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StarCluster 4 - FTL Now RPG $10.00
Publisher: Better Mousetrap Games
by JD S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/02/2008 14:46:41

On the surface, this product works well-an alternate timeline where space was achieved quickly after WW2. Politics continued as in our setting, with the exception of the addition of space colonies and propulsion technology. A terrorist group launches an asteroid to strike NYNY on 9-11-2001, provoking a remarkably brief and concise nuclear winter.

In a nutshell, it sounds good. The actual 20-odd pages of the background are pretty much a shambles, combining poor writing and a teen-angst melodrama; it tends to be more a soapbox tribute to a impeached ex-President, attacks on a current President, and a hostile attitude towards the USA as a whole, and anyone who earns more money than the writer. The political developments portrayed in the post-asteroid hit are extremely unlikely, ignoring centuries of war, cultural differences, and economic hostility.

Despite having world-wide starvation as a key point of this hodge-podge, the writer(s) either did no investigation of US food storage, and somehow have overlooked key elements of the US diet/food production systems that would have minimized the effects of the brief and concise nuclear winter in North America, all the more so as the power grid was orbital, and unaffected. (Americans eat grain-fed beef, pork, and poultry in far greater quantity than other nations. The latter industry is housed in indoor, heated facilities, as is much of pork production. The USA has enough feed grain on hand to feed the US population for two years; if the US population of cattle, pigs, and fowl were harvested, it and their stockpiled feed could last the entire US and Canadian populations for a year longer than the abrupt nuclear winter, without touching the other food reserves held by the US gov’t and private producers-and this assumes only 65% efficiency in distribution). Likewise, nations lose 50% or more of their population in just a few years, and yet maintain cultural and social integrity.

The lengthy and inaccurate condemnation of the Patriot Act (which it is obvious the writer never bothered to read) kills a lot of word count as well.

Despite the background’s clear paranoia regarding government abuses of power, it has the same governments donating the entirety of their nuclear arsenals to an anti-asteroid defense system. And the UN ‘remains a beacon hope’. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

An optional extension to the history has the CIA responsible for the asteroid strike. Given the caliber of the writing up to this point, this was so predictable that only its absence would have surprised anyone.

In short, the background is a plot hammer the size of the asteroid which wiped out the US East Coast, and a soapbox slightly more shrill than a political convention pamphlet. It is unburdened by much in the way of research or depth of. That it makes up only about 10% of the product is its sole virtue. Fortunately, you can explain the differences between our timeline and the game’s in a couple paragraphs, and ignore the first twenty pages entirely.

The product is dotted with fiction and poetry, the less said about which, the better. Artwork is not an issue for me, but FTL’s was pleasant and unobtrusive.

The formatting and production values are excellent.

I like the fact that FTL has a clearly stated mission for PCs: survive. Simple, and mood-setting. I am not likely to use the system, but it looked friendly and lite. The starship travel is innovative and takes travel within a system seriously, something too few sci-fi games do.

The last hundred pages detail the occupied planets; Terra’s system has map of the Moon & Mars, while the other systems detail the stellar bodies and have a simple color terrain map, plus a color ‘picture’ of the main planet. The detail is very good, and IMO the chapters on the planets is well worth the price of the product by themselves.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
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StarCluster 4 - FTL Now RPG
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