Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Outbound: An Explorer's Guidebook
Ed Stark
TSR/Wizards of the Coast, 96 pages
Alternity Star*Drive accessory

Art: Brom
Outbound: An Explorer's Guidebook
Star*Drive Information
It's the dawn of the 26th century. Humankind stands on the threshold of greatness and the brink of destruction. Which way will the scales tip?

The STAR*DRIVE™ campaign setting, designed for use with the ALTERNITY® science fiction roleplaying game, brings to life the world of the future. Humanity has colonized thousands of planets—but ambitious nations contend for prime sectors of real estate. At the edge of space is the Verge, where opportunities await those smart enough and ruthless enough to take advantage of them.

It's a game universe for heroes to conquer, investigate, and explore. Scheme with operatives of VoidCorp, fight against Thuldan Legions, and uncover the mysteries of the frontier. Visit a dozen fully described worlds, and learn of powerful interstellar empires. Pilot a starship into uncharted territory, make a smuggling run to an occupied star system, contact a new alien species, and bring galactic criminals to justice.

TSR Catalogue

A review by Don Bassingthwaite

Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship...

Oops, wrong franchise. But who hasn't read a good space opera novel or played a science fiction roleplaying game and dreamed of taking a ship among the stars? To explore new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where... ahem. Yes.

Outbound gives Alternity players in the Star*Drive setting the opportunity to do just that. As the subtitle so succinctly states, this is an explorer's guidebook. Those familiar with the Star*Drive setting will know that the action takes place on the Verge, the wild and woolly frontier of known space, and while humanity (and accompanying species) have been in the area for nearly two hundred years, it remains on the fringe of known space for a number of reasons. The initial rapid settlement encouraged "starleaping," skipping over unsuitable worlds and systems in favour of others better suited for habitation. The Second Galactic War and the severing of Verge communications from Old Space meant worlds that had been explored and colonized were lost. And, well, space is just BIG. There are hundreds of systems waiting to be discovered or rediscovered.

So why do you need a guidebook to start exploring? Why not jump in the spaceship, fire up the old stardrive, and make starfall for parts unknown?

Sure, go ahead. But from the character's perspective, a little planning on what to take can make a lot of difference. And just who is going to pay for that equipment anyway? From the gamer's point of view, a campaign that's based around exploration calls for a different type of character than, say, a conspiracy or merchant campaign. The gamemaster will certainly need to make some different plans and draw up different kinds of adventures.

Outbound addresses all of the various needs of an exploration campaign very neatly. The first two-thirds of the book are devoted to adventures designed for explorers. The adventures are unrelated to each other and they're all fairly dissimilar as well, giving you a good idea of what can be done within the exploration theme. Without going into too much detail, it's safe to say that these are not adventures for characters that go in blasting away at anything that moves and not thinking about their situation. None of them explicitly make the point that characters will need to use their brains but that should be something the gamemaster will realize. The players will get enjoyment out of these adventures, but there is at least one that they'll enjoy more if they can figure out exactly what's going on (although that could be difficult). High marks for these miniadventures -- the descriptions are condensed, but more or less thorough, and a couple have good potential as the starting point for continuing adventures . Also of value to gamemasters are the descriptions of the planets and systems where the adventures take place. Combined with information about systems elsewhere in the Star*Drive materials, these are good guides to what is possible when setting up your own systems.

The last third of the book is devoted to preparing scouts and explorers for their missions into the great unknown. Important gear and equipment is discussed, with a few new items introduced and convenient sidebars highlighting information from previous books (the Alternity Player's Handbook and the Star*Drive Arms and Equipment Guide). As Outbound points out, being prepared can make an enormous difference when your stranded in the wilderness. Perks and flaws for the scout or explorer character are also covered, again with some new ones added and some old ones reinterpreted in interesting ways. A few new careers are listed, including the rather interesting Diplomat career of Reunification Specialist (very handy if you want to re-establish contact with lost colonies). Perhaps most important to a good exploration campaign is the section on employers and patrons. Why are the explorers exploring and who is paying them to do it? Motivation is an incredibly important part of any long-running story and this section sets out a lot of motivation for exploring. You can work for the Concord Survey Service (a history of which is also included) and get relatively low pay but know that you're working for the white hats. Or work for the Thuldan Empire and get paid well... but don't ask too many questions. Also covered are a couple of the other stellar nations, as well as smaller trading corporations, biomedical firms, and mining concerns enough variety to keep things interesting.

If you're planning an exploration campaign, Outbound is an incredibly handy book to have. Other styles of game will probably find it more or less useful -- an urban-based campaign will have little use for it, while a military campaign could find aspects of the information intriguing. You can't satisfy everybody all the time, though, and as a focused, but still generic (covers exploration but doesn't do it in relation to a single system or such foolishness), Outbound is excellent value for the money. Similar books for other campaign styles would be useful, too -- I think it's a concept with legs.

So sign that contract with Starmech, slip into your climate weave jumpsuit, and pack your sensor gauntlet, e-suit, and weapon of choice (hey, it's a nasty universe out there). Now you're ready to fire up the stardrive! To leave civilization behind! To boldly split infinitives where none have been split before!!

(Heck, aliens don't care about grammar).

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!).

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide