Fading Suns (2nd edition) cover
|Designer(s)||Bill Bridges, Andrew Greenberg|
|Publisher(s)||Holistic Design, Inc.|
|Publication date||1996 (1st edition)|
1999 (2nd edition)
2001 (d20 edition)
2007 (2nd edition Revised Rulebook)
2012 (Revised edition - Player's Guide)
2013 (Revised edition - Game Master's Guide)
|System(s)||Victory Point System, d20 System|
Fading Suns is a science fiction space opera role-playing game published by Holistic Design. The setting was also used for a PC game (Emperor of the Fading Suns), a live action role-playing game (Passion Play), and for a space combat miniature game (Noble Armada).
After the computer game Machiavelli the Prince, Holistic Design decided to do something new - a space strategy computer game, which would eventually become Emperor of the Fading Suns (1996).:322 Holistic brought on two experienced world designers, Andrew Greenberg and Bill Bridges, to create a cohesive and interesting universe for the game, which would also be used as the basis for a tabletop role-playing game to be released simultaneously.:322 Greenberg and Bridges had helped define the style of White Wolf Publishing's World of Darkness and, according to Shannon Appelcline, people noticed this game's similarity to the "White Wolf style".:322 Appelcline comments further: "Fading Suns is unique mainly for its distinctive setting. It is a hard science-fiction game, but much of the universe has fallen back to Medieval technology: noble houses, guilds and a monolithic church control most of the power in the universe. Many people compare the universe to that of Frank Herbert's Dune, though Bridges points to Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, Isaac Asimov's Foundation and others as his inspiration."Over the next few years Fading Suns was supported extensively with supplements and for a time the line did well.:322 Holistic released the table-top miniatures game Noble Armada (1998) – co-designed by Ken Lightner and Chris Wiese – a spaceship combat game compatible with Fading Suns.:323 Passion Play (1999) was a LARP for Fading Suns.:323 Holistic printed a d20 version of Fading Suns (2001), and then dual-statted later Fading Suns supplements to use both d20 and their own "Victory Point System".:323 Over the next few years Holistic announced a third edition of Fading Suns as well as new games called variously Diaspora, Dystopia, Inc, and Sathranet, which would have been designed using d20 Modern and would have looked into different periods in Fading Suns' history. However, none of these products were released.:324 In 2007 Holistic Design licensed Fading Suns to RedBrick, and in 2012 the license passed to FASA Games, Inc, which released a revised edition of Fading Suns later that year. In 2014 FASA Games announced they would be releasing a new version of Noble Armada. In 2016 Holistic Design licensed the publishing rights for Fading Suns to Ulisses Spiele, who announced they were planning a new edition, with products published in both English and German. FASA Games retained the license for Noble Armada products and miniatures.
The action is set in the Known Worlds, a future medieval-analogue empire built on the remains of a previous, more sophisticated human space-faring civilization made possible by ancient "jumpgates". The jumpgates are relics left by the mysterious Anunnaki, an ancient civilization (or civilizations) which seem to have influenced the evolution of lesser species, such as humans, for their own end, and waged a devastating war many millennia ago using them as tools and weapons.
The atmosphere is strongly reminiscent of Frank Herbert's Dune and of the Hyperion stories by Dan Simmons, but is influenced by many other science fiction and horror books and movies as well, including the Cthulhu Mythos. The Known Worlds are a very superstitious and dangerous place.
Power is administered by five major Noble Houses, five major guilds within the Merchants League, and six major sects of the Universal Church of the Celestial Sun.
While most role-playing situations arise from the strict codes regulating the everyday life of the empire's citizens, the Imperial Age is rife with opportunities for adventure. Following the fall of the old regime, and centuries of darkness and warfare, most worlds have slipped backward to a technology level not much more advanced than 21st century Earth, and a number of alien threats lurk in the shadows. Pushing at the borders of the Known Worlds lurk the mutangenic horror of the Symbiots, the ancient and enigmatic Vau, and the barbarian empires of the Kurgan and the Vuldrok, all waiting for their chance to throw humanity into darkness and chaos.
