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Dataware
TSR/Wizards of the Coast, 96 pages
Alternity game accessory


Art: Frank Vohwinkel
Dataware
Accessory Details
This handbook provides expanded rules, game statistics, and descriptions for futuristic computers, robots, and other types of artificial intelligence. A comprehensive section on the cyber-reality of Gridspace details hacking, netrunning, and virtual reality in a variety of science fiction genres, plus suggestions for customizing the material for your campaign. Dataware can be used with any science fiction setting and is compatible with the Star*DriveTM campaign.
Author: Wolfgang Baur
ISBN: 0-7869-1215-4
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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Welcome to the future history of Alternity. Entertainment, communication, business -- life in the future is lived on the Grid, the electronic network that spans the planets and stars of the known universe.

Surprise, surprise. It seems like every science fiction RPG has its own advanced version of the Internet. Small wonder since it looks like the Internet in some form is going to be a major part of our future and thus of most of our extrapolations of the future. Dataware is the guidebook to that electronic frontier in the Alternity game, an expansion on what was presented in the Alternity Player's Handbook. It does exactly that.

About half of the book is devoted to discussing gridspace, grid culture, and related software and hardware. There are some great gems in there: a handful of new, grid-based careers, suggestions for running a grid-based campaign, and a smattering of intriguing allusions to grid-culture. Unfortunately, while expanding on the rules is what Dataware does best, it tends to focus on that to the exclusion of what might have made this a truly great product. Lists of software tend to be rather dry -- how about an example of that software used in a story? What happens when a gridpilot activates it? The grid-culture presented is fairly generic as well. A little more detail would have been nice. Code havens and data fringes sound like places to have an adventure, but they are glossed over rather rapidly. What are they like? Where do all of these rules fit into the game?

Unfortunately, similar problems affect the other half of the book, a guide to the computer-related concepts of artificial intelligences and robots. Again, the coverage is thorough and includes short histories of AI and robot development. There are rules for the creation of robot characters, an intriguing prospect. The section on AI's has some very tantalizing hints about the future of the Alternity universe (the future beyond the Star*Drive setting). Still, there is a maddening lack of specific detail. There are a few examples of AI types and robot models, but they provide little personality. Again, more detail could have really made this book.

It may be that the generic approach of Dataware is deliberate. After all, this is an Alternity accessory, not a Star*Drive accessory, and meant to cover the full range of the science fiction settings, not just Star*Drive. That's a lot of material to fit into the restricted length of one book. Dataware does it at the expense of frills, presenting the bones stripped of the flesh. It covers the necessary materials well and I don't think that coverage could be any more complete -- I'd just like to see more built around them.

If you intend to make the Grid (or artificial intelligence or robots) a part of your Alternity campaign, you need this book. You're going to have to use your own imagination to fill in the gaps, though.

Copyright © 1999 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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