Posted by: markfender | August 8, 2012

Fading Suns Bootleg – Setting

As you may know, an early version of the Fading Suns 3rd edition was leaked to the internet.

Now, normally I wouldn’t care much. Except that this was the 3rd edition that was no longer going to be published by Red Brick. After firing the developer, they’ve decided to “go another way,” which is apparently short hand for “throw something together in a couple months.” If it does make an appearance at GenCon, it’s going to be a vaguely revised version of 2nd edition, which Red Brick already published years ago. I already know that 2nd edition has issues. I wanted a new edition to attack the problems and fix them (while introducing new problems – that’s how games work). So, I sought out this bootleg copy from the internet to experience what might have been.

This 2011 Playtest version is the weirdest playtest I’ve ever seen. It’s a complete book, with art, layout and everything. It’s as close to going to print as I’ve ever seen. So, I’ve decided to take a detailed look at this vision of the future that will apparently never exist. This review of sorts is primarily looking at the differences between 2nd and this 3rd draft, so I won’t be touching on the overall universe. Seek out other sources for that.

So, first the PDF itself. Like I said, we’ve got a fully-laid out book here. The art is reused from previous Fading Suns, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s 90s as hell, but it’s still pretty good. I really think John Bridges’ work defines what Fading Suns looks like, so I’m not against the inclusion of his art here. However, I liked some of the new stuff that was being shown off in the Fading Suns Concept Document so it makes me slightly sad to not see any of that. ‘Course, since it’s a “free” book on the internet, I guess I can’t complain too much. The layout is updated to a more modern sensibility, so that’s good. This book features a sans-serif font for the body text which goes against the prevalent thinking on readability. The book also lists 15 editors which seems like overkill, especially considering that it needs another pass. I can tell its been spell checked by a computer as everything is spelled correctly, even if the wrong words are used.  For instance, in this sentence:

By making a deal with the Charioteers, the new guild has insured that the most important messages travel with haste across the Empire.

The word “insured” should be “ensured.” Likewise, there are tons of comma splices. Here’s one:

The League sought to use this hatred to kick the royals out, they sought to gain enough worlds to secede and declare a Third Republic.

That’s not how commas work! There should be a period in there, or at least a semi-colon. And this isn’t even an isolated example. It happens a lot. It’s not that hard, people. I don’t even have a college degree and I know this.

Prologue: A Letter Home
The first section is the obligatory in-game fiction. It does not feature Brother Alustro and is therefore inferior.

We then have an introduction that covers the normal “what is roleplaying?” stuff. Pretty standard stuff.

Tales of the Stars
The history section has been slightly rewritten. The timeline has also been updated by tenish years to incorporate some of the changes to the setting. There’s also a more complete timeline than in previous books so that’s good. One weird thing is that they removed the emphasis on psionics when fighting the Symbiots. In previous editions, theurgy and psionics were used to battle the Symbiots. However, wherever the old book mentions psionics, the new book excises that clause, despite using the exact text from the old book, keeping only the mentions of theurgy. Not really sure why.

Pillars of the Empire
Next we have descriptions of all the noble houses, church sects, and Guild factions. This book lists the Minor Houses under each Major House that they’re associated with, which is a good change. The Hawkwood section no longer contains the worst metaphor in the entirety of the Fading Suns line, so this is also good. And the Decados have been toned down from their previous depictions as Cenobitic sensualists (You know, that phrase would be quite the oxymoron if I was using the original meaning of ‘cenobite’). This new edition also sticks House Keddah into the mix as a Minor House on the rise. I don’t really know why. The Concept Document mentions the desire to focus on courtly intrigue in this edition, which is all well and good (The inclusion of Alvarax Hawkwood and the anti-Alexius Hawkwoods into the core setting is a step in this direction), but I’m not getting why we needed an upjumped Minor House to illustrate that. Couldn’t have one of the already existing factions have done that? Salandra Decados has been becoming the secret confidant of the Emperor for quite awhile now – why wasn’t that a good jumping off point for courtly intrigue? Couldn’t having more of an emphasis on House Chauki and its struggles with the Hazat been more than enough (You know, the existing political intrigue in the previous core book)? Instead, House Chauki is wiped out so that the developer’s pet Minor House can get some stage time.

The Church is pretty standard. The Hesychasts get written up as more major grouping, but they were present in previous editions so that’s all good. The Guild section introduces a new Major Guild – the Town Crier’s Guild. I also don’t get this one. They have an emphasis on communication, which is a weird oversight in the original edition so I don’t have a big problem with this one. What doesn’t make sense to me is why they’re made a major Guild. As an offshoot of the Reeves, why couldn’t their communication focus been incorporated into the Reeves? This one especially bothers me as the Reeves could use a little help in making them interesting already. They’re already the least played character type across the entire Fading Suns splat-bandwidth – they could probably use the extra schtick. (Personally, I like the Reeves, but I totally get why they don’t make good adventure fodder.) Adding journalism to their portfolio would have given them another little something to entice players. They’re already known for their impartiality, so journalism seems like a natural fit. But, nope. A potentially interesting hook for them is removed into its own Guild.

Look, I’m not a person that fears change. (I know that’s hard to believe from someone who once played D&D). And I freaking love political intrigue, so I am all over this new emphasis. Except this seems to be doing it in a dumb way that changes the setting in ways that aren’t necessary. Those elements were already present – they just needed to be emphasized more. The political intrigues described in the updated timeline section were actually pretty good. They would have been better if they had involved current factions. Likewise, this new Guild annoys me. Not because they don’t have a place but because they should have been incorporated into the already-boring Guild that they spawned from. Luckily, these setting changes are pretty easily ignored if they offend you. But it does make me question the motivations and methods of the developers.

Next time we’ll actually get into the rules and how they’ve changed (since that’s the part that needed a lot of work).



  1. Damn if the commas are that bad I can’t play, what is the deal with misused commas these days?

    • It’s these damned KIDS TODAY!!!!

  2. Comma splices? No wonder they canned that quack.

    • No, that’s his editor’s job. All fifteen of them.

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