Solar System

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Go ahead and click that cover page (yes, this booklet doesn’t have a cover, that’s the first page), I explain the background rather concisely there. Solar System is not originally my own design, but that of one Clinton R. Nixon, a fine game designer from North Carolina. At one point Clinton expressed in an off-hand comment that he’d find it interesting if I made my own version of his popular fantasy roleplaying game The Shadow of Yesterday… and here we are. Solar System is Clinton’s name for the rules system in TSoY. While the original game itself is a rather flavorful affair of sword & sorcery, the rules-set has proven robust and universal – so much so that I had no particular difficulty in detaching the rules and turning them into a true universal rpg system, able to be played in any genre.

Solar System for new folks

Solar System is one of those generic adventure rpg rules sets. I hate it when people try to push this sort of thing at me, as however excited the designer happens to be for his new roleplaying game, it’s usually nothing new and astounding for a tough, experienced hobbyist.

It’s also a fact that you don’t need general rules systems filling your bookshelf when one of those is really enough – a person might switch systems during the course of years, but you really need to be one hardcore hobbyist to actually research and play several of these things simultaneously. So convincing somebody who already is happy with the approach of his chosen rpg to switch to another one is pretty futile.

However, in case you’re one of those people looking for a new rules-set for whatever reason, the features of the Solar System that sold yours truly on it were these:

  • A balance of adventure and drama: this is a genuine, full-blown rules-set for adventure games, but it’s written to make the player characters leads of their own stories. The especially clever bit is how the experience points hoarding so typical to fantasy adventure rpgs is turned into a vehicle for growth stories: there is no way for the GM to obviate growth by marching even stronger enemies on the stage, so the growing characters are automatically pushed into increasingly crucial decisions about their own fate and that of others.
  • The system has special powers and other crunch up the wazoo, but it’s built to be contextual and customizable, and can be set aside in favor of the simple basic structures when necessary. Thus something like how a character disarms another in a swordfight can be resolved as anything from free descriptive color to a special power with its own mechanics. Not only can the rules adapt in this way with preparation, but they also do it during play to provide the tools I need moment-to-moment.
  • I’m kinda cheap as a rpg hobbyist myself, so I probably wouldn’t have infantuated with the Solar System originally if it weren’t free. The Shadow of Yesterday, the original game, is available in the Internet for anybody to check out, and so will my version be when I get around to setting it up. The booklet version costs $5, so it’s not a huge investment either, considering that this is a fully featured rpg rules set.

Solar System for TSoY veterans

If you already know The Shadow of Yesterday, you might or might not be interested in checking out the Solar System as well. Make up your own mind:

  • Solar System is written as a snapshot of my own, ongoing process with the rules set of TSoY. There are all sorts of itty-bitty changes in small rules, and the whole thing is written and organized anew in a way that I hope is a bit more clear than before. It’s the same basic game, though.
  • There is an array of new rules concerning something I call Effects, which are basicly that thing you do when you delve deep into Ammeni poisoncraft in TSoY – you need to keep track of your poison stores and Ability checks made to distill the poisons and so on. The Effects rules generalize this and some other things into a clearer, formal part of the rules.
  • There is very little campaign setting stuff, on account of this being a generic version of the rules. On the plus side you’ll have less work in adapting this to a scifi campaign, on the minus side the booklet is a pretty dull read if you’re not entertained by the details of whether bonus dice are applied before or after an Ability check. There is some random stuff about werewolves and martial arts, but it’s more for the example’s sake than anything else.

I think that if you play The Shadow of Yesterday and have an active interest in it, this is pretty much a no-brainer. If nothing else, the booklet is a nice gift – we’re selling it in discount packs of five for the price of four exactly because I want to make it feasible for the whole group to gain rules mastery. As all games, Solar System benefits from players who know what they are doing.