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Amazing Engine

Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Role Playing Game (1993). Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). Designed by David Cook.

One of a range of generic role playing systems intended to compete with GURPS (1986), Amazing Engine had a simple set of core rules, with more detailed setting specific mechanics included in the various worldbooks. The system allowed players to transform a character designed for one setting into an analogous persona appropriate to another, though this feature was little used in practice. Several science fiction backgrounds were produced before it became apparent that the core rules were overly simplistic for a generic system, and TSR stopped supporting the game. Bughunters (1993 TSR) designed by Lester Smith is heavily influenced by such works as Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers (October-November 1959 F&SF as "Starship Soldier"; 1959) and the film Aliens (1986). Characters are expendable copies of citizens, created to defend humanity's stellar colonies from a variety of aggressive alien species. The alienated nature of the protagonists and the battered, clunky condition of their spacecraft add to the game's sense of an unrelentingly hostile universe. The Galactos Barrier (1993 TSR) designed by Colin McComb is more upbeat, featuring Space Opera adventures in a background strongly reminiscent of Star Wars (1977).

Kromosome (1994 TSR) designed by Wolfgang Baur was perhaps the most original of the Amazing Engine science fiction milieux. It is set in a "biopunk" dystopia where advanced machines and altered biologies have begun to merge. The violent future Earth depicted in the game is intensely political; the players are assumed to work for a new wave of tribal "microcorporations" which struggle for survival against the huge monopolies controlled by their long lived elders. Once and Future King (1994 TSR) designed by Jack Barker, by contrast, qualifies as one of the most exotic settings ever designed for a Role Playing Game. Characters take on the roles of artificial humans, programmed to behave like Arthurian knights by a mysterious artificial intelligence in the 46th century. Advanced technology takes the place of magic in this resurrected Camelot. Players are intended to act according to the values of an idealized medieval chivalry (see Medieval Futurism), in a solar system terraformed by super-science.

The last worldbook to be published, Tabloid! (1994 TSR) designed by David Cook, is based on the premise that the more bizarre stories to be found in American supermarket tabloids are, in fact, entirely true, an idea later used by the television series The Chronicle (2001-2002). Player characters are reporters for a tabloid newspaper; in the course of a game they might expect to use skills such as Channelling and Hollow Earth Knowledge to track down a visitor from the subterranean realm of Agartha who is posing as Elvis Presley. Published adventures aim for a zany, slapstick comedy style, sometimes at the expense of enforcing considerable linearity on the plot.

Related works: The worldbook Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega (1994 TSR) designed by Slade Henson was the second edition of Metamorphosis Alpha (1976). Two more such books, Magitech (1993 TSR) designed by Tim Beach and the Victorian era For Faerie, Queen, and Country (1993 TSR) designed by David Cook, Carl Sargent, Karen Boomgarden, are Fantasy. The Endless Quest Gamebook Galactic Challenge (1995), by Allen Varney, is set in the Galactos Barrier milieu. [NT]

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