Players can take the role of either a member of a Noble House, of one the various merchant guilds, or a member of one of the numerous religious sects. A number of alien species, most notably the human-like 'psychic' Ukar and Obun, and the six-limbed, bestial Vorox, are also available as player characters.
Two separate types of occult abilities exist within the game universe: psychic powers and Theurgy. Psychic powers manifest, generally, from the practitioners' own mental abilities. Psionicists, castigated as 'demon worshippers' and heretics, are often hunted down and killed by the Church, or enrolled in the Church's ranks (after a good bit of 're-training'). Theurgy is a kind of ordained divine sorcery practiced by the Church through various approved rites and is capable of producing miracles, often by calling on the assistance of various saints and angels.
A large library of supplements provides descriptions of locales (planets, space stations, whole sections of space), alien societies, minor houses, guilds and sects, monsters and secret conspiracies, thus expanding the thematic possibilities offered by the setting.
The Fading Suns engine uses a simple attribute and skill, level and classless, single d20-powered system, called the Victory Point System (VPS). The second edition of the game's rules solved many issues raised by the earlier rule book, while increasing the amount of data available. The current Revised Edition further updated and streamlined the VPS mechanics.
While generally stereotypical in their template-like form, characters are easily personalized through either life path or points-buy systems.
In 2000, an adaptation of the setting to the popular 3rd edition OGL system was also published - D20 Fading Suns. For several years, supplements carried rules for both systems.
Holistic Design has released a LARP version of Fading Suns entitled Passion Play.
A fourth edition of Fading Suns is in development, helmed by original writer Bill Bridges.
Fading Suns was written by Andrew Greenberg and Bill Bridges, known for their involvement with the original Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse role-playing games both published by White Wolf Publishing.
Victory Point System:
- 1996 First Edition Rulebook, ISBN 978-1-888906-00-4 (OOP)
- 1996 Gamemasters Screen First Edition, ISBN 978-1-888906-01-1 (OOP)
- 1996 Forbidden Lore: Technology, ISBN 978-1-888906-03-5
- 1996 Byzantium Secundus, ISBN 978-1-888906-02-8
- 1997 Players Companion, ISBN 978-1-888906-07-3
- 1997 Lords of the Known Worlds, ISBN 978-1-888906-11-0 (OOP)
- 1997 The Dark between the Stars, ISBN 978-1-888906-08-0
- 1997 Merchants of the Jumpweb, ISBN 978-1-888906-09-7
- 1997 Weird Places, ISBN 978-1-888906-05-9
- 1997 Priests of the Celestial Sun, ISBN 978-1-888906-06-6 (OOP)
- 1998 Children of the Gods, ISBN 978-1-888906-10-3
- 1998 Sinners & Saints, ISBN 978-1-888906-11-0
- 1999 Second Edition Rulebook, ISBN 1-888906-18-9 (OOP)
- 1999 Gamemaster's Screen and Complete Pandemonium, ISBN 978-1-888906-19-6
- 1999 Legions of the Empire, ISBN 978-1-888906-16-5
- 1999 Imperial Survey 1: Hawkwood Fiefs, 1-888906-15-4 (OOP)
- 1999 Imperial Survey 2: al Malik Fiefs, ISBN 978-1-888906-17-2
- 1999 War in the Heavens: Lifeweb, ISBN 1-888906-12-X
- 2000 Star Crusade, ISBN 978-1-888906-20-2
- 2000 War in the Heavens 2: Hegemony, ISBN 978-1-888906-25-7
- 2000 Imperial Survey 3: Hazat Fiefs, ISBN 978-1-888906-22-6
- 2001 Alien Expeditions: Vorox, ISBN 978-1-888906-27-1
- 2001 Secret Societies: Spies & Revolutionaries, ISBN 978-1-888906-29-5
