Wednesday, May 10, 2017

White Star

I serendipitously discovered White Star just recently, another ersatz Star Wars game, based more closely on Swords & Wizardry white box, converted to space opera.  If you're at all familiar with Swords & Wizardry, then you already know what to expect almost exactly in terms of how it plays (it is 100% compatible), so the real question is; what is the setting implied by the rules?  As it says in the introduction, "When I was a boy my first love was not fantasy—it was science fiction. I dreamed of flying a starship faster than light across the galaxy, wielding a Star Sword in an epic duel against an evil warlord, firing a ray gun at space pirates, and a thousand other adventures."  It makes specific reference to Flash Gordon, Star Wars and the Barsoom books, but based on the rules, it's Star Wars with some other stuff thrown in, more than anything else.

As usual, I'm behind the 8-ball; White Star appears to be the leading contender, possibly, of an OSR space opera game in the way that (I believe) Swords & Wizardry is the leading OSR D&D clone.  Let's do a really quick review:

There are four core and three "optional" classes in White Star.  The four core classes are more traditional "professions" as D&D and most other RPGs tend to do, while the optional ones are "race as classes" options, as we know from the B/X elf and dwarf, etc.  The aristocrat is a silver-tongued support role, with high charisma and personal skills, and grants buffs to other characters.  The mercenary is the space version of the fighting-man or fighter, and more than most relies on equipment.  The pilot specializes in vehicle (rather than personal) combat and ship maintenance and repairs, while the star knight is the space jedi, a kind of cleric-like role.  The optional classes are alien brute which is a large, physically powerful, warlike alien (of any kind), the alien mystic is kind of an alien space wizard and the robot is... obviously...  a robot.  As in B/X, the basic classes go to 10 levels but the "race as class" levels have caps lower than that.  Robots in particular are often meant to be cohorts that can be bought by characters rather than possibly PCs, and have a level cap of only 4th.

While not meant to represent PC races, there are a number of alien races that are listed as antagonists (yes, I do realize that my AD ASTRA rules are lacking this.  I've already thought of that, I just haven't (yet) addressed it.)  Among the aliens, we have
  • Assimilants (ersatz borg)
  • Cannicks (ersatz daleks)
  • Cyborg, metallic—just regular cyborgs
  • Cyborg, replica—terminators
  • Falcon-men (well, Flash Gordon had hawkmen, right?)
  • Felinoids (what space opera doesn't have some kind of cat people?)
  • Greys (as in the anal-probe aliens who kidnap people from their beds)
  • Mindoids: large headed psychic people
  • Odays (Yoda)
  • Procyon (if you know anything about biological taxonomy, it's obvious just from the name that these are raccoon people modeled after Rocket)
  • Qinlons: ridge-foreheaded imitation klingons
  • Soldier (not really an alien; just included for comparison and because they're important to have base-line stormtrooper-like characters)
  • Space Savages (Firefly style Reavers)
  • Uttins (probably because they say Uttin nee! these are faux Jawas)
  • Void Knight—imitation Sith, but not "Rule of Two" Sith; these Sith are more like Lucas' first incarnation of them as merely the opposite of Jedi, and there were at least 100.
  • Wolflings (dog people, Vargr, whatever)
  • Yabnabs (I guess Yubnubs was a little bit too on the nose.  Fake ewoks)
There's also a list of "creatures"—space animals of various types, basically.  Most of these are pretty predictable, but there are some real gems, like the Living Asteroids that look like asteroids, but then attack and bite space ships.  There's also face-huggers (without the rest of the alien life-cycle), insectus hives (without acid blood, thankfully), little worms like the ones Khan put in Chekov's ear in Wrath of Khan, understated ersatz Dune sandworms, and space dragons.

There's also a Companion volume, which adds a fair bit more in terms of implied setting stuff; including more classes and aliens, which tend to have the greatest impact on implied setting (which is why I focused on them instead of, say, equipment or spaceships.)

