Strange Stars (Review)
What is Strange Stars?There's a lot of buzz in my G+ circles about Strange Stars by Trey Causey. So, what's the deal? Strange Stars is a short 30 pages system-agnostic setting book influenced by 70s science fiction and space opera. The cover should give you a pretty good impression of what the book is about.
You can buy it as a PDF for USD $9.99 or print & PDF for USD $17.95 right here (aff).
People were asking me: Is the product worth the considerably steep price for such a short book? The short answer is: yes! The slightly longer answer is:
First of all, you'll need to like the premise. The book is full of gonzo stuff: 70s disco, psychedelia, retro space opera, influences from Star Wars and Star Trek, transhuman sci-fi and more.
Next: the book only touches every topic briefly. The author explains that he took a "bottom-up" approach. He introduces characters and details and some brief overview of the galaxy, history, planets, cultures etc.. It's choke-full of inspirational material but not an exhaustive treatise on the universe of Strange Stars.
AppearanceIt's a short book, 30 pages plus cover. The print-on-demand version is a letter-sized staple-binded booklet with a glossy cover. The cover is charmingly 70s and while it certainly is a great piece of art it is (shockingly) not the best illustration by far. That is to say that the artwork in this book is gorgeous! I can't stress enough how nice this book looks, it's one of these things which you wouldn't expect from a one-man indie publisher. Additionally, the back cover also looks crazy. And it's not only pretty to look at but also full of zany stuff. The interesting layout and design ensures that you can digest the information in small bits and pieces.
I really dig the look'n'feel. The artwork and layout compliment each other nicely and at the same time manage to convey the feel of the product (retro sci-fi).
It may not be an artbook like Shadows of Esteren or Symbaroum but it has all the essential parts together.
Dear readers, don't buy the PDF, get the book.
ContentYou'll get a historical overview over the galaxy. The universe is based on our own but is set in the far future when humanity has discovered the stars.
There are three category of species (called sophonts): Biologics, Moravecs and Infosophonts. The first ones are humans and similar folk. Moravecs are self-replicating, sapient robots. Lastly, the Infosophonts are A.I. Travel works via Hyperspace Gates, some routes are easier and faster to navigate than others. The book also contains information about different star regions and factions. There's the Outer Rim with their native Djägga (feline hunters) or the Vokun Empire which remind me a bit of Hutts from Star Wars. There is a theocracy and there are pirates like the Zao Corsairs and criminals like Tuklo, a Hwuru Thug, who looks like a blue fluffy monster pet but is an insanely strong sociopath. The Pharesmid Syndicate consists of clones from one criminal.
You have the Alliance, an interspecies organization with different races. There are Yoda-look-a-likes called Gnomes and the avian Hyehoon. There are psi-users called Smaragdines.
I really can't describe how much interesting tidbits you'll find in this work. Trey Causey created a vibrant and unique universe with interesting factions, creatures, planets and cultures while the concepts are still familiar. There is so much material crammed into this slim book and it invites you to delve right into the world of Strange Stars.
Sadly, the book is pretty short with 30 pages. While it's concisely written, the information only goes so far. And don't forget that it is a system-neutral supplement, so you don't get any game stats. Further game books are planned. There will be a Fate version and one for Stars Without Number. Furthermore, Mike Evans from wrathofzombie has made a fan conversion for Savage Worlds. The book ends with some random generators for Spacehauler containers, valuable artifacts, people someone wants to find, drugs in an epic stash and exotic locales. The tables are fun to read and give you some ideas.
Final ThoughtsWhat do I like?
Where do you get a book where the space captain's outfit is a stylish 70s disco dress, complete with a pepped collar and platform shoes, where I have fluffy blue aliens, android A.I.'s, bio clones and giant caterpillars who are renowned musicians?
While the book is fuel for your imagination and crammed with over-the-top material, it still has enough resemblance to well-known fiction so that you can start right away. Strange Stars is a book which makes you want to haul out your favorite ruleset and call your friends to schedule the next gaming night.
Aaaand... the artwork and layout is flat-out stunning. What would I've liked to see?
More stuff. It's like a ride on a rollercoaster: exciting but too short. The Verdict:
If you like retro sci-fi, you MUST get this book (and buy the print version!). It may sound pricey, but you'll get a top-notch product. I can't wait for more Strange Stars-material.
Links: Strange Stars: rpgnow & drivethrurpg (aff) more stuff from the author's blog Savage Worlds conversion by Mike Evans