Game: Centauri Knights
Publisher: Guardians of Order
Series: Centauri Knights
Review Dated: 2nd, March 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 8.00
This review originally appeared on RPG.net
Centauri Knights is a sourcebook for Big-Eyes Small Mouth. It was released after BESM 2nd Edition, and the page references are for 2nd Edition (not 2nd Edition Revised which was released after Centauri Knights). From my experience with Revised 2nd Edition and Tri-Stat dX it should be perfectly compatible with most if not all Tri-Stat based games. However, I imagine Silver Age Sentinels would need some scaling changes as Centauri Knights assumes the d6 system used in BESM.
The cover is mostly various shades of red, with combat between a heavy red Xenopanzer and a grey Panther Panzer in the foreground. I personally would have preferred a cover with the foreground very clear and a blank background that brings the characters in the foreground out more. Inside the book is black and white throughout. I liked the layout of the book, it was clear and easy to follow. The border design is stylistic reminding me of a PCB. What bothered me was the stylistic text which was used. It wasn’t very easy to read, with the differences between K and H and D and O being very minor. This isn’t a big deal as the text body is standard and won’t get in the way of understanding the material, but it is a big enough pain to try to read the titles that I’m only giving it a 3 for style. The artwork was very well done, with the exception of the the Panzers there wasn’t much anime influence in it at all, which is fine but a little peculiar for a BESM supplement. It was also nice to see that all the artwork was either relevant to the text that was right beside it or relevant to text that would follow in the chapter. It looks like there was a fair bit of coordination between the author (David Pulver) and the artist (Ed Northcroft) who did all the artwork which gives a nice feel of uniformity to the book. Centauri Knights scores well on layout, art and coolness but loses on readability. As readability is the most important aspect to me Centauri Knights gets a 3 on style.
While reading certain parts of Centauri Knights will make it appear that the content is very setting specific, looking at it overall it seems like there is a split between being a generic supplement and a specific setting book. It is quite heavy on history and background information and technology, and rather light on the maps. There is enough information there to run a campaign on Osiris but it will take some background work. This is “some assembly required” rather than “playable out of the box”. I’m just mentioning this because I know some people prefer one format over the other. It won’t affect my rating as I like both ways. If you don’t enjoy doing a lot of your own work and prefer to have everything provided for you then you might not like Centauri Knights as a setting, but you might still like it as a supplement for another Sci-Fi campaign.
The table of contents is on two pages, there’s a fair bit of white space and the text is small, but at least the pages are right beside the entries instead of requiring an invisible line to be drawn across the page to match the entries with the page numbers.
Chapter 1 Introduction covers a timeline from slightly in our future to 2150 CE (or AD if you prefer). It is done in the form of news clippings, reports, interviews instead of being straight prose. I like the way it was done as it also provides some flavour for the campaign that I think is missing in a lot of other products. It also has a convenient overview of the timeline at the end of the chapter for quick reference after you’ve read it.
Chapter 2 Characters & Organisations has a very apt title. It speaks for itself. It gives an overview of the main organisations and factions in the conflict on Osiris. It also provides a variety of character templates that can be combined or modified if you desire. It covers character types from Soldiers, Pilots, Doctors, Archeologists, Reporters and Fog Witches. It provides character templates for practically every type of person mentioned throughout the book. It’s nice and short as BESM already covers characters very well. The BESM page references are for the unrevised 2nd Edition BESM, so people with 1st Edition or Revised 2nd Edition will have to ignore the page numbers and find the references themselves. 1st Edition users might also not have some of the info for the references, but I can’t be sure as I only have 2nd Edition revised.
Chapter 3 Technology again speaks for itself. It covers human technology first and osiran technology afterwards including classifications for archeologists. The technology is very cyber-tech oriented, however bio-tech doesn’t get ignored – it’s just covered more briefly and in chapter 2 under Xenomods. It covers mundane technology briefly, but most of the focus of the chapter is on combat tech. As there is a conflict in the Centauri Knights setting this is quite appropriate. The chapter also clearly states what type of tech a given character is likely to have.
Chapter 4 The World of Centauri Knights is on the setting. It uses about as much space as the other chapters so it doesn’t dominate the book but it doesn’t get shafted either. It provides some maps (which aren’t particularly detailed) that give a good overview of the geographical setting. There’s enough info that a GM won’t have to build everything from scratch. There are templates for a variety of settings and the GM will have to flesh out the specifics (which would eventually have to be done unless the setting was just in a single city if detailed maps were provided). It deals with alien life froms including indigenous plant and animal life. It goes into much more detail about the organisations mentioned in chapter 2 and provides a brief outline of terran military organisations.
The Glossary is a single page, which clearly shows how little jargon there is and how easy it is to learn what little jargon there is throughout the book. I rarely found myself needing to refer to it.
The Afterword is nice, explaining the fate of the Osirans which also provides a hint at some possible adventure ideas. I won’t go into detail about it as it could be considered a spoiler. Players will probably want to skip this part if they want to be surprised by it when the GM introduces it. The rest of the book is fine for both Players and GMs. It’s 2 pages long so players needent be worried about wasting a lot of space if they don’t read it.
The Index takes up 3 pages, covering the most pertinent points, but doesn’t list any tables, which I see as an unfortunate oversight. In a future printing I’d like to see a list of tables included at the back of the book as well.
Centauri Knights is a good book. In BESM tradition it provides enough information for a GM to customise and run it however they would like. There is definitely potential for two CK campaigns to be quite different. There isn’t heavy emphasis on any type of game that should be played with it, so players can chose to play whomever they wish and there won’t be any problems with it. It’s a flexible setting, with good information but it isn’t heavy on it, so checking it for references shouldn’t be happening very often. As far as a detailed setting goes Centauri Knights is slightly lacking and would get a 3 on substance, but as far as a toolkit for the setting goes, Centauri Knights does very well gets a 5 on substance. If you buy it expecting the former you’ll be underwhelmed, if you buy it expecting the latter you’ll likely be quite pleased with it. It does what it sets out to do very well. People who like customisability (most people who like the BESM system would fall under this category) will enjoy it. People who like detailed settings like those provided for Forgotten Realms in AD&D will probably want to look somewhere else first. I haven’t read any of the UFGs thoroughly as they don’t appeal to me right now but they would probably be good for people who want lots of detail.
I know I appear to be waffling about it but I’m trying to be objective. I really like it and definitely recomend it to anyone, but I’m trying not to let my bias cloud the review too much and am trying to present some alternate viewpoints whenever I see them.