StarCluster 2
Publisher: Better Mousetrap Games
by Mark C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/04/2005 00:00:00

The book opens by telling us that everyone knows about the slow boats. I don?t. I can guess and extrapolate an idea that these are generation ships based on my knowledge of common science fiction (it turns out they are). Following are 11 pages of table of contents which could have been reduced to 6 pages by using two columns or even crunched down to 4 pages with three columns. I notice at this point the PDF has no bookmarks. It?s not something I use very often but it can be handy. I did not like the art at first but it?s really starting to grow on me.

We move on to the story. The people of earth determine that the sun is going to be vaporized in 300 years. As a ball of super-heated fusing gas, I think vaporized is the wrong term. I would have liked ?super-nova? as that is what is described. The cause is never explained. I am left to wonder if this is a Hitch Hiker?s Guide homage where all the ?trash? from civilization is sent away on arks but as the story progresses this seems less likely. In any case, a lot of people depart, Noah style, for another world. It?s a very old and much used theme and the real interest is upon their arrival.

Beginning the character generation we are told all the wondrous things the GM will do. ?The GM will be happy you too the initiative and gladly work you idea in unless it conflicts with the GM?s plans in some way.? So the GM will allow player ideas unless he doesn?t allow them.

Character Generation While there were complains from another reviewer about having to use different dice for character generation, I have plenty of dice and changing from one die type to another is not such a problem. d20 is hugely focused on d20 and d6 with a smattering of d8 but it?s good to use some different dice for a change. Besides it feels good to be rolling d100 for a stat such as IQ. There are a LOT of tables for skills and jobs. There is an interesting table with a long list of skin, eye and hair colors.

Employment Your job seems to be a big focus of the game, which is difficult because adventurers rarely have time to go to work when their arch-enemy is hunting them. It leaves only a few career options open, such as military and exploration, depending on the campaign.

Skills Skills start off a little weird. The first skill I came across was ?aqua ? the knowledge of growing plants and animals underwater?. I?m afraid this reminds me of the old joke class at college, underwater basket weaving. There are a lot of skills though and many deal with fairly primitive activities such as blacksmithing and dowsing to locate water but in the same breath there are skills for dealing with cybernetics and business. It?s very diverse.

After the skills are the meta-skills which modify the skills. I like this concept because it exponentially increases the number of options when dealing with skills.

Races There are modified human races, the fish-men, monkey-men and leopard/hyena-men. These are interesting but I would have liked to have seen some aliens too.

Equipment The more you spend on equipment, the better the bonus. With such a range of technologies, from barbaric to futuristic, this is a reasonable mechanic.

Combat Combat is based on your skills. You require certain skills to be able to use each weapon. Characters have four levels of injuries, normal, hindered, unconscious and seriously wounded. I like these systems because your performance deteriorates with your injuries.

Vehicles and Vehicle Combat We start the vehicles section with a photograph of an advanced looking car. The wheels appear to be airbrushed off to make it appear to be a flying vehicle. It?s a good looking picture so there is nothing to complain about. Vehicle and space combat rules are a couple chapters ahead. You?ve got to love a combat system that includes ?waste recycling subsystem? on the critical hit chart. The lunar transit time table is starting to make my head hurt. That is something I might just fudge.

NPCs I like the temporary NPC rules. d20 requires about an hour of work for every properly done NPC and that puts a load of work on the GM. There are a ton of pre-generated character and NPCs.

Politics The history of StarCluster 2 is interesting because it allows for such diversity. Each slow boats? coming from earth developed its own culture during the voyage. There are yet more tables about the worlds describing the stats of each world; gravity, atmosphere, temperature, orbit and so forth. Its interesting by lends little to actual play. There are not details players want to know about unless they affect the players. There are dozens of planets ? too many to visit. Then there are pages and pages of affiliations and associations for each world ? but no real details about these worlds. This is a video game programmer?s dream

?The descriptions of the worlds have been left open to the GM?s imagination.? I find this statement frustrating. We are handed dozens of pages of technical information about these worlds and told to make the rest up. I would rather have those pages filled with a complete description of a small number of worlds that I could actually use. I purchase a product to get a campaign, not the rules for creating a campaign.

Finally we get a few pages of description on a handful of worlds, complete with maps. Then we get a beautiful star chart and looks like it came out of the old Star Control video game. They are amazing maps.

The system is greatly percentile based. This gives players a very clear understanding of the chance of success or failure. With d20, you need to calculate the numbers by 5 to get back to a percentile system we should all be so familiar with after high school. However it does mean rolling a lot of d100?s, or the more common 2 ten sided dice. Its twice the dice but players love dice, well mine do. <br><br><b>LIKED</b>: A lot of work has been done on this product. The table of contents and index are exhaustive. There are a ton of worlds and books of ideas here. The length of the other reviews speaks volumes about the following of this work. People are interested in it.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: I don?t like the term ?mother?s milk skills? printed boldly on the character sheets. The tables are really dry and make me scared to get into this system. Maybe I missed it but I would like a summary of the rules system so I can understand it easily. I would like a 1-page outline of the game mechanics so I can look at the rest knowing how it should work.

There are a lot of ideas here, too many. It is unreasonable to expect to put out enough supplements to flesh out the dozens of worlds. With your birth world being so important, it would have helped to know more about the worlds besides the need for the GM to make them up.

The pages and pages and pages of tables could have been shorter by condensing the tables and removing blank spaces in them. The job tables are at least 50% blank space. For the length of the work, I would like to see a little more art and a page border. There are some grammatical errors left in the work but nothing too staggering.

There are several technology levels. Clearly it is an advantage to play at the highest technology level. I saw no advantage for playing as a lower technology player.

I think this product needs another author. There are only two and a few holes appear in the material. Bringing someone else in to fill in things they think are missing and give the product another theme or element could enhance the product overall. The product feels a little 2 dimensional, on the cusp of being a fleshed out 3D world.

This product is headed towards a good 5 stars but it needs some fleshing out.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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StarCluster 2
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