Saturday, August 8, 2020

Review & Commentary on Trey Causey's 'Strange Stars' campaign setting & 'The Strange Stars OSR rule book'

 "It's the far future, Old Earth is lost and shrouded in legend, and the children of paleo-humanity have long ago populated the stars, branching into new forms and strange cultures. Adventure is measured in light-years!"

Today was another day I was strolling through my Drivethrurpg library & I came across Trey Causey's 'Strange Stars' campaign  setting & 'The Strange Stars OSR rule book'. So let's make that distinct right off according to the author '
You need the setting book to maximally utilize the OSR rulebook.'

Strange Stars is like a smoke ring from the 70's or 80's from the fevered mind of its author, and its a graphic as well as artistic slight of hand trick of a laser sword of retro science fantasy gaming goodness. The author presents a great overview of his space opera setting with great artwork and a wary eye towards the material being used in your games. This book is wall to wall system neutral artwork as good as your going to find. The races are really nicely designed and can fit into a wide variety of science fiction or fantasy settings. 
Strange Stars is a wily and some what lean beast, its part setting book, part alien races, and a whole lot of details designed around the fact that this beast wants to be your go to space opera campaign. The OSR rule book gives all of the back up rules for these taken as a whole it works & works very well. 

The Strange Stars Game Setting book really dives into the universe of Strange Stars. The galactic politics is there, the factions, alien races, and all of this with an eye towards the retro Seventies & Eighties that we all grew up in. 

There's a definite, 'This is not 'Star Wars' but it might be Seventies Space opera' feel to these books. The author takes this and ratchet's up several notches in the setting book;  
"STRANGE STARS is a setting for any game where modern transhuman science fiction meets classic 70s space opera. Join a salvage mission to steal ancient tech from the wreck of a deranged sophont warship. Become a skiptracer in the lawless orbital megapolis of Interzone. Plan an elaborate data-vault heist on a diamond planet. Cross ceramic blades with a Zao Pirate in hard vacuum. Score sweet dreams or nightmare fuel from the oneirochemists of Eidolon. It's all somewhere in the STRANGE STARS!" 

Everything from the beginning possible PC's races to full adventure hooks are right there at your fingers. You can think of this book as a candy sampler of retro science fiction goodness that never existed until now. This starts with the cover which pays a nice nod to the original Star Frontiers game to the layout and graphics which references everything from Marvel style sci fi comic series to things like Star Wars. This is a style choice and a very well done idea in what it does. 
Nine ninety nine might seem a bit steep for a simple but its not because this is wall to wall well done artwork. If you grew up thumbing through Barlowe's Guide To Extraterrestrials, reading Micronauts under the covers with a flash light your going to want this book. 
Because this setting book taps into the nostalgia buttons but there's more. This is a very workable space opera setting with all of the trimmings to get you started in the universe of Strange Stars. Trust me, this is a world where one week your adventurers will be battling PHARESMID SYNDICATE and then taking down the machinations of the THE VOKUN EMPIRE. Its all right there at your finger tips and best of all its system neutral. 
Use it with your favorite OSR sci fi retroclone or Traveller or Fate or whatever system you want. I see how and why the author has done what he's done. This is a solid impact of a book into the sci fi market. Very cool and I highly recommend this book.

Using The Strange Stars Campaign Setting 

Jason Sholtis homage artwork  to Marvel's Fin Fang Foom in Strange Stars remains one of my favorite pieces of his artwork. 

A lot of OSR retroclones, sci fi settings & more have come & gone from the marketplace since I wrote this review for the Strange Stars OSR rule & setting book. But the majority of my points still stand. There's a lot of science fantasy material here that could used with many of the OSR games on the market. The White Star Rpg comes to mind here but there's plenty more. And while the  Stars Without Number rpg has now gone into its second edition & I haven't had the time to truly investigate it. The Strange Stars books were perfectly suited for the SWN first edition game in spades. 

Strange Stars has its points for independent intergalactic role playing in spades this makes it perfect fodder for Venger Satanis's Cha'alt series especially Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise campaign book which fits the politic of Strange Stars as both setting & rule book! In point of fact it could be used easily with Castles & Crusades Siege Engine books. 

There's plenty of setting & brightness within the Trey Causey's 'Strange Stars' campaign  setting & 'The Strange Stars OSR rule book' to allow a DM to set up a campaign via a simple space dungeon & keep things going for years! The material is very well done & fits its OSR aesthetic very nicely. 

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