With lush illustrations to tantalise, this work provides an overview of the setting as well as rules information, pre-generated characters and a complete adventure to play. The Introduction sweeps you up from the outset with quick summaries of what players and the gamemaster in a role-playing game do and an outline of what characters will do: now, crewing spacecraft, exploring and carrying out missions are to be expected in any spacefaring game, unravelling secrets and plotting and scheming even... but there's mention of a space station called Coriolis and the intriguing thought that religious belief and worship are still part and parcel of most people's lives. Clearly this is a distinctive setting to explore, one where technology and myth are wound together in a manner befitting a game billed as 'the Arabian Nights in space'.
We're soon diving into history and learning about the Third Horizon, a group of thirty-six star systems linked by portals which have been colonised in two waves. Interestingly, the first arrivals (the Firstcome) set out after the second wave (the Zenithians): the original Zenith was a generation ship sent out to establish colonies, but when they arrived they found that in the meantime the folks back home had discovered an ancient portal system and got there first! The two groups still bicker, but not to the extent that others did - the people of the First Horizon tried to take over the settlements of the Second and Third Horizons but were eventually defeated in a massive war that has left its mark all over known space.
The central system in the Third Horizon is called Kua, where there's a jungle planet of the same name orbited by the Coriolis space station. Founded by the Zenithians, Coriolis is intended as a place where all the factions of the Third Horizon can meet and trade, establishing peaceful relations with each other. That's the idea, but it's not quite as peaceful as was initially intended. Strange Emissaries, from a nearby gas giant, have everyone a bit baffled as to their intentions, not helped by one of them declaring he is one of the Icons, the deities widely worshipped here. This situation is replete with opportunities for adventure... and here we are in the middle of it!
We now move on to the rules part, with Chapter 2: Skills explaining how attributes (strength, agility, wits and empathy) work together with skills (of which there are two sorts, basic ones anyone can do and advanced ones that must be learned) to enable characters to accomplish whatever it is that they want to do. Task resolution is performed by adding up the points in the appropriate attribute and skill for the thing you're attempting and rolling that number of d6s - a single six means you've just managed it, three of them means you've done well, a critical success. The skill descriptions explain what all that means in terms of using that skill. If you don't get any sixes at all, you've failed and the GM needs to come up with some consequence of failure. When everything looks really bleak, you can always pray to the Icons. This pious act allows the re-rolling of all dice that didn't come up with a six. However, praying has its own dangers - every time you do, the GM gets a 'darkness point' from the religion's devil figure, the Darkness Between the Stars, these can be used against the party in a variety of ways.
After copious details on the various skills available, we come to Chapter 3: Combat. It's dangerous, think carefully - if you have the opportunity - before participating in a brawl. It's a turn-based system, with initiative established at the beginning of a fight by each participant rolling a d6, highest goes first... you can choose to lower your initiative by waiting to see what others do, but you are then stuck with a lower initiative for the whole combat. Various actions may be underaken in your turn, and a whole range of options are discussed. Associated matters like injury and healing are included and there's a delightful critical injury table for those who like to get more graphical than mere points of damage. Naturally there are other ways to die as well as combat - fire, drowning, starvation and vacuum also feature here. A note about vehicles rounds out the chapter.
The rest of the book is devoted to the adventure - Dark Flowers - and the pre-generated characters provided for you to play it. It tells the tale of a long lost space station, a search for a fabled plant, and a scientist obsessed with completing her mission - even unto death. The backstory explains what's been going on, covering an hundred years or so, for the GM then the party is brought into the picture. They are tasked with getting into the space station and exploring it, and will be faced with a difficult decision to make. The adventure is well-resourced with everything you need to make it come to life provided in the text. It's an excellent adventure with a long slow creepy build up...
This quickstart certainly achieves the aim of picquing interest in the full game. The game mechanics are straightforward and easy to understand, and the setting is rich with promise. Put aside any thoughts of this just being Babylon 5 retooled with a bit of help from Firefly and Aliens, this is a vibrant and exciting setting in its own right, a place in which epic tales can be told.
Return to Coriolis RPG Quickstart Set page.
Reviewed: 2 March 2017