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Vampire Fleets

When I picked it up from my local RPG supply store, I was disappointed to see that it did not rate posting on their "Coming/Came attractions" board - the first TNE product that wasn't so featured. OTOH, I was told that they had come in that day, so they may simply not have had time to update the display...

Anyway, the first thing I saw was the cover - not an unreasonable thing to expect to see first. That was slightly disappointing. It was the same "sinister face made of circuit tracings" that has been prominent in the black-and-white ads in previous products. The colorization of the picture, however, seemed to be designed to obscure the circuit-tracing nature of the portrait. The titling font was also not what was used in the ads. Oh, well, I think consistency in this would have been nice, but let's look at the contents - they're more important.

The book is organized into six sections - three sections of game source material, each of which is followed by a section of adventure source material. The three adventures dovetail into a single campaign, and each adventure uses Virus as a principal NPC. Each section of game source material provides useful/needed background information for the adventure material immediately following, and the adventure material provides a reasonable insight into the game source material.

The third section of game source material contains an extended design sequence for creating robots, optionally including a "personality" for Virus-infected (NPC) robots. No provisions for creating a Virus-PC are included, although the book does "stop short of saying [that it is] impossible". I have not compared this sequence with any other extant robot-creation sequences, though I do note that it is conceptually compatible with the general FFS sequence for designing vehicles (I don't remember what, if anything, existed in FFS for robots...).

As befits the general topic, there is much opportunity for a party of PCs to interact with Virus on an extended-time basis, and in several modes. The focus, as with most TNE material to date, is on a Coalition-based campaign, and information on converting to a Pocket Empire or Regency campaign is sketchy at best. Hiver involvement in this aspect of the Coalition campaign has been downplayed to a point I find difficult to accept, given what we have been told before - if anything, I would have expected a much higher level of Hiver participation, as it is the Hivers who best survived the spread of Virus, and who would have the most knowledge of it.

The general feel of the book seems to imply that Virus is a major danger to the Coalition - something that we intellectually knew before, perhaps, but previous material did not make it appear to be as much of a threat as this book does. I hope I haven't discovered a "discontinuity check". For what it's worth, the calendar appeared to be in mid-1202, and there are two dated quotations that may lock GDW into a timetable - one extends Coalition rights to all sentients, including artificials, in 1204, and one indicates that contact with the Regency will be made in or by 1206 - with distinct implications that it will not be an open-arms-buddy-buddy-how-nice-we're-not-alone celebration. Loren, where's the Regency sourcebook for this period immediately prior to contact, fercryinoutloud?

For those who have been keeping up with Challenge magazine and other GDW source material on the New Era, there is other clear evidence that the Coalition is becoming much more active outside the AO, or that the AO itself is expanding.

Overall, I feel it is well-presented. There is reason within to cause players and PCs to possibly re-think their most-likely-black-and-white-Virus-is-EVIL views, just like the CT Zhodani alien module did for the most-likely-black-and-white-Zhodani-and-psionics-are-EVIL views back then. It's a decent read in and of itself (if you're like me - YMMV otherwise). My primary complaint is that it is perhaps a little too focussed on the Coalition interaction with Virus - I'd have liked to see additional sections briefly discussing the differences between the Coalition approach toward Virus and the Regency attitude, and the incidents that shaped them. As it stands, this is definitely a Coalition sourcebook, and less desirable to a Pocket Empire or Regency campaign.

On a Five-Best scale, I give it a 3.5-to-4.0 for Coalition GMs, subtract about 0.5 for a Pocket Empire GM, and subtract 1.0-to-1.25 for a Regency GM.