It isn't often that I review Sci-Fi RPG products. The few that I do are pretty much firmly entrenched in the OSR, at least mechanics-wise. Bandits and Battlecruisers
fits that bill, at it is firmly in the grasp of the OSR / Classical D&D rulesets. It is however, much less Sci-Fi and more Space Opera. Heck, even that isn't really all that accurate a description. Let's Try Sci-Fantasy Space Opera. Too long?
In any case, Bandits and Battlecruisers
is a Space Opera themed supplement for any of the OSR clones and should be useable with minimal adjusting (but will work better with LL, S&W and the like and need more adjusting for OSRIC). As it pretty much replaces many of the core assumptions, such as character generation, stats and bonuses, skills, is classless - the reality is, if you already know one of the older systems, you can run straight with B and B and just use the system of your choice to fill in any gaping holes. You will need another system to be your reference point for any spells (yes, there is magic in the setting, but no spells in the book - so, dig out the rules you feel comfortable with).
Tables. Lots and lots of random tables. Whether you use them as inspiration or let the dice fall as they may, there are lots of tables in this book. Personally, I like the Creature Creation Tables. Not as crazy as Raggi's but easy to use and quick. Note to self: making my own Things in the Room Table for Rappan Athuk would be pretty neat.
Descending AC is the default. That being said, AC 2 is as low as one can obtain without magic, so the chance of being nigh invulnerable is near nil.
The equipment lists take up about 4 pages and even includes duct tape. Any equipment list that includes the universal jury rigging tool is pretty complete in my eyes. Heck, I'd like to see a fantasy equivalent ;)
The spaceship section (about a 1/3 of the book) is the most Sci-Fi heavy part of the book (most of the rest is a combination of Sci-Fantasy and Space Opera, shaken not stirred ;) It's approach reminds me a bit of Traveller Lite, which is fine as that of course is yet another Old School game. Actually, the space combat reminds me a lot of classic Traveller, as best I can remember. It has been over 20 years since I played a game of Traveller, let alone spaceship combat.
Heck, it even includes hexagonal graph paper (in two different sizes) in the back for you to print out and use. Very convenient.
The art is all public domain (most if not all from comic books) and nicely evocative.
Overall, it's a very nice twist on the old School ruleset.
I do have 2 minor quibbles:
- lack of bookmarking for the PDF. If I have a choice, I always want my PDFs bookmarked. It makes navigating through the virtual pages so much easier.
- no sample adventures of even a random table to develop plot hooks. The random space encounters and space stations don't quite cut it. That being said, I suspect most of the people that purchase this will already have an adventure or a series of plot hooks in mind. It's just that it would have made a fine product even fine.
From the blurb:
BANDITS + BATTLECRUISERS = ADVENTURES IN SPACE
Bandits and Battlecruisers is an Old School Role Playing Game, based on Bandits & Basilisks mini-game and the classic Terminal Space supplement. On its 140 pages you will find:
Detailed character creation rules;
Monster creation aids (plus 18 monsters - not the well-known monsters from the Original Game);
Complete rules for creating star sectors, star systems, planets, moons and space stations;
Five 100-keyword tables, helpful in designing monsters, robots, civilizations and planets;
100 random space encounters and 100 random space stations;
Tools helpful in creating treasure hoards and artifacts (plus 16 sample artifacts);
Over thirty random tables;
Chapter with a detailed starship creation sequence and starship combat rules (plus over twenty sample spaceships).