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Thousand Suns: Rulebook
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/20/2014 13:07:34
Although I wrote a review of some early 1KS material, the new rulebook is worth another look.

Science fiction roleplaying in the Traveller mold has been a long standing part of our hobby. However, few explicitly acknowledge or attempt to seek out mechanics that chase after the roots of this variety of science fiction. Thousand Suns, by contrast, both acknowledges and supports the classic science fiction literary underpinnings of "imperial sf".

The mechanics of the game are simple, and use the best die, the d12. If you don't like d12s, a) don't buy this game, and b) you have bad taste.

The most important part of this rulebook for me is the setting creation and GM section. These channel GM preparation into clearly, immediately actionable locations that the players will immediately want to interact with. The trade system is just random enough to give a risk of a loss, but manipulable enough to entice characters to try it. The system is also transparent enough that players can build a strategy around trade.

I do have some reservations about the systems simulating trade and planetary events because how reliable it is. What I mean is, in much of the source material sf, the characters end up on an adventure out of desperation because they lost their shirt in a business deal or in a war. The system doesn't make any allowances for this, and the principles by which GMs approach the game make it difficult to do something like this in a fair way.

If you're looking for vividly drawn, strange, sf settings, look elsewhere - the literary antecedents of this game offered a universe that was eminently recognizable to Earthlings in the 1950s. However, if you want a game about exploration, shady or somewhat blinkered PCs being put into tight situations, boostrapping themselves to free market success and shooting bad guys, this is a rollicking, fast-moving, fun adventure. I'm reviewer tiling up one star because it explicitly calls out exactly what kind of sf it is chasing after and because the speed and simplicity of a solid, workable system. Check it out and I can't wait for more to come!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thousand Suns: Rulebook
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The Cursed Chateau
by Jonas M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2013 12:52:50
Adventure suffers from lack of structure feels like a haphazard collection of rooms, in other words it's a so called funhouse dungeon. I think there are better modules that combine horror and dungeon crawling. Not really a bad adventure but lamentably mediocre.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Cursed Chateau
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Thousand Suns: Rulebook
by Billiam B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/31/2012 08:54:58
My printed copy has arrived! It's C-format hardback - which is a really portable size - looks incredibly like a school book sci-fi text. Also got the PDF on the iPad. (Well worth the $30)

At the moment I'm mainly buying games to read -and what a great read! Well fleshed out background ideas based on the classic 40s-60s "Imperial" theme, whilst providing a vast open setting to develop and explore. Very informed, with literary quotes scattered throughout.

Strangely enough, I haven't read half enough books from that period, and my concept of "Space Opera" was more based on Star Wars, so it's refreshing that the game is presented as a "straight" setting, without the camp Flash Gordon associations, so prevalent in some retro-sci-fi games.

Given the choice between playing this and my GDW Traveller, I would choose this, partly because the fast play d12 mechanics provide a broader probability range with more opportunities for modification (see the previous review for a brief description of the d12* system) But also because I love the feel of rolling two d12s. ;)

The presentation is incredibly slick and professional, with a high standard of illustrations, consistent with the classic sci-fi theme, whilst the starships have a plausible clean hi-tech look.

The section on Esperanto took me by surprise! :) This is an optional extra will entertain dedicated fans lovers of the genre.

James Maliszewski is a master of game and gaming culture observation (I'm a fan of his Grognardia blog). It's great to see those skills channelled into this game.

It's also a "complete" system. This rulebook is pretty much all you need.

If you're curious... just go for it.

Billiam B.
bit.ly/rpgblog

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thousand Suns: Rulebook
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The Cursed Chateau
by Alexander O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/13/2012 01:09:48
I'm only familiar with one of the stated inspirations for The Cursed Chateau -- the classic D&D Module X2 Chateau D'Amberville (Castle Amber), and as such that framed a lot of my expectations for the adventure.

In general, I liked the setup of the map and the anticipated flow of adventurers through the Chateau -- initial encounters being more weird than fatal (unless the adventurers take unnecessary risks), and later encounters becoming more challenging. Of course, the overall setup of the adventure is primarily one of running through a gauntlet until certain conditions are met.

