Retrostar – Sean’s Pick, 121015

Spectrum Games specializes in genre-emulation games (Cartoon Action Hour; Slasher Flick; Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul); games designed from the floor up specifically around the concept intended, with a heavy emphasis on a media-driven experience (TV, movies, comic books).

This highly-anticipated new entry on their digital shelves opens with a dedication to Glen A. Larson (Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century).

`Nuff said.

Science fiction (n.): fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.

Now, add disco. This is Retrostar.

Retrostar is a story-driven roleplaying game that faithfully and meticulously emulates the science fiction television shows of the 1970s. The game is powered by the Intention System, which places a sizeable portion of the narrative control in the players’ hands, while still maintaining the traditional roleplaying game structure.

Like all of Spectrum’s “genre emulation” games, Retrostar is not simply a universal RPG that just happens to be adorned with genre-appropriate art. Every single design decision was made with the purpose of bringing to life the sci-fi TV shows of yesteryear, right at your gaming table. The rules even take into consideration the fact that these shows were created with very limited budgets at their disposal!

Everything you need to play Retrostar is included in the rulebook. Some of the features include:

Simple and Elegant Task Resolution: The core of the Intention System revolves around rolling a certain number of six-sided dice (usually between two and four) and adding together either the two lowest results or the two highest results, depending on the rating of the Trait (Adventure, Thought or Drama) being used, the situation at hand and a few other factors. The higher the roll, the better. Based on that total, the character will either fail or succeed, though whether the player has to briefly cede control of the character is also determined here. There are more wrinkles to it, but that’s the gist of how it works.

Series Creation: The Showrunner creates the Series in which the game will take place and there are full rules and guidelines for doing exactly that. You’ll devise a setting, set up Dials that will help you generate Episodes on the fly, create supporting characters and flesh out all the fun details (terminology, styles, common special effects, etc.). It’s a great deal of fun, without a bunch of complicated rules and number-crunching to bog the process down.

Time and Budget Management: In order to reflect the time restrictions these shows faced, the players are limited to twelve rolls (called Intents) in a given Act, of which each Episode has five. Characters will receive a certain amount of SFX—the exact amount is determined by the Series’ “SFX” Dial—to spend in order to activate cool effects that would require expenditure of the show’s budget (impressive stunts, special effects and so forth).

The Spotlight: Just like in the TV shows of old, the heroes are all given a chance to have the spotlight shine on them. In Retrostar, this is represented by a communal pool of Spotlight Tokens that can be spent to showcase an appropriate aspect of a PC and giving them bonus dice for an Intent. For example, if a PC has a phrase in their Background that says “Best friends since childhood with Malcolm (the name of another PC)” the player can grab a Spotlight Token when Malcolm is in trouble…

 

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