These Stars Are Ours! is a new science-fiction setting for the Cepheus Engine 2D6 rules set, published by Stellagama Publishing. It can be purchased for $19.99 from Drivethru RPG and contains 209 pages. It is written by Omer Golan-Joel, Richard Hazlewood, Josh Peters and art provided by Ian Stead, Axel Lofving, Earl Geiger, Luigi Castellani. The book is pitched as a fully independent setting for the Cepheus Engine 2D6 SF gaming rules, which it requires for play. Throughout the book, though the Cepheus Engine is used and repeated where needed (to make it easy for reference) and where appropriate for the setting (eg. When following the Terran career path), additional rules and guidance is provided.
The premise of ‘These Stars Are Ours’ is a futuristic setting in the year 2260. The human race (‘Terrans’) have reached the stars and built an empire, but only after nearly two hundred years of oppression by a race of aliens known as the Reticulans (yes, they look like the greys from popular UFO stories). The Reticulans came to Earth in 2082 and through stealth and guile, eventually came to rule over the Terrans, absorbing Earth into their star-spanning empire. The Terrans became pawns and were made to fight the Reticulans wars against other neighbouring empires, due to the Reticulans being smaller and more lithe than the other races.
Eventually, a small incident sparked an uprising among the Terrans which became a full-blown revolution across a number of occupied worlds. The Terrans reclaimed Earth for themselves and drove the Reticulans back, setting the scene for now, the year 2260.
Let’s take a look at each main chapter in turn:
Chapter 1 – you are presented with the background to the United Terran Republic, history and lead up to the present year 2260. You get a full breakdown of the military structure to the UTR, psionics, hybrids, corporations, technology, the colonies, religion, legal system, criminal and terrorist groups. The United Terran Republic is a young, up-and-coming player in interstellar politics, finally free from Reticulan oppression, setting the scene for adventure and intrigue.
Chapter 2 – Aliens. Here you have presented all the major and minor types of sentient creatures that inhabit the TSAO ‘universe’. Each alien is thoroughly described under the headings ‘Biology’, ‘Psychology and Society’, ‘Culture and Spirituality’, the aliens sphere of influence aka their empire, their Military and playing one of these as a player character. This is really extensive section and its obvious a huge amount of work has gone into building the background of TSAO. There are a few line art illustrations which are sufficient to show what reach being looks like and in comparison to each other.
Chapter 3 – Characters and Careers. The really good thing about this chapter is that there are extensive character and career development paths that include in equal measure, not just Terrans but any of the aliens that have been previously described. There are quite a few tables including events for all the careers, mishaps and descriptions for lasting injuries and argumented equipment that can compensate for injuries. You’re taken through a character creation checklist, with details how to generate stats and background for any of the races presented. When reading through this, I noticed one of the material benefits is your own civilian flying saucer spacecraft – you don’t get one of those in many retirement packages!
Chapter 4 – Starships. For me, this is probably the weakest part of the book. There are six spacecraft described, two Reticulan’s flying saucers and one each for the four major races. The ships that are described are good designs, nicely illustrated with full deck plans; however I wonder because there is so much material setting up the background and races, the spacecraft section was deliberately left a little short. Otherwise if the same amount of effort was put into the spacecraft section as the rest of the book, you’d have another hundred pages on top of the existing two hundred! As such, you end up having to rely on the standard designs from the CE rules, but these don’t have any illustrations or desk plans. Alternatively you could use some from alternative publishers. Hopefully there will be more spacecraft covered in a future supplement as it would certainly do the background justice.
Chapter 5 – Terran Borderlands. This section covers the worlds and astrogation data for the sector that TSAO is set in. The level of detail picks up again compared to the previous and you get a detailed description of each world with its current name (in 2260) and it’s astronomical name (eg. Wolf 359) with stats and allegiance. There is quite a bit that can be used to inspire adventures here; make sure you read every bit of detail! You also get an additional rule that has been added over the normal CE rules, being the worlds temperature. The habitable zone in which a star resides is the starting point for life to exist on a planet and secondly, liquid water. The rule is a nice touch which helps to bolster a planet’s UPP without being onerous to generate.
Chapter 6 – Patron encounters. No new rules setting would without adventure seeds and events to get your games started. There are a dozen single-page patron adventure seeds described here; all of them will need a little work by the referee to get things set up, but all are perfect for getting started in the TSAO setting. My favourite is ‘Marian Kelvin’ where the PCs have to purchase a very valuable bottle of wine. There is an opportunity for some humour with some of the complications presented, I’d like to offer a suggestion to bolster this encounter. Take a look at the third episode from the brilliant ‘Black Books’ series one called ‘Grapes of Wrath’, by Graham Linehan (Channel 4, UK) as comedic inspiration. In addition, there is another page of TAS news service excerpts with further ideas, in Appendix A.
Appendix B – Sources of inspiration. No surprises here, all excellent suggestions from the world of film, literature, TV and video games. Many will will be staples of any SFRPG setting, but there may be a few that you haven’t heard of.
The overall impression I get from this book is the huge amount of material and development that has been condensed into 209 pages. There isn’t much white space – just about every page has been filled with information about the setting. However, the book is very well written and edited, so it doesn’t feel like heavy reading. Artwork is limited to colour illustrations of the spacecraft and a few scenes by Ian Stead, the remainder being fine line art from the other artists previously mentioned but this doesn’t detract from the quality of the book. I highly recommend that you read every section; there is such a wealth of material presented here, it will certainly keep you going for a good while and inspires plenty of adventure ideas. Its nice to see a new setting which bolsters the Cepheus Engine rules set portfolio. Though the price is $19.99 (and minor reservations about the short spacecraft section aside), I think this is a very worthwhile purchase and worth investing some time to run some games in. I look forward to seeing supplementary material to bolster TSAO in the future! I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for very kindly sending me a copy of TSAO to review.