Farscape Roleplaying Game
Farscape Roleplaying Game Capsule Review by bv728 on 13/08/02
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
The Farscape RPG is in my sweaty little palms, and I like it.
Product: Farscape Roleplaying Game
Company/Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Page count: 320
Year published: 2002
SKU: AEG 8200
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by bv728 on 13/08/02
Genre tags: Fantasy Science Fiction Far Future Space
Farscape: The RPG
So, Farscape has been liscensed and the book is here. How solid is it? Let us take a look.
Physical PropertiesFarscape is a 320 page standard sized Hardback. The cover is matte printed, and the pages are glossy. Since my purchace on Thursday, I've abused it in my bookbag for a bit, and the binding has held. The text is divided into two columns, and uses a san-serif font. There is an Index.
ArtThe book makes extensive use of stills from the series: there is very little original art, but what is there fits fairly well. The stills are generally appropriately placed: there are a few that don't fit (The picture of D'Argo under the description of the Commando class is one that stands out: the prototypical Commando in the series is Aeryn Sun, D'Argo is a Warrior) but the majority of them are well placed. The page borders are busy without being distracting, and have the feel of the artwork and archetecture from the show. Some pictures are reused in several spots: These seem to be photos from a press package: Very few stills recognizably from the series are reused.
ContentFarscape is divided into two sections: Setting and Rules. The setting chapters use a diagonal column divide and have dark artwork along the top of the page: the rules chapters use normal vertical column and have dark side borders.
SETTINGThe book opens with a short piece of fiction that fits the Farscape milieu quite well. Following that is the standard "What is Roleplaying" section. Next, we have summaries of the first two seasons, episode by episode. I'm torn on this: On the one hand, this is useless to a truely devout fan of the series, but the summaries help very much with tone and milieu of the setting. There are also quick biographies of the core characters.
The next segment of the book covers the various races and their history. Some races recieve much more information than others: The Scarrans and Sebaceans (specifically the Peacekeepers) both recieve multiple page write-ups, for example. The Races given are Baniks, Delvians, Hynerians, Iliancs, Luxans, Nebari, Scarrans, Sebaceans, Sheyangs, Tavleks, Vorcarians, and Zenetians. No race recieves less than a full page of society.
Last in the setting chapters is a gazetter of known planets in the Uncharted Territories. Most of these appear to be from the series, but described in seriesless terms (i.e. they describe the planet as it would be before Crichton's arrival in the area.) Some of these exist to flesh out previous information, some of them seem to be there mostly to provide locations and adventure seeds. Many of them have stills, although it can be difficult to quickly deterimine which still is attached to which write-up; they are often, but not always, directly after the write up.
CHARACTERSFarscape uses the quite well known of d20 system, with some tweaks, mostly for combat, which I'll cover later. The section opens with character creation: what the various stats entail, how to determine wounds (HP) and control (A nebulous stat which is defined as a combination of Mystic power and heroic resolve). Each is definied as a stat (Con for Wounds and Wis for Control), plus a die roll determined by class and race.
Next are the game effects of the races. Each race has a number of bonuses: all races are more than zero-sum, often having not only one or more special abilities, but net positive ability scores. Strength does seem to be emphisised over other stats, however the races with Strength Bonuses also have a number of other special abilities as well. Races have Control modifiers, to represent their inherent mystical potiential and social tendencies. However, the largest break from D&D3rd comes here: the character's hit die are determined by their race. Yes, their race. Luxans, for example, have d12's, the highest value, while Nebari have d8's, the lowest value. Sebaceans have d10's. Also worthy of note is that no race is an exact human equivilant; Sebaceans and their offshoots gain 1 to a single stat rather than a free feat.
After races, logically, come classes. Each class is a 20 level class; no prestige classes are given. Classes are: Aristocrat, Commando, Diplomat, Mystic, Pirate, Priest, Rogue, Scavenger, Scientist, Tech, and Warrior. While there is some overlap between classes, mostly they are fairly unique, gaining special abilities focused around the concept; I forsee extensive multiclassing. All classes have a defense bonus. Your class also determines your Control die type, and has a Wound Die modifier. Also, not all classes are "allowed" for all races, mostly for setting reasons: The Banik race are almost universally enslaved, and thus have no Scientists, Aristocrats, or Diplomats, as an example.
So, how does this fit together? Let's take a Sebacean Scientist: Sebaceans have d10's for wounds, and the Scientist has a Wound modifier of -1, so each level they would gain d10-1 wounds. Scientists have d8's for control dice, and Sebacean's have -1 control, so you get d8-1 control a level. There's an oversize table for all this in the end of the chapter. In addition, there are backgrounds: These can be taken as your starting feat, or bought during character generation by expending skill points. These are things like Crook, which gives one rank in a skill that would aid a criminal, and thereafter treat that skill as a class skill.