Of course, that's the main issue I had with the adventure: keeping track of whether or not conditions have been met actually ends up consuming a fair amount of the DM's time when running this neoretro-module and I wonder -- if followed as written - that may be some unnecessary overhead to the DM's work.

I loved the artwork -- very atmospheric and evocative of the strangeness DMs should be striving for when showing the strangeness and the horrors of the Chateau. The latter rooms also felt a lot like classic Castle Amber, where players begin encountering evidence of the former resident's life choices and their inevitable ends as they stumble towards their ultimate release from the Chateau.

All in all, a very solid module to run -- though the record keeping associated with the core conceit of the module may have to be handwaved for DMs adverse to it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Cursed Chateau
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The Cursed Chateau
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/30/2011 07:58:28
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/12/30/tabletop-review-the-cur-
sed-chateau/

Usually we only get review copies of newly released titles here at Diehard GameFAN, so I was a bit surprised to see a code for The Cursed Chateau come into my inbox a week or so ago. After all, it was released towards the end of 2009. Still, I’m a sucker for “haunted house” adventures, having cut my gaming eye teeth on Ravenloft and I’ll always love old school D&D, which is the system this is made for. With those two things in mind, I decided to review The Cursed Chateau and see if it is was worth the four dollar price tag.

The Cursed Chateau is designed for Dungeons & Dragons, and both editions of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. It’s written for four to eight characters with their levels ranging between 4 and 6. Although you’ll want to have a cleric with, the adventure does seem to favor Warrior classes the most. That’s always a nice change of pace.

The crux of The Cursed Chateau revolves around the machinations of one Lord Jourdain Ayarai. This wealthy lord slipped into depravity, debauchery and demon worship (Go alliteration!) due to a massive case of ennui. Eventually Jourdain tired of life itself and decided to shuffle of this mortal coil via a suicide ritual that would allow him to enter the world beyond. Of course, why he needed a ritual instead of a sword to the heart is never explained. Unfortunately, the ritual went awry and now Jourdain’s spirit is tied to his earthly home. He is now more bored (and insane) then ever and with the ability to seal the grounds of his manor off similar to how a Lord of Ravenloft can seal their domain, once inside, there are only two ways to leave The Cursed Chateau – by breaking the curse or joining Ayarai in death. It’s a neat little plot and it can fit nicely inside a Ravenloft campaign easily. It can fit in any D&D campaign really, but Ravenloft is definitely the best home for this due to the powers and setting.

The adventure has no real beginning or end, leaving it up to the DM to decide why his players should go to this locale. The game gives a few examples of why, but there’s nothing that would especially make characters WANT to take the risk of being eternally sealed in with a mad spirit and its undead servants. For some DMs, the best option is just to throw the chateau in as a background location on the way to another adventure and have the players blunder in to it. The end of the adventure is completely random and depending on dice rolls and character decisions, they just may be trapped there forever. You see, the adventure ends when Jourdain 100 “diversion points.” The problem is it’s a bit hard to earn diversion points and quite easy to lose them. The chart really isn’t balanced at all and the possibility of the adventure frustrating players as well as the DM is actually quite high. More care should have been taken to ensure the table didn’t cause this gaming gridlock. The adventure suggests adding your own bits to the table, but honestly most people that purchase adventures want things laid out for them a little more than this. My suggestion would be to either lower the diversion point threshold or cut it out altogether and just have Jourdain’s soul move on after a certain piece of the adventure or better yet, when it feels right. Otherwise you’re risking ennui setting in on your players, not just the main antagonist.

Much of the adventure requires use of the random event chart, known as “Jourdain’s Fun.” Most of these are spooky bits such as blood dripping from the walls or phantom screams. Only two are combat based, which I think is a great idea. However there are two problems. The first is that thanks to magical weapons and items, most D&D gamers (and their characters) don’t react to bumps in the night very well. They either ignore them or laugh them off. It’s one of the reasons even back in the days of old school D&D most gamers that wanted that went to Chill, Call of Cthulhu or something similar. Again, this is why I suggest putting this adventure in a Ravenloft campaign, as gamers playing that tend to react better to spooky than those that have been in a Monty Haul campaign. The second problem is that because so few D&D gamers react to horror/terror outside of Ravenloft, those distraction points are going to dry up and we’re back to the potential endless loop of being stuck in the chateau.

