Posted by: markfender | January 11, 2012

Transhuman Space – Broken Dreams

I’m inconsolable over not becoming an astronaut. Because it’s another Transhuman Space book – Broken Dreams.

This one is about….get excited….Earth. Specifically, the places on Earth that aren’t all high-tech and super-cool and avante-garde. Speaking of broken dreams, this book features a ridiculous number of pictures made in some sort of Poser program. And that cover looks like it came straight from the rejected Cyberpunk: 2020 cover department. So, I’d like to take this time to address Christopher Shy: I’m sorry, baby. Please come back. I didn’t mean it. It’s just that sometimes you make me so angry.

The first chapter is excitedly called “Overview” and that’s pretty much what it is. It covers religion, politics, economics, terrorism, and all the other assorted things that have a major impact on the less affluent sections of the world. It’s sorta interesting, but only in a very high-level way. I mean, it’s nice that there’s a term for the interaction between world powers, but I don’t really know what that’s adding to your game.

The next section is called Opting Out and it’s about people who don’t want to rush headlong into the future and how they manage not to. Again, I’m not quite sure why your game book really needs a big section about people who, by their very nature, will not be interacting with your PCs, but there you go. Luckily, this section also includes writeups on two interesting “global blocs” as well: The Islamic Caliphate and the Transpacific Socialist Alliance. As we all know from reading any science fiction thing ever, the Muslim world will recombine eventually into a modern-day Caliphate (I don’t know why they keep fighting it. The rest of the world has decided that this is inevitable.) Here, we get their write-up. It’s an interesting look at how a conservative religion maintains a modern society and incorporates their beliefs into a rapidly changing world. I will say that this section seemed to go counter to the short write-up that the Caliphate got in the main book, but after careful analysis, I think this is just talking about the parts that were glossed over in the short bit in the main book. Nothing contradicts what was written earlier, even if sorta seems to. Then, we get the TSA write-up. This one was more interesting as I think the TSA is a pretty cool “far future” concept along very strong ideological grounds that there currently aren’t good answers for. So, that’s pretty cool.

Next we get a section on piracy. Okay, it’s really called Present Shock and is about how people react to all the radical changes happening around them. That mostly means piracy, though. Grey markets, black markets, content rights management…all kinds of exciting stuff. There’s also quite a bit about the Fifth Wave societies attempt to combat this.

The State of Nature is next and it talks about the utterly fascinating subject of weather. I guess the environment sucks and stuff. We also get sections on diseases and environmental pollution. And then, inexplicably, a section about gangs, warlords, civil wars, and terrorism. Not sure how those things are “natural,” but it’s a pretty interesting read despite the earlier weather stuff.

The next section details three cities that are currently struggling to adapt. Nairobi is first and its currently in a transition. As the proposed construction site for the space elevator, its currently mixed between high-tech and low-tech. Next is Los Angeles, which is currently rebuilding after “the Big One.” Lastly, we get Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakstan. That one was pretty cool because it’s the home of Zarubayev, the setting’s evil power mad dictator. So, how exactly does a power mad dictator control a populace in the future? This section tells you (old TV reruns and psychotic visions, apparently). I’m not sure a game set there would be any fun, but it’s an interesting bit of setting.

Characters are next. This includes badly designed parahuman templates (Deliberately so – these are the precursors to the current crop of paragons of humanity). It also includes the largest selection of straight-up combat cybershell templates yet presented in the line.

The last bit is Technology. It covers all the obsolete and backwards tech that the have-nots use. So, it’s not going to be useful in your regular Transhuman Space game. This includes cyberware (since made obsolete with bioware) and wearable computers of inadequate power. It’s also got a section about modelling outdated equipment in GURPS, so that’s fun. It’s got a big section on NNBC Weapons (Nuclear/Nano/Bio/Chem), so you can ravage the countryside with complete rules support.

Transhuman Space as a whole is an optimistic setting. This book goes against that. In some ways, that’s interesting (The TSA and Alma-Ata writeups, for instance) and in other ways, it’s pretty useless. If your game is taking place anywhere else in the galaxy, most of this information is going to be useless to you. Of course, I guess that could be said for the previous book if your game wasn’t taking place underwater. These books are getting more and more specific, I guess. If you want a little more grim and gritty cyberpunk in your transhuman sci-fi, this book is actually pretty good. If not, skip it.

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