Category Archives: News & Reviews

First Look: Strange Stars

Strange Stars by Armchair Planet is a game setting book of a kind you don’t see that often nowadays – it’s system-less. The 32-paged PDF contains a complete space opera universe for you and your friends to play in, with whatever rules you deem fit for the task.

imageThe artwork and layout of the book are top-notch and the artwork has a strong 1970’s vibe. The setting mixes elements from the golden age of space opra with more modern ideas like transhumanism.

You might think that $9.99 might be a bit much for a 32-paged PDF but considering the high quality of the artwork and the cool ideas contained in these pages, the price is more than fair. I included a piece of artwork to the right as an example. I guess it also shows what I meant with “a 1970s vibe”. Zwinkerndes Smiley

What I really love about this little book is that it doesn’t provide you with a complete setting, but with broad strokes of a setting with some details thrown in (like the character in the image above). There’s definitely enough material to get you started, but not enough to choke the GM’s imagination. The “bottom up” approach taken in the book helps to evoke images of a huge universe players can explore – much like throwaway lines like “I made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” etc. made the original Star Wars feel so much greater.

imageStrange Stars assumes hyperspace gates which allow travel of interstellar distances and the book provides several maps which show how the various systems and sectors are connected. Each of the sectors and planets is described in some detail, so that you have a general idea of how the Strange Stars look like.

The majority of the book gives some information on the various planets, alien species, and interstellar empires of the setting. The emphasis is on “some” here, because no aspect of the setting is fully fledged out, there’s always enough space for your own ideas. The information which is there is often weird, exciting and just plain awesome. Leafing through Strange Stars feels much like watching Star Wars for the first time. Trey Causey, the author of the setting, did an awesome job creating something which just screams “PLAY ME!”.

If you don’t mind that the book doesn’t contain any mechanics, it’s an awesome value even for its rather high price. The artwork contained in the book is definitely worth the money and the setting itself is just awesome with a capital A. Alas the only weak point of the product is the cover artwork. For some reason it just doesn’t look as great though it’s still fine. As far as I know there are at least two books planned by Armchair Planet containing rules for Strange Stars: one for Stars Without Number and another for Fate Core, but I am pretty sure a veteran GM can easily adopt the setting to any system.

P.S.: Strange Stars is currently part of RPGNow’s Science Fiction Month Sale. You can get it for the reduced price of $8.49 now. This deal is valid until the end of the month.

Hell Froze Over: There will be a non-palladium-System RIFTS Game

Two days ago, Palladium Books revealed in its Weekly Update that there will be a new roleplaying game set in Rifts Earth (including a line of adventures) created by another company. For everyone who loves the setting of Rifts but doesn’t care for the rules this is great news. Alas Kevin Siembieda didn’t spill the beans what company is currently adapting Rifts to its own system.

I am really surprised that Mr. Siembieda finally allows another company to create a new Rifts game. Fans of the game have critizised the Palladium system for many years now. Any attempts of fans to create alternate rules have been answered by lawsuit threats. After a while people didn’t even dare to talk about the issue anymore.

And now – totally out of the blue – Palladium Books announces that they’ve made a deal with another company to release a whole series of Rifts products powered by a different game system. Of course people immediately started to speculate. Since Jason Richards’ Breachworld RPG shares a couple of elements with Rifts many people hoped he’d be working on the new Rifts game, but it seems that is not the case.

I really hope that the new Rifts game will not use Savage Worlds rules, which is another rumor I picked up on the web. Savage Worlds is not a bad system but I highly doubt it can handle the scale of the setting. To have both Rogue Scientists and Glitter Boys in the same game, the underlying system needs a granularity Savage World just doesn’t have.

There were also speculations that Green Ronin may be that secret company, since they announced “perhaps the biggest RPG story of the year” for GenCon in their January update, but from what we know now it’s more likely that they referred to their cooperation with Wil Wheaton and his Titansgrave setting. I also believe that the AGE System wouldn’t be a good fit either. But their Mutants & Masterminds system might actually work quite well, since it can handle powerlevels very well.

What are your thoughts on that announcement? As always, every comment is highly appreciated! Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Some Thoughts on the Dragon Age RPG

On Saturday I had the chance to play the Dragon Age RPG by Green Ronin at a local convention. Initially I planned to run two sessions of Into The Odd, but we didn’t find enough players for the second game, so I decided to play some Dragon Age instead.

I’ve owned the rules pretty much since it has been released, but alas I never had the chance to give it a try. So I was pretty excited when I was given the chance to actually play it. The GM had prepared six characters: two rogues, two mages, and two warriors. I picked one of the mages, who turned out to be a human circle mage with a focus on primal magic.

Playing a mage is a lot of fun in Dragon Age, especially because there’s a chance that things can get terribly wrong. My most powerful spell had a slight chance of miscasting. During the game this spell misfired once, but luckily it just damaged my Marbari warhound instead of turning my character into an abomination.

The rules are extremely easy to understand. You roll 3d6, one of those is the dragon die, and if your roll result is equal or higher than the target number you succeed. The dragon die comes into play each time you roll doubles when making an attack roll. In that case the dragon die shows the number of stunt points you can use for that action. Stunt points allow you to move yourself or your enemy, add additional damage, ignore armor, reduce the spell cost of the spell casted, and more. Because of this, the combat rules can be kept simple, but you get additional option from time to time, which make things more dramatic and exciting.

Recently Green Ronin has released the Dragon Age RPG rulebook, which combines the rules found in all the three boxes and adds a new adventure. The PDF is available right now, the hardcover book is still in its preorder phase. I’ve put the PDF on my wishlist, and I am determined to get a copy of the hardcover book as soon as it reaches Germany. Now I just need to find a couple of people who want to play the game with me. Smiley