Monsters are an interesting mix. Most of the undead in the adventure are Skeletons, zombies, ghouls and shadows…which probably won’t present much of a challenge to characters between levels 4 and 6, which this adventure is made for. However, there are a few solo monsters like a wight, a spectre and a wraith that can show up randomly and act as mid-bosses. Unfortunately, only the spectre has any real hit points, soi to give your players a challenge, you may want to buff things up a bit.

The two boss fights (for lack of a better term) involve a demon and an Iron Maiden Golem. The demon is exceptionally weak to begin with and it shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. You can also avoid this battle entirely. You’ll find some players will purposely trigger it just to earn more distraction points however. The Iron Maiden Golem is the real challenge of the adventure and should give any characters that come across it pause. It’s a very original monster, does a lot of damage if the DM plays it right and it by far the biggest source of terror in the adventure.

My two biggest problems with the adventure both revolve around the same issue, which is that The Cursed Chateau tries to mix horror with D&D style fantasy and unfortunately doesn’t do a good job of it. There are a lot of monsters other than undead here, that include fire elementals, hell hounds, gargoyles and more. There are also a LOT of monsters, which prevents any real sense of dread from occurring. A spooky adventure is best served with lots of red herrings and a few but powerful creatures. When you line an adventure with a lot of weaker monsters that the character could beat a level or two ago with ease, the mood is lost. The second problem is there are a lot of magic items in the adventure. A good horror adventure has little to no magic and forces the players to rely on what they have on them and/or their wits. There is also way too much gold just lying around haphazardly, which makes this adventure more of the old Monty Haul trope than something truly scary to unleash on players. A good DM will take one look at this and realize they have to rebalance the entire adventure to create a spooky feel throughout it. They’ll be removing a lot of the things that don’t fit the theme like the black pudding and gelatinous cube, cutting down the number of distraction points needed to end the adventure, buffing up the monsters they do keep, and removing a lot of the gold or magical items.

Overall, I give the adventure a thumbs in the middle. It’s only four dollars and there’s a lot of content here. Unfortunately it’s not so much a spooky horror adventure as it is a hack and slash Monty Haul affair wrapped in some Ravenloft style trappings. It might be a good adventure for those that want a haunted house affair for their players even though everyone likes killing dozens of creatures in an adventure but it misses the mark when it comes to actually providing a chilling experience for D&D players. The Cursed Chateau is well written storywise and is laid out nicely, but it really needed to decide what type of adventure it really wanted to be and could have used some definite balancing.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Thousand Suns: Rulebook
by Jimmy P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/24/2011 17:55:01
I recently purchased this book. I bought the Hardcover version as well, but for now I can only comment on the PDF.

Simply put, Thousand Suns is a Imperial Science Fiction game using the 12° system.


[12° System]

For those of you not familiar with this system, it uses two twelve sided dices (2D12) for all rolls. You determine a target number by adding an ability (average of 6) and a skill (variable value). For example, a Dexterity of 6 and a Shoot of 6 will give you a Target Number of 12. When you roll, you need to roll equal or under the target number. So in the previous example of a target number of 12, you need to roll from 1 to 12 to succeed. The amount by which you succeeds becomes your degree of success.

I have to say that I am not a fan of systems using a roll low approach, but it works somewhat neatly anyway.

[Characters]

The book starts with character creation. You can build any character you can imagine in such a setting, from a grizzled army veteran to a frail scientist. The character creation is based on choices and is NOT class-based, which I like. You start will a pool of 30 points to choose your abilities between Body, Dexterity, Perception, Presence and Will. Then you basically go through phases to choose what your character will be. Each choice adds to your skills and attributes.

