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Review: High Space, final version

High Space briefly, with minor spoilers: An inspiring space/scifi setting that gives you an option of running a long epic story or Traveller -like small adventures. The main story feels a bit like Babylon 5 spiced with some cthulhu/galactica -like elements and unique, 'realistic' style space battles.

Some time ago, I posted a review of Beta release of High Space. While I liked what I read, there was a number of issues in the beta release that were bad for the game. This review focuses on the changes from the Beta version as well the default setting, Lantern.

Gramel has also published it's Scifi setting Nemezis in English now; I love Gramel's Beasts & Barbarians setting and trust that Nemezis is great too, but I got High Space first and don't have time to get familiar with both. But if you have experiences with both of these settings, I'm curious to hear about how they compare! Edit: you seem to be able to buy Nemezis/High space bundle too at reduced cost, to get the best parts of both settings!

Overview and changes from the Beta

High space is divided into three parts: Character analects, Fleet manual and The Lantern (setting). The biggest changes I can see are in Character analects -book, for example careers now don't give you huge bonuses but give you a piece of equipment that is higher than your Acquisition rank; AR tells what equipment you can get, usually no money is used in the setting. While some players might try to exploit this rule, I'd handle it by sending officials to question such character giving him some hard time if he tries to continue that way.

While I passed some sections of HS Beta quite briefly, I've now given more thought to them. While it's hard to say anything about actual gameplay as it's too often very different from theory, I think I could use HS hacking rules in the setting instead of the bit simplier rules I used in my cyberpunk campaign. There's some rules tweaks that make Investigation skill for example more useful, as it's now used generally to notice patterns, and therefore it's used for reading sensors data too.

The language used in the books feels a bit more complex than in rpg books in general, giving a bit headache for a non-native English speaker. There's also a number of typos and errors, even a missing title, so the book could really have used another proof reading or two.

It's been some time after reading the beta books and I don't suddenly see any big changes in the Fleet manual. After my last review I've also come to like the idea of the space combat as it's presented in the setting, being able to shoot through vast emptiness of space (if the nebula doesn't interfere), using stellar bodies as cover and for slingshots and making quick hyperspace jumps to get to a better firing location! Hyperspace missiles and sending unstable hyperspace cores to blast enemy ships sounds like a fun combats! 

Setting: The Lantern

While I first planned on using High Space only to enhance other games, I must confess that the setting of The Lantern tickles my imagination. The setting focuses on human colonies in a nebula called The Lantern. While containing several star systems, the size of the nebula is quite small, as it's mentioned to have diameter of 2 light years - half the distance from the Sun to the closest star.

It seems like the plot point campaign of High Space will be published as separate adventures, Blind Threat being the first one. I'm really not fond of this method as I like creating my own stuff, but campaign main structure is given in the setting book, which gives you an option of running the planned plot point campaign but in your way, and buying adventures if you get stuck. In addition, the book gives you an amount of hooks separate from plot point campaign you can use. The plot point campaign itself goes through mysteries of Lantern, and things are likely to get really epic. I've been wanting to run a Babylon 5 -game for a long time, but my ideas haven't had much potential for long-time plots as I've wanted to use Shadow War era; The Lantern has potential for a story of similar high drama and feel, but instead of making heroes small-time adventurers I'd think of a good space station to put the heroes in and give the heroes a position in that station.

There's many factions in The Lantern that can be used, including several powerful commercial organizations mining astatine that is used for hyperspace fuel. There's a church that's selling concessions, guilds, pirates, law enforcement agency, military and other factions all with their own goals and purposes. You can imagine a number of potential conflicts between these factions, and also inside them. And if you put the player characters into a position of some power and responsibility, they'll need to be on their toas all the time so they don't step on toes of too many powerful factions!

A nebula that gives a lots of interference and 'ghosts' to radar images and contains a lot of valuable starship fuel is a great starting point to a setting. There is aliens in the world, although they aren't seen very often; Encounters with a few alien species are mentioned in the brief history of the setting, but almost nothing is told about these species. I find this as a bad flaw and hope Storyweaver will publish a page or two about these species as free add-ons. As I mentioned in the beta version review, you get means to create aliens by their general type (flying, amphibious, bestial, psychic, elemental), but you don't even get to know which general types these encountered aliens are. There's later some descriptions about local extinct alien species though.

Small disappointments

A small disappointment was also the promised discount for those buying Beta version, as the final product was in sale right away, making the benefit for Beta version buyers a bit more than a dollar. Not much reward for going through unbalanced stuff with issues and giving feedback through forums, although for $5 you could already see a enough of the system to tell if you will like it or not. 

I can also find some references to non-existing (or very-difficult-to-find) features, for example I have seen no mentioned examples of starships or plot point record sheet on storyweaver homepage; You can get Blind Threat adventure for free from facebook page, but I didn't see the link before liking the page - something that wasn't mentioned when referring to the facebook page.

Another thing I miss is various examples and precreated characters and ships. And I'd really want to see a standard patrol ship and trooper stats and equipment for the setting, plus a few other archetypes, including synthetics and pc starships (especially starships as player characters!). It's understandable if the publisher wants to put out separate bestiary/fleet book, but the core books should have at least a small collection of basic stats! 

There's still some powers and feats that feel a bit underwhelming; For example, a glanding power Serotonin-A that is used to resist the effect of any social Skill or manipulation based on Persuasion or Taunt by providing a +2 modifier to resistance tests. So you need to activate this, risking failure or fatigue and it's weaker than comparable edges. And when you are being taunted, you should already have this power active, and if you have several powers, it might be a hard choice to activate this one. I think I'm houseruling this to give +4 on raise. Still, I see manipulation by persuasion affecting npc's more than pc's, so perhaps this is intended to be more npc edge than pc. Philosophy -skill is strange, I agree that persuasion might need dividing but is Philosophy right way... might work for some cases but in other cases it might feel strange. Naming the skill Philosophy made me understand it's description too narrowly initially (I edited this part about Philosophy after realizing the term mislead me).

Like any setting, High Space (and it's default setting Lantern) would hugely benefit from a Quick Start sheet, similar to the one I created for Beasts & Barbarians


Right now I'd say the right rating for High Space 4/5. If it's flaws (generally lack of examples and basic unit statistics) and errors would be fixed, I'd give it full 5/5! Even with it's flaws, I can see using it for a long campaign.


High space at drivethrurpg / rpgnow


Average: 3.5 (10 votes)

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