Hand Full of Stars

FutureWorld — Steve Perrin & Gordon Momson
Worlds of Wonder, book 3

Futureworld

Steve Perrin and Gordon Monson’s FutureWorld was included in Chaosium’s 1982 Worlds of Wonder box set. The set also included the 1980 Basic Roleplaying Game rules, SuperWorld (an early superhero RPG), andMagicWorld (rules for fantasy roleplaying, not tied to any specific setting). Here I am reviewing only FutureWorld. The other parts of the box set fall outside the purview of the BRP review series.


Background

The Second Empire discovered gate technology, which allows the creation of portals from the surface of one world to the surface of another. The Third Empire rediscovered the gates, as well as the means to prevent hostile powers from installing gates as prelude to war and invasion. Such barriers, they hoped, would prevent the wars that brought down the Second Empire.

There are thirty core worlds. Beyond them are the frontier worlds that have been incorporated into the Empire (by means fair or foul). The Outer Worlds are those worlds which have not yet been conquered or which have been deemed unsuitable for annexation. The emperor is a distant, little-known figurehead1. Day-to-day administration of the gate network is ICE’s job.

The acronym is never explained, BTW. Not Immigration and Customs Enforcement, surely?

 Comments

Maps present a significant challenge for SFRPGs of interstellar scope. Almost every solution is unsatisfactory in some way. Two-dimensional maps (like Traveller’s) fail to depict actual stellar distribution accurately, while three-dimensional maps soon become unwieldy due to the vast number of stars contained in even a small portion of the galaxy.

Chaosium tried to sidestep the issue with their world-to-world portals. Because they specified that the gates would only work between worlds of similar mass and spin, they could avoid having a world design system. A streamlined system is necessary when the game rules are limited to sixteen pages (as they were in this box set).

Character Careers and Races

Six pages of the stingy sixteen were devoted to the six possible careers (civilian, ICE, scout, army, science, criminal), each of which provided useful skills for would-be adventurers. Races are also discussed (briefly). The hivemind Quertzel and the lizardoid Sauriki are rivals of the Third Empire. There are two subject races, the bear-like Rumahls and the artificial Robots.

 Comments

The career paths resemble those found in Traveller. Traveller lacks anything analogous to ICE.

Game Mechanics

This two-page section provides a few extra rules needed to adapt BRP to a future setting.

 Comments

MagicWorld, for example, didn’t need electronic warfare rules.

Equipment

This four-page section lists the many devices — force swords, force fields, missiles, lasers, firearms, armor, radios, computers, and vehicles — that adventurers will need as they look for loot and impose the Pax Imperialis on new worlds.

 Comments

For some reason many of the smash-and-blast devices are not allowed on the Core Worlds.

Each kind of armour is best at dealing with one of the three forms of damage and less effective with the other two. Hence one must guess at what one might encounter. (The exception is the force field, which can be tuned to stop one and only one kind of damage at a time.) Modern weapons can kill with one shot, so players must be good guessers to survive.

The rules in FutureWorld do not cover low-tech weapons because those were covered in the Basic Roleplaying rules booklet.

Exploring Gowachan III

A short introductory adventure.

General comments

FutureWorld manages to convey (in a way that Traveller’s barebones rules did not) just how socially stratified and racist the Third Empire can be. There are noises about the best of all races being recruited by ICE, but the text also makes it clear that the average Rumahl lives at the bottom of society, ranking only above the lowly Robots.

The rules show their age; nobody in 1982 foresaw smartphones2, which would dramatically change game play. But the rules are still an impressive example of what you can cram into sixteen pages if you are sufficiently motivated. There is enough here to create a campaign. I know because I used these rules.

FutureWorld (and the Worlds of Wonder that contained it) is out of print.

1: There is one amusing way that the Emperor can be used. The rules mention in passing that the pomp and circumstances surrounding audiences with the Emperor are so expensive that many people beg off lest they be bankrupted. PCs who are excessively successful could be rewarded with a summons to the imperial court….

2: Mind you, Fred Pohl’s The Year of the Pussyfoot did. In 1965.



Comments

  • Michael

    <i> ICE </i>

    Obviously Iron Crown Enterprises. Apparently they were more successful than in our timeline...

    :-)

  • John Reiher

    Eh, it could be as mundane as "Imperial Colonial Exploration" or "Imperial Colonial Enforcement".

  • David Pulver

    Fourth paragraph of the book's first page - "The Imperial bureaucracy controls the gates through its elite guards, the Imperial Core of Engineers (ICE)."

    I quite the liked the economy of the setting as well. Being able to do exploring without having a starship and its shuttles to provide extra support was also welcome for plot generation.

    The combat system had an interesting wrinkle in the adventurers were also equipped with individual "tac packs" that could be given various settings to provide particular ECM, force field, or targeting effects, but not all at once, evoking both Travellers' earlier "computer programs" for starships on a personal level and also Runequest battle magic. and providing a bit of rock-scissors-paper strategy.
    These days one would imagine then being tablets operating different tactical apps, perhaps.


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