Clarence Redd’s 2016 M-Space is an SF table-top role-playing game. It uses the D100-derived Mythras Imperative game engine, which is to say it is a close relative of RPGs like Runequest , Call of Cthulhu , and Future World . M-Space is published by Frostbyte Books, headquartered in Sweden. It is also the specific game that inspired me to do the BRP series of SFRPG reviews.
Onward to the stars!
I acquired this both in electronic form and as a physical book.
The ebook is pdf. Although my antipathy to pdfs is well established, I found the pdf easy to use, in large part because it displays as a single column for the most part. While there are sidebars, they do not interrupt the flow of the text. This meant I wasted comparatively little time scrolling up and down—which, alas, is the norm for double-columned electronic books.
The physical book is offered in two editions: soft cover with black and white illustrations and soft cover with coloured illustrations. I opted for the first1. I was somewhat surprised by the format: the 200-odd page book is square rather than rectangular. I surmise that the designer might have chosen this format in order to better display sidebars.
What it says on the tin. What caught my eye was the paucity of detail. Once, RPGs had to explain, in excruciating detail, just how to play an RPG for players who were total newbies2. Newer games can take some knowledge for granted, as well as including links to online primers (in case of newbies). This would have been a great idea, were it not that the link printed in the text is outdated. Use this primer rather than hunting for the dead.
M-Space is a skill-based (as opposed to character-class based) system that uses BRP’s familiar characteristics: Strength (STR), Constitution (CON), Size (SIZ), Dexterity (DEX), Intelligence (INT), Power (POW), and Charisma (CHA), Translation: how strong your character is, how healthy, how large, how coordinated, how smart, how lucky (or determined), and how likeable.
The basic version of the character generation system combines random rolls to generate characteristic values. Other options are provided.
Players then use the basic characteristics of their character to calculate attributes: Action Points (how often they act in a combat round), Damage Modifier (whether they do extra damage or heh heh less), Experience Modifier (bonuses added to learning opportunities), Healing Rate (what it says on the tin), Hit Points (how hard characters are to incapacitate or kill), Initiative Bonus (whether they act before or after other characters), Luck Points (used to reduce damage or modify dice rolls), Power Points (used to fuel psionics), and Movement Rate.
Fleshing out the skills of each character involves spending skill points. Everyone gets the same number of points, but the menu of available skills depends on character background (frex, planet-bound farm, city, orbiting facility, etc.) and types of careers (civilian/military, legit/illegal).
Characters also have passions, which model characters’ individual likes and dislikes. But … I figure you are skimming by now, so I desist.
More detail in the Damage Modifier than I like.
I quite like the background culture options, although it does seem odd that so many player characters could be rural. People are moving to cities NOW; rural areas are depopulating. I can only imagine this trend accelerating in the future. Perhaps rustics are the ones motivated to risk death as adventurers; people from secure urban backgrounds have other things to do.
An explanation of the game mechanics, which resemble the other iterations of the D100. But are not carbon copies.
These rules advise on how to resolve sticky situations.
M-Space uses conflict pools, an approach new to me. In a multi-sided conflict, each character is given a pool of hit points, to spend as seem wise. Roll to see who wins each round. You lose when you run out of hit points. This seems a sensible approach; I am very curious to see how it works in actual play.
How to shoot, stab, and bludgeon! M-Space is a bit more chart-heavy than I like, but nothing a good Game Master’s shield cannot manage.
As above, but simplified for those who do not find bookkeeping and charts fun.
Useful rules that didn’t fit other chapters.
A modular approach allows straightforward design without too much math. I was reminded a little of SPI’s Universe , which I am sure is helpful to all six of you who ever played that doomed game.
What it says on the tin.
Advanced Starship Combat
Playing around with the starship combat suggests that getting into fights is an excellent way to justify to purchasing a new starship. Given that this is a BRP-derived game, not terribly surprising.
M-Space leans toward the space-opera end of the RPG scale. As a consequence, not only are boarding actions a reasonable option, ships can ram other ships without being reduced to fragments and super-heated plasma.
M-Space takes a bottom-up approach to its aliens: determine the context in which they evolved, then work out what sort of being might result. Having fleshed out physical appearance and capabilities, game masters must then concoct a culture.
Some elements appear to have been derived from Traveller’s ecology-focused approach. On the plus side, M-Space ’s tool-using aliens won’t be Star Trek rubber face-appliance aliens.
A quick guide to designing worlds, their star systems, and the regions in which they are to be found.
This section is very much Traveller -influenced (with explicit credit to Traveller ), at least as far as star maps and tech levels go. As discussed in other reviews, mapping is in many ways an intractable problem in galactic-scale roleplaying games. 2D maps are unrealistic but 3D maps that covered even a small part of a galaxy would have to list millions or billions of objects!
M-Space opts for two dimensional hex maps. IMHO, bad choice. Though I admit there are no good choices in this matter.
Some of the Traveller-derived aspects could have been better integrated into this specific game.
Circles are social organizations, which can range from the neighborhood Go club to vast, star spanning empires. This chapter offers options on how to model circles, using three basic parameters: Influence (the impact on society a circle has), Size (number of members), and Resources (money, property, information, and what have you).
Another innovation that seems as if it would improve play. Circles confer benefits. And player-characters can return the favour, helping neighborhood Go clubs become vast, star-spanning empires.
Magical woo woo rules for players who like that sort of thing.
Because psionics is fueled with power points, I suspect that in actual play, psionic adepts will run out of juice hilariously quickly. Players who want to play psychic warriors good for more than a moment or two of ostentatious display may want to talk the GM into tweaking the rules.
This covers non-starship vehicles.
An assortment of devices PCs might want to buy, sell, or both.
Some sample life forms, not all of which will want to eat the PCs.
Step by step starship design walkthrough,
Starship combat walkthrough.
Even More Comments
Some SFRPGs provide a setting. M-Space gives you the tools to design your own.
Additional material for M-Space was written by Atgxtg, Colin Brett, and Jason Durall.
The cover art is by Jadrien Cousens. It’s an eye-catching cover, a clean design that is a pleasant contrast to the garish exploding spaceships other companies have used.
Interior art is by Matthias Utomo, David Sladek. and Pheidel. I won’t reproduce any of it here because copyright, but I will say the art is professional quality and works as well in B&W as in colour.
THERE IS AN INDEX!
That should not be so rare as to warrant excitement, but so it is and excited we are.
M-Space is a slick, reasonably priced game, with professional production values and a flexible game engine.
M-Space is available here.
1: Actually I ordered the first copy of M-Space I found off Amazon and it happened to be B&W. As it happens, the pdf I got has the coloured illustrations (which are the same as the B&W versions, only with, you know, colour.) Either version seems perfectly fine.
2: Yeah, you can restrict your hobby to those people who are already familiar with it. Just don’t be surprised when your audience dwindles to the point it can fit into a small closet.