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Star*Drive: Arms and Equipment Guide
TSR/Wizards of the Coast, 96 pages
Alternity Star*Drive accessory


Art: Jon Foster
Star*Drive: Arms and Equipment Guide
Accessory Details
This accessory(TSR #2809) contains descriptions of items from protective gear to weapons of mass destruction. There you'll find everything you need to survive the Star*Drive campaign. More than 100 items are detailed, with descriptions, game statistics, and illustrations. Items are created specifically for the Star*Drive campaign, but most can be incorporated into any far-future, space-opera setting.
Author: Richard Baker
ISBN: 0-7869-1214-6
Format: 8-3/8" x 10-3/4" book-96 pages, perfect-bound
Age Level: 12+
Designed for: Players interested in science fiction and far-future settings
Price: $16.95US; $21.95CDN

TSR Catalogue

A review by Don Bassingthwaite

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Cast in the guise of excerpts from mail order catalogues, the Arms and Equipment Guide supplies a healthy slice of the array of things available for purchase in the Star*Drive setting for TSR's new Alternity game. It's a very diverse selection -- the catalogues "referenced" are the Rigunmor Star Consortium Mercantile Exchange (a compendium of personal and professional gear), VoidCorp CompuCatalog One (computers and cyberware), Merrick's Personal Security Report (guns, hand weapons, armor and more guns), and the Edgetech Outfitter's Catalog (survival gear and a smattering of vehicles). The four catalogues are a good way to break up the book, though the catalogue style also makes for a slightly rough presentation. The blatant game terms and stats tend to break up any suspension of disbelief that the catalogue copy might encourage. Still the Guide does its primary job, which is to cover just about all of the things that characters might want to buy in Star*Drive.

For the things it doesn't cover, the Guide also provides a handy bit of advice: make up a price based on the real world-price. Which, of course, works admirably well for the teddy bear used in the example, but what if a character really desperately craves that spiffy medical gauntlet in the store window? This is where the book really shines. Some future technology is presented in the Alternity Player's Handbook, but the Arms and Equipment Guide expands on that coverage. A wide range of items are listed - and more importantly described. There are game stats available for everything (and very handily summarized in tables at the back of the book, a feature that allayed my initial concerns about constant flipping to find ranges and power charges and such), but each item is given a short write-up as well. Many items are also illustrated, something I find very important for setting the visual mood for a game.

"My Nova 6 mass pistol may only be good for six shots and it may have a pathetic range, but DAMN it looks good!"
Unfortunately, the Arms and Equipment Guide is rather inconsistent with its interior illustrations. Each catalog has been rendered in a different style. The VoidCorp and Merrick's sections are great for catching mood: the VoidCorp illustrations display slick-looking computer equipment worn by faceless, well-drawn models, while Merrick's displays weapons with a kind of technical precision. The art accompanying the Edgetech survival gear, though, has drawn with a techno-organic look reminiscent of H.R. Giger - incredibly detailed but at odds with the mood set by art elsewhere. The illustrations in the Rigunmor personal gear section are at the opposite end of the spectrum, boring at worst and uninspiring at best.

In fact, the personal gear section of the Guide is in many ways the weakest. There are noticeable typos, contradictions, and missed references, the kind of thing that can generate arguments at the gaming table. Standard boots, for example, are described as having non-skid soles, but in the next paragraph non-skid soles are a $50 extra that provide special game advantages. Maybe there are two levels of non-skid. Similarly, robes are listed and described as the standard dress on many worlds under both "casual dress" and "robes" - which latter category also includes dressing gowns and housecoats. These are rather broad mistakes, and in fact parallel a problem I've seen in other games before: attention seems to be lavished on weapons, cyberware, and similar awe-inspiring devices, while less glamourous items fade into the background. The personal gear section could have benefited from greater description and illustration of the clothing presented rather than a blanket statement that "diversity is the only style that matters." A number of instrument packs for scientists are described in the sketchiest of terms, which is disappointing because these are the sort of items characters often use most inventively during the game.

I think that my highest praise for this book actually goes to the many small details that bring life to the Star*Drive setting. On a story level, these are things like suggestions for how characters might become involved in scams against the catalogue companies. On a wider setting level, they're things like brand names, corporate manufacturers, and the place of small distributors up against big business. The equipment presented for aliens is limited, but likewise intriguing - some of the best "catalogue copy" in the book is that written to appeal to the alien cultures. An important kudo does go to the clothing section as well. I was pleasantly surprised to find that listing for robes, along with kilts, saris, and several varieties of kimonos. Diversity may be vague, but it's a nice thing to see.

In summary: great selection, slightly questionable presentation, good background material with a little imagination. Buy the Arms and Equipment Guide for the toys but look for the details in the text and you'll get even more out of this book.

Copyright © 1998 by Don Bassingthwaite

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of Such Pain (HarperPrism), Breathe Deeply (White Wolf), and Pomegranates Full and Fine (White Wolf), tie-in novels to White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing games. He can't remember when he started reading science fiction, but has been gaming since high school (and, boy, is his dice arm tired!).


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