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Galilean Run
Publisher: Nothing Ventured Games
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/23/2013 08:36:48
Very simple, neat little game. If you want a sci-fi flavored time killer, buy Galilean Run.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Galilean Run
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Orbital
Publisher: Zozer Games
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/20/2012 12:47:05
Orbital (a dull name, like a place holder name they forgot to change) is a hard science fiction, colonized solar system, no FTL campaign setting for Traveller. I have personally never liked the Traveller rules, considering them way too complex (especially in chargen), but bought the book because I have long wanted a hard sci-fi solar system based rpg. If you like Traveller, you will get everthing you want from this book. If you are like me and can't even finish the TMB, I see no reason why with a little adaption you could not use this setting with a rule set of your liking (there is no necessary connection between this universe and the Third Imperium). The setting is realistic, detailed, and well-written, but I have two major gripes:

a) the Luna/Earth Cold War. It is necessary, in the author's opinion, to motivate humanity to colonize the solar system, but I just find it hard to believe. Hard to believe that after only a few decades colonists on the moon would become so unalterably opposed to Earth and see themselves as so different from it. This division just seems unmotivated, existing solely to provide conflict/tension in the setting. A better division might have been Earth/Mars or Inner System/Outer System.

b) the book's organization. The chapter that describes worlds of the solar sytem and sets out its geographical/political structure should come before the chapters on organizations, space craft, etc., because they are hard to understand without knowing the geography and politics of the system.

Those problems aside, I rate Orbital as highly as I do because the information inside would be a invaluable resource to anyone planning a hard sci-fi campaign or writing hard sci-fi fiction.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Orbital
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Dungeons: A Solo Adventure Game
Publisher: Adventure Games Guild
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/29/2012 18:25:43
This is a good game if you are really dedicated to solo adventuring, and are not turned off by tons of die rolls, page flipping, and no maps to move around in. You choose one of four Heroes: mage, elf, dwarf, and barbarian, each with different strengths and weakness, and go on one of six quests, rolling for encounters and events on various tables, turning back and forth through the book as you do so and visualizing it all in your imagination, as there are no maps and few illustrations. Maps and a page that summaries all tables would make this game much more playable. On the upside, the mechanics are instantly recognizable if you have ever played an rpg and surprisingly sophisicated for a solo game.

For now, I can only recommend this book for solo gaming enthusiasts, and hope future books will include maps and summary charts.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeons: A Solo Adventure Game
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Planets Systemless Setting
Publisher: Point of Insanity Game Studio
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/01/2012 12:30:26
The uncreatively named Planets setting offers just that: 40 planets across the galaxy for your sci-fi campaign, which you can use in the default "Alliance" universe or pick and choose and plop into you present setting. It is ruleless, so you can use your favorite rules, and the book includes advice on how to work in various common rules elements into the setting. The planet descriptions given are detailed and interesting for the most part, complete with adventure hooks for each. My real problem with this setting is the races: apparently humans evolved on many different planets, and no explanation of how this can be is given. Even more offensve to this reviewer's delicate sensibilties is that the not obviously human races are rehashed fantasy races: minotaurs, satyrs, ogres, lizard men, etc. It's silly, and ruins the usefullness of the setting for me. You could, however, use the planets themselves and populate them with more creative aliens.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Planets Systemless Setting
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KISS: Keep It Simple System
Publisher: Polyhedron Games LLC
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/08/2011 22:57:20
Unfortunately, these rules are quite confusing, despite aiming for simplicity. I started to go "huh" as early as page 1 and the 7d6/7d4 chart. I am not sure what the 7d6 are for (action resolution, something about pips and apexes), but apparently the 7d4 are rolled to determine character attributes (or that's one of the ways. Too many options here cause more confusion. Pick one and go with it). Each total is somehow compared to this chart to determine my attribute. Seems if I roll a 9 I get -3, but what if I roll a 7 (each die comes up 1)? There is no 7 on the chart.

This baffling chart is immediately followed by an a justification for using "he," which if needed at all is definitely out of place here, when a reader is stil trying to make sense of the chart.