The phases are:
1. Determine Ability Scores: Divide 30 points between the character’s five abilities.
2. Select Species: Choose the character’s species. Spend the bonus points listed under the “Traits” section of the species on abilities and/or skills of one’s choice.
3. Select Homeworld Package: Choose one homeworld package for the character.
4. Select Career Package(s): Choose three levels of career packages for the character.
5. Create Hooks: Decide on five hooks for the character, one based on his species, one based on his homeworld, and three based on your his career(s).
6. Benefit Points: Determine how many benefit points the character receives and spend them.
7. Finishing Touches: Give the character a name, age, and gender.

You do not have any freebies after this to add to your character so you must choose wisely. Some choices you make can give you some free points to spend on skills and attributes.

I like this approach to character creation which reminded me of lifepaths.

[The Setting]

In the Gamemaster section is presented numerous options to make the setting what you want it to be. The author claims that the first part of the book was left deliberately free of setting-related information so the Gamemaster may plug his own setting in. It is somewhat true, if the GM decides to replace races and a few character options (such as languages which are already tied in to the setting).

Then the Author gives the Gamemaster a run down of what his setting is. It is brought forward in a fashion that helps understand why such and such choices were made. It also gives the GM the opportunity to choose between and Empire or a Federation to be the ruling body of the setting. It is a very interesting option for GMs!

The setting itself is your usual Imperial Sci-Fi background, with old federations, civil wars, first contact and such. Note that Terrans (or humans) are considered to be on top and the Federation/Empire of the Thousand Suns is top dog. No other Alien race is more powerful (or at least not yet...).

[My Take on it]

Overall, the product is well made. The layout is well done and the art is mostly decent. As for the writing, I have not spotted many spelling errors (but since I am French, what do I know?).

I will need to delve further into it and playtest it, but so far so good.


[Differences with the old Edition]

This is basically the revised edition that was published by Rogue-Games. The layout is way better, the rules are better explained. Psionics are embedded in the basic system and appears to be working fine. Overall, it is a far superior work that its last iteration

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Thousand Suns: Rulebook
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The Cursed Chateau
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/04/2011 13:36:51
The Cursed Chateau is a horror-infused, retro fantasy, location-based adventure module designed to be compatible with any old-school class-and-level system. It is designed for 4 – 8 characters of 4th – 6th Level and contains stats that are meant to be broad for compatibility with many systems. The adventure pins the PCs in a nasty little game of investigation and survival while attempting to succeed in the adventure’s hopeful outcome. This module is filled with twists and lots of nasties and should keep the players on their toes, as long as they realize how success is achieved.

The infusion of retro fantasy and horror is done perfectly. Obtaining the great riches can come at a heavy cost with plenty of secrets hiding in the shadows. It’s a great adventure module for dropping into a campaign or running by itself. Although if you’re not careful, this adventure could cut your campaign short.

I definitely recommend running this adventure module. Not only as an old-school styled module but also as a horror-themed module for any compatible game system (or one that can become easily compatible). With its possible high-level of difficulty, its bound to keep your players guessing and each and every turn.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Cursed Chateau
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Thousand Suns: Transmissions from Piper
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/25/2010 15:48:28
Thousand Suns: Transmissions from Piper begins with the following words: "Written by H. Beam Piper..." Although other authors are listed, those words alone made me sit up and take notice. H. Beam Piper is one of the most important science fiction authors who ever lived. (James Maliszewski's introduction is very good for the uninitiated.) His amazing stories influenced some of the greatest sf writers and visionaries of the genre. And this supplement takes these terrific stories and adapts them to gameplay for the Thousand Suns game.

The Transmissions include three full stories and adaptations: Naudsonce, Last Enemy and Ministry of Disturbance. The adaptations for each story include specifics on how to adapt Thousand Suns to the requirements of the stories, which (for example) predated modern understandings of the ubiquity of computers and therefore use other technologies to accomplish what we today would expect to see spacemen use computers for.

Naudsonce describes the difficulties of dealing with an alien species with unusual cultural and communications. The Last Enemy is an astonishingly well-crafted view of assassination in a world where reincarnation is a scientific fact. The Ministry of Disturbance takes history as its main subject, and what one leader decides to do when he sees his galactic empire beginning to stagnate.

