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Battlelords of the 23rd Century Interior Preview (Kickstarter/7th Edition) $0.00
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Battlelords of the 23rd Century Interior Preview (Kickstarter/7th Edition)
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Battlelords of the 23rd Century Interior Preview (Kickstarter/7th Edition)
Publisher: 23rd Century Productions, LLC
by russ b. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/21/2022 14:29:26

Batttlelords of the 23rd century is clearly a labor of love, by old school gamers for old school gamers. The games history goes back to 1990 when the first edition of it was written by a Lawrence Sims, an American military vet.

The game was focused on the fighting men in war, the front line soldiers which is what Lawrence Sims was. It's set in a very much space opera themed setting where the science is fairly soft. Some reviewers have likened it to Star Frontiers and I can't say that's wrong.

It went thru a flurry of editions from 1990-2000, ending with a fairly well done 6E. For the next 20 years little was done with it, tho there were a trickle of products that supported the game.

In 2019 the 7e kickstarter was announced and the 7e was born under a new company and missing the original designer who has retired.

BL23c is somewhat odd in that it has a very space opera style setting put on a very detailed and crunchy rules set that might be better for a more hardcore setting like traveller. However BL's setting is so open that you can run traveller/starmerc style games in it, and it would be perfect for a mass effect RPG.

BL uses a system called the 150 system, which is a percentile roll under system that caps all stats and chances to succeed at 150, with a 01 always succeeding and a 00 (Double Zodds, in game terms) always failing. (For thing with some states that might be beyond 150, the game uses multipliers to the stats effects, a creature might have a high strength and a modifier of x2 or more to its ability to lift and carry, or it's melee damage bonus.)

At heart it's a pretty normal system. You roll to succeed at actions or attacks by taking half your base stat and adding your skill plus some fairly typical modifiers, like range, cover, movement, equipment quality, difficulty level, etc. Nothing really unusual here.

Where BL catches a lot of flak is how many mods there can be and how complex basic tactical combat can get. Combat is a main feature of BL and yes, it can get detailed. The best example is how the standard armor works in the game.

Basic armor has 4 stats. Threshold, which is the actual external armor layer, its rating stops most damage on a point basic. The next stat is absorption, with is a layer of polymers that absorb most incoming damage and ablate away. Armor integrity is the last stat and when an armor section loses all its integrity, the armor is destroyed for that area. Amos also has spaces to put one of more of a vast list of options and modules into;

Armor is heavily affected by the size class of the wearer. A suit of Bear Armor made for a tiny Mutzachen (Think little grey big headed alien ) will have a few things in common with a suit of bear armor made for a hulking Ram Pythonian (Basically think huge lizard/ogre, or a very large and not too bright Krogan from mass effect) but will in general have a lot of differences. Both will have the same threshold and special rules for the armor, but the size class 7 armor will have more absorption, integrity and spaces than a size class 1 armor, but also cost and weigh a hell of a lot more.

Some weapons ignore some or all aspects or armor. Laser weapons flash right thru your absorption, thudd guns are unaffected by threshold. Each weapon has a damage type that defines how it interacts with armor, and there are like 9 of these types leading to some 'figuring' when some shots hit armor.

Combat also covers a lot of other situations, and goes into things like electronic warfare, with electronic counter measures to defeat advanced targeting and electronic counter counter measures (Yes, this is a real thing) designed to compensate for ECM.

Again, this might make a great system for traveller.

The basic game comes with hundreds of different weapons of different types, from modern-day guns knows as 'archaic powder weapons, to lasers, plasma pulse weapons, 'thudd guns' that deliver a massive impact via a projected kinetic forcefield to gravitational shears which use polarized gravity beams to pull targets apart all along the beam's path. Missiles and drones are available, as are autonomous weapons.

The list of armor options would put Iron Man to shame, with things like auto medics, missile launchers, antigravity systems, forcefield generators, sensors, ECM/ECCM systems....the list goes on for ages.

All this can make the game run a little slower until players remember what they have and what it does., Then things speed up.

The skill system is pretty standard, with 15 skill levels divided into 3 levels that have a rising cost per level. The highest skill mod you can get is +75%.

Star wars has the force for it's surrogate magic in a nominal SF setting, BL has matrix powers available mostly to 3 races, tho members of other races can learn some of these at a cost. They are generally not unbalancing at basic levels.

The setting of the game is basically a somewhat corrupt galactic alliance composed of over a dozen races, nothing like the federation in star trek, it's a union created by the oldest and most powerful race in the known universe to fight against a couple major menaces that threaten most people, but mostly the founders of the alliance.

Many races dislike each other and there are rules for what races each race likes, is neutral towards or dislikes. (Yes, the Fott don't even like their own race.) Of course each member of the race can choose how he reacts to others as an individual, and all are expected to get along in the face of a common enemy. Some modern gamers may be offended by the fact the game acknowledges racial animosity as a real thing. So be it. This is not the game for them and it is not made to accommodate them.

As to the races, well, if you liked the races in Mass Effect, you should be ok with these. In fact some of the races in ME remind me of the races in BL. I'm not saying ME had people who played BL on the design team, I'm saying it would not surprise me a'tall of they did.

The default game setting, the alliance, is a pretty typical dysfunctional corporate ran dystopia, with unchecked capitalism basically ruining what could be a great world for most people. Again, it ain't star trek. One thing the setting does not really embrace is the 'transhumanist' field. There are massive cybernetics, bionics and even genetic engineering, but the game does not get into transhumanism to any real degree.

Some people might be offended that huge corporations and uncontrolled capitalism are portrayed fairly negatively in the setting. Again, this may not be the game for them.

BL mostly remains a tactical combat game, tho other things are possible to a good RPG group. The somewhat amorphous setting lends itself to a variety of popular SF themes. This setting would work with novel series like David Drake's Hammer's Slammers (And his Forlorn hope novel), the traveller starmerc setting, the mass effect universe and the like.

A full vehicle and spacecraft combat system rounds out this massive 550 page tome. This book is a complete game with everything.

There are flaws, the layout isn't always clear. You'll see a term like “bumps” mentioned several times early on but not get it defined for a few dozen more pages. The PDF is not hyperlinked so you can't click on a term to go to it's source page. Sometimes rules are laid out in overly complex terms, but mostly a set of handy examples come with each rule to clarify them. A good editing could make the pdf better.

All in all BL is a fairly well done 90's style RPG writ large, very, very large. The stock book comes with enough stuff to make gun bunnies, treadheads, missile monkeys and other gearheads think they've died and gone to the good place.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Battlelords of the 23rd Century Interior Preview (Kickstarter/7th Edition)
Publisher: 23rd Century Productions, LLC
by fletcher b. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2019 14:07:06

Having played this game through all its iterations and having had a chance to peruse the preview and play it at GenCon this year, I can confidently say that this is the best version of Battlelords yet. Fantastic art. Expanded races. Streamlined gaming system while still maintaining the gritty feel of the original game. I can’t wait to introduce my players to this newest version of the greatest space opera sci-fi roleplaying game ever.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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