What’s on my reading list right now?

I don’t think there ever was a time during the last 20 years or so, when there wasn’t at least one roleplaying game book lying on my bedside cabinet. I actually believe it has gotten worse over the years, since I am currently reading several books at once, what not only makes my bedside cabinet look like a bookshelf but also keeps me from finishing the Dresden Files novels I’ve started reading some months ago.

SotC A game that I wasn’t able to acquire for quite some time was Spirit of the Century. It is definitely hard to get your hands on that fine game if you are living in Germany. In the end I decided to order it directly from Evil Hat Productions’ online store.

If I remember correctly I almost paid as much for shipping as for the book itself but the fact that I got the PDF, too, made up for that. The FATE-based SotC is a wonderful pulp game which calls itself a “pickup” game. Alas it contains around 400 pages which take some time to read through. I definitely have a soft spot for the FATE rules, so I hope I can give it a try later this year.

Starblazer Adventures The second book on my reading list is Starblazer Adventures by Cubicle 7. It’s another FATE-based game, but with a SF setting based on comic books from the 80s. I think I mainly got it to compare it to another FATE-based game I enjoyed reading tremendously – Diaspora. While Diaspora is a rather small and thin book, SBA is a tome. It’s a full-sized hardcover book with 600+ pages. I haven’t managed to give it a proper read-through yet, but I at least leafed through it several times. From what I’ve seen SBA allows a slightly wider range of settings (and perhaps even genres) than Diaspora, but the writing in Diaspora is definitely the best I’ve seen in any FATE-based game.

The next three books on my list where all part of the “Gamers Help Haiti” MEGA bundle at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG: “3:16 Carnage Amongst The Stars”, the Serenity RPG by Margaret Wise Productions and the Cortex System RPG by the same company. For some weird reason the latter product has no dedicated page on the official site, actually I didn’t find any mention of it.

3:16 3:16 Carnage Amongst The Stars is probably the most “indie” of those three games. Fellow RPG Blogger Greywulf has written a short summary of what the game is about and I hope he don’t mind me quoting it here:

3:16 is a stupidly simple beer-and-pretzels game and a deeply complex moralistic one, all at the same time. The players’ characters are members of the elite 3:16th Expeditionary Force who’s task it is to rid the universe of alien scum to keep the Utopian Earth a safe and wholesome place to be. It’s Starship Troopers, Those Guys from Alien II and every dumb Space Marine movie all rolled into one. Add in rules which perfectly fit the tone and setting, the utterly brilliant Flashbacks concept, the promise of Starkiller missiles and the lightest touch of moral decay and you’ve got a system that everyone should be legally mandated to play at least once in their life.

I have read most of the book already and I think it would be perfectly suited for running a Starship Troopers campaign based on the movies (yeah, there are three of those! And try to avoid watching the second movie, it’s just crap. The third movies is at least funny!).

Serenity Role Playing Game The Serenity RPG is probably the one product from the “Gamers Help Haiti” MEGA bundle that I enjoyed the most so far.

I am a big Firely fan and I have seen the short-lived series several times. The game is based mainly on the movie Serenity but contains most of the material from the series anyway. I am sure this has to do with different companies owning the rights to the TV show and the movie.

The Serenity RPG uses the aforementioned Cortex System RPG which itself reminds me of Savage Worlds a lot. A lot of the concepts are almost identical but Cortex is definitely a system that can stand on its own legs. I definitely plan to write a review of the Cortex RPG and the Serenity game in the near future, so stay tuned!

Burning Empires The last game on my reading list is “Burning Empires”. I’ve read much about the game in the last weeks about it from various sources, so I decided to give it a closer look. Burning Empires is a SF RPG based on the Iron Empires comic series by Christopher Moeller using the Burning Wheel rules. Burning Empires is cool but weird on many different levels. When you have seen the book at a local shop you’ll have noticed that although it’s a digest sized hardcover, it’s extremely heavy (4 lbs).  The reason for that are the 656 full color pages on glossy paper. It feels like a brick when you hold it in one hand. The artwork is top notch and the writing is solid but there are as much “WTF!” moments in this book as there are “WOW!” ones. It has a lot of meta game elements and a scene economy and I find it hard to wrap my head around some of the concepts in that game. It’s definitely a game worth having a look at, but I am not sure if I will ever play it. Or perhaps I should play it just to find out how it’s supposed to work.

