Review – Mindjammer
The publication of Fate Core marked one of the most successful RPG “small-press” Kickstarters in recent memory. Not only did it make gobs of money, it was well run and delivered the goods both literally (in terms of rewards) and figuratively (in terms of quality products). It also made the Fate Core engine open source, allowing any developer to fully utilize it in new products. Already a veteran writer of earlier Fate-based games (Legends of Anglerre and Starblazer Adventures), author Sarah Newton stepped in and took full advantage of the innovations wrought in Fate Core with a brand new, standalone version of her Ennie-award winning Mindjammer sci-fi setting. Mindjammer incorporates the complete Fate Core game engine with newly updated material from its first edition into a single, weighty tome of sci-fi RPG goodness.
For folks who may not have heard of it before, Fate Core utilizes an evolution of Steffan O’Sullivan’s classic FUDGE role-play rules, and its own brand of special dice. Fate dice are a set of four six-sided dice marked with either a +, a –, or a blank side, generate a flat, bell-curve result from +4 to -4.
Ms. Newton manages to make Mindjammer a unique sci-fi setting and rule set while also preserving it as a sci-fi toolkit for Fate Core fans. It contains a comprehensive setting complete with its own detailed background, technologies, alien races, and galactic star map. Characters can come from a multitude of backgrounds and campaigns can be built around players as covert operatives, military tac-teams, far-ranging free traders, space pirates, or anything else the players conceive of doing.
Players weave one or all of these varied campaign options into their Character Aspects, the heart of the Fate Core system. A character’s Aspects fuel the game’s Fate point economy, allowing him to gain extra benefits in play or introduce new story elements in a scene. For example, one character might have a high concept (his defining Aspect) of New Commonality Rogue Agent. He can use this Aspect to give him an edge against New Commonality forces in combat, as he knows their ways, but the GM can also use it to generate complications for him. Maybe because he’s a rogue agent, New Commonality bounty hunters show up to collect him when he makes planet-side at a starport. This earns him one Fate point, but forces him to deal with some trouble. All the best Aspects cut both ways in Fate.
Mindjammer’s setting offers players an expansive universe of exploration, technology, transhumanism, and conflict. Complete lists of alien races and cultures make character generation easy, but players may be a bit overwhelmed by the game’s amazing level of detail. The book itself weighs in at 497 pages and features a super-clean black and white interior with slick layout and plenty of sidebars providing extra details where necessary.
If you’re not interested in the Mindjammer setting and universe, does this game offer enough to justify the hefty price tag? At $54.99, Mindjammer is stuffed with sci-fi goodness. Rules for species creation, high-tech equipment, space travel, interstellar communication, space combat, ship design, and more make it a superb sci-fi toolkit for Fate Core. Players could easily adapt this material to other settings like Warhammer 40,000, Star Wars, or even Star Trek.
The book’s incredible depth and detail might make a GM’s ability to sell it to his group a daunting task. Some kind of cut-down, players-only book that retailed under $20 might help in these cases. Clever GM’s can use the PDF to produce handouts that ameliorate this issue somewhat. While its density can be daunting, it also buttresses its amazing foundation. The essence of Mindjammer’s success lies in its completeness. It’s as comprehensive a sci-fi toolkit as any Fate fan could ever ask for.
+ Comprehensive mechanics and options make this the best sci-fi toolkit for Fate Core
+ The game’s own background offers a rich and fully realized universe of sci-fi adventure
+ Gorgeous art, superb layout, and sheer weight of content make this hardcover book a great value for the price
– Super dense; the extensive details make initial player buy-in daunting.
Fate Core fans interested in a complete, out-of-the-box sci-fi setting will love Mindjammer. Its highly detailed, but modular approach to setting and rules make it easily adaptable to homebrew worlds, published settings from other companies, or a mixture of both. You can purchase a print version of Mindjammer for MSRP of $54.99 or in PDF format for $27.99 from the Modiphius webstore.