Ætherjack’s Almanac #4: Shellfolx and Spheresailing (Troika!)
The fourth of the pamphlet-style zinis dealing with spherejamming in Troika! once more clocks in at 2 pages, with half of one of those pages devoted to the cover image; once more, printing this and folding it in the middle is the intended use, so it’d be most prudent to think of this as a 3-page pdf suited for A5/6’’ by 9’’.
So, what are shell persons? Well, they are a new background of people with a bad immune system, which starts with a small golden barge, a megacredit student/ship loan debt and an autostell drone, as well as a variety of suitable skills. The background states that the character is encased in a sealed container 1/4th of the size of a human, which can be connected to ships to fly them. Hits kinda close to home for me, as I only narrowly avoided a fate of such isolation as a kid…but how can this be fun to play?
Well, first of all, it should be noted that we get full stats for the starting ship, using the ship rules introduced in volume 2. Additionally, you get to control the autostell drone – essentially vacuum cleaners with a knife and an attitude (pdf’s words – got a big chuckle out of me!), and these drones may be upgraded later (that’d be a cool future installment!), and we get a mien-array as well. So, essentially, we get a playable monster/pet here, which also acts as a tool for the GM. I really like this background – alongside the one in #1 of this series, easily one of the best the author has penned, as it wrings a unique playing style out of the engine.
The second half of the page containing the front cover provides a definition of terms such as hyperspace, and proceeds to differentiate between lesser, common, greater, and grand spheres. Beyond that, we also have an explanation of æther and a brief discussion on navigating the spheres. I liked this concept generally – it feels magical, and the distinctions made sense.
It should be noted that this cross-referenced briefly the High Fructose Hyperspace-series of pdfs in a side-note that is purely optional. I own only #1 of High Fructose Hyperspace, and that pdf seems to be missing some stuff – at least I couldn’t really figure out what to do with the system based on HFH#1. I’ll let you know when/if the High Fructose pdf gets updated, and modify this review to remove this caveat.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to the series two-column standard, with the collage-like/abstraction artworks we’ve come to expect from it. This time around, the colors chosen are red and yellow, and as before, we get a handy printer-friendly b/w-version as well.
Ian Woolley’s fourth Ætherjack’s Almanac is a bit more conventional than the previous two, featuring one genuinely great background that offers a unique playing experience. It also provides some rather welcome definitions that you can easily use and tweak to sail the humpbacked sky. I had nothing to really complain about here, but I also wasn’t utterly blown away by what I found, and there is a bit more dressing here than before. This is a good pdf: It has charm, and the shell person background is certainly worth the asking price if it even remotely interests you. My final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up.
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