Jovian Chronicles is a science fiction game setting published by Dream Pod 9 since 1997. It introduces a complete universe for role-playing and wargaming space combat featuring mecha, giant spacecraft, and epic space battles.
The Jovian Chronicles setting was originally published as a pair of licensed supplements for the Mekton role-playing game; IANVS Games released two volumes—Jovian Chronicles and Europa Incident—in 1992. This first edition is known amongst fans as the "Green Edition" because of the color scheme of its cover design.
The game was re-published as a full-fledged game line in 1997 by Dream Pod 9, this time using their own in-house rule system. This edition, and all subsequent ones, are known as the "White Editions" for obvious reasons, though several of the supplemental books feature a dark blue starfield cover. Some of the art and design is reminiscent of Dream Pod 9's Heavy Gear universe.
The game world shows one possible future, a time in which Mankind has expanded and settled the solar system, going as far as terraforming Venus and Mars. The colonists living around Jupiter are at odds with the government of Earth, driving much of the series' intrigue. The game features a blend of action/adventure and hard-science space colonization facts. The books are based on plausible technical details to maintain a realistic hard science fiction setting.
- Mercury: a small settlement, whose main exports are high quality electronics and metals. Mercury is the headquarters of the powerful Merchant Guild, an association of companies which provide most of the transportation throughout the system.
- Venus: terraformed by a consortium of corporations, Venus is now a marginally habitable planet. The Venusian upper class and their workers live in polar arcologies, surrounded by terraforming processors.
- Earth: damaged by centuries of overpopulation and civil wars, the motherworld is home to the Central Earth Government and Administration (CEGA), a bureaucratic planetary government that believes the Earth should lead the solar system.
- Orbital Colonies: the salvation of many who fled Earth, these are huge O'Neill stations parked at the Lagrange points. Orbitals are peaceful people who follow CEGA's lead for protection.
- United Solar Nations: evolved from the old United Nations to provide a neutral arbiter between the various settlements. It has a private peace-keeping army, the USN Guard, and an interplanetary law enforcement agency, the Solar Police (SolaPol).
- The Moon: CEGA's industrial center, its inhabitants are living in huge complexes buried beneath the soil. Many of Earth's heavy industries were moved there long ago.
- Mars: a divided planet, home to the Martian Free Republic and the Martian Federation. Border clashes between the two are frequent.
- The Belt: the asteroids are populated by mobile nomad communities, each a micro-society of its own.
- Jupiter: home to refugees from Earth. The enormous space stations of the Jovian Confederacy were the first to develop and field exo-armors. Thanks to the resources of the Jovian sub-system, the Confederacy is the richest nation in the solar system.
- Titan: the largest moon of Saturn is the farthest human settlement. It is the main source for complex hydrocarbon compounds and plays an important role in the industries of the solar system.
Many recent Western cartoon shows and games have Japanese anime styling. Jovian Chronicles also features anime-inspired artwork and narrative elements, though the various technical elements (ships, stations, equipment, etc.) are original works illustrated with computer art.
Exo-armors are one of the main hooks of the series, these one-crew mecha consist of big armored space suits talling 15 metres or more with weapons capable of devastating even small warships. The main source of inspiration for the game was the various iterations of the Gundam Universal Century series up to the early 90's, with strong influence from Gundam 0083 Stardust Memories and Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket. Hints of other influences such as Patlabor and to some extent, Macross and Mospeada, are present, although no transformable mecha appear to date. Jovian Chronicles can be placed in the Real Robot anime genre.
The series art and mechanical designs were created by John Moscato and Ghislain Barbe, the latter who was also responsible for the artistic style which characterized all of the Dream Pod 9's lines including Heavy Gear and Tribe 8.
