Fading Suns has an interesting setting, but there's several details that range from boring to nonsensical to infuriating. As such, when I ran it, I made several changes as follows:
According to the book, everyone, on all forty or fifty known worlds, which have only in the past half-century been unified under a common empire, speaks Urthish. This is so far beyond the bounds of credulity as to be impossible. In general, I think the worlds under each house should have a common language, due to common settlement history (though this will vary in cases of conquest and such). While still not that realistic, it's a reasonable balance of flavorful and gameable.
Everyone gets the language of their homeworld for free. Under the Storytelling System conversion I use, additional languages are purchased as variable-cost Merits ranging from one to three points depending on fluency. However, so characters don't have to spend all their points on languages they need just to fulfill their role, for every three points in Skills or Merits that rely on a certain language, characters get one point worth of the associated language Merit for free (rounding fractions to the nearest integer).
- Arabic is the official language of House al-Malik.
- House Hawkwood speaks in a highly formalized and rigidly grammared Germanic. Any linguist can tell you that it shows all the signs of having been explicitly designed as a massive reform of a previously existing language. The official script is a rather difficult-to-read Black Letter that technically uses the same alphabet as Latin, but takes practice to decipher quickly. The few common folk that can write, and many educated individuals in a hurry, use a greatly-simplified shorthand.
- House Li Halan speaks Mandarin. Historical evidence indicates that they once spoke Cantonese and that they changed after the internal turmoil that led to the stamping out of their decadent reputation and subsequent piety, but as both languages use the same written form, such assertions are hard to prove in the modern era. Its current leaders deny any such shift and change the topic when it is brought up.
- House Decados speaks Russian. They claim they have always spoken Russian, back to the time of Anastasia, but such claims of descent aren't believed by anyone, though such disbelief is privately held.
- The Hazat have something of a unique situation. House Chauki, which used to hold the territory, spoke Hindi, but the mercenary clan they brought in as advisors spoke Spanish, and over time it became the language of the military. When the Hazat overthrew the Chauki, they moved all official business to Spanish, but all older records are still in Hindi, so nearly all individuals with clerical and administrative positions are bilingual. Most media is produced in dual-language versions, as many people still speak only one of the two languages. In particular, Sutek is still almost all-Hindi except for official documents, while Aragon and Vera Cruz, favored by the ruling Hazat, have adopted the new language much faster.
- English is the language of technology. All the ancient technical manuals and research papers are written in English.
- Associated Skills: Computer, Crafts (as long as you have some kind of technical or mechanical specialty), Science
- Latin is the language of the Church. Most Church members have at least a passing knowledge of Latin.
- Associated Skills: Academics, Occult
- Associated Merits: Church-Related Allies, Contacts, or Status
- There's a sort of common pidgin that most traders and well-travelled soldiers know, suitable for discussing commerce, direct orders, and everyday affairs, but not so great for writing epic poetry. It is alternately known as Mercant, Sabir, or Lingua.
- Associated Skills: Larceny, Streetwise
- Associated Merits: Guild- or Mercenary-Related Allies, Contacts, or Status
Similar to the linguistic hegemony in the default setting, the currency system as given in the book is both bland and insane. Instead, I prefer the following, which borrows heavily from the convoluted mess that was the British monetary system prior to decimalization in 1971.
The old republic's base currency, before the Fall, was the phoenix. Depending on location and time period, it was divided into between 100 and 250 feathers, the smallest unit in circulation. When the Empire was instated, new phoenixes started being issued with the crowned head of the emperor on one side and the firebird being reborn from the ashes on the other. For this reason, they are sometimes called crowns as well. Only the emperor is allowed to mint phoenixes.
The houses are allowed to mint scepters, which are one-twentieth of a phoenix. Each house mints theirs with their house seal on one side and the scepter of an elector on the other side. Scepters, in turn, are worth twelve feathers. Most of the feathers from the Second Republic are still in circulation, being the primary currency used during the dark ages. The guilds are allowed to issue their own feathers, but seldom have reason to do so.
Not to be outdone, the church in turn issues coins with the iconic symbol of the issuing order on one side and a detailed jumpgate on the other. These so-called gates are worth twenty-one scepters, to remind the emperor who's supposed to be in charge.
To further complicate matters, scepters are too small for large transactions, so houses issue their own-large value coins denominated in multiple scepters—all save the major ones except house Li Halan, that is, who carries over a dark age system of decimal numbers of feathers. As a sign of fealty, they also issue the twelve-feather Li Halan Scepters (despite the existence of a ten-feather Li Halan coin of identical size, but with a hole in the middle).
However, in most locales, barter is actually the common medium of exchange. Small, valuable commodities, particularly medical supplies, are highly useful for trade.
According to the rules as written, jumpgates are 70 to 100 AUs from most planets. All ships can travel at up to 8% the speed of light yet can flip around in one three-second combat round. Despite this, based on the figures given, small ships don't carry enough food to make it out to the jumpgate and down to the next planet.
To fix this nonsense, jumpgates should be moved substantially closer—specifically, far enough away to give characters time to do interesting things shipboard while travelling, yet close enough to let games gloss over boring things happening shipboard. This maintains good narrative flow while giving the laws of physics a passing nod.
Everything seems to be powered by "Fusion Cells", which need to be refilled weekly with more fusion, apparently. This is explicitly distinct from electrical batteries. I had no idea fusion was a tangible thing, as opposed to a process, and that it could be stored.
"Think Machines" each use different programming languages. Apparently, each programming language makes the machine unable to communicate with machines that use other languages, and unable to access stored data from other machines. Furthermore, AI needs special neural network circuits made out of, I am not making this up, Pygmallium.
Ultraviolet cybereyes let you see at night. There is no mention of any sort of active imaging technology at work. Good thing I tend not to stand around outdoors at night, or I might get sunburned.
I'd make some sort of snarky comment about this being what happens when you let Liberal Arts majors write the section on technology, yet the non-grasp of history, linguistics, and trade shown by the language and money sections addressed earlier shows the authors weren't paying attention in those classes either.
In one fell swoop, I declare that computers are computers and things run on electricity. Some devices have portable fusion generators that generate the electricity or electromotive power needed, but they are rare, and generally not all that small, due to the realities of physics. Cyberware is actually a pretty stupid concept in general, and should be somewhere between marginalized and nonexistent, depending on taste.
The setting comes with spear-wielding horses, chimps, giant birds, lizard-people, fish-people, and giant bugs. Frankly, they're just plain silly and don't add anything to the setting that can't be achieved with different subcultures of humans, which already exist. I ignore their existence entirely.