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Baroque Space Opera $15.00 $10.00
Average Rating:4.6 / 5
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Baroque Space Opera
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Baroque Space Opera
Publisher: Mark Kowaliszyn
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/10/2018 17:30:30

Baroque Space Opera (BSO) is a worthy setting for the Fate Core rules-system, 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
Publisher: Mark Kowaliszyn
by Nicholas N. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/07/2015 11:39:51

The reason to get this is if you want a FATE setting that is a completely gonzo space opera setting that blends Dune, 40K, and a lot of other stuff together. The universe it presents is not a fun place, but its to busy being awesome to be grimdark. The art, style, and setting overlap very well.

Another reviewer stated it needed a bestiary. I would have also liked a bit more help on how to start a campaign than is present in the text.

I have not had a chance to try out its new rules.

All in all, I am a happy customer though, as I wanted the setting the book was selling.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Baroque Space Opera
Publisher: Mark Kowaliszyn
by Dillard R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/14/2015 22:37:41

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a Beta. Still quite a bit of work to go. Under normal circumstances I'd probably only give this a 2 star rating. However, The setting is fun and despite being a mash up of a lot of different stories from different media it hangs together surprisingly well.

Needs a Beastiary or equivalent. The varying antagonists are spread out throughout the book and therefore difficult to find quickly. The Archetypes are pretty limited considering the vastness of the Dominion. The Archetypes use the standard 3 refresh 3 stunts and +4 pinnacle skill pyramid. You don't use a standard phase trio but this is adequately explained and appropriate for the setting. However, these rather pedestrian beginners are supposed to represent the God-like Deipotents and their Exalted-Human minions. Regular old Humans don't even get a mention.

The book would benefit from changing the chapter on themes into something more closely resembling the "Game Creation" chapter from FATE Core. The history is given in some detail but there are no pre-made campaigns. The author shows some possible themes, but doesn't elaborate on how to turn those themes into a campaign unique to the setting. If he doesn't do that then this book needs some pre-made campaigns or some varying story seeds. Why? The history and the setting is huge. Having a way to create a starting point or barring that having some actual starting points would be helpful.

Initiative is handled quite differently in Baroque. You roll your Tactics skill and whoever scores higher goes first. Then they get to choose who goes next. If someone wants to interrupt they can use a Fate Point to go next.

The Notice skill has been removed. In its place an new action has been created; Notice. Each skill has a Notice element. Use Tactics to Notice and Ambush. Use Technosophy to Notice a malfunctioning system. Etc. In most situations Notice can be used at the same time other actions are used so you don't lose your normal actions in a round.

I sometimes feel as I read the book that new rules were added for the sake of adding new rules without gaining any real benefit or without highlighting the really unique setting. I also feel as if there wasn't a great deal of time spent playtesting.

There are other niggling things that the author will probably fix in the near future. No character sheet. Paucity of Art (it is evocative what there is of it). No back cover.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Baroque Space Opera
Publisher: Mark Kowaliszyn
by Tom B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/05/2015 23:26:58

On top of all the good things written about Baroque Space Opera in the other reviews, I would also like to say that this book has LOTS of stunts, some of which go way outside the boundaries of the typical Fate rubrics. The stunt writing and design in Baroque Space Opera really challenged my Fate thinking, and is one its biggest selling points as a worthy addition to a Fate collection.

Using Approaches instead of Skills (like at our table) is a really easy conversion since most of the cool subsystems (psionics/magic, nano-tech, cyberspace, etc.) are stunt and aspect based anyway, and only need slight adjustments (very few stunts in BSO are of the "Use X Skill instead of Y Skill" variety).

I am a big fan of Beneficial Things, it is now my go-to extra creation system. It is similar to Jadepunk's Asset system in terms of stunt costs, drawbacks etc., but the benefits come primarily from narrative permissions and free invokes (that refresh when appropriate) stacked onto a Thing's Aspects. There are dozens and dozens of pre-made Things to give you examples for how to handle a wide range of exotic items and abilities. The only thing I have trouble with is that minion- and minor-character- Beneficial Things can take actions on their own under the direction of the controlling NPC, giving their PC two actions per turn, which is something I like to avoid, though I do see how the design choice fits the setting (PC level individuals have vast resources and superhuman abilities at their disposal.). The mechanics in BSO are pretty mix-and-match, (by design I assume) so it isn't a big deal to just exclude this if you choose.

Mixed in with the (extensive) hand-drawn artwork are photos of real-world artifacts and locations. At first this was visually jarring, but I have come to appreciate these as references to the types of images I should look for on the internet to act as game-aids and inspiration for the setting.

Though I would like to see this type of product sell in the $10-12 range, I have to say the $15 I spent on Baroque Space Opera was more than worth it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Baroque Space Opera
Publisher: Mark Kowaliszyn
by Jacob R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/14/2015 12:07:30

This book is very fantastic. It presents itself as a blend of several different sci-fi franchises. The chief influences are Dune and Warhammer 40K, although it's very lite on the grimdark. Other influences of note are Stargate and the Succession duology by Scott Westerfeld. While the author lists Farscape as an inspiration, I had a hard time seeing that.

It's one of the most imaginative settings out there, and it's very immersive. The art might not be for everyone, as the pieces look like they were drawn with colored pencil, but I found them very evocative. Think art nouveau meets Giger plus the Dark Horse Tales of the Jedi comic books of the early 90s.

The only criticism I have is that the book references the Fate Core book and the Fate Core Toolkit. Those are both CC licensed, so I would rather the author have included the text here in the book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Baroque Space Opera
Publisher: Mark Kowaliszyn
by Carl A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/11/2015 19:02:48

First off, let me say I think this is my favorite FATE Core setting. There are plenty of settings that have the feel of medieval Europe, but not nearly enough that have a very ancient Egyptian styling.

If you are a fan of the style of aliens in Stargate SG-1, you'll like this game. But you could also be a fan of Warhammer 40K and find plenty to enjoy, too.

The artwork is very well done, and the worst images in it are better than the best in many setting from top tier companies. The best are perfect. The layout style is really nice, too, with full color pages designed to really evoke the setting on every page.

And that's the only problem I can find. The pages sometimes load slowly or are slow to redraw. Perhaps using layers so we can turn some of that off when we are on lower power devices or just need to flip quickly through the book would be nice.

The use of Fate Core mechanics is well done, the authors obviously understood them and built the game and setting with them in mind, rather than shoehorning another setting into this rule set.

There are rules for ship to ship battles that look functional and flavorful. Ships are handled like Fate characters, with the exception that they have a different set of skills and aren't required to use the skill pyramid. After reading a couple of additional actions they have access to (Boarding, sensor usage, etc) you can easily see how they work.

There have been a couple of small typos (tack rather than track, etc) but none of them have been glaring or show stoppers. In addition, the author has been really responsive about wanting to get them fixed.

Perhaps the worst thing is deciding what kind of character you'll want to play. But of all of the problems to have, this is one I can live with happily.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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