Mindjammer. The role-playing game.
From: Mindjammer Press
Reviewed by: Joey Martin
Mindjammer is a new role-playing game from Mindjammer Press.
Writing a really good hard sci-fi or space opera game seems to be a definite stumbling block for humanity. Some that we remember fondly like the original Traveller fall a little short now. Others like the awesome SpaceMaster game can get bogged down in a dearth of rules and tables. D20 Future was just a tiny bit off overall and Alternity never gained a following. Mindjammer, in my opinion, has finally brought greatness to the genre.
From the back cover: “Never has there been a greater time of opportunity. The universe is in flux, and for the first time in ten thousand years no one knows what the future will bring. Charge your blaster, thoughtcast your orders to the starship sentience, and fire up the planning engines. Come and defend the light of humanity’s greatest civilization as it spreads to the stars.”
Sarah Newton and crew have created a monster and a masterpiece all in one. The pre-release PDF was 502 pages. Don’t let this scare you. I have never played a game using the FATE rules before. I opened the PDF and did a little spot reading. I admit a few terms confused me. When I started at page one and read through all became clear.
The FATE rules use a simple ‘4DF,’ four Fate Dice system. While they sell Fate Dice (and I would suggest buying them if you play often) you can make do with regular six-siders. The Fate Dice have a ‘-’ (minus) symbol on two faces, a blank (or zero) on two faces and a ‘+’ (plus) symbol on two faces. Basically you roll four dice and add results together. This gives you a shift of -4 to +4 for your skill check or other daring attempt. In practice you can expect a lot of -1, 0 and +1 totals. This simple roll is it for the system. The complexity and genius come in how it is applied.
Skills are rated as both a number and name. You have Mediocre (+0) to Superb (+5) for your basic list. These are where the average starting character’s skills will lie. Rolling a skill attempt is the above four dice result plus your skill. For example, if you have Good (+3) Ranged Combat and get a net +1 on the dice roll you have a Great (+4) result. Unless your opponent has a very good defense, that’s going to be a solid hit. Characters have other attributes and actions such as spending Fate points, invokes, compels or teamwork that can and will affect the result.
Let’s step back a bit to character creation. The book suggests character creation be your first game. After reading through I agree. To make a character you come up with a high concept. This is a descriptive such as ‘Drifting dancer with a dark secret’ or ‘Long range explorer with a mental issue.’ There is no limit. Descriptors like this really drive the game. Once you have your high concept and an idea of what race you want to play, you can really dive right in and create your Aspects, Skills, Stunts and Extras during play. I’ll leave it there. You should pick this up and play a game. I mentioned that reading through the book was a good idea. I suggest that the Game Master absolutely needs to do this.
I mentioned the descriptors. This is what I call a true Role Playing game. Getting into character in this game will be rewarding. While Roll Players can enjoy fights and other conflicts, the immersion factor is high with this one. For example, when you are hit, you or the GM can state a descriptor like “You have a Bruised Rib” or “Bloody head wound” that will have Role Playing affects. Very different from the usual “You take 5 damage” of many systems.
From page 5 : “The New Commonality of Humankind is a beacon of light in the blackness of space; hyper-advanced technology and transcendent intelligences are its gifts to the stars.”
The Commonality of Humankind (or just the Commonality) is the setting described for this game. It is set several millennia from now. Old Earth has seen ups and downs. A time of expansion where the moon, Mars and other places in the solar system were colonized has escalated to slower than light generation and later stasis crew ships headed towards distant stars. When faster than light travel was discovered explorers headed out again. Many of the ‘slowships’ made it to their destinations. Some were still thriving colonies. Many were struggling or had regressed technologically. A large fringe area of systems and planets exist ranging from barbaric Stone Age societies to transhuman populations on exotic worlds. A few actual alien intelligences were discovered. One human society turned extremely xenophobic and attacked the Commonality. Using crude faster than light engines bleeding deadly radiation they cut a swath through known space before being stopped. No truce was signed; the Venu Empire is still a known threat.
There is so much packed into this book I cannot possibly describe it all – rules, history, tech, scientific information on planets, stars, space in general and more. The chapters on stellar bodies and planets are worth a read just for any space buffs out there. I haven’t even mentioned the Mindscape. While computers as we know it are obsolete, data and thought can become one with data boosting thought and actions. Imagine if you could access Wikipedia or Google and have that knowledge available at hyper speed any time. Now imagine you could have that as well as real time satellite imaging and more in the middle of a firefight. That analogy just touches the surface of what the mindscape is capable of. Entire campaigns can exist within it.
The real magic of this game is variation. The setting is vast. Since all you really need is a concept to start playing you can enjoy a long campaign building your characters to greatness or short campaigns or a bunch of one-off games. One week you can be intrepid explorers on the outer fringes, the next a diplomatic corps group bringing a new world into the Commonality fold. You can be a group of diehard marines in a planetary assault or covert operatives on a secret mission in the core worlds. You can be a traveling troupe of entertainers visiting stations, ships and worlds on the fringe or a cultural expert changing a planet population’s way of thinking during assimilation. You can be a small ship full of Venu raiders looking for an easy kill or deep core miners trying to survive after a collapse a hundred miles beneath the surface. You could be a group of Mindscape sentinels defending a core world node or a barbaric world ‘mage’ adapting to space travel. This rules set can handle it all. Your imagination will be the only thing slowing you down.
In conclusion, this is a fantastic game. When I first read the guidelines for reviews on the Gamers Codex site I never thought I would find a product that would merit a ‘critical hit’ of 20 on the Codex Rating scale. This product has impressed me more than I can put into words. Even with a copy of the PDF, I may raise the money to get a print copy of the book.
For more details on Mindjammer Press and their new RPG “Mindjammer. The Role Playing Game” check them out at their website http://www.mindjammerpress.com, and at all of your local game stores.
Codex Rating: 20
From: Mindjammer Press
Type of Game: RPG
Written by: Sarah Newton
Developed by: Sarah Newton
Cover Art by: Paul Bourne
Additional Art by: Earl Geier, Jason Juta, FIl Kearney, Eric Lofgren, Marco Morte, Andreas Schroth, Ian Stead, Jeff Ward, Andy Wintrip
Number of Pages: 496
Retail Price: $ 54.99(US) Book and PDF bundle
Item Number: MUH042201
ISBN: (ebook) 978-0-9574779-5-7
ISBN: (physical version) 978-0-9574779-3-3
Reviewed by: Joey Martin