|Art by Earle Bergey|
The actual cover of Future*World shows only the name of Steve Perrin; however, the title page gives Gordon Monson co-credit. Monson's only other published efforts in role-playing games are contributions to a RuneQuest supplement and a Shadowrun supplement. Like the other genre books included with Worlds of Wonder, Future*World has sixteen pages (eighteen if you count the inner front and back covers). Yet, while Magic World is bereft of setting information, Future*World is suffused with it. I suppose with fantasy, we need no guidance; we are familiar enough with the tropes we want. On the other hand, science fiction requires some sort of basis for us to conceptualize and build upon.
Future*World takes place in the time of the Third Terran Empire, which encompasses hundreds of worlds. However, travel among these worlds does not occur by means of faster-than-light spaceships, but via interplanetary gates. This allows Perrin (and Monson) to present a setting with multiple worlds without having to go into detail about space travel, ship plans, travel times between worlds, etc. Also, a map of the physical space occupied by the Empire is irrelevant since the imperial 'network' of planets is not constrained by proximity to one another.
There are three types worlds in the Empire. There are about thirty core worlds representing “the center of civilization.” Each core world “has a population of about one billion, of which about 1% is poverty-level.” There are about two hundred frontier worlds, “fully colonized/exploited worlds which contain no known threat to the Empire.” One of the frontier worlds is GateHome, “which acts as a central transshipment and exploration terminal...” Finally, there are thousands of outer worlds, many of which “are not suitable for exploitation.”
In terms of background:
No one knows if the Second Empire discovered the gates by scientific research or by looting an ancient ruin of a previous race, but those initial explorers obviously worked by hit-or-miss and were still discovering the possibilities. Then the Second Empire was suddenly destroyed as hordes of alien invaders invaded and counter-invaded the Second Empire core worlds through the Empire's own gates.A gate base installation focuses on the target world; no equipment is needed at the gate's destination. Although a gate accommodates traffic to and from the destination, a gate is controlled from its base. As a matter of Imperial policy, “There is never a gate base on an outer world that focuses on a frontier world, and never a gate base on a frontier world focuses on a core world.” A gate base rarely has its destination on the same world for various reasons, including that such gates “have been known to go to a parallel world.” Gates leading to a parallel world are “shut down immediately, but rumors of their existence are found throughout the Empire.”
The Empire includes many races. Some races, such as “the catfolk of Rruuwor,” are similar enough to humans that character generation is the same. The Rumahl are ursine humanoids. Although friendly, they “tend to go berserk in battle.” In terms of the Rumahls' standing in the Empire, “Socially and politically they are second-class citizens.” The social status of robots is less than that of Rumahls. As 'repayment' for their creation, robots are required to serve four terms of employment, after which they “face the universe on their own.” While they have super-human Dexterity, they have low Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma.
Of course, there are races that are inimical to the Empire and Future*World describes two of them. The Quertzl are “vaguely insectoid, and they are equipped with a hive mind...” Quertzl come in different forms depending upon their function; the rules describe scouts, beetles, and drones. Other than the Quertzl, there are the Sauriki, “a warm-blooded reptilian race.” Fortunately for the Terran Empire, the telepathic sensitivity of the Sauriki prevents them from associating with the Quertzl.
Similar to Traveller, player characters in Future*World undergo terms of service in one or more careers. Available careers include: Civilian, Criminal, Science, Army, Scouts, and ICE (the Imperial Corps of Engineers – “an elite military, security, and law enforcement arm of the Empire, dedicated to the maintenance, protection, and control of all gate technology.”) Each term provides a 15% increase in two or three skills allowed by a given career.
Characters in Future*World do not begin with the usual starting values for common skills afforded to other Basic Role-Playing characters. For instance, in Future*World, the starting value for First Aid is 10% instead of 45%. The skills of Jump, Climb, Listen, Spot Hidden, Throw, and Fist are grouped into the Future*World skill of Survival. Although the starting value for Survival is only 20%, it counts as a single skill with regard to improvement. Similarly, in Future*World, the skills of Move Quietly and Hide are combined into Stealth (with a base chance of 10%).