come across a product that is so different than the rest it is hard to know what to do with it. +trey causey's Strange Stars is not exactly that. Strange Stars is a product so different it is hard to know what I can't do with it.

The book is a joy to look at. Yes it is only 32 pages with cover, but each page is so rich with art and color it must have cost a lot to make. Since art is important to how this book can be used it is a better investment than say page after page of text. Let's start with that cover. There are homages to late 70s, early 80s sci-fi shows and movies. I can feel the influences of Star Wars and even Jason of Star Command here. Not to mention the obvious, but loving, nod to the classic Star Frontiers. Really, I should be able to buy that as an art print for my game room. I put that cover up there with some of the best RPG covers ever.

Strange Stars is not a game itself, but a setting book for other sci-fi games. Not just the OSR-flavored ones of my last few reviews, but any sci-fi game. As a mental exercise I kept asking "can I use this in Traveller? Star Frontiers? Alternity?" most times I was saying yes.

The book starts out with a historical overview of the setting. The "Ancient times" in this case is humanity leaving "Old Earth". So already this is a setting far flung into the future.

Various forms of life are introduced, or Sophonts. This can be your garden variety human or other life form that is mostly biological, self-aware robots, or AIs. Or, most likely some combination of the above.

Really a couple of the great features of this book are not chapter by chapter but concept by concept. Free of system Causey's mind rushes down dark un-explored pathways, strange lands and truly alien worlds. BUT, and this is very important, this not so far removed from our experiences to be really out there. There are roots here. Roots with names like "Star Crash" and "Buck Rodgers" (the TV series on NBC, not the serials) and "Logan's Run". Jenny Agutter's "Jessica 6" practically jumps off of page 12.
Speaking of which, the characters here BEG to be stated up for your favorite system. Siana Elizond, the previously mentioned Jessica 6 clone, is more interesting in a picture and paragraph than some characters with pages and pages of back story. Plus I can't help but think that Elphaba Mandrake was made as a personal challenge to me!

So yes. The page count is small, but it is chock full of great ideas, eye catching art and more than enough to get you going on a campaign set out among the stars.

You can find Trey at

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/10/2015 10:37:58

There’s a lot of buzz in my G+ circles about Strange Stars by Trey Causey. So, what’s the deal?

Strange Stars is a short 30 pages system-agnostic setting book influenced by 70s science fiction and space opera. The cover should give you a pretty good impression of what the book is about. People were asking me: Is the product worth the considerably steep price for such a short book? The short answer is: yes!

The slightly longer answer is: First of all, you’ll need to like the premise. The book is full of gonzo stuff: 70s disco, psychedelia, retro space opera, influences from Star Wars and Star Trek, transhuman sci-fi and more. Next: the book only touches every topic briefly. The author explains that he took a “bottom-up” approach. He introduces characters and details and some brief overview of the galaxy, history, planets, cultures etc.. It’s choke-full of inspirational material but not an exhaustive treatise on the universe of Strange Stars.


It’s a short book, 30 pages plus cover. The print-on-demand version is a letter-sized staple-binded booklet with a glossy cover. The cover is charmingly 70s and while it certainly is a great piece of art it is (shockingly) not the best illustration by far. That is to say that the artwork in this book is gorgeous! I can’t stress enough how nice this book looks, it’s one of these things which you wouldn’t expect from a one-man indie publisher. Additionally, the back cover also looks crazy. And it’s not only pretty to look at but also full of zany stuff. The interesting layout and design ensures that you can digest the information in small bits and pieces. I really dig the look’n’feel. The artwork and layout compliment each other nicely and at the same time manage to convey the feel of the product (retro sci-fi). It may not be an artbook like Shadows of Esteren or Symbaroum but it has the all the essential parts together. Dear readers, don’t buy the PDF, get the book.


You’ll get a historical overview over the galaxy. The universe is based on our own but is set in the far future when humanity has discovered the stars. There are three category of species (called sophonts): Biologics, Moravecs and Infosophonts. The first ones are humans and similar folk. Moravecs are self-replicating, sapient robots. Lastly, the Infosophonts are A.I.

Travel works via Hyperspace Gates, some routes are easier and faster to navigate than others.

