Transhuman Space RPG Hardcover – 1 Oct 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
With an emphasis on hard science and the realistic this GURPS sourcebook allows referees to run campaigns with characters encountering people from the miners of Mercury to the comet herders in the Kuiper Belt and from the depths of the Earth's oceans to the virtual enviroment that interfaces constantly with the real world.
Baseline human, modified or uploaded cybernetic ghost how will you cope with the Transhuman age?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The well-researched writers of Transhuman Space masterfully integrates the most salient aspects of our continuously evolving and chaotic state of science and society into a haunting yet beautiful vision of our future. Even if you've never played GURPS or roleplaying games, the background information on the world of 2100 is worth the price alone.
Pulvers manages to incorporate today's conceptual technologies such as virtual reality, genetic manipulation and artificial intelligence into this game universe without the superficial pulp of sci-fi pop-futurism.
One point is that I don't recommend this game for novices unless every player has at least the main book and has a firm grasp of the technologies involved. The only drawback in terms of popularity is that THS does have a high learning curve because there are just so many new entities, each with its own game mechanics, that don't exist at this level in most other games. (Slinking, mind emulation, telepresence, smart matter, surveillance society, augmented reality, 3D printing, uplifting, etc.)
One of the writers even goes as far as to say Transhuman Space does not use theoretical technologies such as faster-than-light travel or teleportation and certainly does not use psionics, magic or supernatural game devices. In some ways, Transhuman Space is more mature in its science than Star Trek. THS does for space RPGs what Delta Green did for Cthulu.
For its subject matter, Transhuman Space is also refreshingly void of political posturing or trite moralism. The world of 2100 makes no apologies about cloning, eugenics, "parahumans" bred for slavery, etc. It comes off as a sobering cautionary tale rather than condescending finger-waving and preaching.
The gameworld takes place in the solar system, in 2100. Earth is still doing well. Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars have well-established colonies. The Asteroid Belt, Jupiter (including the oceans of Europa) and Saturn's island of civilization are the frontiers. Everything else is wilderness, and the setting does a good job of establishing how BIG the solar system is. It has a strong post-cyberpunk influence: very strong IT and biotech. Faster-than-light travel, teleportation, psychic powers, etc do not exist. The world is neither dystopia nor utopia- it's naturalistic; advances in technology and the march of history have replaced today's problems with tomorrows. Players can play humans (genetically enhanced or not), bioroids (biological androids), artificial intelligences, uploaded human brains, or uplifted, genetically engineered animals. The setting explores both the upside and the potential for abuse of all these technologies.
The THS setting blew my mind. The creativity here is gigantic-- and the fact that so many great ideas meld together so seamlessly into one consistent vision really impresses me. I've played many tabletop RPGs, and this is the first one that I would without qualification label as hard science fiction. This book and its supplements are meticulously researched. The physical and social sciences are state-of-the-art. The gameworld is daring and provocative, but doesn't pick sides or get preachy, but doesn't descend into fan-service exploitation fiction, either.
The sheer vastness and variety of the game world is a challenge to GMs. Most of the early supplements gave you a specific region in detail (underseas colonies, earth orbit, the developed world, etc). Most of the later ones have tried to help GMs build a manageable game out of it all. My advice is to pick a region (such as the Duncanite asteroid bases) and run most of your game there. There is far too much to fit into one game, and even a narrow game will give your players more than enough to explore.
The setting does NOT depend on the game system, though of course you're encouraged to use it. The GURPS rules provided are clunky, and to my mind mostly get in the way of your players enjoying a good drama. However, most of the units provided can be converted over to any other game system with little effort. What's important here are the breadth of Pulver's vision, the depth of detail and the world's consistency and potential for great storytelling.
It describes a future within our solar system, integrating modern technology and its possible effects on society. Most SF backgrounds leave many things out (nano- or biotech, computers, etc.) or play them down - and this is often part of their charm (like Dune or Star Wars), but I was looking for a "hard" setting. The description of the solar system in 2100 AD is a solid campaign background. If not used for that, it gives a lot of ideas about what could be going on in your galaxy.
The setting is somewhere between cyberpunk (as depicted by William Gibson, John Brunner and Walter Jon Williams) and the beginning of a Traveller game. It almost ties in with "Interstellar Wars" (Traveller GURPS 4E), when the humans meet the First Imperium. It is also hard SF, since there is little supernatural in it...no psionics, FTL drives or antigravity...the laws of physics as known today are mostly still in charge. Since the book is not so much about rules (there are those, of course...technology, ship building, space combat, advantages, equipment, etc.) but about information, most of it can be used with any game system, if one does not like GURPS.
(I prefer Basic Roleplaying or RQ3 myself, but I bought many GURPS books for their content, which is usually quite good.)
It is a pity most of the complimentary books of the setting are out of print at this time, and only available as PDF.
However, the game does present steep challenges to prospective GMs. You must understand the extensive implications of the setting technology, know what kind of story you want to run, and then integrate them. The core book doesn't outline clearly enough how technology will plays a role in different settings. Some examples the book doesn't address: how are firearms treated in space stations, where a few stray bullets can doom the entire crew? What is the continuum of government (and private) surveillance in an era of overbearingly pervasive surveillance technology? Answers for these sorts of questions are critical to a successful game, but this core book alone only sketches the issues in very broad strokes. Creative players will break your game if you haven't thought through the considerable tools at the disposal of most player characters. Fortunately there is a long line of very high quality sourcebooks to help flesh out these details, but without them you have a lot of brainstorming to do.
Another challenge lies in the presentation. Unless the players are deeply familiar with transhumanist tropes, you may need to spoon-feed the concepts to your players throughout play. There's a lot to absorb. Lingo is peppered everywhere, and the glossary can be formidable: "xoxing", "puppet implants", "bioroids", "cybershells", "gengineering", "slinkies", etc etc. This is a minor concern, overall, as long as the GM remains mindful of the potential information overload.
The book doesn't include the following advice, which I've learned the hard way. There are three very useful ways to approach this book, which can initially cause despair over how to ever run it. RPG forums are rife with complaints about the book in this regard.
(1): Approach the book with a firm genre already in mind, and skim over the technology section to see how societies 87 years from now might deal with such issues in pro-social, criminal, and amoral ways.
(2): Skim the pages until you find a really cool concept, walk away from the book for a while to develop stories incorporating it, and only return to mine more ideas once you've exhausted the interesting conclusions.
(3): Google "transhuman space campaign ideas", and mix the results with (1) and (2). Ta-da.
Lastly: don't let the system get in the way of enjoying the fantastic setting. I don't run or play GURPS, and possibly never will. For RPG enthusiasts like me, the simulationist rules interfere with the unique drama and deep, fascinating quandaries the setting presents. But completely ignoring the system mechanics, Transhuman Space still easily allows a GM to bring questions of ethics, philosophy, and political science to the gaming table in an entertaining, enriching manner.
(I have also reviewed the softcover version, the only difference being the lack of GURPS Lite rules added at the end.)