Each of these stories is accompanied by different sorts of science fictional problems from linguistics to reincarnation, and optional rules for how to handle each of them are well-detailed in the supplement. These rules are intended to help GMs further explore the ideas of each story, and they succeed admirably. Rather than being a hodgepodge, as so many science fiction games are, these explore one idea quite thoroughly - like the source material itself. As a story-oriented gamer, this approach has no equal.

There are some minor typos, though nothing game-killing. There are no bookmarks or hyperlinks to jump directly to the material desired. However, I am so in love with this material, the format, and the stories, good lord, the stories, that I'm reviewer tilting this one up, up, up. This is exactly what should be done with the amazing stuff that is falling into the public domain now. Thought-provoking adventure and great gaming ideas!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Thousand Suns: Transmissions from Piper
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Thousand Suns: Foundation Transmissions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/25/2009 12:06:54
All the advertising blurb, the cover text, even some of the opening remarks on the first couple of pages, suggest that this is an excerpt from a mythical galactic encyclopaedia which your Thousand Suns characters might find useful. Useful this book is, but not that way: it's a collection of articles aimed at players rather than characters, rules additions in the main.

Now, Thousand Suns is more of a toolkit for running an SF game (especially one in the space opera mode) than a full-blown game, and this book continues in the same vein with a collection of well-considered articles about various aspects that you might care to add to your ruleset. Beautifully presented and illustrated, it's well worth a look.

The first article, Moving Through the Ranks, looks at how to link military advancement to the character development inherent in gaining experience points during play - something useful if your game is based around the activities of a military unit. It includes ideas about how to incorporate rank into a role-playing game without getting bogged down in the kind of hierarchy that military organisations thrive on, and is well-explained and mechanically sound although some of the text sounds more as if it came from mechanical translation than a human being's pen!

Next comes The Ways of Scheming, which is an ingenious if mechanistic way to simulate in-character plots and the use of influence to accomplish them. Whilst most people are likely to be comfortable role-playing their acts of intimidation, threats and blackmail, it could prove useful for the GM to 'book-keep' more elaborate plots, or for the moderation of plots against, rather than by, the characters.

This is followed by the introduction of a new race, the mysterious Aurigan. Clearly intended to be NPCs rather that player-characters, there is plenty of scope for adventures involving them and a lot for the curious to discover. Next comes brief single-paragraph notes on The Planets of the Core, rather thin but useful enough for characters who come from or wish to visit these planets. The fifth article is an extensive one about weapons, designed to enable you to describe just about any death-dealing device you care to imagine in appropriate game terminology, and this is followed by a companion piece on Custom Protection... with all those weapons around you probably need some! Similar detail is then given to robots, with plenty of detail should you wish to incorporate them in your game - or even play one!

The final article, A Spacefarer's Introduction to Lingua Terra, is rather fun. Based on Esperanto, it's an attempt to lay out the basics of a possible intergalactic language, with sufficient material to allow for muttered asides, notices, etc., to be concocted to give an added air of the exotic to your setting... but no swear words!

It's an interesting collection, worth casting your eye over to see if any of these components would be useful in your game. A good editorial eye might improve it, not so much glaring errors but a certain clumsiness of expression makes some of the articles hard to follow and a bit clunky, but overall a useful addition to your toolkit.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Thousand Suns: Foundation Transmissions
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Thousand Suns: Foundation Transmissions
by Doug S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2009 11:32:24
The technical problem I had with the images in the original download of this .pdf has been resolved.

Rogue Games believes that the problem stemmed from the Preview app in Mac having trouble reading the layered file. I haven't had this problem with any other .pdfs, but since I didn't tell them what I application or operating system I was using and they were able to quickly fix the problem, I think they are right.

The adjusted rating reflects the value of this .pdf for the price. The new systems for weapons, armor, and robots add some complexity, but they use a cafeteria style approach that lets you quickly add up traits to produce a piece of gear based on its in-game effects, without a lot of number crunching.

