Jovian Chronicles Capsule Review by Papyrus on 25/08/01
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
The rules are gauged to handle 3 levels of play; gritty (very realistic), adventure (exciting), and cinematic (epic).
Product: Jovian Chronicles
Author: Boulle, Carrieres, Lau and Vazina
Company/Publisher: Dream Pod 9
Line: Jovian Chronicles
Page count: 232
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Papyrus on 25/08/01
Genre tags: Science Fiction Far Future Space
I had made myself familiar with the campaign background via other DP9 books and their web page (www.dp9.com) as well as some really well done fan pages. I was always pleased that the rules never intruded on nor ruined the feel of any of the material I read. As a fan of Babylon 5, I found the tech level appealing, and my previous experience with the XXVc game added to my comfort. It wasn't until I thought about how un-intrusive the rules were that I became curious to learn more about the "silhouette" system, DP9's engine that drives all their games. So, as is my habit, I combed the Internet for a trade and secured myself a copy of the Jovian Chronicles main rule book and background resource in a multi-book exchange with a gamer in Montreal.
The book's first 51 pages provide a detailed look at the universe, or should I say solar system, that makes up Jovian Chronicles's campaigns. Most of this information is provided in a little less detail, on the DP9 web page, so if you'd like a deeper preview, please visit them their. The basics are that mankind, finding interstellar travel still beyond him, colonizes the solar system. Mercury, Venus, Mars, orbital stations, asteroid mines, Jovian orbitals/moonbases and even beyond though there is very little "beyond", are all homes to humans.
Earth collapses environmentally and politically and the colonies are flooded with refugees, eventually becoming independent nations. By the time Earth recovers enough to participate in the solar system, they are unwelcome aggressors, trying to justify Earth's predominance over the former colonies. The background starts its timeline just after a skirmish between Jovian and Earth forces, a mistake arranged by third parties for their own benefit. A nice piece of game related fiction provides the reader with the build up to and the details of the incident.
A United Solar Nations organization provides some semblance of order and law between the solar nations through a Solar Police force (Solapol). Things like the genetic engineering of human DNA is universally outlawed by the USN. All of the great draws of scifi are here, large capital ships and exo-armor (read mecha). The level of technology limits gravity to inertial effect or spin gravity habitats, and most orbital stations are large spinning cylinders (colonies out grew the wheel type long ago). There is more, much more, but a big part of the fun here is discovering the details yourself and/or altering them to your liking. As a whole, or in parts, this solar system is easily added to other game universes like; Blue Planet, 2300AD, Babylon Project, and Buck Rogers: XXVc. The reverse is also true, elements from all of these are technologically compatible and similar enough in campaign background basics.
Alterations are encouraged in JC. The rules are gauged to handle 3 levels of play; gritty (very realistic), adventure (exciting), and cinematic (epic). There are notes on handling munchkins and defending against power gamers, probably the first time that I've seen both groups acknowledged as challenges in a rulebook.
The silhouette system depends on d6 only. Every variable is measured in a number of d6 rolled when the variable is tested or invoked. No matter how many are rolled, only the highest number counts toward success, after modifiers are added and/or subtracted. The more die rolled, the better the chances of a 6 appearing. Should every die rolled for a single test is a 1, then the result is a fumble. Again, the more die rolled, the less chance all of them will result in a 1 and a fumble. Rolls are compared to targets, modified by difficulty or compared to rolls made in defense. The results are easy, quick and consistent. Stats and tables have an odd look but are easy to read and get used to. Everything is presented with column widths large enough to assure the table, or stats, fill the width of a page.
Character creation uses points to buy d6, attributes, skills and the like. Special consideration is made for light gravity and zero G (zeegee) characters. Experience is earned like any other game and can be used to improve character stats, skills and/or add skills. The option of exchanging experience for "luck die" is provided for when character success is critical. The extra die is added to any rolls or can be used by the GM just to save the PCs butts. 18 character arch types are provided for easier character creation, options from adventurer to young ace. The arch types are to be used as is, or altered to fit a player's preference.
Two types of vehicle combat rules are provided. The simpler role-playing rules require only good story telling and a fair GM. The tactical rules use the very same silhouette system that the characters use. Again the system proves easy and consistent but also proves comprehensive. The same rules cover ground vehicles, mecha, aircraft, ships, subs, space fighters and space ships. The option of using 2D or 3D movement in space is provided, and there are a lot of options put into EW/ECM/ECCM. Other nice touches include things like crew size determining the number of actions a vehicle can take each turn, logical and real enough.
The last sections of the book provide great notes on Jovian Chronicles campaign creation, as well as a fantastic campaign push start via the JSS Valiant. The Valiant is the first of a new class of ship, a strike carrier, just entering Jovian Defense Force service. Important NPCs are provided and there are hints on where to go from there.
Dream Pod 9's products aren't cheap but their production value and quality are of the highest caliber. If any of the campaign or rules sounds interesting to you, do not worry about the cost, either is worth the expense in the case of Jovian Chronicles.
(This review appeared in Alarums & Excursions #313, see review of it in archive, and appears here with permission.)