Holistic Design Inc., 1996
What you get/need
Fading Suns $25.00
Concept - 6
Fading Suns blends the feudal, planetary aspects of Dune with the mentality and religious aspects of medieval Europe together, with psionics and magic (having their own "dark side of the Force") to top it all off. Humankind discovered alien jumpgates to planetary systems, and doing what humans do, attempted to make all the systems theirs. Over the centuries an enlightened society is advanced. However, people become to decadent, and civilization starts to spiral downwards. Religious organizations declare technology "evil", and by the time the players are introduced into the universe only a handful of people can repair or construct computers and ships. This, combined with the fact that the stars are growing dimmer (hence the name of the game), give a dark, medieval feel to a galactic space game that seems more "Space Opera" than science fiction.
Character Creation - 5
Character creation is point based and fairly simple, allowing the players to create solid starting characters that don't seem overly powerful (for starting characters). Players are given points for attributes, then given points for skills, and finally given bonus points for both of the above, as well as blessings (special somethings, like charisma) and benefices (special items, like a castle or riches), as well as being able to put the points into psionic or theurgic abilities. For more points the players can adopt curses (things about the character that just aren't appealing, like ugliness) or afflictions (things surrounding the character than can bring their own problems, like enemies or dependants). The book itself offers numerous examples for the general adventuring type, such as Nobles, Guilds, and Clergy (as well as all the subsets within), and stress concept within the character generation.
Playability - 6
A very well thought out and original system. The system uses one twenty-sided die for all rolls, and rather than simply aiming for the lowest or highest number possible, the writers actually considered that people with higher skill levels than others will normally succeed more and do a better job than those with lower skill levels. The thrust of the system is thus: the skill plus the correlating characteristic (attribute) gives the player the base target number, the higher the roll, the better the success - provided you don't roll a number higher than your target number. It took me a while to figure it out (I'm so used to using the AD&D and GURPS mentality in rolling), but once I did understand the concept, I was awestruck by the sense it made (I'm often inclined to startling revelations, though). And awestruck or not, it handles quite well even after the modifiers and option rules are added in.
Writing - 6
The prologue and first chapter are so well written that I forgot I was reading a gamebook, for a while! The captivating writing does not deter the gamebook from being informative and intuitive in gameplay. I'd have to say that the only complaint I bear with the book it's its sparse index. Otherwise, an exemplary book!
Highs - Well written, excellent system, very good universe. The system is malleable enough to use in other "universes".
Lows - Although it's not, it feels class-based, which can deter from character generation.
Final Call - One of the best "space opera" games out there, definitely a game every connesuir should have in their library.