- 2001 Into the Dark, ISBN 978-1-888906-28-8
- 2001 Imperial Survey 4: Li Halan Fiefs, ISBN 978-1-888906-26-4
- 2001 Imperial Survey 5: Decados Fiefs, ISBN 978-1-888906-30-1
- 2002 Star Crusade 2: Lost Worlds, ISBN 978-1-888906-21-9
- 2002 Secret Societies: Heretics & Outsiders, ISBN 978-1-888906-31-8
- 2002 Lord Erbian's Stellar Bestiary, ISBN 978-1-888906-34-9
- 2003 Alien Expeditions: Orphaned Races Hironem & Ascorbites, ISBN 978-1-888906-38-7
- 2003 Imperial Survey 6: Imperial Fiefs (PDF, as a free download)
- 2000 Lords & Priests, ISBN 978-1-888906-24-0 (contains Lords of the Known World and Priests of the Celestial Sun)
- 2002 Aliens & Deviltry, ISBN 1-888906-33-2 (contains Children of the Gods and The Dark Between the Stars)
- 2003 Worlds of the Realm, ISBN 978-1-888906-35-6 (contains: Hawkwood Fiefs, al Malik Fiefs, Hazat Fiefs, Li Halan Fiefs, and the previously unprinted Imperial Fiefs)
- 2007 Second Edition Revised Rulebook. (Not to be confused with 2012 Fading Suns Player's Guide Revised Edition Core Rulebook)
- Editors: Alex Wichert, Carsten Damm, Kathy Schad, James D. Flowers
- Description: Mostly identical to Second Edition main rulebook. The layout was changed slightly, the index was expanded, important tables were gathered and printed in an appendix. Another adventure (called Pandemonium Unchained) was added.
- 2007 A Road So Dark (PDF; now part of the Shards Collection, below)
- Author: Angus McNicholl
- Description: an adventure about a previously unknown jumproute between two stellar systems.
- 2007 Imperial Survey Vol. 7: Church Fiefs
- Author: Mat Wakefield
- Description: this details the Church planets Artemis, Holy Terra, Pentateuch, De Moley, and Pyre
- 2007 Kraken's Loom (PDF; now part of the Shards Collection, below)
- Author: Angus McNicholl
- Description: this adventure leads the characters into barbarian space in search of a lost heirloom, but the situation is complicated by being the strangers in a strange land.
- 2008 Arcane Tech
- Authors: Bill Bridges, Alan Bryden, Brian Campbell, Andrew Greenberg, Lee Hammock, Dave Harrison, Samuel Inabinet, Bill Maxwell, Angus McNicholl, Angelus Michaels, Laura Poplin, Rustin Quaide, Sandra Schneider, Nicky Rea, Jay Verkuilen, James Walker-Bumcrot, Mat Wakefield, Martin Welnicki, Alex Wichert, Gabriel Zarate
- Description: this sourcebook contains reprinted and refreshed material from "Forbidden Lore: Technology", as well as new technological items, ranging from alien technology to weird tech to new weapons and gear.
- 2008 Ruinous Folly (PDF; now part of the Shards Collection, below)
- Author: Angus McNicholl
- Description: this adventure takes the characters from a private auction to the turbulent atmosphere of Gargantua in search of a lost treasure, but the treasure has ideas of its own.
- 2008 Dead End (PDF; now part of the Shards Collection, below))
- Author: Thomas Baroli
- Description: this adventure takes the characters from a religious ceremony, to an obscure plot of murder and intrigue
- 2011 Fading Suns Shards Collection Volume One (Print and PDF Release)
- Author: Thomas Baroli, Angus McNicholl
- Description: compiles and updates the previously released PDF adventures Dead End, Ruinous Folly, Kraken's Loom, and A Road So Dark into one volume.
FASA Games Publications
- 2012 Fading Suns Player's Guide - Revised Edition Core Rulebook. (Not to be confused with 2007 Fading Suns Second Edition Revised Rulebook) -- produced by RedBrick, published by FASA Games, Inc.