The Lingua Terra section is fun and the Way of Scheming looks interesting as well. All in all, a good value.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Thousand Suns: Foundation Transmissions
by Doug S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/03/2009 19:44:09
I downloaded this on 9-3-09 after seeing it mentioned in Ken Hite's Out of the Box column. It looks interesting, but unfortunately the current .pdf has a significant glitch: MANY of the pages with artwork have significant areas of obscured and/or distorted text that cannot be read. This is a particular issue for the weapons and armor modification sections, where a lot of needed info can't be read.

I found this problem on pages 8, 17, 34, 43, 46, 48, 58, 66, 71, 76, 84, 88, 94, and 116. (Less test is cut off on pages 88 and 94, but the problem is still there.)

I appreciate the larger amount of art in this book and it looks to have some interesting additions for the game, but until a corrected .pdf is made available and I've gotten a copy, I'll have to say I'm disappointed and give it a lower rating than I otherwise would, because the blocked text issue makes it harder to read and understand the examples in some of the more interesting sections.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Thousand Suns: Transmissions from Piper
by Ian B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2009 05:57:47
TRANSMISSIONS FROM PIPER is not your usual supplement. What you get in 208 pages is actually three short-ish stories written by H. Beam Piper (Naudsonce, Last Enemy, and Ministry of Disturbance) each followed by "hooks" explaining how you can use the story in a game of Thousand Suns.

THE result is a book of 208 pages, of which 10-12 are "front/back" matter, 137 are stories (66%) and only 59 are "game content" (29%).

POSITIVE: The game content itself is very good and shows a real appreciation of Piper's work and how his stories can be grand inspiration for players and GMs.

NEGATIVE: I found the balance of story:game a bit upsetting. The writings of Piper have passed into the Public Domain and are readily available on the net. I just can't help but feel like I paid for something that is mostly free.

PRESENTATION: Nice and clean, though if you want to print you have to deal with the watermark background.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Thousand Suns: Transmissions from Piper
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Thousand Suns: Rulebook (RG Edition)
by Robert S. J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2008 16:08:07
Rogue Games' "Thousand Suns" RPG is a game for which I've been waiting a long time, and I didn't even realize it.

Some of my passions as a teenager were the novels of Isaac Asimov, H. Beam Piper and Pournelle/Niven, and; roleplaying games such as "Traveller" (for sci-fi) and Steve Jackson's "The Fantasy Trip" (a very accessible alternative at the time to D&D).

At the time, Traveller seemed like it would be a good way to mix the RPG experience with the grand Imperial Space Navies of the books I loved, but for some reason it never completely clicked for me. Too much number crunching, and the atmosphere of the game didn't feel right unless you were playing in the Imperium setting. SPI's "Universe" could have been a contender, but it was a little too dry with virtually no atmosphere, and SPI died soon after in any case. For me, it seemed that nearly 30 years passed with no real hope of finding the right SF RPG.

"Thousand Suns" has changed all that for me. It's like they got into my head! The rules, using their own 12° game mechanics (as opposed to something like D20) are lightweight and very accessible. It's extremely easy to quickly create some characters with great depth and background. Where "Thousand Suns" really shines, though, is how it handles the setting of the game. In some ways it's very minimal, allowing the GM to superimpose nearly any "Imperial SF" style setting (established or their own) into the game. At the same time, it's not generic. Maliszewski gives the reader just enough structure and resources that the game is definitely geared toward establishing the atmosphere I was looking for. He does define a "Meta Setting" with its own history, organizations, aliens and so on (a good one at that, sort of a "Best of All Worlds" approach), but the reader won't feel compelled to use it word for word. It's simply a great set of resources.

As I said, Character Creation is fast and novel, gameplay is as well. The rules aren't exceptionally crunchy, definitely "role" as opposed to "roll". The only thing that feels a little too light are guidelines and rules for World Creation and Starship Construction. Admittedly, I bring my Traveller expectations to this game, so I was looking for a little more depth in these sections; at least on par with the detail and options made available for Characters. The good news is that some of this should be remedied very soon by Rogue Games' follow-up books, "Pilot's Guide to the Core Worlds" and "Fighting Ships of the Thousand Suns". They should flesh out the details a little deeper. Nevertheless, what's there now is enough, so I don't want to imply that "Thousand Suns" isn't a complete game.

