Fading Suns Revised Game Master’s Guide
A Fading Suns core rulebook
Writing Team: Todd Bogenrief, Vidar Edland, Chris Wiese
Available for purchase here.
Fading Suns, Noble Armada, Fading Suns Game Master’s Guide, 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!
Oh, hi there! You’re back! Let me just finish grooming myself . Tater tot crumbs, you know.
So the last two reviews I did were for Fading Suns products, an old love of mine. This review concludes the series of three to cover the current titles from the Fading Suns Revised line. We’re cracking open and going over the Fading Suns Revised Game Master’s Guide tonight!
I tell you, after the Player’s Guide came out, my paws were shaking with eagerness for this tome to arrive…sometimes clenched in white-clawed withdrawal. I said that I wouldn’t start a new Fading Suns epic until it came out. I wanted to, oh how I wanted to.
Then, without much warning or fanfare, I found it on DriveThruRPG. I was ecstatic. Like tater tots dancing in my vision ecstatic. I bought it immediately.
So, like my previous review of the Player’s Guide, I’m going to break this down for you, dear reader, chapter by chapter. Without further ado, we move to the first chapter…
This chapter deals with ushering you into your new role as a Fading Suns Game Master. It’s peppered with Andrew’s Maxims, little advice bites from Andrew Greenwood, one of the original creators of Fading Suns. There are also some Bonus Maxims from Todd Bogenrief, the line developer for FSR. Some may view these tidbits as standard fare for advice on running a game, but they are well-placed and good bits of advice for a novice GM. I can only see them helping someone who’s new to the craft, and many games don’t include nearly as much helpful advice.
Much of the rest of this section deals with how to create, run, and maintain a drama. It runs through the beginning, middle, and end of a plot, and offers advice on what to do when things bog down or stall during play.
The section on creating memorable characters is my favorite part of this chapter, with very sound advice from Mr. Greenburg and a description of various character achetypes for the NPCs that player characters might meet and love, or love to hate.
Particularly of interest is the description of Passion Play roleplaying, and involving a Grand Theme, a metaphysical principle, in your game’s story. The Grand Theme your group chooses for the epic can affect the direction of the game itself, rewarding those whose actions fall within this theme and offering penalty to those who stray too far from it. Definitely something to try out, an interesting roleplaying experience.
The next chapter, Hazards, describes many things a Game Master for Fading Suns can use to make their PCs’ lives…interesting.
Poison, drugs, and disease are all covered here. Each has a Potency rating which determines the GM’s Goal in a contested action between player and GM. It’s a pretty nice little mechanic, simple, direct, and easy to use. The damage dealt is often directly to Characteristics, and the descriptions of the effects are both well-written and quite dangerous. Addiction and tolerance are also discussed.
The description of hazards and obstacles, and how to use them in your Fading Suns drama, is an interesting take on the subject. When most games go into great detail on the difficulty of detecting and disarming traps and precisely what their effect will be if triggered and so on, Fading Suns instead focuses primarily on assisting a GM in creating their own dangers by asking questions about the hazard they are wanting to use in the game. I love this approach, as it provokes putting deeper thought into the subject of hazards. One thing that slightly disappointed me was the very limited selection of only three examples; I feel that maybe a few more example hazards would better help a new GM in building hazards.
This chapter is where I find the Game Master’s Guide shines. In a lot of games, there’s a creature catalog or some such that describes inhabitants of the world and opposition to the PCs. All too many focus themselves on monsters and creatures defined as evil beasts fit to slay and loot. The GMG does a great job of presenting NPCs such as House Guards, Acolytes of the Universal Church, Guilders, Ruffians, and Peasants as not only opponents but possible allies as well. Each includes a Retinue cost for adding them into a character’s Retinue Benefice (see the FSR Player’s Guide pg. 154-154 for more details on the Retinue Benefice).
Many minor and major NPCs that should be familiar to longtime fans of Fading Suns are presented with new FSR stat blocks. Many factions are revealed, from the Invisible Path to the Cyberevolutionaries. The Animalized that were mentioned in Criticorum Discord in passing are also detailed here (whoops, I totally missed that!). Yay! I love the Changed and the Animalized.
The animals and beasts detailed within this chapter provide a very wide range of creatures. I’d hoped to see more, and hold onto that hope with the possibility of a Revised Lord Erbian’s Stellar Bestiary to shed light on more fearsome and delightful inhabitants of the Known Worlds. The one thing I see that I think might be missing is the Retinue Cost for trainable creatures, which was mentioned in the sidebar on pg. 36. The Skerra and Urroc are definitely two creatures that have been known to be tamed and trained by Humans, and yet I find no mention of Retinue Cost in the descriptions.