Next, we have a list of skills, adding Six new ones: Repair, Pilot, Negotiation, Computer, Security Systems, and Demolitions. Only one (Negotiation) seems to overlap overmuch with any current skill. Profession, however, is suspiciously missing from the list, although new Craft and Knowledge Specializations are given.
Following this are Feats. Several new martial arts feats are introduced; each of these feats is a level of mastery, with the upgrade path based from Improved Unarmed Strike, each step improving the damage dealt by the character's unarmed strikes, culimating in a instant death attack allowed to Panthac Masters. This level of abstraction works well for the series. There are also feats such as The Touch, which allows the character to re-roll a failed Computer, Repair, or Security Systems check by punching, kicking, or otherwise beating into submission the device in question.
Last in this chapter are Powers. These are the various abilities avilable to characters of the Mystic and Priest classes. Most of them are rather low key, being mostly powers to enhance the user's body, skills, or senses. Each power has a control cost, averaging 6-10, and if you use a power without sufficent control, it costs you wounds. Run out of Wounds this way, and you not only pass out, but lose 2 wounds permenently.
Next we have Equipment. The average Pulse Pistol does 3d6 damage, and the Luxan Qualta Blade does 1d8 damage in Melee, and 3d8 Damage ranged, with 1d8 "splash" to adjancent spaces. I'd assume that an Average PC will have about 14 hit points, which makes Pistols rather dangerous, and even more so given some bits in the combat chapter.
COMBATThe combat chapter shows some of Alderac's previous experiance with d20: The Half/Full action system from Spycraft is used instead of the Move/Standard/Full Round division of D&D. One thing to note is that Classes gain multiple attacks, and they can use ALL of their attacks with a Half Action; theoretically high level fighters can attack 6-8 times a round. As well, there are useable rules for Burst and Autofire, although those rules are not as well written as those for Spycraft. Damage has a few twists as well: If a character is reduced below 1/2 his hitpoints, he is "Seriously Wounded", and suffers -2 to skill checks, attack rolls, and damage rolls(!). Below 1/10th of their hitpoints, Characters are "Critically Wounded", and the penalty increases to -5. Here we also find out what Control is good for if you're not a Mystic or a Priest: Characters can expend Control for various game effects: 3 points for a 1 bonus to Attacks, Defense, Saving Throws, 2 points for Skill tests, and similar effects, like taking an extra action or rerolling are accordingly more expensive. Such bonuses are maximized at 5. This chapter also contains information on Weather, Diseases, Poison, Overland Movement(?), and Experiance Rewards (!?).
SHIP DESIGNYup, it's a whole chapter. Not a terribly long one, at only 14 pages, but it's quick and dirty and gets the job done. There are 17 ship templates from various races, and one for a Leviathan. Stats for DRDs, Pilots, the Farscape-1, and Tayln are given in this chapter, as well as some information on the Flax. To design a ship, you take the base template and add levels to it; each template has an "upgrade cost" that allows it to add "starship feats" like Extra Weapons, or Docking Bay. On the whole, it's simple and works. Starship combat assumes the use of Minis, but could be pretty easily ignored. The only issue is that all speeds and weapon ranges are in terms of Hexes, but no hex size is given.
GM ADVICEThe GM Advice chapter is slightly above average, especially the sidebar on Shipboard Adventures. It provides quick advice on how to make a game using the universe. While an experianced GM may not find anything new here, the chapter is well written and provides solid advice.
LIFEFORMSA sort of Monster Manual, this chapter contains various native species of the planets in the series. This chapter contains the most content not originating in the series, I believe. Each of the creatures has stats as well as behavior patterns and some information on their ecological niche and how or if they interact with other species, especially spacefaring ones.
NPCsThe final chapter is a selection of 1st level NPCs and Stats for the characters from the series up until the end of second season. Some of the stats seem a bit off (Scorpious has a STR of 9).
As a whole, this is a solid book, providing enough information on the Farscape universe to make it playable, and attempting to bring the focus on the feel of Farscape. While there are some issues (Missing DCs for some effects, Lack of scale for Starship combat, and some confusing rules wording), I expect that the net errata shouldn't exceed a page or so, which is a good deal. At $40 it's a bit pricy, but requires nothing but the Players Handbook for How to Roll Stats and the Level Advancement Tables. I'd give it a solid reccomendation to fans of the series, with the caveat that, as always, you'll likely want to re-stat the Characters from the series.