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Fading Suns

Entry updated 9 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Role Playing Game (1996). Holistic Design (HD). Designed by Bill Bridges, Andrew Greenberg.

Fading Suns is set in a Gothic interstellar empire, morally and intellectually decadent, which has reverted to medieval habits of thought. For unknown reasons, the stars are slowly going out. The society depicted is feudal and strongly religious, consciously evocative of Dark Ages Europe (see Medieval Futurism); the overall effect is strongly reminiscent of the Warhammer 40,000 (1987) game universe, and of such novels as Frank Herbert's Dune (1965). Unknown things lurk between the stars, while the Universal Church hunts the Psionically gifted and creates its own occult miracles. Meanwhile, the noble houses, merchant guilds and religious orders struggle for influence over the Galaxy's Emperor. The setting was originally developed for use in Emperor of the Fading Suns (1996 HD, Win), a turn-based 4X Game, and only later became the basis for a Role Playing Game. In the Videogame players compete to become Emperor; success depends on both political manoeuvring and strategic combat. The game is interesting for the degree to which the Fading Suns background is woven into the gameplay. It is possible, for example, for the player's noble house to research technologies banned by the Church, though this may attract unwelcome attention. Considered as a work of sf, Emperor of the Fading Suns is markedly superior to such predecessors as Master of Orion (1993), but the balance struck between the abilities of various factions in Emperor is sufficiently askew to make it inferior as a game (see Worlds in Balance).

The designers of Fading Suns had previously worked on the innovative World of Darkness line of RPGs, which encourage players to explore their sense of self in a serious setting much influenced by both modern Gothic fiction and the Goth subculture. Greenberg's primary contribution was to Vampire: The Masquerade (1991 White Wolf [WW]) designed by Mark Rein·Hagen, in which players, in their roles as vampires, must struggle to maintain their humanity despite their monstrous nature, while Bridges worked on Werewolf: The Apocalypse (1992 WW) designed by Mark Rein·Hagen, a related game in which lycanthropes are servants of Gaia, at war with spiritual corruption and technological civilization. A similar approach to RPG design can be seen in Fading Suns, in which the story is intended to unfold in the manner of a medieval passion play, allowing the characters to demonstrate their nobility through suffering.

Related works: The first and second (1999) editions of Fading Suns used unique sets of game mechanics; the third (2001) is based on d20. Passion Play (1999 HD) is a Live Action Role Playing game using the Fading Suns setting. Noble Armada (1998 HD; rev 2002) designed by Chris Wiese, Ken Lightner is a miniatures-based Wargame which combines starship combat with boarding actions. A Call To Arms: Noble Armada (2011 Mongoose Publishing [MP]) designed by Matthew Sprange is a revised version of Noble Armada which uses the mechanics of the Babylon 5 spaceship combat game A Call To Arms (2004 MP) designed by Matthew Sprange. The Sinful Stars (anth 1998) edited by Bill Bridges contains spinoff fiction. [NT]


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