Category Archives: News & Reviews

M42 Orion Nebula, M43, and NGC 1977 complex

First Look: Mindjammer The Roleplaying game by Sarah Newton

imageSome of you might be a bit confused right now. Wasn’t Mindjammer a novel? And what about that Starblazer Adventures setting from 2009? Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game is basically the stand-alone 2nd edition of the 2009 game set into the same universe as the novel. Instead of Starblazer Adventures it now uses Fate Core as its basis but this time around the complete rules are included.

I initially planned to write a full in-depth review of Mindjammer, but then decided to give it the first look treatment. Why? Mindjammer is a tome of a game. For this first look Sarah provided me with the Thoughcast Edition PDF (which is what the preorderers get) which has 502 pages. The new layout and artwork is great and fits the transhumanist setting much better than the look of the 2009 book. The artwork from the British Starblazer comics has been replaced by artwork created specifically for Mindjammer.

So what is Mindjammer all about? Let me quote from my review of the novel:

Humanity has reached the stars millenia ago and the New Commonality of Worlds has united almost all humans. Ultra-advanced technology is commonplace. Intelligent spaceship called Mindjammers roam the stars, humanity is connected by some kind of “thought internet” called the Mindspace.

Sending thoughts to another persons is as easy – even easier – as sending an email today. Thanograms, the sum of the skills, knowledge and memories of a dead person, cast into the Mindscape at the moment of death, can be used as the controlling intelligence of synthetic beings called eidolons, spaceships and even personal equipment. But that doesn’t mean that immortality can be achieved. The belief that an eidolon is actually the dead person is called Transmigration Heresy and is often encountered in colonies that have recently been reintegrated into the Commonality.

imageSo basically it’s transhumanist space opera with a twist. Usually in transhumanist settings transfer of personalities is a common theme and the transferred mind is still considered to be the person it was before. This is different in Mindjammer and it makes the game much more playable in my opinion. The setting is definitely what makes the game a must-have for SF fans. It’s unique, extremely detailed, and should be a lot of fun to play, IF you find players willing to invest some time and effort into it. Mindjammer is definitely not a pick up and play kind of setting. If you plan to play in a Mindjammer campaign you should read the background sections of the book throughly or at least read Sarah’s novel. Alas not every player is willing to put so much effort into a game.

The rules of Mindjammer are based on Fate Core which is the best version of Fate so far. Having the core rules included in the game is a mixed bag if you ask me. It’s great if you don’t own the Fate Core rule book, because you can just pick up Mindjammer and you’re done. But if you already own Fate Core, a setting-only book might have been the cheaper choice. And you never know what rules might be different in Mindjammer from Fate Core. But from what I’ve read so far, Sarah made no changes to the core rules, but just added a couple of subsystems using the Fate fractal like rules for organisations or spaceships.

So who would I recommend Mindjammer to? I’d recommend the game to everyone who’s interested in space opera with transhumanist themes woven in who is willing to invest some effort. You might also use Mindjammer as a coal mine if you intend to run your own SF setting using Fate Core, but it would really be a shame if you didn’t use the excellent Mindjammer universe. The New Commonality of Worlds  is definitely an exciting place to play in.

Mindjammer is currently available for preorder from the Modiphius online shop for $54.99 which includes the hardcover version and the PDF. If you preorder you get the Thoughtcast edition of the PDF at once. The hardcover book ships later in March. Then you’ll also get the final PDF.

By the way, if you have any questions regarding Mindjammer, feel free to post them in the comments below. Sarah Newton has agreed to answer a few questions for us later this week and I am sure I can include a couple of questions by our readers in the interview.


News of the World #1

Don’t worry, I don’t want to write about the British news paper scandal here. But I thought that “News of the World” would be a great title for a column about news from the RPG scene. On an irregular basis I want to publish news posts about things I’ve read or heard about. This is something I haven’t done before. At least not in this format. So please let me know what you think!

Rumor: D&D Next is going to expensive
From what I’ve read on several blogs Wizards of the Coast will sell the D&D Next PHB for $50. Of course this hasn’t been confirmed by Wizards yet, but if it’s true, it could mean that the price to get into the new D&D might be around $150. This is quite a lot.
On the other hand, the PHB for the next D&D might be more complete than previous versions. If it contained everything you needed to play and run D&D Next, it would be a fair price, but I have my doubts. In my opinion it would be a terrible move by Wizards of the Coast. From what I’ve heard so far, a lot of people are underwhelmed by what they have seen from D&D Next so far, and I doubt the ridiculous price tag could win them over.
I still hope that the $50 price tag is just a placeholder.

Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition Open Beta
126929While the Mutant Chronicles Kickstarter is still going strong, Modiphius has released a free open beta document on DriveThruRPG. The 47-paged PDF is fully layouted, contains artwork, and even an adventure. Alas there are no rules for character creation, so you have to rely on the four pregenerated characters included in the book. But nevertheless, it’s a nice move by Modiphius and it might help to get some more people interested in the game.
From what I’ve seen so far the system is quite unique and pretty rules-light (which I love). To make checks you roll 2d20 and compare them with your difficulty number. If the result on one of the dice is equal or lower the difficulty number, you scored a success.
I have played Mutant Chronicles a couple of years back and while I enjoyed it a lot, I found that both the rules and the background had some serious issues. But it looks as if the Modiphius team has the rules side of things covered nicely. We won’t know how they fixed the setting until the final book is released though, but I am confident, that they’ll manage to work out the kinks till release.

German Starslayers  website launched
spielguideSome of you may have already heard about Starslayers, the SF roleplaying game powered by the Dungeonslayers system. A couple of days the official Starslayers website has opened and Christian Kennig uses it to share a few sneak peeks at his upcoming game.
Starslayers will obviously use almost the same rules and the same open license. What’s different from DS is a new approach when it comes to a setting. While DS included the Caera setting there was never a strong focus on it. Starslayers on the other hand has a deep setting which influences every aspect of the game – even the rules. While it is still possible to set your games into any SF setting, the default mode is to use the included setting.
At the moment Christian Kennig is still conducting “internal playtests”, so don’t expect the release in the next weeks, but it should be out later this year. Alas I have no information about an English version yet, but I’ll try to squeeze some answers out of Christian later. Zwinkerndes Smiley

These are my news for today. Expect more news in the weeks to come!


Lamentations of the Flame Princess–A few thoughts

Recently I picked up the new hardcover version of Lamentation of the Flame Princess’ Rules and Magic book. Even though I have read the rules several times over the last few years, I took the opportunity to give it another look. I have stated several times before that LotFP is one of my favorite D&D retro clones, and today I want to share my reasons with you.

Weird Fantasy
LotFP is advertised as “weird fantasy”. But what the heck is weird fantasy about? Basically it’s fantasy combined with elements of horror. If you ever read one of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane stories you get a good idea of what to expect from LotFP, especially if you set your game into an early modern age. The hardcover edition actually includes rules for early firearms and armor used in that period. LotFP gives me a similar vibe as the old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition.

Low or rather less flashy magic
The magic in LotFP feels a bit different from vanilla D&D. A lot of the spells are less flashy and overall magic feels more like a dark art performed by a few instead of something which is present on every corner. Summoning is a dangerous affair. If you mess up, the thing you just summoned into the world, rips of your arms and legs and returns to hell with your soul in tow. Ouch! In LotFP magic is dangerous and mysterious. If you’re fed up with standard high fantasy settings this is a very welcome change.

Skill system
Most D&D retro clones (and early editions of D&D for that matter) use skills for the Thief class only and use a percentile-based system which doesn’t really fit in with the other mechanics (at least in my opinion). James Raggi IV has taken the system, turned it into a d6-based one and applied it to all the classes. Now every character has a certain chance to Tinker, Climb, find secret doors, etc. but only the Specialist class may improve these skills. This makes a lot of sense to me and it seems to work quite well.

No superpowered heroes
In vanilla D&D characters become extremely powerful over time. And to counter that the GM has to come up with more and more powerful enemies every time. The high availability of magic weapons and armor only makes things worse. In LotFP characters don’t improve that fast. The fighter is the only class which improves its base attack bonus over time and magic items are extremely rare and always come with a cost. But this also means that monsters don’t need to have ridiculous stats in order to be any challenge. The way LotFP is designed, even a high level character is in danger when confronted with too many enemies – even low level ones.

Different but still familiar
Even though LotFP feels different from other D&D retro clones it’s still familiar. If you have played any D&D-based game you can easily pick up and play LotFP. Adventures designed for other D&D variants can easily be modified to be run with it.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is perfectly suited for any game set into a pseudo-European early modern age game with low magic and horror elements. Would I run a Forgotten Realms game with it? No way! What about Ravenloft? Hell yeah! I’ve also considered using LotFP for a game set into the Warhammer world. Or you could probably just as easily use it for a game set into the aftermath of the Thirty Years War. In my opinion LotFP is more than “just” a D&D clone, but a game which harkens back to the days of yore while taking things into a fresh and new direction!