The Equipment Guide does pretty much what it says on the tin, provide a large list of useful items (excluding vehicles and weapons) which an adventurer in 2300 AD might find useful. It's laid out in a manner designed to be easy for use, with chapters mostly on functional lines (so medical, security, etc.), with chapters on alien artefacts from Pentapods and Kafers at the end. There's enough detail to make the items seem real, and enough game mechanical information to allow them to be used in the game.
First up is Medical Equipment, covering a range of things from what you need to resupply your first aid kit to 'automeds' and a wide range of pharmacuticals. Details of anagathics (anti-aging treatments) are included, and in every case there's a task for using the item (or avoiding side effects in the case of some of the drugs) as well as costs and some line art. A packet of pills looks like... well, a packet of pills, though!
Next is Security Systems, probably more use for the referee trying to keep the party out of places they shouldn't be. Much of it - writing the review almost 30 years after the book was written - is already if not in common use at least in experimental stages now. Tools for bypassing security are also available (although generally illegal), as well as surveillance devices and all sorts of other stuff that has some link to the concept of 'security'.
2300 AD is a game about exploration, so the next section on Exploratory Equipment is of particular use. This starts off with survival equipment, much of which will be familiar to anyone who likes visiting extreme environments or even just does a lot of hiking and camping. Intertial mapping systems are interesting, and there are also sub-sections on personal communication equipment, a solar power generator for field use, and various items to augment the senses. There's also a sub-section on oceanic equipment, should you fancy some underwater exploration.
Computers merit a section to themselves, with some interesting notes about 'wearable' and even sub-dermal equipment, and then rather oddly - given that this book is not about military material - a section on Combat Walkers. Designed for fighting, there are no peaceful uses for the beasts, they wouldn't even make useful cargo lifters! Next, it's out to space with a section on Space Equipment. Chief amongst this is the pressure suit (P-suit). As well as personal equipment, we also find satellites here. They can have a range of uses: navigation, communications, survey or even surveillance. The last of the regular equipment chapters is the catch-all of General Use Equipment - you'll find a wide range of stuff from a multitool to explosives, along with various tool kits, cargo handling equipment and so on.
Next comes a chapter on Pentapod Products. Produced by the alien species called Pentapods, they use bioengineering to produce analogues of many things that humans use technology for. Some of these are quite ingenious, others plain weird.
Finally, a chapter looks at Kafer Equipment. Unlike Pentapod items, which can be bought on the open market, Kafer ones can only be acquired by taking them from captured or dead Kafer. A lot of effort is being devoted to attempts to understand them, and to figure out how they work... in some cases, what they do. Each entry gives the human-assigned name, a physical description and notes on what it is thought that they do. This chapter is player-friendly, describing what has been discovered so far (the referee is directed to the Kafer Sourcebook for more accurate information).
Overall, this is a useful book to have to hand, especially if your players enjoy 'gearing up' their characters. Presentation is logical, with everything you need grouped together (description, rules for use and illustration), even if some of the illustrations seem to take up a lot of space without adding much to the effect. There's a good index at the back (provided you can recall the name of what you are looking for). It all helps to make the galaxy of 2300 AD a bit more 'real'.
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Reviewed: 23 November 2015