This article originally appeared in Pyramid #10
Forgotten Futures 2: The Log of the Astronef
Designed by Marcus L. Rowland
Registration $20 includes Forgotten Futures 1: The ABC Files
Available from: Marcus L. Rowland, 22 Westbourne Park Villas, London, W2 5EA, UK.
Those of you with access to the Internet can ftp it from nic.funet.fi in the /pub/doc/games/roleplay/systems/ forgotten-futures-2 directory -- give it to all your friends.
Forgotten Futures is a roleplaying system based on Victorian and Edwardian scientific romances. Its author, Marcus L. Rowland, an Origins award winner, has a long track record of excellent adventures behind him, from Call of Cthulhu to Space 1889. This is the second in his series, based on the Edwardian "Stories of Other Worlds" by George Griffith. Forgotten Futures 2 contains the Forgotten Futures rulebook, the complete text of the stories, a worldbook based on the stories, and a complete role-playing campaign. There are also 31 illustrations, including the original b/w illustrations from Pearson's magazine and lots of illustrations, advertisements, maps and plans created by Mr. Rowland himself. Not to mention assorted Lotus-123 spreadsheet templates for everything from currency conversion to spaceship design. It comes out at more than 400 pages of closely printed text.
To put it simply, if you liked Space 1889, you'll love this. The basic premise of the stories is: Rollo Lenox Smeaton Aubrey, Earl of Redgrave, having invented antigravity (the R-force) in 1901, has built a spaceship, the Astronef. Together with his American wife Lilla-Zadie, he spends his honeymoon exploring the solar system. The Moon is mostly dead, but full of interesting ruins; Mars is inhabited by an advanced but warlike race of seven-foot humanoids with large brains; Venus is inhabited by serene and sinless avians; Ganymede has an ancient and sophisticated culture with lots of very high technology, and the rest of the solar system is fairly hostile and full of weird and wonderful creatures.
Forgotten Futures 2 takes the above premise and develops it. If an anti-gravity spaceship were invented in 1901, what would the world be like by 1920? One of the most entertaining parts of the worldbook The Log of the Astronef is the history. The author's knowledge of the period is such that he can manage the little details which anyone else might have missed. The chapter is peppered with quotes from books and newspapers of the period. "Make Moon Part of the Empire!", "Mercury Bubble Bursts -- Gold Shares Soar!"
The worldbook goes on to describe the workings of antigravity in great, and rather tongue in cheek, detail, and explains spaceship design. There then follows a description of each of the planets, with NPCs, the stats of the strange creatures which inhabit them, the history of their involvement with Earth and lots and lots of adventure ideas.
And then comes the campaign, Masters of the Graviton. There are five long adventures, covering the period 1901 to 1912. They include such diverse plots as a whodunit on an ocean liner, and an archaeological dig on the moon. My personal favorites are The Wright Stuff, which is set against the background of a flying-machine competition in Dayton, OH in 1904, and The Ganymedan Menace, a wonderful Sax Rohmer pastiche in which the PCs must foil the plot of an inscrutable Ganymedan villain. Each of the adventures has numerous continuation notes attached, and it's very easy to imagine a Log of the Astronef campaign going on for years -- this is a solar system with a lot of potential.
The rules are simple and elegant, with wide skill groups such as "Scientist" and "Marksman," and only three stats, Mind, Body and Soul. They make for fast, easy, period roleplaying. The rulebook also contains excellent chapters on roleplaying in this genre and writing adventures, together with stats for various extras from the Evil Retainer to Sherlock Holmes himself.
This an excellent, atmospheric, roleplaying game, made slightly unapproachable by its unusual distribution method. It is available only on disk; you unzip the file and print out the book for yourself. All text files are ASCII format, all pictures are GIFs. If you haven't got a Babbage Engine, find someone who has, and persuade them to print it out for you. This may be the wave of the future for individual writers and small companies wishing to produce good quality but uncommercial games. Or it may just be an anomaly. But don't be put off from an excellent game just because it has no cover art and is only 3.5 inches square!
-- Ken & Jo Walton
Article publication date: December 1, 1994
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