The Solar System arrives. Earth no longer at center.

Started by Paul T, September 19, 2008, 08:28:26 PM

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Paul T

This message is a brief "thank you" note from a satisfied customer. I guess it's kind of a review, as well, since I couldn't find anything similar online when I searched for comments on the Solar System before ordering it.

I ordered Eero's "Solar System" rewrite of TSoY a few weeks ago, and, by total coincidence, it arrived today. This is significant because today is my birthday. As such, it was a wonderful surprise, and I sat down and read the whole thing almost immediately. It made me very, very happy, indeed.


The writing is clear, to the point, and very effortlessly instructive. (There are some minor grammatical issues, but the content is always clear despite them.) The tone is friendly and very accessible, even inspiring. Eero also uses a few "Forge" terms, but never without defining them first, so the language is always easy to understand. The only part of the book that made me scratch my head and reread it a second time before I understood it (like I usually have to do on every page of a typical gaming manual) was the description of "turning points". The whole thing is a very interesting glimpse at another point of view on the game, similar to and yet also slightly different from Clinton's.

Check it out:

p. 75: "An oft-stated feature of the Solar System is that nobody is untouchable and, consequently, nobody is meaningless."

Eero gets to the point, quickly, understandably, and with minimal effort, both for the author and for the reader.

There are some parts I liked in particular:

The character creation process is clever, thorough, and helpful. It provides great guidance from the beginning of the process in a way that could be tremendously useful to anyone struggling to create a character.

The descriptions of roleplaying and the flow of gameplay, starting from the very basics, are beautiful! I've never seen it described so cleanly and broken down so clearly before, and it really creates a wonderful "ideal" image of what a roleplaying session might be like. The chapter describing the flow of play and the incredibly thorough yet accessible descriptions of conflicts and extended conflicts are my favourite parts. The explanation of Ability checks, conflicts, and when and how to use them are also fantastic, and clarify a lot that wasn't evident in the original text of TSoY.  Both those parts (the flow of play, and the explanation of conflict in the game) are pure gold in text form.

The only drawback to the booklet overall is that some other parts of the book (mostly about Keys, Secrets, and equipment) seem like they elide a lot of information present in the TSoY text. While informative and helpful for the reader already familiar with TSoY, they might not be enough for the first-time reader. For instance, the section on equipment fails to mention that passive uses of equipment cannot reduce a success level below "1". More advice for the writing of new Keys (of which there is very little) would be very handy, as well. The

So, those bits, in my opinion, are more like supplements to TSoY than standalone descriptions (although, even compared to most standalone texts, there is a lot of information and clarity there!).

There is also only a short note about using the system for one shot adventures, and it seems mostly discouraging. Perhaps someone like Jason Morningstar can remedy this gap--I've seen several scenarios by him that show how good the Solar System can be for powerful and exciting adventure, if all the elements are in place. There are a lot of neat little tricks you can do with pairs of opposed Keys, for example, to frontload interesting situations that players can't avoid stepping into.

There are some other real gems, as well, like the discussion of "leverage" and conflict stakes (Mmmm! So simple, so good...), the vignette on "backstory authority" (how that would have helped me a couple of years ago, when I was exploring player-side improvised narration!), and ideas to ponder or explore, like the suggestions for what to do when a character Transcends. Simply and concisely worded, many of these bits are great advice for story gamers anywhere and everywhere (no matter what game they're playing). Great stuff!

So, thanks, Eero. Your work has set my birthday off to a wonderful start.


Eero Tuovinen

Thanks, that makes me blush. I underwrite your critique as well - those flawed bits are part oversight, part lack of verbalized knowledge. I struggled quite a bit with how to write advice for creating your own Keys, but ultimately I apparently didn't have any. You can see that in my forum writing as well; I usually skip trying to advice on those bits, and rather just write the required Keys directly.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.