There's a bounty hunter which is kind of like a space version of the ranger class, in many ways, similar to (yet different) the mercenary, obviously based on Boba Fett.  The deep space explorer has all kinds of survivalist skills that make him useful in a game focused on exploring of frontiers, moreso than fighting the evil Consortium, or whatever.  The freed assimilant is a race-as-class option for an assimilant who somehow broke with its programming and is now independent.  The man of tomorrow is a swashbuckler of sorts who depends on class abilities that focus on luck and pluck and destiny more than more tangible benefits.  The novomachina is an ogre-sized race-as-class Transformer (so still obviously much smaller than Optimus Prime) while the plucky sidekick is an interesting jack of all trades that works quite well in an ensemble setting (but who curiously, doesn't have to take the role-playing role of a sidekick.)  Finally, the two-fisted technician is a kind of adventuring technical wizard from the old pulp and comic book tropes who can figure out how to do just about anything with technology, while the yabnab is... honestly, probably a mistake, just like the ewoks were ultimately a mistake in Jedi.  The companion book also features rules for multi-classing.

The Companion also offers skills (a limited set; only about 7-8 skills) and serials.  Serials is a great idea.  Conceptually, it's similar to the old Traveller chargen method where you described your career before becoming an adventurer, and gambled a bit with the dice to get benefits that outweighed the cost (including possible character death before you even started playing.)  Mechanically it looks quite different, but it is conceptually quite similar.  In fact, I like this idea so much, that I am seriously considering porting it into m20 to work with AD ASTRA, and will probably, in fact, do so with my next post later today or tomorrow.

More aliens further define the implied setting of White Star.  For the most part, these too are easily recognizable from their prior source.
  • Alurians (green-skinned space hotties with pheromone charm person effects)
  • Bio-symbiotes (black blobs that probably make Spider-man look a lot cooler, but tend to turn into Venoms)
  • Crocodila—multifaceted reptile aliens, that come in three types:
    • Crocs (big, toothy reptile brutes)
    • Mecistops (smaller, patient and more intelligent reptile people)
    • Ickes (as the name implies, these are the real masterminds, who can disguise themselves as humans.  Like the aliens from V)
  • Frostines (crystalline cold creatures)
  • Paragons (psuedo Kryptonians, without the crazy overpowered element; although they're still hella tough)
  • Rawrarrs (imitation wookies)
  • Simians (sapient gorillas)
  • Space ducks (sadly, yes.  Ersatz Howard the Duck race)
  • Thronks (big, leaping lizard people.  I presume that this refers to some fictional antecedent, but I don't recognize it.  Maybe it doesn't, maybe they're just leaping lizards as a pun on the expression.)
  • Wellsians (very alien-like aliens not unlike the Martians from War of the Worlds as the name implies)
The creatures section is also expanded, and includes stuff as pulpy and strange as laser-rexes and shark bats.  I presume the author is a fan of Kung Fury.

Now, I'm not going to switch from AD ASTRA to White Star but I can certainly recognize and appreciate a kindred product.  It does come with a small setting, not unlike B/X's Duchy of Karameikos, which is expanded upon more in the Companion, which has a very Star Wars like feel (unsurprisingly) but it also highlights some campaign models that can be used, some of which are less Star Wars like than others.
  • Rebels Against the Regime is a model that, on the other hand, is pretty exactly Star Wars.
  • Explorers Among the Stars is more like Star Trek, and is more focused no a benevolent government, and has little in the way of black evil, really.  Much more utopian (and therefore I find it less compelling) and as described, the good guys are often too flawed to be truly considered good, and the bad guys are sympathetic.  The typical SJW convergence of space opera, the same as Star Trek was, in other words.
  • Invasion! play the role of La Résistance in a Vichy world of your creation.  Either that, or it's Battlefield Earth.  It even specifically calls out the option that you are the noble aliens and humans are the invaders (I'm sorry.  I didn't write this, I just read it.)
  • Brothers in Arms is a more mission-based, railroad model; a kind of Starship Troopers maybe.  It's unlikely to be a useful one if you want your PCs to actually take the bull by the horns and drive the game forward, because they're reporting to some superior authority by definition.
  • Just Keep Flying is the classic Traveller or Firefly inspired free trader approach.

No comments: