Jovian Chronicles: enter the saga of mankind
Having read all those favorable (to say the least) reviews of DP 9's products, I decided to check this out myself. You see despite my claim of being a veteran role-player, I have to admit there's still a lot of stuff I've never put my hands on. For one, most of my games are either fantasy-based, or modern-day conspiracy. I've never been into anime, have never seen Akira (what the hell is Akira anyway ?) and I have a dislike for wargames, strategy games, or whatever you call them.
Without further ado, here are my thougths on this critically-acclaimed sci-fi RPG
Appearance/layout/art: This book looks cool. The cover, IMHO, doesn't have the distinguishible feel Heavy Gear has, nut it looks ok. Once you open the book, it's an entire different story. You can tell they really care about their craft ! This book is packed with inspired, hip, beautiful art. Yeah, some of it may appear silly if you're not into anime. But check those ships, and those weapons ! Baby, do they rock or what ? This is down-to-earth sci-fi, just as I like !!! My only complaint (althought this was not my case) is that those tiny characters might prove difficult to read. Rating: 4/5
The setting: Yeah, if you've read my previous reviews, you know I'm a "system guy". But DP9 have chose to put emphasis on the setting. Immediately following a (very) brief "this is a role-playing game" intro, you are launched into the Jovian Chronicles world. One of the most difficult thing to achieve in sci-fi is the "make-believe" aspect. Hats off to DP9 ! Not only does this setting seems realistic, but it looks scientifically accurate without being boring or pompous ! It is an interesting read, indeed. All this put into a consistent time-line. And yes, as other reviewers have claimed before, this not all about robots.
In fact, Jovian Chronicles is a game about humanity. About mankind and it's future. Yes, the technology surrounding the setting is omnipresent, it feels like this is mankind's history in the making. Want to play in a "real-world" sci-fi setting ? Get this book ! I had no problem running a lot of game sessions without any supplement ! This is a complete and meaty work. Technology, major organizations, time frame and physical setting (the solar system) are well-explained.
The system: Aaaah. Yeah. The Silhouette system, as DP9 call it, is a simple, and yes, elegant system. First, let me tell you this; simplicity is often better when it comes to game system, but not always. I don't know WHY it works with JC, but it works ! This has been carefully designed in a way that every rule is easily-remembered. The attributes and skills used in Jovian Chronicles are small numbers. Attributes in themselves can be used as modifiers, since they are either negative or positive.
For instance, one could have 0 agility (0 being an average human's stat), -1 fitness (for someone out of shape), and +2 creativity (a bright person). DP9 manage to explain the basics of the system (task resolution, dice rolling convention, etc...) in a few pages. Once you know them, you can pretty much begin to play (I'm talking about playing, NOT gming !).
Then the system splits in two part; character action, and mechanized action. They are pretty much self-explanatory. When we're talking about human, we use character action rules to resolve any situation. These are the "standard rpg" rules. They are, once again, above-average. I want to take a few minutes to talk about mechanized actions. I haven't used them a lot, but I was pleased those rules could be played without hex maps.
Once I had a firm grasp of the character action rules, I had no problem with the mechanized part, who deals with vehicle combat. They are rather lenghtier than the CA rules, though, so I used them sparingly at first, until I had a firm grasp of them. This proved to be perfect, and added an even greater impact when my players finally had their first exo-armor fight!
Character design is fun, and if you are out of time, you can use archetypes (even if they are recommended as NPC's, they are well-done and far better than in many games I've seen). A jovian Chronicle character can be many thing. You can be anything you want to except one: you can't be a boring character ! The skill list is exhaustive, ditto for the equipment available. The gamemaster section is short, but by the time you reach that last section, the setting is incrusted in your brain so badly that unless you're on an "off-night", you will no doubt find plenty of adventures and plots for your players to be happy !
After I read the rules, I realized this would be the perfect game for my young cousins. They had played D&D a few times with me and were a bit bored with fantasy settings. Furthermore, they were much more into anime than me. We played a few times and they loved it !!
Since I'm busy most of the times, they had tried numerous times to run their own campaign but found AD&D rather confusing. Well, guess what ? One of my cousin, who is 11, has now started her first campaign. She has 3 players, including her two brother her best friend. And yes, I have made two appearances so far, despite being 27 years old !
My younger cousin, who is 10, tells me he enjoys picturing his character as a young anime pilot. For my part, when I play JC, I picture my character as "real-life" person, not an anime personna. And I think this is proof that whether you like anime or not, if you are into well-done, believable, gritty sci-fi, you'll love this game. This is a TRUE stand-alone product. This is TRULY for all ages, meaning ye older folk like me will love it just as much as the kid. I also feel this is the perfect system to introduce newbies to the hobby of role-playing. You want a proof of that ?
When I had introduced my cousins to RPG, I had warned them against "Monty Haul" campaign. Then, Nathalie (the one who's gming now) had asked me what was Monty Haul. Why was it called like that. I had answered a brief "dunno, but it's called like that". Two days ago, she explained to me where it came from ! I told her: "where did you learn that !" She answered: "JC, page 82 !!!". Ouch ! My ego !
My quest for the perfect game system has not ended, but I have found a rather interesting game, and I look forward to play in the Jovian Chronicles setting.
Not much to complain about. The index is far from exhaustive, but that's about it !
Overall, the fun factor this game provide compensated tenfold for every small hindrances I found. Fast-paced and fun. Silhouette is a great system and I hope DP 9 are aware of this. They could easily market it as a stand-alone, generic system with a little rework.
Style: 5 (Excellent!)