Godstar is a supplement for the Cepheus Engine rules. You’ll either need that or a version of Traveller to use this, although it can be adapted for use with other systems. It’s set on a desert world and there are a lot of similarities to Dune. There are, however, no Sandworms so you’ll be able to convince your players to go into the desert.
The supplement starts with a brief history of settlement on Aurelia, a few maps of the main locations and an introduction to the planetary environment, the people who live there and maps and statistics of the subsector around it.
The factions in the game are treated as if they were people, they have statistics like a player-character and can roll under these statistics to decide whether they have something. So, if a faction has STR of 4, it is comparatively weak and if it wants to force you to do something, it has to roll under 4 on 2D6 to have armed men, weapons and ships to do so. A faction with high SOC has respect, confidence (and support) of others in power. I like this mechanic. If your players negotiate an alliance with another faction that provides extra infantry, that might increase your faction’s STR.
Your players will be working for these factions. Character creation is modified to take account of the setting. There are a few additions to the usual rules, such as personal force fields. The consequence is that firearms are less useful than swords, knives and spears, although there are rules and firearms are included.
One thing I really liked was the rules for duelling. If you have used medieval weapons, these feel like a much better abstraction on how one-on-one combat works. It’s worth buying just for this, it’s a much better system than the basic Cepheus rules. There are rules for gladiatorial combat too, based on the Roman model, although with less emphasis on the low status of Roman gladiators. You can be part of a traveling troop of professional gladiators, or take part in a competition as an amateur (and hope you win your first bout).
Computers are huge mechanical devices or non-existent (something similar to the Butlerian Jihad in Dune happened in the past). Personal computing and embedded computers in devices just don’t exist, although there are no Mentets in this setting. There are some mystical powers (called Karam) that you could make into Bene Gesserit powers. It’s not Dune, although you could easily adapt it.
You have extensive rules for desert survival. You could make a very entertaining game with a few characters in a crashed starship or escape pod trying to get to civilisation.
There are plot suggestions and some NPCs to use. There nice pictures, helping you to visualise them. There is no introductory adventure, though.
The artwork in this ranges from excellent to OK. There are lots of pictures of desert settings and a few that are really excellent. The illustrations of weapons and the maps are acceptable, but they contrast with the excellent quality in the rest of the publication. There’s nothing I’d characterise as poor.
I thought the entry on “playing Gaugamelans” (page 45) was poorly done. Most of the paragraph is a brief history of the race’s interaction with humans, at the end is a sentence with a brief physical description and what changes to statistics are made to play one as a character. Nothing about their personality traits, culture or anything else to bring them alive. The picture looked like a Space Ork from Warhammer 40K with protruding lower fangs. I thought this could have been left out and made into a supplement. Gaugamela is Greek for “uncle”, so it’s either a reference to one of Alexander’s battles or a dig at a family member.
Where Dune uses Arabic words to give flavour, Godstar uses lots of words associated with the Central Asian area, so there’s a Masada and a Ferghana, a Hermon and an Akkadia. Nothing wrong with that, but I thought the Latin city names of Primus, Secundus and Tertius (First, Second and Third) didn’t work. The people of Aurelia are called The Kuban, so I thought they might use Russian (or Turkish) words for their cities. Weapons names are Central Asian. It gives the supplement a nice feel.
The Godstar of the title is little developed. You are free to decide how much to use what information is provided and take your game in whatever direction you please. If you want to use this just for a campaign based on House Atreides versus the Harkonnens, it’s ideal.
It’s moderately priced and you get more than your money’s worth. If you use Cepheus Engine rules, buy this for the duelling and desert survival rules. There are a lot of other useful ideas throughout this supplement that you will adopt for your own games. It’s good value, I'm very happy I bought it.
[4 of 5 Stars!]