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Tuesday 12 September 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Starcluster Magazine 3: Time & Money

This is a review of the RPG supplement "Starcluster 4, Magazine 3: Time & Money", which is a kind of supplementary journal to the Starcluster series of game products.  It is written by Clash Bowley, Albert Bailey, and Klaxon Bowley, and published by Flying Mice Games.

I should mention that, long ago and far away, Flying Mice published my "Forward to Adventure!" RPG (and its FtA!GN! supplement). I don't think that this will affect the quality of my review, but it's important to be transparent about these things.

The magazine is a 54 page product, presented in a softcover with a full-color cover, featuring some kind of female adventurer in fancy old-fashioned garb. The interior is black and white, and almost entirely unillustrated (apart from a few pages of floorplans).

The product gets right to business; and that business consists of a series of essays or articles. We start with a "Guide to Commuting", which gives details of just what a commute consists of in a high-tech society.  There's a warning not to go super-sonic in a populated area, guidelines for how long it takes to do an orbital flight, orbital transfer stations, travelling in a personal pod, air cars (with details like the distance involved in a hypersonic turning radius), hauling mass, camping out, anti-gravity parking, living in your vehicle, and more.

Next we get an article about Time Reckoning in the StarCluster. That is to say, here on Earth a day is 24 hours, and a year is 365 days or so. Even hours and minutes are dependent on Earth calculations. So as soon as we go to other worlds, you have to figure out other ways to calculate time. This became even more complicated when humanity left the solar system and went to all kinds of new solar systems, each with their own time-keeping complexities. The article provides some suggestions as to how that all might be worked out.

After this, there's an article on Starship Economics. It deals with work and trade in the context of a starship-economy, covering such wide subjects as handicrafts, credits, reference currency, interstellar trade (varying from, say, Traveller by pointing out that actually interstellar trade in physical goods is relatively rare because it's just too expensive to be worthwhile, excepting highly specialized items), relative prices and wealth, shipping times and costs, time factors, passengers, intellectual property, interplanetary mail, and more.

Then there's an article entitled StarCluster-The Voyage Out. It details the period in the history of the setting where a disaster obliged humanity to abandon the solar system and make a slow grand exodus out to distant stars. One interesting detail of the StarCluster setting is that the arrival times of the exodus happened in reverse. The earliest ships to leave were the most primitive and thus the slowest. The last ships to get out were the most advanced, and ended up arriving centuries before the first ships did. The article details the different stages of the trip, and the societal changes that took place on the voyage. There are some very basic diagrams showing rough plans of what the colony ships looked like.

The next entry in the magazine is a piece of game fiction, which frequent readers know is one of my least-liked features of RPG books ever, called "time away". It consists of a 9-page long travel-log of a couple going on a tour of their system.

Then we get to the article on "Time Travel". This is a speculative sort of article suggesting the different ways time travel could theoretically work.  Stuff like "time as fate", "time as a river" or "time as a tree". Plus a few other speculations.

So what to make of this Magazine?  For starters, anyone who is a fan of Starcluster and is looking for system-wank won't find it here. There's pretty much nothing at all here, system-wise. No stats for items, no actual new rules, nothing.

There's setting stuff, but not in the form of new adventures, or new locations, or NPCs, or any of that sort of thing.

What you get is a lot of very speculative stuff, and purely peripheral fluff material.

So what is that good for? It may give you some ideas for things to cover in your game.  For Starcluster fans, there's at least a little specific stuff relevant to the history of the setting. If you're not specifically looking at it from the point of view of Starcluster, there's also some stuff that could apply to any sci-fi setting, and there's no rules to get in the way.

But is it enough?  My judgment is "maybe not".  It's very secondary stuff.  Some of it is, granted, quite interesting. Some of it isn't, at least to me. It left me feeling like it was a bit lacking. But if the topics listed above are of special specific interest to you, it might just be worthwhile for the price, I guess. Otherwise, no.


Currently smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Old Dog


  1. These articles are actually written for internal use - to dive into the guts of a setting and see how it all works. That's why they are all central to the settings, but peripheral to the PC's concern. We felt there were some crazy people who would enjoy digging that deep, though, so we put them in magazines like this. If you want system-based wankery, that's what the tool boxes are for!
    Oh! Very few of the articles in the Magazines are fiction. That's not our preferred form of address.

    1. Well, in this case it was just the one.

      I guess what you're explaining makes some sense as to the context of the product. It might have been good to have stated that somewhere in the book (unless I missed it?).

  2. I don't think I ever did, Pundit. Probably should have somewhere! :D