Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: Fantasy-Tech 1 - The Edge of Reality

I specifically bought this book when Fantasy-Tech 2 came out and caught my attention, and I thought it would be weird to have book 2 and not book 1. In the end, both books are pretty good for a fantasy setting where one wants more exotic equipment. The stuff is useful and unique, while, for better or for worse, pretty grounded in thoughtful "what-ifs?" That is to say, the stuff is cool for a "realistic" fantasy setting, but all the same, I'd kinda like to see some really gonzo stuff in a later installment if the series continues. Anyway, let's take a closer look then.

Overview and Introduction

Upside down L shaped table of
This book focuses on elements for a typical low-techish fantasy setting that would probably be most useful for adventurers, with stuff ranging from TL0 to TL4+4, some relatively realistic, and some being "super science." The book is 37 pages, with 6 pages dedicated to Title page, preamble, introduction, and index. The first chapter, 9 pages, speaks to weapons and armor; the next 8 page chapter is dedicated to vehicles; the next five page chapter is about power; the next chapter, is a 7 page potpourri of things that don't fit in any other categories; and finally the last 2 page chapter is a speculation on realistic technologies being developed earlier and what impacts they might have on history.
Normally, the introduction, while useful, is more lofty, but special note that in this book it actually has some substantive content in the form of a table of useful skills for implementing the discussed technologies. Interesting way to get an idea of how varied the catalog manages to be that unfolds over the next several pages. Besides the Basic Set, this book has no important prerequisites for understanding the content, but it definitely sits well alongside Low-Tech, Fantasy, and/or Dungeon Fantasy.
This book is split about evenly with half being dedicated to catalogs of equipment available to GURPS and a few special crafting options, and vignettes and anecdotes describing them and their historical inspirations. The speculation is a pretty captivating read in its own right, and although I typically prefer tools to make my own content, the ready made catalog is one of the more interesting ones I've seen in a tech book.

Weapons and Armor

As it says on the tin, this chapter is about weapons, armor, and similar instruments. The chapter starts with some speculative technology dead-ends and some what-ifs that might have developed if science went down the road less-traveled. The section on weapons ends with a section on ethnic cool weapons, exaggeratedly powerful weapons representing some of the more cool looking weapons of history that have a certain body of myth and legend to them; and Combination Weapons, mostly about weapons that have been hybridized with a pistol. The last page is dedicated to armor, and includes several popular fictional options for enhancing armor in unique ways.


Transportation is broken up into land, sea, and air, and includes a good number of fantasy vehicles. Without a vehicle design system readily available to tinker with, this is the best you can get for now, and it's decent, especially given how hard it is to find fantasy land and air vehicles otherwise. You get 13 land vehicles, 10 flying options, and 6 ships. Good deal.

Power and Automata

This chapter covers machines and power sources and elevators and clocks and all kindsa fixtures like similar. The equipment is mildly interesting in this chapter, but most is so expensive or huge, it's more likely to be a world fixture than a PC belonging. That said, the background information in this chapter is an entertaining read all by itself. I like the teeny bit about biotechnology at the very end of the chapter, I'd like to see more of that in future installments.

Other Technologies

This chapter starts off with a bit of material science and a discussion of fantastic materials and how they might apply to item creation. It then goes into romantic Ninja tools, a section that feels a bit short, but you can supplement it a bit with Dungeon Fantasy 12 if you want a really big catalog of ninja gear. There is a section about alchemy, but it feels a tiny bit too abstract for my tastes. I wouldn't say it's bad, just that it counts on the GM to fill in a lot of blanks.On the other hand, the sections on Astrology and Esoteric Medicine are a lot more interesting. The chapter ends with a few neato inventions of mixed usability and applicability, but nonetheless, the descriptions that go along with them are good reading.

Early Arrivals

A lot of big tech breakthroughs are very simple ideas if you look at them. Washing hands and disinfecting instruments before invasive medical procedures, for example, a very simple precaution and obvious to most people nowadays is a TL5 invention, but reasonably, could be implemented far earlier with tremendous impacts. This chapter explores a few of the more typical examples in that regard. Although I do like the material given, I wish there was more room to devote to the content of this chapter; it feels like it doesn't go as far as it could.

Other Thoughts and Conclusions

Originally, this book didn't sound that interesting to me, but I bought it when Fantasy-Tech 2 came out, which focuses more on weapons. In hindsight, in preparation for my current fantasy setting and campaign, this book has a lot to offer that will be either immediately helpful or easily tweaked. Though some points in the book don't have as much game-able content as I would prefer it is am altogether interesting read if you like the idea of alternate history and theorycrafting various what-ifs. I only wish that there was some kinda bibliography to follow-up on with similar material.

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