This work, originally released for Free RPG Day 2008, begins with an Introduction which points out just how wide-ranging the definition of 'science fiction' can be, and announces that this is a ruleset that can be used to present whatever sort of science fiction you want - pulp, cinematic or grittily realistic. After briefly explaining what an RPG is, it goes on to explain the core mechanic of the system which is based on that used for Castles and Crusades. It's a quick and simple task resolution system based on comparing the character's skills with the task he is attempting, setting a target based on his appropriate skills and the difficulty of what he wants to do, making a single D20 roll and applying any modifiers as needed. Unlike many games, opposed rolls are rarely used as the difficulty of the task includes any opposition that the character may face!
It moves seamlessly on to describe the sorts of modifications you can make to the roll depending on such variables as how hard the task is, environmental factors, the equipment you have available and a whole load more. Naturally, it also looks at combat - including a range of actions that you can take during a brawl - and the inevitable aftermath of injury and healing. Next comes some fairly generic rules about equipment, including technological level, size, and reliability. Each item, whatever it is, will have certain properties including these over and above its actual functionality. This is followed by some basic listings of common science fiction kit, including weapons, armour, vehicles and other useful bits and pieces.
Next come characters themselves - how they are created and described in game terms. A nice touch for a science fiction game is that each character has a 'Tech Score' which reflects the level of technology with which he is most familiar - more primitive or more advanced technologies may prove hard or even impossible for him to use. There are also something called Nova Points, which can be used in several different ways to bend events in a character's favour - from ensuring an automatic success at a single task to keeping him alive when that last blow should have sent him for a dirt nap... or even to attempt something that would normally be impossible!
There are also some general remarks about the sort of skills a character might have, and how they can be used (with promises of more in the main rules...). It all rounds off with some NPCs, and sample characters laid out on character sheets.
While this gives a good introduction to how this game works, there is not enough here to actually sit down and try it out. At the very least, you'd have to come up with an adventure for the sample characters to play... This could be used to introduce prospective players to the ruleset, so that they can at least some idea of how the system works before the game begins.
Return to StarSiege: Introductory Manual page.
Reviewed: 22 August 2009