A few small criticisms I must mention. The book really needed better reference sections. The Table of Contents is chapter titles only, and there is no Index. Also, the editing should have been a little tighter. Section and Topic headers are hard to distinguish, and there are a small number of typos and omissions that require an errata. Fortunately, Rogue Games seems to be doing a bang-up job building an online user community around the game, so these things are being addressed as well.

All in all, a great game with even greater potential. I've purchased both the PDF and a hardcopy, and I'm already hard at work building my own Meta Setting. Can't wait to see what comes next!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thousand Suns: Rulebook (RG Edition)
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Thousand Suns: Rulebook (RG Edition)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/29/2008 13:38:28
An RPG Resource Review:

If you thrill to the galaxy-spanning adventures of the likes of the Lensmen, then this is a ruleset worth considering. Sweeping empires, exploration and intrigue, it's all here. The Introduction describes the variety of science-fiction that inspired the game, and the themes that are important: the sense of wonder, rather than cynicism or grim realism. It's also designed to be flexible and modular, so you can pick and choose what works for you without running the risk of breaking the ruleset. Benevolent empire or corrupt republic? Notes of relevance to one type of setting or another are separated out so you can determine which to use.

Next comes an overview of the core mechanic for the game, called 12°. In this, whatever you are attempting, roll equal to or under a 'target number' on 2d12 to succeed. The target number is based on two appropriate abilities or skills that your character has, with the application of modifiers if needed. Nice and straightforward: the art being, of course, in selecting the abilities, skills and modifiers to use! Delving further the system allows for opposed tasks and dramatic successes/failures. And the name of the system? Well, the degree of your success can be very important!

Then we get down to Chapter 2: Character Creation. A point-build system is used, starting with a core 25 points to spend on abilities. Then you choose a species, a homeworld and 3 levels of career - each providing bonus points to spend on skills and abilities. Hence a flexible system in which it is possible to play whatever you have in mind. Sample species are provided, but with detail on how they have been built so you can come up with your own or adapt ones from your favourite novel or film. The examples are spledidly exotic: sentient palm trees, tri-laterally symetrical arrogant arthropod-like beings... each with sufficient background detail that they could be role-played effectively. Your choice of homeworld gives you a 'package' that reflects the sort of civilisation in which you were raised. Disappointingly, exotics such as high or low gravity worlds, atmospheric variations or asteroid habitats are not covered - it would be easy enough to add them, and they can provide useful background skills for spacefarers. Then a range of career packages - available as novice, veteran or advanced - give you your professional skills from whatever you have been doing before beginning the game. You get three levels, so can specialise in one profession or have breadth rather than depth. There's quite a range described, and each has sufficient options to allow for customisation. To round things off, you need to choose 5 'hooks' which can be characteristics, associations, people or events from your past that are significant to you. One comes from your species, one from your homeworld and the rest from your career choices. As well as helping you breathe life into your character, you can use them to advantage during adventures by calling on one to allow use of an Action Point to twist things in your favour.

Chapter 3 covers Skills, Hooks and Psionics. Basically it goes into skills and the way they work in the game in detail. There's more about the actual game mechanics as well as detailed descriptions of the skills available, and ways in which you can specialise once you reach a high enough level in each skill. There is a further discourse on choosing and using hooks, and an explanation of how psionics are acquired and how they work in the game... and there is a whole bunch of specific abilities you can learn.

Next is Chapter 4: Action. Despite the Asimov quote "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" (the whole book is littered with aposite quotes from science fiction) that heads the chapter, it is all about combat and how to run it using the 12° ruleset. Combat leads, not surprisingly, to injury... as well as diseases, poisons and other such nasties as radiation and the effects of vacuum on the unprotected. It rounds off with the mechanics of social interaction, although role-playing rather than game mechanics work best here.