The concept has its origins on a campaign played by the authors Mark A. Vezina and Etienne Gagnon since 1987, using R. Talsorian's Mekton system. After 5 years of development, IANVS plublications licensed the Mekton II rules and published the Jovian Chronicles Campaign Setting, a 112-page letter sized book which describes the JC universe, timeline, technologies and introduces players to the setting thru a 12 episode campaign. The JC campaign works as an extension of the Mekton rules set, with minimum changes required and then only for character status and wealth, however, compared to other Mecha depicted in Mekton, JC Exo-armors tend to be less resilient and their weapons are less powerful. It is also of note that at this stage, Exos tend to be more balanced with little differences among them, while on later editions, grunt exos are intentionally inferior to hero machines, for example, a CEGA Syreen and a JC Pathfinder are equally balanced in power, armor and weapons, and similar in capabilities to larger machines.
Mecha designs also vary on this edition, being more complex and elaborated in design than on latter iterations, during this release, there were also a number of metal miniatures for six of the exo-armors in the setting, these were produced by Canadian manufacturer RAFM and were based on the campaign book technical designs by John Moscato. Miniatures were in 1/325 scale due to the fictional size of the exo-armors and presented one of the finest and most dynamic mecha sculptings of the era.
The second release of Jovian Chronicles, was the first one published by DP9, adapts the Silhouette game system, a streamlined set of rules already tested and proved in Heavy Gear, Dream Pod 9's other successful science fiction game. It can be played as either a role-playing game, a tactical wargame, or an integration of both. There are major changes on this release, such as the aforementioned distinction among the different exo-armors and other equipment as well as the focus on the character creation.
Both the RPG and miniature games are built on the same basic rule mechanics. Silhouette which defines characters in terms of 10 base attributes (agility, knowledge, etc.), 5 derived attributes (health, etc.), and a variety of skills. Skill rolls make up the backbone of the system, which focuses on effect-based speed of play over grainy detail. The core mechanic involves rolling a number of 6-sided dice, taking the highest result, adding in modifiers for attributes and/or situation, and then comparing it to a set threshold number. If the result is higher than the threshold the test is a success; if it is lower the test is a failure. The margin by which the test succeeded (Margin of Success, MoS) or failed (Margin of Failure, MoF) helps to determine the final outcome. Combat is handled by the same system, with characters taking penalty-inflicting wounds rather than depleting a set number of health points. As a result, the system can be lethal, especially on inexperienced characters.
New miniatures were also released for this edition, for both, exo-armor/fighters as well as spaceships. The new line of miniatures covered a much broader range of subjects, at the expense of size, being scaled at 1/500 for the exo armor/fighters which were near half the size of the original ones, this edition also marks the appearance of spaceship miniatures, which were scaled to 1/5000.
During this stage, the game system was splintered into the Silhouette Core RPG rules and the Lightning Strike system for tactical scenarios. The latter, is a more abstract version of the original tactical system which allow for combined arms maneuvers.
A third edition Jovian Wars was put on kickstarter during March-April 2017 and is in the process of delivering to its backers, the new edition is a fleet scale tactical game, whose rules are distributed for free at the DP9 website and changes (again) the scale of the miniatures to 1/1000 to exo-armors and fighters and 1/4000 for the spaceships.
This change in scale intends to represent more realistically the magnitude of the conflicts depicted, making combat units smaller and warships larger. It features a new turning template for ship maneuvers which is promoted as the major innovation in the system and due to the scale of the exo-armors, they now operate in squadrons of 3 miniatures each. With the new scale, each exo/fighter is around 15mm in height, compared to 30mm for Lightning strike minis and an average of 54mm for RAFM miniatures. The RPG aspect of the game is all but left aside.
The project was funded, however it is uncertain if besides backers, other potential or new players will accept the scale change which has turned the exo-armors, an emblematic symbol of the series and marketing hook (first edition depicted a full page illustration of a Jovian Exo-armor on cover which was also used on the RAFM blister's card) into a sort of battle counter (size matters... sometime), rather focusing on ship to ship maneuvers.