Last year Cubicle 7 were so kind as to send us a review copy of an RPG that made my postman curse my name. The Game in question was Starblazer Adventures and maybe some of you recall that I was rather impressed. Well, apparently Cubicle 7 liked my review, because recently the postman dropped off the first sourcebook for Starblazer, Mindjammers, a brand new , transhumanistic setting with all the tools required for this kind of game. So let’s jump into the „Second Age of Space“ and see if the book is all it claims to be.
Just looking at it, Mindjammer is a friendly-looking softcover. The only colour is the cover, which shows three brightly coloured Spaceships flying toward a stargate on a blue background. The only other spots of colour are the maps on the inside of the cover, the front maps being of „known space“, the ones in the back belonging to the adventures in the book. The rest of the book is black and white, and – like the core book – uses images from the old comics as illustrations (With a few exceptions). The layout also reminds me of the Starblazer corebook, and helps to create an easy to read and friendly impression.
The book is organized in an Introduction, eleven chapters, two appendices and an index. After the two page introduction gives us a rough look at what this book is about and explains some basic concepts we go into chapter one which modifies Starblazer’s character creation. The first difference are the „Genotypes“, a concept related to races in other games. Genotypes can be humans and human variants, synthetic life forms, or aliens. Every character in Mindjammer is also member of a culture, a concept that is fully explained later in the book. The new Skills and Powers mentioned in this chapter get explained in chapter two, along with new stunts, how skills interact with the Mindscape (A kind of „matrix“ that covers the whole New Commonality and holds the entire knowledge of mankind if you know where to look…), and if there are psionics in the Mindjammer setting. The third chapter deals with equipment, not just new gear and technologies, but also how these technologies influence day to day life in this setting, and what the techlevel in general is like. Nothing revolutionary, but interesting all the same, and very mineable for a regular Starblazer game. However, if you’re looking for Spaceships and the like, you’re a chapter too early, that’s chapter four – not just new spaceships (The namegiving Mindjammers for example, update and sycronization ships for the Mindscape) and new stunts, but also astrogation information and an explanation of how FTL Drives work.
The actual setting description begins in chapter five, „The New Commonality Era“. The best way to summerize it is: „Humanity sent off a huge fleet of sleeper ships to the stars some time in the distant past, and afterwards Earth stagnated until we discovered FTL drive, now we have the New Commonality, a kind of galactic empire that is absorbing all the old colonies and most of the aliens in between. But there’s a stellar empire of Space Nazis, the Venu, who have declared war on us.“ Apart from that the backstory has been kept to a minimum to give game masters enough space for their own ideas. We get a rough description of the structure of the New Commonality, what life in this empire is like, and a few notes to the Venu to help game masters develope these major villans.
The most important and interesting chapter of the book however is chapter six, „Worlds and Cultures“. This chapter expands the world building system of Starblazer by several options and introduces the culture system. Cultures work simular to organizations in Stablazer, but offer a host of new options, both during character creation and during the game itself. An example for this would be the rules for memetic warfare. The most important cultures of the setting are included here as examples togehter with the modifiers for character creation mentioned earlier.
The largest chapter of the book is „The Darradine Rim“, a border region between the New Commonality and the Venu designed as an introductionary game region and including more details than the rest of the setting. The largest part of this chapter is dedicated to the detailed descriptions of the most important worlds of this region. The last four chapters contain a mini-campaign that begins with an espionage mission into Venu territory and escalates to an invasion. I found the excellent diagrams, good maps and the ready to use characters especially helpful here. The two apendicies (Overview of the new character options and a glossary), the index and the OGL round off the book.
I’ll be honest with you – I can’t decide if I like Mindjammer or not. The setting is nice, and it helps to introduce the new rules, but somehow it just doesn’t make me want to run it. The new rules, however, especially the things like cultures and memes are very well done, very elegant, and fit into the Starblazer rules seamlessly. In the end everyone will have to decide for themselves if they need this book or not. For me, personally, the new rules are not enough to make me recommend buying this book, and the setting isn’t interesting enough to change that.
Who needs this?
* Game masters who need a premade setting for Starblazer
* Game masters looking new subsystems and toys for FATE or Starblazer
Who doesn’t need this?
* Game masters who are happy with the basic Starblazer game
* Groups who are happy with their own setting