On a Useful Review of Strange Stars

The new golden age is beginning.

This is not people dipping their toe into the idea of producing great works. That has already happened and now they are arriving. En masse. We'll get to this in a minute.

I often effuse positivity in these reviews. That's not because every product released is so great, but because I'm going to say what I think. And if I actually talked about a project or item I didn't like, I'm certain people would feel that I was very mean.

Besides, if you like a product, do you really want to read someone talking about how terrible they think it is? This isn't a review site, so I pretty much try to only talk about the things that I like and are exciting to me.

Speaking of exciting. . .

Strange stars is BEYOND THE MIDDLE REALM

  • Really, out of this world.
  • I philosophically disagree with this product on principle! I believe that setting is enhanced by mechanical rules. That the way the game works, equipment lists, random tables, artifacts, etc. define the world. But I swear this is the first setting book that got inside my head without a single rule.
  • There are in fact 4 random tables in the back of the book. But they aren't really tables, just a SUPERDENSE CONCETRATED form of awesome found throughout the rest of the book.
  • I thought this was a rule-set! It's not. It isn't anything like a rule set. There are no rules. It's a setting book. I was disappointed, then ecstatic. 
  • It is full color.
  • Every page is an illustrated layout filled with expressive naturalistic art. 
  • Star Frontiers, don't you know
    • The most experimental are on pages 2 & 3 and are the best works in the book. The Vokun picture on page 16 is brilliant also. Overall the art is wonderful. In my opinion, the weakest piece of the whole book is the cover, which gets a total pass, because it's an homage.
  • In case you are getting the wrong idea from my comments above, I've never had my imagination fired up so much by a setting book ever. Space settings are fascinating and this one leaves all the right questions unanswered. 
    • It's reminds me very much of my first read-throughs of Abberant or Aeon/Trinity and how excited they got me, except for the fact that Trey does it in 30 pages and he explicitly states he isn't going to ruin the setting with a metaplot.
  • To wit: "It's meant to provide the imagination fuel—and the freedom—that watching Star Wars did when the world beyond the film consisted only of evocative details like "the Clone Wars" or "The Spice Mines of Kessel."
  • Ok, so each page presents some aspect of the setting, travel, locations, or factions. But the only information it gives you are gameable seeds. There's no fiction, no self-gratifying faux literary aspirations, just every sentence designed to set the course of an adventure or campaign.
    • Any sentence, really. Here are some examples from the alliance page
      • "Thellus aspires to regain the quantum-edged thraxu blade wielded by Xura Ar, a hero of his line, who gave her life in the protection of a refugee convoy from a ssraad horde in the Alliance's infancy."
      • "Neshekk are greatly concerned (possibly obsessed) with security and privacy. They never go into public without their elaborate privacy screens/firewalls called nizara in place."
      • "They hyehoon face internal strife from conflict with the minority religions faction known as the eden seekers, who reject their legendary creator, the gengineer Anat Morso, and seek to devolve their species to nonsapience by purifying their avian genome."
    • Those three random sentences are all on the same page and there are many more sentences on that page.
  • I can't believe a psychiatrist made something so creative. (Just teasing Trey). I only bring up his day job, because the races are not pastiches of other science fiction tropes, but believable alternative cultures with fundamentally different ways of thinking, that tap into science fiction tropes in new and interesting ways.
  • I want more. 30 pages isn't enough. Each page is gold that can be poured over. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I'm serious. Each item provides just enough information to fire the imagination. And every time you read a page you discover a new nugget of information or connection you didn't see before. It's a world you want to adventure in. I'm very much looking forward to the coming rulesets if they continue to be this level of quality.
  • Trey is expanding the setting via his blog here. So there is actually more, even if it's not in print. Here's an index of Strange Stars content.
  • You can get your own copy of Strange Stars from RPGnow here. And you should. Even if you're not into space adventure, it's a pleasure to look at and read.
  • Strange Stars on Hangouts. Someone make it happen.


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1 comment:

  1. Nice review of an awesome product! You point out a few things that i did not consider when i first read Strange Stars i.e the number of gameable seeds to faux-fiction. I dig Trey super-dense content. Every word is something we, as gamers, can use. (I also didn't know Trey was a psychiatrist, which is cool because my day job is writing for psychiatrists)

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