Posted by: markfender | December 14, 2011

Transhuman Space – In the Well

We got a lot of these books to get through. Better get to it.

In the Well covers the inner solar system, minus Earth and near-Earth orbit (both covered by different books). Primarily, this means Mars. In fact, you might as well call this book the Mars sourcebook, with a few pages dedicated to other planetary bodies. It features a lot less Christopher Shy artwork.

The first chapter covers the history of Mars. Since the clandestine terraforming of Mars is one of the more interesting setting elements, this section was cool. Although it is odd to consider that the early colonization of Mars is basically a comedy of errors (from botched first words to the United States failing to beat China due to a computer glitch).

The next section is pompously called “Areography” (you know, cause “geo-” means “Earth”). It covers the typical exploration of the, oh god, areography of Mars. It also goes into Mars orbit to detail a few details about the moons and some of the space stations orbiting.

The next short section is on the Martian environment. That means rules and boy, are they fun. I mean, there’s a full page on Encumbrance. Who didn’t want that? Despite my cynicism, this was actually a decent section as Mars is partially terraformed at this point in the setting and I don’t really know what that means in regards to breathable atmosphere. Does Mars get weather besides dust storms? This section actually tells you about the precipitation, the bodies of water, and other environmental effects of all that terraforming.

The next section is on organizations and this mirrors the main book for what sort of groups are covered. Governments, military forces, intelligence organizations, corporations, criminal organizations, religions, and activists. What else is there? It’s all here. As there are quite a few nationalities on Mars, there’s also a general discussion on the various national territories. There’s also the Truckers’ Guild, which consists of people who upload their brains into trucks for that true long-haul experience. Other than explaining Cars, it just seems rather silly.

Chapter 5 is about Mercury. It’s 5 whole pages! This means that Eclipse Phase, despite having fewer books out, actually has more information on Mercury than Transhuman Space does. I never would have imagined that about a GURPS product. Considering the exact same things occur on Mercury in both games (mining, antimatter production, slingshotting goods across space), you could just transpose details between settings with relative ease.

Next is Venus. Five pages. And one of those is dedicated to explaining how the environment will kill you. Whoo.

The next section is Inner System Asteroids and Habitats. So, you get writeups on two military bases, two habitats, and a Miscellaneous section, which includes another habitat. Guess how many pages this section is? If you guessed 5, you were too generous by one page.

Characters follow, which is your typical GURPS section discussing some of the character types that work well for the setting. It also includes your standard selection of new bioroids, cybershells, and upgrades. I think this book now bears the dubious honor of including the most expensive form at 1,053 points (A UCAV, if you really wanted to play a spaceship). There’s also six pleasure bioroid upgrade packages, if your game sessions tend to get all sexy. This section also includes Martian martial arts – with the lower gravity and the Chinese domination of the area, it only makes sense to include some Orientalism in the book, right? Right.

Technology is the next section. I think it’s telling that Mercury- and Venus- capable spacesuits cover less than a column, but rock climbing gear gets a page. There’s also some biomods for kung-fu fighting (Weird) and “sexy features” (Weirder). It then has a pretty extensive section on vehicles, mostly wheeled vehicles. This is actually useful stuff, as the game so far has concentrated on spacecraft. I mean, useful if you understand the GURPS vehicles system, which I don’t. There’s a section on Lifting Gases and what exactly constitutes “lighter-than-air” on various planets. While somewhat interesting from a “Huh, I never thought of that” angle, no other section of the book talks about balloons or dirigibles so I don’t know why this is here.

The next section is a Bestiary, because there’s wild animals on Mars, dontcha know. This section totally gets a pass from me because it includes house bears.

Campaigns follow, which includes a few different campaign frameworks. And people say they don’t know what to do with the setting. This section also includes some secrets of the setting, including real-life martians. We’re going to pretend we didn’t see that.

Lastly, we get the WVMDS. (GURPS – abusing acronyms since 1986) That’s the Wheeled Vehicle Modular Design System, for those not cool and with-it. This does for ground vehicles what the spacecraft system in the main book does for spacecraft. And, wow, is there a lot of math.

So, this book is good if you want to do something with Mars or really need a modular system for building vehicles because the full GURPS Vehicles system makes you despair for humanity. I’m obviously disappointed in the lack of Mercury and Venus coverage, but can’t fault the rest of the book for its Mars coverage. It’s an interesting place ready for transhumanity to explore dungeons (I might have misunderstood the premise).

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