Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

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.

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

Review: Mutant Year Zero

imageMutant Year Zero is one of the games that took me completely by surprise. I faintly remember that I read that Modiphius was running a Kickstarter project for the game, but I for some reason I didn’t give it a closer look. Recently a friend reminded me of Mutant Year Zero. He has been one of the KS backers and was totally blown away by the final game.

So I started doing some research. Mutant Year Zero is the latest edition of a decade-old Swedish RPG franchise. The more well-known Mutant Chronicles RPG has actually been developed from an earlier edition of the Mutant game. The latest edition of Mutant has been created in 2014 and is published by Modiphius, which you probably know from Achtung! Cthulhu.

This review is based on the PDF version of Mutant Year Zero, which has been provided by the publisher for the purpose of said review. Thanks again, Chris! The digital edition is available from DriveThruRPG and contains not only the core rules but also several sheets, handouts, and two Zone maps.

The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the game is that it looks totally awesome. The comic-style artwork fits the setting perfectly and the layout is top notch. I know that substance is more important than style, but in most cases style is what gets you interested in a game in the first place. The production quality of Mutant Year Zero is definitely on par with Fantasy Flight Games or Paizo products.

Seal of ApprovalSo what is Mutant Year Zero about? The subtitle “Roleplaying at the End of Days” actually gives it away. It’s the post apocalypse. Humanity has screwed up big time and the vast majority of Earth is a radioactive wasteland. But some pockets of humanity remain. The “People”, shephered by the Elder, have survived in a place called the Ark. In Mutant you play one of these people. And as you might have suspected every player character is a mutant.

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