One of the most promising new game systems I reviewed in Black Gate 14 was used for the pulp role-playing game Spirit of the Century from Evil Hat Productions. FATE is a streamlined set of rules based more on adjectives and descriptions than complicated and time consuming point allocations. Not only does the system make task resolution fast, it encourages players and game masters alike to storytell more than die roll.
I was unabashedly excited about Spirit of the Century and couldn’t help wondering how the mechanics designed for pulp 1930s role-play would work in another setting.
An English game company named Cubicle Seven must have been wondering the same thing, because they took up the system and retooled it for science fiction role-playing.
Starblazer Adventures is a beautiful, thick hardback of 629 pages, stuffed full of art taken from a popular British space opera comic from the 1970s and ’80s. Nearly every page is decorated with exciting action pics evocative of high octane adventure.
But more than 600 pages, I can see you asking, isn’t that… needlessly long? Is it crammed with charts that you must consult?
No. What it is crammed with is all the information that a game master could need to run a thrill-packed space campaign, and then some.
As it is based on Spirit of the Century, Starblazer Adventures begins with a thorough discussion of characters and the feats and skills available to them. After that first third of the book, the rest is taken up with options and suggestions for bringing space opera adventures to life — the building of star monsters and war machines, mechanics for battle fleets, robots, starship creation — all the standard science fiction tropes, all covered in detail.
Then, following on the example set by Spirit of the Century, there’s a wonderful set of chapters devoted to plot generation, storytelling tips, adventure seeds, and even planet creation — because there’s no point setting adventures on alien planets unless the alien planets are interesting to land on.
If you happen to be a fan of the old Starblazer comics themselves, there’s an appendix of all the issues, and a statted presentation of their most popular characters. If that sounds like a lot of material, it is, and there’s even more that I haven’t covered. It is, simply, the most well thought-out comprehensive space game ruleset I’ve ever seen under one cover. It’s entertaining, thorough, and the system itself is top notch. If you like rule sets that are more about story than crunch, this book’s for you. Highly recommended.
Chris Burch & Stuart Newman
$36.46 629 Pages
You might wonder why so thorough a game would need a supplement, but Mindjammer takes Starblazer Adventures and fine tunes the rules for a specific campaign setting, one with a hard science default – although you should not assume hard science to mean a lack of adventure. Almost 70 of the supplement’s approximately 200 pages are devoted to four interlinked scenarios that would engage players for multiple nights of play.
On first flipping through Mindjammer, I noticed a long chapter that described a set of planets, and stopped there first. As an old fan of Traveller and other space games, I learned you can tell a lot from a space supplement from how it presents the adventure locations. I shortly knew I was in good hands, because the 20 odd planets of Mindjammer’s Darradine Rim don’t have the generic default of “jungle planet” or “desert planet:” they’re fully fleshed out, with more than enough detail for a game master to bring to life. Each even comes with a map, and many come with adventure hooks.
I then turned to the campaign setting as described in the first 80 pages, and was pleased to find that instead of the usual generic assumptions, writer Sarah Newton put time and thought into creating a society with different features: the Mindscape, accessible by all citizens of the Commonality by neural implants; synthetic humanoids with thanograms, deceased human personalities; sentient starships, and other impressive ideas, including rules for gaming out the conflict between colliding cultures that are far more interesting than a quick synopsis would make them sound, and an expanded set of skills, equipment and deck plans.
Rounded out by more Starblazer art, it’s another well-designed package, and sure to be of interest to space game fans. It’s high quality stuff, and if this work is typical of what we can expect from Cubicle Seven it’s clear that this is a company to be watched.
$29.95 195 Pages