- Author: Todd Bogenrief, Vidar Edland, Chris Wiese, Andrew Greenberg, Bill Bridges, Phil Cameron, Richard Ashley, Thomas Baroli, Ruben Ramos, Mark Stout, James Sutton
- Description: Similar in places to the Fading Suns Second Edition, with rules extensively re-written (especially combat rules). Updates and additions throughout.
- 2013 Fading Suns Game Master's Guide - Revised Edition Core Rulebook
- Authors: Todd Bogenrief, Vidar Edland, Richard Ashley, Thomas Baroli, Brandon van Buren, Phil Cameron, Tristan Lhomme, Ruben Ramos, Mark Stout, James Sutton, Dennis Watson, and Chris Wiese, with reused material by Bill Bridges, Brian Campbell, Andrew Greenberg, Robert Hatch, Jennifer Hartshorn, Chris Howard, Sam Inabinet, Ian Lemke, Jim More, Rustin Quade
- Description: Chapter 1 - Game Mastering; Chapter 2 - Hazard; Chapter 3 - Antagonists; Chapter 4 - Fiefs & Planets; Chapter 5 - Hawkwood Fiefs; Chapter 6 - al-Malik Fiefs; Chapter 7 - Hazat Fiefs; Chapter 8 - Li Halan Fiefs; Chapter 9 - Decados Fiefs; Chapter 10 - Imperial Fiefs; Chapter 11 - Pandemonium;
- 2015 Criticorum Discord - A Fading Suns Drama Book 
- Description: Three dramas for Fading Suns provide the backdrop to the beginnings of an uprising in the Known Worlds. The al-Malik world of Criticorum is highlighted, with each drama taking place on the planet itself, or within the star system.
Ulisses Spiele GmbH
- On November 1, 2016, Holistic Design announced that Ulisses Spiele GmbH has taken over publishing the Fading Suns roleplaying game.
- In 2020 Ulisses started a Kickstarter for several new books.
- In August 2020 Kickstarter backers received the electronic version of the new Fading Suns 3rd edition "Universe Book".
- In October 2020 Kickstarter backers received the electronic version of the new "Character Book", the new "Gamemaster Book" and the new "Intrigues and Escapades".
In the August 1997 edition of Dragon (Issue 238), Rick Swan liked the sombre setting, but criticized the task resolution system: "Inexplicably, the designers pile on the numbers, adding stuff like effect dice, effect numbers, and complementary actions, all of which are intended to make task resolution more realistic, but just make it more confusing." But Swan liked the rest of the game, and gave it a rating of 5 out of 6, saying, "Although Fading Suns fails to scale the heights of Traveller — the setting isn't as rich, and the rules, though solid, aren't nearly as elegant — it succeeds on its own terms, evoking a vividly imagined future where street smarts count more than computer literacy, where betrayal and despair are more common than sunshine. With nearly 50 pages of background to digest, it's not the easiest game to get into. But for players who like a little anguish with their space opera, it's worth the effort."
- Arcane #11 (October 1996)
- Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
- "News : FASA Games, Inc". Fasagames.com. 2014-02-12. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "FADING SUNS to Join the Ulisses Spiele English Product Line". ulisses-us.com. Ulisses Spiele. 1 November 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- "Review of Fading Suns". rpg.net. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
- "A Brief History of Game #14: Holistic Design: 1996-2003". RPG.com. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
- "Andrew Greenberg Holisitic". Holistic Design Inc. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
- "Core Rulebooks Revised". Fading Suns. Archived from the original on 30 September 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
- "FASA Games Online Shop". Fading Suns. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
- Swan, Rick (August 1997). "Roleplaying Reviews". Dragon. TSR, Inc. (238): 109–110.
- Holistic Design - The owners of the Fading Suns game line.
-  - The English-language site of the current Fading Suns license-holder.
- FASA Games, Inc. - The current Noble Armada license-holder.
- Review of the 2nd Edition Fading Suns Core Rulebook
- Empire of the Phoenix Throne
- Fading Suns at Curlie
- Fading Suns MUSH Webpage
- Interview with Bill Bridges and Andrew Greenberg
- Strontium Dog Fading Suns
- Review in Shadis