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AM3: BUGHUNTERS Universe Book $7.99
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/27/2019 07:40:07

Opening with an introduction to the Bughunters Universe, this is the second 'universe book' for Amazing Engine. Looking over the table of contents, it's made up of a Player Section and a GM Section as well as the aforementioned Introduction and a starmap.

Introduction: The Bughunters Universe begins with a quote comparing human beings to rats and cockroaches - before you bristle too much, all three species are exceptional at surviving against the odds. It goes on to explain that this is an action game in a gritty near-future where space colonisation has begun, but is still a chancy business. Player-characters are 'synthetic humans', vat-grown clones modified to serve as starship crews, combat teams and general troubleshooters. Tougher physically and mentally than regular human beings, they're real people too. It also explains how this book and the Amazing Engine System Guide interface, you need both to play. If this will be your first Amazing Engine game, you have to create a 'player core' using the System Guide rules and then your player character for Bughunters, but if you already have a 'player core' from another game you use that in creating your character.

There then follows an overview timeline from 2009AD to 2130 when the game is set. This begins with some big corporations being given a voice in the United Nations, which they quite naturally immediately take over. Space exploration is a beneficiary, with NASA and the European Space Agency merging, space stations being built and new developments such as the Isler Jump Drive, a hyperspace system, and artificial gravity aiding exploration of this solar system and beyond.

The Player Section follows, containing everything you need (apart from material in the Amazing Engine System Guide) to play this game. It covers player character creation, skill use, combat procedure, equipment, and what the characters know about the galaxy. It starts off by explaining all about these synthetic human clones (known as 'synners') which are created by a top-secret cloning process by the UTRPF, world government United Terra's military arm to serve as troopers, for as long as they might live. Human rights activists have plenty to say about that, as you might imagine, but normal humans view them somewhat askance and don't really want them living in the community alongside them. Although they look like exceptionally fit human beings, synners have a tattoo on the forehead, visible under UV, to distinguish them.

Character generation is designed to reflect their enhanced toughness, and available skills are geared towards making effective soldiers and troubleshooters. However, each one is created from a donor and ought to receive that donor's memories so other skills and abilities may also be there - if the process worked correctly. Sometimes it does not, and there is a neat game mechanic to accommodate this. This chapter covers the full character generation process right through to assigning the individual's rank. Note that synners cannot attain commissioned officer status, that is reserved for 'normal' humans.

Next comes detail of all military skills that are available, along with copious detail on how they are used in the game. This is followed by a chapter Playing the Role which explores the nature, the very essence, of a synner to aid in role-playing one to effect. It makes for fascinating - sometimes scary - reading, thoroughly recommended to help you get under the skin of your character. Each synner, as mentioned earlier, retains the memories of their donor up until the time of the donation which leaves them knowing about his family and friends... which are not yours but his, despite their vividness. Most synners are fundementally sad and lonely because of this even though they have ample opportunities for comradeship with their peers, and live relatively normal lives with time for social pursuits when not engaged on active service. Notes on both daily life and the missions undertaken explain this.

Extensive detail on combat follows, covering not just regular skirmishing but vehicular and aerospace combat as well. This chapter ends with a section on 'repair' (healing in other words), and then there's a chapter on Equipment. This is mainly weapons and other military gear (armour, communications equipment and so on) but there's also medical supplies and vehicles and a detailed section on space ships. Naturally the UTRPF supplies all that is needed for a mission - and do so to a very high standard, they're not known for stinting. There's also a chapter devoted to the UTRPF home base, called Stargate - an orbital facility - which is where characters are cloned, trained, and live between missions.

We then move on to GM territory, beginning with a chapter on Running the Bughunters Game. Plenty of ideas here as it's described as a game of both action and horror. Pacing, mood, mystery and more are discussed here, and it helps the GM to understand the nature of the game and to set the scene for the whole group. It also looks at awarding experience and other rewards. Being a military-oriented game, this can include handing out medals - the examples given are American, but if you want to design your own to reflect a more international future that would probably fit the game better. This is followed by a chapter on Non-Player Characters... which actually consists of an assortment of alien monsters. The existence of sentient aliens isn't really known yet, at least not to the population at large. Keep them as a surprise for your players, too!

Finally there's a collection of Sample Adventures. This provides plenty of ideas for the sort of adventures that you might want to create from travelling the stars to dealing with insurgence, and even perhaps playing out events when the characters are between missions. Several specimen adventures are provided - at the 'full outline' level - to get you started. At the end, there's some suggested reading and viewing for those in search of further ideas and inspiration.

This all holds together well, with plenty to get your teeth into to create a meaningful and memorable campaign. Think Aliens, think Starship Troopers. Plenty of adventure awaits!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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AM3: BUGHUNTERS Universe Book
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