There is a surprising lot of detail in this brief document, and none of it gets any clearer than the chart. Honestly, I could not finish reading the book because the confusion was just a turn off. The books needs a major re-write for clarity.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
KISS: Keep It Simple System
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you. This is exactly what I need, but since it's one view and brand new, I'll hold out for other opinions. Evidently I managed to get the font embedding right, so that's a plus. I still think it's rather elegant, but I could be all wet. That's why it's out there. Try a more careful reading. Not saying it's because you didn't make an effort, but the concept <i>is</i> a bit out-of-the-box. I'll try to explain in case others have problems with it. A pendulum can be swung from its null point, where it is straight down or its apex, its highest point. I've posited 7 points along its imaginary path, hence, the seven dice, giving a range from 0-6 or -3 to +3. The pendulum is used for all rolls in the game except character attributes. I'll need to check your question concerning a roll of 7. I don't <i>think</i> you can get a modified result of 7, but it's late and I'm just trying to take care of potential customers. I'm very old school and the disclaimer about gender was a knee-jerk reaction to publishers seemingly deliberately using the female pronoun every opportunity they could get! So, that gets scrapped> Again, thank you and please... take another look.
Well, it's morning and I've had time to reset my brain. The reason there is no "7" on the chart is because it's lower than 9. If one rolls higher than 9, then the result is pushed up to the next higher result. Not justifying my thinking here, just trying to make things clear.
Ashen Stars
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/13/2011 11:42:08
Ashen Stars is a game that takes its genre, "gritty space opera," very very VERY seriously. So much that sometimes it becomes annoying, as when things happen or are the way they are because that is what would have happnened on Star Trek: TNG or the new Battlestar Galactica. Enough, already, be your own game. Chargen in this game is, .... well, I can't tell you because it is impossible in this game to create a character without having a GM or a group to do it with. I like making characters just for fun or to test systems, but you can't here, because the number of points you get for buying abilities depends on how many people are playing. Also, there are no ratings for basic physical/mental abilities, like Strength, Intelligence, or Will. Characters are entirely summed up by their skills, and all groups must have every one of the crucal Investigative skills (one of the reasons you need a GM for chargen). One positive aspect of the way characters are made is the emphasis put on Drives and characters arcs. I like it when characters are more than collections of ability scores, but I also want scores.

AS is run on the GUMSHOE system, which is entirely focused on investigation and mystery solving. Thus play proceeds by the GM granting clues to players automatically when they have the right skill in the right place (no rolls needed), hoping that the players will have the sense to see that they are in place to use that skill. When they don't, the GM has to dump the clues on them anyway, cause mystery is the thing and the players HAVE to solve the mystery. They can of course fail, but mystery solving is the drive of the game. If you and your group want that, GUMSHOE makes absolutely certain you will get it. Every time.

I like well-developed, detailed settings, but AS's The Bleed is just the suggestion of one. It is the 25th century, after an intersellar empire of multiple races (including Humans) called the The Combine has barely won a war against a mysterious enemy (cause everybody has a peculiar memory loss about anything concerning them), the Mohilar. (don't complain, it's GENRE).The Bleed, where the game is set, was a border region of that empire, and is now more or less left to its own devices as the Combine pulls in its bloody stumps and tries to rebuild. The less in the more or less is the PCs, who are freelance, roving problem solvers/ law-enforcers called Lasers. They take and fulfill Contracts by solving the aforementioned mysteries. This is a neat solution to the need of RPGs to explain why a disparate group of unsual people are traveling constantly (together!) and using force with no consquences. Don't these people have jobs, bills, families and rent? Yes: their job is to travel the Bleed solving the Problem of the Week on the Planet of the Week, and that's how they pay the bills and rent on their spaceship. Families, if any, exist to be threatened by bad guys.

But AS's solution to this problem is no worse than any other RPGs, and more thought-out than most. All-in-all, AS is a game that does what it sets out to do well, regardless of the qualms I have about what it sets out to do.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ashen Stars
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Psypher 2430 Core Rulebook (EPV)
Publisher: GameAddikts
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/15/2011 01:13:20
This is a summary of a good game. Where is the rest? Where are the illustrations? It's cheap, it's basic, and it's playable, but because it's so good its also disappointingly thin on detail. Pyspher 2430 uses attributes, tests, skills, combat, etc., in a way that an experienced gamer can get by skimming. Its mechanics use d6, but not in the common d6 way, which I am very glad of. Leaving them wanting more: more images, more story, more detail, may be considered a success. If so, Psypher 2430 is a success. But you may want to wait for the Deluxe/ 2nd edition for it to to give you any reason to stop playing your current SFRPG and take it up.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psypher 2430 Core Rulebook (EPV)
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Galaxy Prime - A Scifi Roleplaying Epic
Publisher: Epic Age Media
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/10/2011 10:01:51
Galaxy Prime seems very promising, including among other selling points 36 (!) playable races. That's really why I bought the product. Then you get to those races, and your worst fears are confirmed: yep, they are anthropomorphic Earth animals. There's your bear alien, your turtle alien, your bird alien (you want an owl or a cardinal?), several types of lizard and insect aliens, and one guy that kinda looks like Wolverine. There are no humans, as the game is set in Galaxy Prime, which is apparently not this galaxy. Some of the species are given no illustrations and some have no descriptions.

This might have been forgivable, had the rationale behind the evolutions of these species been explained, or their societies and cultures developed in great and non-cliched detail. But no. Each species is given about a paragraph of description (at most), and then game stats. And the descriptions are no great shakes: warrior races, peaceful races, commerice-obsessed aliens, etc. The whole game is a mess of sci-fi cliches.

But ok, so writing a sci-fi game is partly the process of deciding what sci-fi tropes you want to use and hopefully make your own. So you keep reading GP. Then you come to the Kinet, "the latent energies
circulating throughout the universe and those who are skilled in its use'." They didn't, did they? Yes, they did:

"This new coven came to be known as the Neuroth,
those who chose to use their abilities in tyrannical
ways and for personal gain. Those who remained
loyal to the original teachings retained
the moniker Kineticists."

It's the Force, complete with Light and Dark sides, Jedi and Sith. At this point, I had to stop reading GP.

