A Fading Suns dramabook
Writing Team: Vidar Edlund, Thomas Baroli, Todd Bogenrief, Chris Wiese
Available for purchase here.
Fading Suns, Noble Armada, Criticorum Discord, and Fading Suns Player’s Guide are trademarks of Holistic Design, Inc. Fading Suns Second Edition material copyright ©1999-2015 Holistic Design, Inc. FASA and the FASA logo are trademarks of the FASA Corporation and are used under license. Published by FASA Games, Inc. under license from Holistic Design, Inc. Copyright © 2015 Holistic Design, Inc. All rights reserved. Permission graciously granted for book cover use in this review by FASA Games, Inc. and such use is in no way, shape, or form meant to be a challenge to any trademark and copyright held by any of the above parties. Thanks guys!
I’ll be the first to admit that Dropbear is not normally enthusiastic about adventure path type books. Several things prompted me to purchase this book, however. Being a long-time fan of Fading Suns (a review of the core books for Fading Suns Revised is on the drawing board), and a member of the Fb group, I heard through that grapevine that Criticorum Discord is much more than a drama. Vidar is also a very personable chap, I’ve enjoyed the small chats we’ve shared of late and it was a pleasure to befriend and learn more about him. And from the moment a third or revised edition of Fading Suns was announced, I have been keenly interested in supporting it and in new material being introduced.
The drama contained within Criticorum Discord is built upon a common tripartite storyline that can either be used in continuation or separately. The beginning drama is called Shooting Star Hijack, the middle drama is called Alien Manhunt, and the final drama is called The Kiss of Dawn. All bring the cadre of PCs into contact with aliens and bring up questions of morality and alien rights, and examine the alien condition within the Phoenix Empire. As a Dropbear, I could immediately identify. I mean, none of the Fading Suns races seem enthralled by a sometimes overwhelming desire to devour Humans, but all the same. Tater tots. Tater tots.
I have no intention of divulging many spoilers about the dramas here, as many of my friends and players may well read this review. What I will say is that I found the dramas quite thought provoking, and that really captured me. I enjoyed the amount of information that was presented, especially the sidebars about many of the major races that have featured prominently in the game line in the past. The dramas contain a very good mix of adventure and excitement, chases, social and political intrigues, positions of faith, and of course combats (although blasters are extremely ill-advised during the first part of the overarching drama!). This mix should be very enjoyable, and make a player consider very hard where her character stands on the issues as they are presented.
I was a little disappointed that Criticorum Discord did not contain rules for building such alien characters, however. Perhaps they will appear in an upcoming book that I will eagerly drop leaves for. In the meantime, it isn’t so difficult to extrapolate from the NPC information for something that could be used to do so.
The history of Criticorum, and examinations of the cities Acheon and Ost, was the meat of the book for me. The al-Malik has always been a rather fascinating faction in the Empire. From its origins as a world settled by the underdogs of the First Republic through the rise of Bashshar Corporation, the invasion of the Ukari, freedom regained after the Siege of Kordeth reduced the Ukari’s hold to nothing, centuries of prosperity as a crossroads trade world after rebuilding from Ukari reign, the rise and fall of the Criticorum Republic, and Criticorum’s role in the Symbiot and Emperor Wars, the history of the planet and its people is richly detailed.
The maps of Criticorum, and the maps of Acheon and Ost, are of much better quality than most of the maps in the Gamemaster’s Guide (my most prevalent gripe about that book, to be reviewed at another time). The city information for both Acheon and Ost contains a great amount of detail on people, places, and politics, which gives a good feel for both cities while leaving plenty of room for a GM to fine tune to their delight.
My only real gripe about this section of the book is that another faction within the Empire, the Animalized, is mentioned in some detail yet there is no means provided to build a character as an Animalized. Again, this may well be provided in an upcoming book that’s in the works, and could be remedied by extrapolation from NPC descriptions within this book. I’d still rather have seen something more concrete, but I’m certain there were space constraints involved.
The pregenerated characters presented are a great way to jump into the dramas in this book headlong. They are all built with the standard 2 extra Tours and the Lifepath system, and the design choices made in building them are detailed with each character. They are all given a section entitled Your Place in the Phoenix Empire, which gives a concisely detailed description of the character type and role that should aid a beginning Fading Suns player a great deal.
The index of the book is well-detailed, and page numbers are linked just as the contents section at the beginning of the book are linked. With a very complete set of bookmarks as well, this combines to make the PDF very easy to reference. This definitely is Dropbear Approved! and deserves some thanks and praise as so many PDF books I’ve picked up are not.
And as a finale to my review of the book, the ads! These give me a great deal of hope for Fading Suns Revised. Those presented are for Where Shadows Lie, Rise of the Phoenix, and The Merchant League. Where Shadows Lie is billed as the horror sourcebook, which intrigues me greatly; I am hoping for antimony, antimony, and more antimony. Rise of the Phoenix is billed as the Imperial sourcebook, which intrigues me even more as a book detailing the workings of the Empire is a necessity for the game line. And The Merchant League, I can’t begin to tell you how eagerly I’m awaiting that one.
The Fourth Edition of Earthdawn is also advertised, and while it has not really been intertwined with Shadowrun in a long while, I’m definitely interested in taking a look as I used to love how these worlds interacted together. Demonworld and 1879 are mentioned as well; I don’t have much interest in mini games, but I might read them through if I can ever pick up copies.
Note that I’ve made much mention of the writing of Criticorum Discord, but nothing as of yet towards the artwork included. I’m not critical of it, as it does evoke the feeling the book is trying to throw out to the reader. Some of the pieces I personally like better than others, but that’s a matter of taste. I would have liked to have seen more color art included, but I fully realize how expensive artwork can be for an RPG book to begin with, so I understand why color wasn’t used.