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Gatecrasher: Core Rules


Describing itself as a light-hearted science fantasy, this book dives straight in with a brief account of how the universe got to be in the state that it is. Back in the mists of time, two black holes were orbiting around each other, causing a rift that allowed 'magic' into this universe... and created the myths and legends of spellcasting wizards, elves and dwarves and dragons and the like. Then the black holes gobbled each other up, and magic began to fade away. One powerful wizard was not impressed and set out to make his own gate to the other dimension... and he almost made it, except his life-support spell failed at the last moment and his final spoken words of power did not carry to the carefully-inscribed gate as sound does not, of course, travel in a vacuum.

Time passed, magic faded away to the substance of legend, and technology held sway. By the year 2194, mankind was scampering all over the Solar System, and one prospector - looking for irridium - came across the partially-completed gate... and managed to trigger it. The other dimensional energies flooded back into this universe, causing many changes - magic flared up, wild mutations changed many people into creatures of legend... and nothing was the same again. Advanced technology and high wizardry live in uneasy relationship, as they conflict you can only be good at one or the other.

After a scene-setting introduction scarcely longer than the above, the book gets on with character creation. Using the basic Fudge system, characters may be generated using a point-build system or by a more free-format method of describing in great detail what the character is to be like, and then matching that description to the attributes, abilities, skills and special powers available. While it is not mandatory, most people conform to the basal technology and magical levels for their homeworld (or, if they have moved around a lot, wherever they spent their formative years). Some places are more tolerant of magic than others... on Luna it can be difficult for the hapless mage to buy air!

Chapter 3 deals with Supernormal Powers. Each character starts with 3 Supernormal Power slots, which may be used to buy cybernetics, supernatural talents (think wild magic, untrained, uncontrolled and often unreliable) or magic ability (trained wizardry). There is also the possibility of becoming a shapeshifter and being able to change your gender, photosynthesise or grow wings - to give a few examples - at will.

Next comes Chapter 4: Actions & Combat, which explains in detail how the game mechanics work - unless you want to tweak the rules, there's no need to own a copy of the basic Fudge rules, it's all here. There's everything you need to know: action resolution, opposed and not; combat with anything from your fists to a nuclear device; magic duels, and any other way you can think of to do harm - exposure, radiation, poisons and so on.

Chapter 5 looks at Magic. How to become a magician, how it interacts with technology, the sorts of things that you can do with it... There are several different sorts of magic you can learn, each being treated as a separate skill: Conjuration, Enchantment, Esper, Kinetics, Necromancy, Psionics and Summoning. (Espers affect perception, Kinetics make things move, while Psionics act on the mind.) Even once you have got the hang of a particular style of magic, you still have to learn how to cast each individual spell - and most people find them easier to cast from 'crib notes' than from memory, although some can be memorised. It's quicker by far to cast from memory, of course. You also need to expend Magic Points to make something happen. Like most 'traditional' magics, you can enchant items, attract a familiar to your side and so on.

As you might expect, the next chapter looks at Technology in similar detail. There are a range of Tech Levels from -10 (stones used for counting) through to +10 (the limits of Lunar tech), with current 'real world' technology pegged at about -1. There's a bit about repairing things, and the sort of equipment and armour that characters will be able to kit themselves out with. Then we get onto the weapons available, a dizzying range of means of dealing death ranging from grenades to firearms (in Fudge, melee weapons do damage based on the wielder's Strength, so there isn't much need to list them here). Drugs, computers, starships and the mechanics of space flight round off the chapter...

And lead neatly into the next one, Tourist's Guide to the Solar System - one of the bits it is recommended that both players and GMs read before the game. Each planet, moon, asteroid, etc., is provided with basic data such as gravity, atmosphere, daylength, etc.; and with notes on the sort of technology found there, their attitude to magicians and a description of the general appearance, products and lifestyle in that location.

The final 2 chapters - Game Master's Guide and Secrets of the Universe - are best left for the GM's eyes alone. Much of the advice addressed to GMs is applicable whatever you intend to run, although naturally focussed on Gatecrasher. There are suggestions for the sort of adventures and campaigns that might fit in, with a mix of 'normal' adventuring and the oddball fantastic to which this setting is ideally suited. There are notes on customising the game system, and on defining your prefered style for things like combat - cinematic or realistic, that kind of thing - and magic (do people need 'material components' to cast spells?) as well as a fine collection of random curses.

That last chapter, Secrets of the Universe, is really just for people intending to GM Gatecrasher, as it runs through the history of the solar system as it really happened - everything the characters will hear is coloured by the perceptions and 'party line' of the government they live under. There's also the lowdown on each planet, moon and asteroid... never mind what they tell the tourists! There are also various special-interest groups who may prove friend or foe, employer, companions or opposition to the characters; and an explanation of the way in which magic and technology really interact. Legends, Gods and 'Random Icky Things' (more prosaically known as monsters) round this off.

If you are a very serious role-player, this may not be the game for you, but if you enjoy a bit of a laugh as well this could prove a pleasant interlude.

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