The game mechanics are functional and percentile-based, no problem there. But the concepts of the game are just too thin and/or cliched for the taste of this reviwer. If none of this bothers you, and you want to play a Force-wielding grizzly bear, buy Galaxy Prime.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Galaxy Prime - A Scifi Roleplaying Epic
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Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/17/2011 11:23:11
Character creation in this game is a headache. I understand what they were trying to do with the Power Effect thing, but in practice it is vague and confusing and complicated to get the powers you want. A simple list of powers, each with its options for customization, would have been better. "Damage" is too vague. Give me "Razor Claws". Why make players scratch their heads as to which Effects to put together to build a simple power like Invulnerability? The Power Level limits turn chargen into arithmetic homework.

MnM 3e is hampered by confusing mechanics, unclear explanations, and complicated chargen.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook
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Bill Coffin's Septimus
Publisher: West End Games
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/04/2011 17:57:24
Nothing turns me off a game faster than a vague, confusing character generation system. You are told you get 18D to divide between your six Attributes, and how many you can put in any one attribute. Ok, clear. But then you are told to "prioritize" your other abilities, like Skills, Modfications, Resources, but not told how many dice this prioritization gives you for each. If I make Skills my top priority, how many D do I have to divide between them? How many skills? How do I determine at chargen how much Resources and nanotech I get? Where I come from? No word that I can find is devoted to these pressing questions. At the very least, the information is unclear. Also, something called "Steel Helix" is repeatedly mentioned as effecting the setting but is never simply explained.

A confusing mess of a game that at first looked really cool.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Bill Coffin's Septimus
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The Eighth Sea (First Edition)
Publisher: Vulpinoid Studios
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/03/2011 21:50:48
An odd and awkward amalgam of priate game and time travel game, TES is hampered by its two disparate concepts, its bad computer generated art, and its crunchy card-based mechanics. Also, the inclusion of multiple Narrators is likely to stall a game and lead to uneven GMing. Still, it is original in its way and a very interesting read, if only for the sheer audacity of what it attempts.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Eighth Sea (First Edition)
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Stars Without Number: Free Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/28/2011 21:37:27
I have no idea why this is free. Its excellent. The mechanics are simple yet elegant, and psionic powers and weapons are particularly cool. If I had a criticism, it would be that I wish it had a single well-defined setting rather than leaving that work upt to the GM. One of the most beautiful covers of all time. I would have happily paid $20 or more for this game. Currently my favorite sci-fi RPG.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Free Edition
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Hoodoo Blues the Role Playing Game
Publisher: Vajra Enterprises
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2011 00:37:50
As has been said before, the game enjoys a very original and cool setting, and the mechanics are generally good, the rules are deep without being overwhelming. However, the mechanics also have some serious flaws. One is that two of the character classes given, the Hag and Loup Garou, are not really useful for PCs as they more or less force you to be evil and kill innocents. Troubled, flawed PCs are great, ones that have to kill every week just to live get uncomfortable real fast. Save these classes for NPC villians.

Next, the weariness rule is terrible. The games seems to encourage the playing of Ageless, and very old characters, but if you have to subtract 1 or 2 points from your Will attribute for every decade, your will is quickly gutted unless you put a 20 in it at the beginning. As the game's magic system often depends on WIL, this is a very serious problem: your ancient hoodoo woman has no will to make hands anymore. Better to have some one born in the 1980s.

I really like the game, but would advise not using these rules when playing.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hoodoo Blues the Role Playing Game
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Harp Sf
Publisher: Guild Companion Publications
by Gary W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/24/2011 19:05:45
I really wanted to like Harp SF. So precious few decent SF games out there. And for the first chapter I loved it: the best part of the game is its setting, the Tintamar Universe (though I don't get why it was named after the so-named space station). The setting contains just the right amount of history, tech, aliens and worlds. Then you start reading the rules, and your smile fades.

SO complex! My head hurt trying to keep straight all of the Development Points, Skill Ranks, skill sources, resolution types, Talents, charts and tables, professions, cultures, something called "concussion hits," etc. Write down the character creation process and keep it next to you, otherwise you will get lost. The game provides too many options, exceptions and too many mechanics. And I am someone who normally likes a deep and complex mechanic, especially when it serves to promote realism. The rules of HSF will likely only promote stress. One of weakest links in the game is the Profession system: many of the professions seem suitable only to Humans (it is hard to imagine a Madji Entertainer). Adding to the tangle of the rules is the author's constant referals to Harp Fantasy: explaining the differences, adding conversion rules, including magic in SF game for "completeness". No. I don't need to know how many Power Points my Silth has.

All this said, the game is interesting enough to keep coming back to and puzzling with, and with several close readings I might be able to play it without hiring a full-time secretary. For playability the games needs a serious revsion and simplifcation. Fewer Professions, fewer talents and skills, a very simple and easy to follow character creation system that does not require reams of scratch paper. And scrap Cultures altogther: just give me more skill ranks in my Profession. I look forward to Harp SF Second Edition some day, as the core of a great game is here.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Harp Sf
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Polyhedron Games LLC
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