Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What Do I Know About Reviews? The Three Rocketeers (Fate Core)



Just in my lifetime, I think there have been about 3,748 variations on The Three Musketeers in film and television. That might not be an accurate number. I’ll see if I can come up with some facts to back it up. But I’m fairly certain I’m not that far off.

I’ve see traditional recreations with famous actors, wuxia action flicks, and steampunk reinterpretations. That said, I can’t remember too many science fiction spins on the characters. I’m not saying they aren’t out there, but none are readily jumping to mind.

At any rate, The Three Musketeers are one of those themes that seems to capture the modern imagination, like Robin Hood or King Arthur. At some point in their career, many creators can’t help but want to put their own fingerprints on the legend.



The Three Rocketeers is a Fate Worlds of Adventure supplement that uses The Three Musketeers concept as the basis for a space opera game. In keeping with my digression on this topic in a previous review, in this case, this is the “lots of action, lots of locations, lasers, spaceships, and energy swords” kind of Space Opera.

But What Kind of Style Does It Have?
The Three Rocketeers is a 40-page book that is formatted in a similar manner to the other Worlds of Adventures Books, where it has the standard Fate Core style throughout. Artwork is very modern fantasy/science fiction in tone, and it mixes a lot of glowing images and space opera tech with Three Musketeers style clothing and d├ęcor. Overall it’s a very readable and professional look, and the artwork strikes a nice balance between serious and over the top. 

Hail, Rocketeers! And Interstellar Imperia
These sections paint the type of campaign this product is meant to portray in broad strokes. In this reality, the old empires of France, England, Germany, and Spain have morphed into interstellar empires that still compete with one another for new planets and resources, constantly playing political games with one another and flirting with war.

There is also an interstellar Church that most of these nations adhere to, which nominally keeps them from outright warfare, but corruption from within means that there is still plenty of political maneuvering in religious circles. 

What I like about this section is that, on the edges, it looks standard, recasting the traditional nations of Dumas’ works as stellar entities instead of Earth-bound countries, but then you get a few additional twists. For example—uplifted gorillas with energy polearms as the stand-in for the Swiss Guard.

While it doesn’t dwell too much on any one location, or give too many “zoomed in” details, the broad strokes of the campaign have me interested. It’s big enough that you could get a good amount of playtime here, and “zoomed out” enough that you can add a lot of “swashbuckling/science fiction” mashup material in the areas not fully detailed.



Creating Characters
Sometimes it feels like there is a pattern that Worlds of Adventure books follow. Books that have a more traditional pitch often have a lot of mechanical tricks to help reinforce genre tropes. Books that have a wilder mash-up of genres, or that have deeper concepts informing their settings, often stick closer to Fate Core or Fate Accelerated for their mechanics.

This time, we get a mash up that also goes full on into specialized mechanics. Instead of having skills or approaches, the base bonus that a character gets to their roll is determined by how many of their aspects apply to what they are currently doing. Those aspects aren’t compelled, they just form the baseline bonus for the action being taken.

The unique skill system isn’t the only modification to the Core rules presented. Because swordplay is very important in the setting, there is a subsystem for choosing multiple mechanical benefits for different fighting styles. What I like about this is that it would be easy to adapt this subsystem into unarmed martial arts, as an example.

The book comes across as having its own niche in the Fate rules, which is nice.

NPCs
This section generally explains how mooks work in the setting, and bonuses that characters get for outnumbering their opponents, which is definitely a trope of the genre being emulated. Additionally, NPCs use the rules for approaches from Fate Accelerated for their resolutions, rather than spending too much time determining all their aspects and totaling their bonuses for checks each time they are used.



Technology in Known Space
This chapter explains the kind of technology that will be seen in the setting. Ships travel between the stars, and rocket packs are very important for individual unit battles, but between the mobility of rocket packs and the difficulty in creating effective man portable particle beam weapons, energy blades are the most common weapon outside of ship to ship combat.

The chapter spends just enough effort giving an explanation for using swords and rocket packs versus laser pistols or guns of any type, and explains that the setting has interstellar travel without spending too much time on technobabble that would work against the feel of the setting.

Conspiracies
Conspiracies are always a big part of Dumas’ Musketeer stories. There is always a threat to the crown, or large scale political maneuvering. In this supplement, we get a new way to represent a conspiracy. It has its own stats and ratings, and a member of the conspiracy can spend Fate points to use the Conspiracy’s relevant ratings instead of their own.

As laid out, these rules are very useful for long term conspiracies in many games, and uncovering aspects of the conspiracy becomes an important part of the investigative side of things. It’s just structured enough to be a solid “game” artifact, and just open enough that it lets players engage the mechanic on their own terms.

After the new twist on skills and the fighting styles, I wasn’t expecting another setting specific rules twist, and I enjoyed this one. Not only does it make sense in this setting, but it is a great potential port to other games using Fate

The Rocketeers
If your players decide to play with pregenerated characters, the “traditional” Musketeers have been re-envisioned in this chapter. Catherine “Cat” d’Artagnan, Olivier Athos, Micheal Porthos, and Renee Aramis are all given stats and modifications to fit the setting. Not only do these serve as pregenerated characters, but they are good examples to see how the rules come together in making a character. 

The Three Rocketeers in Battle for the Gallian Throne
There is a sample adventure where the PCs should uncover a plot against the throne, determine who the agents are acting against their regent, and defeat the bad guys. It’s a solid adventure if you are going to use this supplement as you might use a traditional adventure for an RPG. It also gives you a few “in context” examples of how the Conspiracy rules work. It is standard for what you would expect from a Musketeers plotline, but thankfully it works in the uplifted gorilla papal guards.



For Lost Honor
Most of the negatives about this product come from the length of the book and what it can accomplish in the format. The setting implies a larger galaxy and extended play. To that end, I would have liked a few more exotic locations, and a few more interesting NPCs across the various stellar empires. I also wish that we had gotten a few example conspiracies outside of the one used for the provided adventure, as potential campaign starters.

All for One
If you like science fiction and The Three Musketeers, or swashbuckling in general, you will probably like this product. On the other hand, if you like the idea of some interesting mechanical twists giving you an alternative to skill lists, detailed feats that can represent fighting styles in a more narrative system, and a campaign framework took to help model conspiracies and the long-term goals of the villains, if you are a fan of Fate, you are definitely going to want to look at this book.

One for All
Style is important in a book like this, and both the artwork and the descriptions used support the genre. For fans of Fate, there are interesting, broadly portable rules. For anyone with even a passing interest in Fate, it’s hard not to recommend this book.

**** (out of five)

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