Friday, December 16, 2016

Fourth Game of Christmas

Previously: Alternity, Star Wars, Mage

Today is going to be a tough one. I really like this game and it was incredibly influential on me, but man it is just going to be hard to do a review in the same format as the previous reviews. That is because I will not be doing a game in the same sense as the previous review. I will instead be doing a setting for a game. So this one may be a little shorter than the others.Today I will be reviewing...

Transhuman Space

Lets start out with this. This game is for GURPS, and I have a love hate relationship with GURPS. On the one hand I really do not like the system. It is just not for me. But on the other hand the setting books are pretty darn fantastic. Their books are better researched than some textbooks I have used in the two times I have been in college. So why do I like Transhuman Space as a game? I think it is because this was the setting that made me buy GURPS, play GURPS, and even enjoy GURPS. And that is a lot to ask from a setting.

Peritextual Elements
The cover(s) for the books in the series are quite evocative and drew me into the setting immediately. That said, within the books the layout is GURPS standard. With the bulk of the text filling out the interior columns and the sidebars all handled a a column on the outside edge of the page. If you have seen one GURPS Book you know what I am talking about for Layout. It is easy to read and easy to follow along. It is serviceable. The book is black and white and utilitarian. It depends on the ideas presented to carry the book. The books are pretty well indexed and it is pretty easy to find what you are looking for. The books are very information dense, so be ready for a bit of a sit and a read. I don't dislike the visuals, but they are not amazing either.

OK so the GURPS system. It is an attribute and skill, task oriented system, with loads of fiddly subsystems and all that. It is point buy, so your GM will tell you the maximum number of points you can spend on your character and you must make it fit within that boundary. The GM will also often tell you the maximum number of points you may gain from disadvantages. this is due to how open the game is. There re so many disadvantages and such that if you don't limit it the game will rapidly become over powered and silly. This is one of many things I dislike about disadvantages that offer upfront benefit rather than ongoing benefit.

To do a task you roll three six sided dice(3d6) and are looking for low numbers. You are seeking to get a number below your skill level. A roll of 3 is always a success, and a roll of 18 s always a failure. There are bunches of subsystems and add-ons and methods of changing the shape of play. With GURPS the GM must decide what they are cutting back from the system rather than what to add. This is one of the grand old Kitchen sink systems, and overall it is not bad. That said it is way to fiddly for me, so outside of Transhuman space I don't care to play it all that much. Why do I love Transhuman Space in this system? Well I think it is because the setting is just as fiddly and open as GURPS is. You can play it anywhere from gritty and hyper realistic to super powerful and anime-esque. Its all over the place and it somehow fits perfectly with GURPS.

OK the setting. I love the setting. the game is set in the near future. It is pretty hard sci fi, no FTL, no artificial gravity, no blasters. The thing I like about is that the setting is both plausible and optimistic. The various places in the solar system all sit on knife edges, things are about to go south, or could easily fall apart, but the players could hold things together, or make them better. The setting is huge, it covers the whole system, and it deals in politics, economics, and all sorts of other interactions.

This was the first game I ever owned where I constantly thing, "Oh man, this is so cool...but what exactly do I do with it?" The world is so big, and plausible, and open that it can be overwhelming.

The setting deals with technology and how it alters the world and grows. Humans can augment themselves through multiple modes. And they have uplifted animals, and built Artificial Intelligences. Death is cheap and you can come back from it in a number of ways. The thing that comes through on all of this, for me, is that even with the ability to instantly and cheaply alter yourself beyond human understanding, people are still people. Emotions and desires that drive the transhuman world are still understandable, even if the means of operation are alien or strange.

The setting books that exist deal with Earth, the oceans, the orbit of earth and the moon, Mars, Venus and Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn, and even the far reaches of the solar system. The research and attention to detail make this setting a joy to read and fun to plan campaigns in. I have barely scratched the surface of the setting, and that is the best part. You can keep digging into the setting and it just keep expanding in front of you, like a cybernetic mandala stretching out forever and ever, a fractal world of plausible impossibility.

So that is Transhuman Space. You should check it out.