Jovian Chronicles Rulebook
After months of becoming tired of fantasy role-play, I went down to the local gaming shop and decided to pick up a science fiction title. For the longest time my hand nearly came down on TSR's Alternity, but suddenly I changed my mind, and picked up the main rulebook for the Jovian Chronicles.
I'm not much into anime, and I've always been of the school that scoffed at giant humanoid fighting robots, so I'm not sure quite why I did it, but I don't regret it. Inside the covers of this book is an extremely savvy, extremely literate gaming background. Set in the year 2210, a strong cast of interplanetary colonies, and a resurgent Earth show extraordinary attention to detail and a real respect for the genre. While the game does feature mecha, the supplied role-playing information is in no way skewed towards allowing only military players. Indeed, the background is rich enough to place characters in almost any walk of life, anywhere. Despite the giant robots, the Jovian Chronicles is a science fiction RPG first, before it is a mecha game.
The book is also beautifully and conveniently laid out. Sections are broken by prominent headers regularly, allowing for very fast and convenient reference, at the same time the flow of the text is maintained, and readability does not suffer. I do quibble with the amount of time that the introduction allocates to fiction, which doesn't help establish the context so much as if they had pushed it back just a little more, allowing it to enhance a conventionally established context, rather than reading it side by side with your first real taste of the universe.
The Silhouette rule system is simple and intuitive, and the rules have good coverage of the various situations you may encounter, even more if you pick up the Companion. The tactical rules are a bit more confusing, and require quite a bit of page-flipping and test runs to get the hang of, a more linear and complete example case approach would have served this end better. On the other hand, the inclusion of a proper vector based space combat system was extremely welcome.
The mechanical design is also of an extremely high caliber. However, the reader may be surprised to see the actual shape of the ships in the profile section as opposed to their anime foreshortened counterparts in the main text illustrations. A bit more consistency, perhaps even a less decidedly anime look would have avoided this confusion. Alternatively, the mecha themselves are equally at home in both varieties of illustration and are very interesting in their own right.
Even as a thirty dollar softcover, the main Jovian Chronicles rulebook is extremely worthwhile. While I would primarily recommend it to people with a preexisting background in hard SF, the reality distortion levels, and the fairly painless handling of many technical details should allow other types of players, particularly from an anime background, to have a great deal of fun with this book.
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)