And now, the all-important sf toys - Chapter 5: Technology, Equipment and Starships. Armour (including the all-important space suit) and weapons start us off, with exotic computer kit, biosculpting, chemicals of all sorts and more intriguing technology to follow. Breathe underwater, see through solid walls, even deflect projectiles... get the right gear and you can!

Starships are also covered, along with the Dillingham Drive which make interstellar travel possible. Entry into the D-space it uses can only be accomplished at a jump point, and the time there seems to bear little relationship to how far you travel: it all sounds a bit confused. You cannot engage in combat while in D-space, but you certainly can in normal space and the rules for starship combat come next... followed by brief details of the types of ships available.

Chapter 6 looks at Setting Design. This starts at the planet level. Naturally, you may just want to design worlds as you see fit, but there are tables to roll on if you want random planets or need something to start you thinking. From individual worlds, you can then move on to designing sectors. Hmm. One planet per sun? Or just add the other components of the system as you wish - asteroid belts, gas giants, little hot or cold rocky worlds... Anyway, a sector is not an astronomical area but a group of worlds connected by jump points. So start with a world, and then put in a second. Roll a d12 and the result is the number of weeks it takes to travel between the two. Yes, weeks! Nice communication delays, arrive before the news of whatever mischief you have got up to does.

Next, there's a lot of detail on designing species. Although again you can design according to an idea you have (or inspiration from fiction), a point-base system is suggested, especially for those who are keen to maintain 'game balance' between the species that may be used as characters. The system of advantages and disadvantages can be used for both intelligent and unintelligent creatures, but the main focus is the classic idea of aliens - whether the intent is to meet them or actually be them.

The discussion then moves on to wider societal issues which the universe-builder needs to consider. Key points include the benefits and disadvantages of a governmental system (of whatever sort) which covers many worlds that it takes weeks to travel between. How well can it hold together? However authoritarian, there has to be some measure of delgation and autonomy as you cannot micromanage a world that you cannot communicate with in less than months! How did it all start? Is there some ancient and now extinct race that had - or at least, appears to have had - the answers to life, the universe and everything? Who, of course, left cryptic clues for the curious to find. The chapter rounds off with a brief note on experience points, how to award them and how to spend them to improve a character. Usually, they are spent to increase abilities or skills, but if you want more action points you need to provide more hooks - which must make sense according to the character's adventures so far.

Finally, Chapter 7 covers the Meta-Setting. Realising that while what you are reading is a toolkit for building your own universe to adventure in not everyone has the time or inclination to create the whole thing from scratch, here is presented the broad outline for a ready-made setting. It's loose enough for you to tweak it to suit your own ideas, comprehensive to use straight out of the box if time is limited and you'd rather spend it writing adventures. The key thing is that it is all intended as a backdrop to the most important people in the universe: the player-characters. Naturally, they probably are not the most important people in known space, but they are as far as your game is concerned! There is a timeline showing how we got to 'now' with various important dates like first contact and the invention of the D-drive, loose enough for you to insert critical moments of your own. The core precepts of the current 'empire' are there, modify as you please, change the style of government as needed - here it is a confederation of member worlds, but an alternate that is a true empire is also there if you prefer. Plenty of scope for politics and intrigue - which may be important to your stories, or something that goes on in the background. Loads of institutions and organisations and ideas to chew on. And then a pre-designed sector to start you off.

The book ends with a reading list, a character sheet and some 'starship cards' which can come in handy especially when engaging in combat.

So there you have it, a toolkit for all those galaxy-spanning adventures you always wanted to have, designed in such a way that you can play it straight off or stamp your own ideas on what makes a truly epic imperial SF setting, or be inspired by something you've read or seen and mix that in. Infinitely customisable, with the spirit of high adventure in interstellar space that the authors set out to achieve.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Thousand Suns: Rulebook (RG Edition)
by Miguel d. L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2008 07:36:29
I agree with the simplicity of the rules that other reviewers praised. However I find that the spaceship department is severely lacking in detail and also I have been unable to find a spaceship creation system I was so fond of with the original Traveller (at least in its Diseños Orbitales Deluxe Spanish Edition).

However it is reasonable priced and I would encourage its authors to add to what looks like a very promising game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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