I'll try to keep this one short, as my brain isn't really up for a lot of writing.
Coriolis is yet another kickstarter game I backed. I've been reading the near-final draft as they are about to go to print. I love the world building they've done in this game, and the mechanics seem reasonably playable on a casual read. So, this one goes into my pile of games I'd recommend to friends to look at.
How to describe the setting? I've got a few analogies I can make.
* This is Firefly, but with middle-eastern flavor rather than mixing in the Chinese elements.
* This is like the old RPG Fading Suns, but with more of a middle eastern flair (and a LOT more interesting world building).
* This is science fiction with heavy influences in Cyberpunk, Dune, and 1001 Arabian Nights, and maybe even a little Ian Banks.
They've got an interesting backstory in the game that mixes religion, technology, djinn, magic, and enough dark elements and politics to make it interesting. And they keep the flavor throughout the world and the game elements. So, think uplifting Arabian Nights to a science fiction setting, with starships, AI, cybernetics, biosculpting, religion, and more -- you are starting to get there. And the dark between the stars, it is always looking for people and things to prey upon.
Production values on this game look to be stellar. The core rulebook is almost 400 pages, full color, with beautiful artwork that really inspires and sells the setting. I'm still looking at a PDF, but I expect the physical book to be pretty damn nice looking. Lots of example adventures and setting pieces were unlocked as part of the kickstarter, so the main rulebook not only has the big picture descriptions of history, world, factions, culture, and technology of the 3rd Horizon, there are also many write-ups of little watering holes and more personal/roleplaying settings.
(I'm reading a draft, so there are typos, but I expect those will be cleaned up).
I think the way the setting views technology works a little better than Fading Suns, which was very disjoined in how technology was treated. It was never really clear where certain technologies were at and whether the common person even understood technology. Was it science fiction, science fantasy, or more like a post-apocalyptic world where only a few have technology. Here, technology is a bit more prevalent, with a better sense of how older technologies and folk lore can live side-by-side with more advanced technology. Tech is split into primitive (which I'd say is 21st century technology plus 'rural folklore'), original tech (basically: spaceships, computers, etc), advanced tech (antimatter, smarter AIs!), and then faction-specific technologies. The latter lets them add esoteric space aliens with really weird tech and also weird tech unique to specific groups. This sort of reminds me of Dune, with the different groups having near-monopolies on certain kinds of tech.
I'm not up for rereading and regurgitating a comprehensive look at the rules. But a few tidbits I liked:
-- Basic mechanic is you roll some number of d6s, looking for sixes. One six is a success, more than one gets you a better success. Nicely, they put a small probability chart in for people to estimate their chances of getting at least one six. Modifiers increase or decrease the number of dice you roll. A few opportunities to reroll dice. And that's mostly it, so pretty simple to teach.
-- You have a lot of control over making the character you want, but one or two elements are randomly chosen. Mainly, which Icon (deity) is likely to meddle in your life. The default for the setting is that people are religious and a little superstitious, and there are both mechanical and setting things to encourage this amongst PCs. (e.g. if you know you are going into a particular situation, you might make prayers to an Icon favorable to that activity, and get a small bonus. Since you get to choose one per session, and use its bonus potentially multiple times, this is a good perk.)
-- As with some other games (Fate, Cortex Plus, 7th Sea 2nd), there's an economy between the players and GM. Players generate darkness points, and GMs use them to advance story elements or force botches/problems to occur. Examples: Players can pray to an Icon to reroll some dice, or when using magical powers, both of which generate darkness points. But then some setting actions, like passing through a jump gate or spending a long time out in the deep dark can automatically generate some darkness points. There are dark powers out there, and going into their domain gives them power. For every good thing, there's something evil out there. (And you never go through a Portal while conscious -- there are dark things between the stars...)
-- When you start a group, the players pick what kind of team they want (explorers, mercenaries, merchants, etc) so there's an immediate shared theme. It comes with a little mechanical weight: you get to pick a shared ability that you have in common as a team stunt. There's a specific list of team abilities. The concept of a team stunt would move very well over into FATE. They also have suggestions for the kinds of characters that might appear in a particular kind of theme, which feels great for both ensuring roles are filled and helping beginners get started.
-- The starship rules are quite interesting reading, with a very modular way of building ships, and also doing a good job of expressing ships at different scales, from small fighters to massive build freighters (a la Dune navigator ships). In combat, players have specific combat roles and a somewhat fixed order of events for combat: captain's orders, maneuver, electronic warfare, weapons. It really isn't designed for a large-scale battle...better for small numbers on each side. Potentially a lot of rolling for the GM. Anyway, between good rules for ship building and combat, and good flavor throughout, I like it a lot better than most of the takes I've seen on FATE vehicle construction and combat. It still feels closer to roleplaying than engineering work. (So, not GURPS Vehicles.)
I'm not sure what I plan to do with Coriolis. I'm pleased I chose to back it, as it looks like a great game. I put it near the top of the stack of games I want to play or do something with. With the right group of players invested in the middle eastern flavor, I think it would be a really interesting game to play, enough that I'm gonna try to encourage a few people to look at it. Some of the world building makes me want to go back to a world I briefly ran a game around a few years ago and restart it, with more work put into fleshing out the world.