So, what games are you currently reading? And what are your thoughts on the game I just wrote about? As always any comment is highly appreciated!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

5 thoughts on “What’s on my reading list right now?”

  1. Hi SG

    Do play Burning Empires if you get the chance to. It's a wonderful sci-fi game that really rewards players stepping up the plate and having a swing.

    I just had a great game of Burning Empires at a convention over the weekend. I'll definitely be running a game of Burning Empires at IndieCon, which is a convention in the south of England and not too far from Germany. If you like that sort of thing, look me up closer to the time.

    You may know this already, but if you're looking to buy indie games in Europe, Leisure Games in London stocks a lot of them. It beats paying postage from the USA.


    .-= Indy Pete´s last blog ..The River Of Fire =-.

  2. Excellent systems, all. You, sir, have great taste in reading matter.

    I hope you like 3:16 as much as we do. It instantly became the game we play when we're low on players for our regular campaign – near-instant GM setup, and awesome fun from start to finish.

    I wonder if you could mashup Burning Empires and 3:16. Hmmmmm…….
    .-= greywulf´s last blog ..Leather clad bikini barbarian babe number 257 =-.

  3. @Greywulf: Thanks a lot for the kind words! And I enjoy 3:16 very much so far. It's definitely a game I have to try out with my group. I am not sure if a BE-3:16 mashup would work, since the feel of both games is different. But 3:16 would be the perfect game for a Starship Troopers campaign.

    @Indy Pete: I plan to go to GenCon this year and so I doubt I'll make it to the UK for IndieCon. Does Leisure Games have an online shop? If so, I'll have to check it out. On the other hand, I doubt they have the Print+PDF bundle, Evil Hat offers.

  4. Spirit of the Century: We've enjoyed playing three sessions, but we still don't get how stunts are used. Too big to be used as a pickup game. We also found that it wasn't well structured. Specially now that I've read Diaspora, I can appreciate how much better the game could have been.

    Starblazer Adventures: I enjoyed looking at the pictures in a copy of the book a friend had bought, but it was way too big for me to be used at the table.

    Burning Empires: After having run Burning Wheel over Skype for seven sessions and a session of Blossoms Are Falling for some other people, and two or three sessions of Mouse Guard, I've decided that even though I desperatly want to like the Luke Crane games, I will not attempt to run any more of them. I need a positive play experience with another GM before picking them up again. Also, Burning Empires is too big.

    In general, I think my problem is the "how much do I need to digest before we can start to play?" The bigger the book, the harder the decision. Ideally, I need to read no more than 64 pages before we can get started.
    .-= Alex Schroeder´s last blog ..Reputation Mechanics =-.

  5. I've had a great deal of fun with Spirit of the Century at conventions over the last two years, including an excellent "John Carter of Mars"-style game at Origins 2009. I think it's a lot easier to run as a pickup game after you've played it once, and get a sense for how things flow.

    Serenity's a heck of a lot of fun; I ran my group through a bank job-style scenario last year that was memorable primarily for the fact that not a single shot was fired. The guys had a blast with the Plot Point mechanic coupled with their characters advantages/disadvantages. I think the system itself is a little rough around the edges, but that's where having a copy of Cortex comes in handy. 🙂

    I hadn't realized that "3:16 Carnage Amongst The Stars” was part of the mega-bundle; I vaguely remember wanting to check it out after Greywulf's description (as I think my group would have a blast playing space marines); now I'll definitely have to give it a read.

    I'm currently reading the "Galaxy of Intrigue" source book for Star Wars: Saga Edition, which has 28 pages dedicated to skill challenges (which is great if you enjoy that sort of thing, which we do). Next up is Rogue Trader, which showed up under the Geek Tree at Christmas.
    .-= Ken Newquist´s last blog ..GameCryer.com: Star Wars: The Essential Atlas =-.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.