The book also contains information about different star regions and factions. There’s the Outer Rim with their native Djägga (feline hunters) or the Vokun Empire which remind me a bit of Hutts from Star Wars. There is a theocracy and there are pirates like the Zao Corsairs and criminals like Tuklo, a Hwuru Thug who looks like a blue fluffy monster pet but is an insanely strong sociopath. The Pharesmid Syndicate consists of clones from one criminal. You have the Alliance, an interspecies organization with different races. There are Yoda-look-a-likes called Gnomes and the avian Hyehoon. There are psi-users called Smaragdines. I really can’t describe how much interesting tidbits you’ll find in this work.

Trey Causey created a vibrant and unique universe with interesting factions, creatures, planets and cultures while the concepts are still familiar. There is so much material crammed into this slim book and it invites you to delve right into the world of Strange Stars. Sadly, the book is pretty short with 30 pages. While it’s concisely written, the information only goes so far. And don’t forget that it is a system-neutral supplement, so you don’t get any game stats. Further game books are planned. There will be a Fate version and one for Stars Without Numbers. Furthermore, Mike Evans from wrathofzombie has made a fan conversion for Savage Worlds.

The book ends with some random generators for Spacehauler containers, valuable artifacts, people someone wants to find, drugs in an epic stash and exotic locales.

Final Thoughts

What do I like: Where do you get a book where the space captain’s outfit is a stylish 70s disco dress, complete with a pepped collar and platform shoes, where I have fluffy blue aliens, android A.I.’s, bio clones and giant caterpillars who are renowned musicians? While the book is fuel for your imagination and crammed with over-the-top material, it still has enough resemblance to well-known fiction so that you can start right away. Strange Stars is a book which makes you want to haul out your favorite ruleset and call your friends to schedule the next gaming night. Aaaand… the artwork and layout is flat-out stunning.

What would I’ve liked to see: More stuff. It’s like a ride on a rollercoaster: exciting but too short.

The Verdict: If you like retro sci-fi, you MUST get this book (and buy the print version!). It may sound pricey, but you’ll get a top-notch product. I can’t wait for more Strange Stars-material.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Steven W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/05/2015 16:24:06

I would rate this 4 1/2 stars if I could.

This is a great book, full of wonderful ideas, fantastic art, and enough campaign hooks to keep you playing for years.

But yeah, $9.99 for thirty pages made me hesitate. I understand the cost of art and production value and etc... But its the words that I truly care about and the words here are worth the price tag.

Strange Stars is one part old-fashioned Space Opera, and one part modern trans-humanistic cutting edge sci-fi, and has room enough to shift play style to either end of that continuum if you are unhappy with the mix.

I cannot wait to see more of the Strange Stars universe.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/02/2015 18:46:37

Strange Stars is like a smoke ring from the 70's or 80's from the fevered mind of its author, and its a graphic as well as artistic slight of hand trick of a laser sword of retro science fantasy gaming goodness. The author presents a great overview of his space opera setting with great artwork and a wary eye towards the material being used in your games. This book is wall to wall system neutral artwork as good as your going to find. The races are really nicely designed and can fit into a wide variety of science fiction or fantasy settings. Strange Stars is a wily and so what lean beast, its part setting book, part alien races, and a whole lot of details designed around the fact that this beast wants to be your go to space opera campaign. Everything from the beginning possible PC's races to full adventure hooks are right there at your fingers. You can think of this book as a candy sampler of retro science fiction goodness that never existed until now. This starts with the cover which pays a nice nod to the original Star Frontiers game to the layout and graphics which references everything from Marvel style sci fi comic series to things like Star Wars. This is a style choice and a very well done idea in what it does. Nine ninety nine might seem a bit steep for a simple but its not because this is wall to wall well done artwork. If you grew up thumbing through Barlowe's Guide To Extraterrestrials, reading Micronauts under the covers with a flash light your going to want this book. Because this setting book taps into the nostalgia buttons but there's more. This is a very workable space opera setting with all of the trimmings to get you started in the universe of Strange Stars. Trust me, this is a world where one week your adventurers will be battling PHARESMID SYNDICATE and then taking down the machinations of the THE VOKUN EMPIRE. Its all right there at your finger tips and best of all its system neutral. Use it with your favorite OSR sci fi retroclone or Traveller or Fate or whatever system you want. I see how and why the author has done what he's done. This is a solid impact of a book into the sci fi market. Very cool and I highly recommend this book.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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