The Weird Monstrosities, Antimonists, and Demons sections of this chapter provide a brief sampling of the supernatural wonders and horrors encountered in the Known Worlds. With a list of sample antimony rites and Qlippothic powers, the GM is armed with dangerous foes beyond the ken of Man to face against his players. I’d love to have seen more on this in the GMG, but I got the feeling more was coming. That feeling was, I believe, confirmed when I saw the advert in Criticorum Discord for a new book entitled Where Shadows Lie.
FIEFS & PLANETS
It is here where I will condense my review greatly. This chapter, and those that follow, detailing the fiefs of the Five Houses and the Imperial fiefs, is rather dense. It provides a huge amount of detail on the Known Worlds, and brings in writing from the previous volume Worlds of the Realm from the Second Edition/d20 era of Fading Suns as well as sample fiefs and the rules for running and describing various fiefs within your game.
The only thing that would have made this part of the Game Master’s Guide more complete would have been the inclusion of the Church fiefs. I’m sure space constraints limited that, and I am fairly certain that with the announcement of the Imperial sourcebook a Church sourcebook is probably in the works or on the drawing board. But it definitely would have been nice to have included this book, as an important part of the setting. In the meantime, I’m sure that the Church Fiefs book is a good supplement to draw upon. I’ll have to acquire that one.
The final chapter in the Game Master’s Guide provides greater detail on the planet of Pandemonium, using Pandemonium as a starting point for a drama or epic, and a pair of sample dramas set in and around the planet. More general details on the planet are presented in the chapter on Decados fiefs. Much love to those crazy, inbred snakes.
The people, places, and creatures of Pandemonium are laid out well, giving a GM an excellent feel for the place. The level of detail can provide hours of action and intrigue. Pandemonium does seem to me the ass-end of the Known Worlds, a great place for a starting or down on its luck cadre. It also has its secrets; I won’t detail spoilers in a review though.
Diplomatic Immunity is one of the sample dramas included here. I might be wrong, but I think I’ve read it before as a separate PDF some time ago. If that’s the case, then I think it’s a good thing that it was updated for the new Revised edition and presented as a sample drama to give old hands something that they are familiar with in a new Revised light.
Pandemonium Unchained begins with something that made me laugh. “The rest of this drama is for the Game Master’s eyes only, and the players should (but probably won’t) stop reading now. Heck, we’re all GMs at heart.” I think that’s a great way of putting things. Nothing a GM plots ends up surviving a PC’s actions anyway, right?
The dramas are overall well-written and definitely should give a player a feel for the world of Fading Suns.
LAYOUT & AESTHETICS
Here, as usual, I give my opinions upon the layout and appearance of the book.
The PDF of the Fading Suns Revised Game Master’s Guide delivers on all counts. FASA Games does it right with, yet again, extensive bookmarks and both an excellent (and linked) table of contents and index. These are consistently my biggest concerns and gripes about many PDF RPG books. In providing such an excellent electronic book, FASA Games has magnanimously failed…at providing me anything to grouse about here. I would say such a failure isn’t one to be ashamed of.
The pages of the PDF are in glorious color, with a nice scroll-like appearance for their background, and headers in red and blue with chapter titles in red banners. The artwork is sadly either black & white or sepia, but all good and solidly representing the feel of Fading Suns. My hunger for full color Fading Suns illustration be duly noted here, but I would also note again that I do understand the expenses involved in that. I’d sooner see more books than color illos.
The hard copy is of the same size as the Player’s Guide. I have heard a lot of complaints about the size FASA Games is using for the Fading Suns line, but I will say that I have no complaints and the books love my bookshelf and backpack, and they in turn love the books. The copy I hold in my paws while I write this review has, thankfully, a less pronounced grayscale for the page background than found in the Player’s Guide. This makes it much easier for my eyes to read.
I’ve read some complaints about the planetary maps included in the book. I will endeavor to add to that. Their quality in the PDF is indeed at times not so good. I believe they are probably scans of the original Fading Suns 2e maps included in the Fiefs series. In the hard copy it isn’t quite as noticeable, but you can’t zoom in on a hard copy digitally, either. Instead they just look rather small and the text is hard to read at times.
The jumpweb map included at the end of the book is in black & white, and much too small for me to read easily so I don’t reference it that much. However, one can find a very nice copy of it here.
In conclusion…many, many tater tots for a prospective Fading Suns GM here. Not quite enough to satiate this Dropbear though, I’ll require more, if you please, gentlemen. Thanks for an overall great book and FASA Games has definitely again earned