Categorized | RPGs

Ashen Stars RPG Review

Posted on November 14, 2011 by spikexan

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    The Gumshoe mechanic gets tested on a new genre: sci-fi. In Ashen Stars, players enter the Bleed where they play Lasers, law enforcement of sorts. This heavy (305 pages) book is a stand-alone game that fully details Law’s sci-fi setting and delivers the Gumshoe rules. I have enjoyed the previous Gumshoe setting, particularly Mutant City Blues and Esoterrorists, so I was intrigued to see what the future held.

    The layout and artwork of the book holds the same feel as Trail of Cthulhu and MCB. Bordering is neat, but doesn’t attract much attention. Sidebars are tight. The artwork has more hits than misses, though nothing really stands out as excellent. One thing I do like is the full color splurge on the book. It makes reading a volume of this size all the more pleasurable.

    Law’s setting is imaginative and I enjoyed seeing him get away from Trail of Cthulhu. His character types offer an excellent mix that lends to creating player groups that compliment one another (Sidebar: for those of you who don’t know, the Gumshoe engine works best with a group that has a mix of abilities rather than a group of Wolverines/Batmen/Dick Cheneys). The depictions of these alien races were some of my favorite pics although the description of each did wonders alone.

    One new aspect thrown into this setting is the idea of Drives. There are lots of familiar ground here (Exploration/Justice-Seeker) sided with newness (Footloose and Nowhere Else to Go). These drives help define the character’s core a bit more fully, which I think “good” players already do, but, hey, this will be somebody’s first game.

    There are not many sci-fi settings that I like; however, this is a damn good setting. Law populates Ashen Stars with interesting alien races, an excellent back-story, and tons of ideas to get players started (why not you, Totems of the Dead?). The aides for the game start on page 260 and include such greatness as name creators (for each RACE), multiple examples of combat (hand-to-hand all the way to ship-to-ship), and more sheets for reference than your printer will
    want to handle. Most of these sheets can be handwritten on the fly (the others will make a GM screen look amazing).

    If you want to take a trip out to the stars, Law’s new book may be your ticket.

    Overall: A strong Four out of Five Dice (a little more umph to the art would have been great)

    Review by Todd Cash

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