Fading Suns: the Coolest Game You’ve Never Played

If it’s not obvious enough, I’ll come right out and state that I love tabletop gaming as much as I enjoy PC gaming.  Possibly more so, because it’s so hard to get people together any more, and you have to relish every second that you and your friend hang out and discuss meaningless drivel, such as how strong your kobold barbarian is.

One thing I always enjoyed was finding diamonds in the rough.  When AD&D came on the market in the late 70s/early 80s, there was an explosion of game material and game systems from other companies as well.  The same thing happened when D&D 3.0 was first released.  These smaller games were interesting because they either dealt with genres that were far away from the classic D&D high fantasy campaign, or they dealt with fantasy in rules that were written very differently from D&D.

Three of these “alternative games” were Middle Earth/Rolemaster (Iron Crown), Deadlands (Pinnacle), and Fading Suns (Holistic).  While I’m only going to write about Fading Suns in what follows, I have to note that each of these systems were significantly more complex than D&D.  That’s not a bad thing – I’d just put them at the intermediate gamer level rather than the novice level.

Like I said, I’ll deal with Deadlands and MERP/RM another time.  I encourage you to do a little research on them for your self, if you’re a gamer.  Fading Suns was a magnificent science fiction game which borrowed from Dune, Stargate, Traveler, and even Warhammer 40k.  Mankind has colonized planets outside of our solar system following the discovery of a series of ancient, yet still functional, jump gates.  However, humanity is also in decline – technology is looked as sorcery upon by the masses, and a central “Church of Light” encourages this, which hastens mankind towards another dark age.  Before you condemn the church, however, they are right about something – there is a force, an entity, or something out there that hates all light, and seeks to obscure it.  And every year, the very stars in the sky appear to get a little less bright. Thus the name – Fading Suns.

Outside of the fluff and setting, I really enjoyed the rules for this system as well.  The game is uses the ubiquitous d20 for determining success or failure, but it also determines how well you succeed or how badly you fail.  That’s especially refreshing to me.  Unfortunately, the system also descended into supplement-itis.   Symptoms of this condition include publishing another tiny supplement for any additional detail, and slapping a $15 price tag on it.  I’m not a fan of systems that do this – if they want to sell stuff individually, go for it, but please combine small supplements into a single large publication for people who don’t want to buy stuff piecemeal.  That’s more of a management decision than anything else, though.  The meta-plot for the game remains interesting, and the rules are tight and easy to use, once you learn them.  Give it a read, you may like it.


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