Saturday, December 26, 2009

Coming Soon -- Planet Algol

If you haven't been following Planet Algol -- and, if not, what's wrong with you? -- you might have missed the news that Blair will be publishing a sandbox setting and rules supplement based on his remarkable science fantasy campaign next year. As Jeff Rients noted in the comments to the post, science fantasy-style D&D really seems to be coming into its own and that's probably one of the most remarkable and unexpected fruits of the old school renaissance.

As I hope I've emphasized here, the early days of the hobby were filled with examples of science fiction and fantasy existing side by side, cross-pollinating with reckless abandon. Settings like Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, Bob Bledsaw's Wilderlands, Barker's T├ękumel, and Dave Hargrave's Arduin, to cite just four prominent examples, weren't afraid to include robots, spaceships, and blaster pistols alongside orcs, wagons, and crossbows. Back in those days, most gamers hadn't yet internalized the wholly artificial distinction between genres of fantastic fiction, a distinction the great pulp writers who influenced D&D didn't recognize either.

Rob Conley has stated numerous times that he believes the old school renaissance is at its best when it travels down roads untraveled in the early days of the hobby, owing either to commercial considerations or the particular interests of the designers who were influential back then. The return of science fantasy as a major genre for gaming is a great instance of this principle in action. Old school fans nowadays seem very willing to reject the dogma that science fiction and fantasy just don't mix and I'm very glad to see that. I keep coming across new sites and blogs devoted to campaigns that freely borrow from both genres; it's a definite trend and a very welcome one indeed.

Perhaps 2010 will be the Year of Science Fantasy ...

12 comments:

  1. Science Fantasy, planetary romances, etc is wide open for various authors to make their mark. And thanks to Paizo, Project Guttenberg, ebooks,and the internet in general many people are discovering this genre for the first time.

    I think it can provide a nice niche, some recognition, and a little cash for people who like writing about this genre.

    And for the OSR to take the lead in this would further reinforce that it isn't just about nostalgia.

    I think this post is very timely and hope get a lot more people thinking about this.

    I wish the best for anybody making a go of writing about this.

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  2. You once said, James, that for you, the Grognard Revolution was about taking the road less traveled. That it was about asking yourself "what if" the hobby took a different direction. (And I'm sure you said this numerous times, here and to me personally.) It's what got me interested in game design once again.

    I think this development is a clear signal that others have taken this impulse to its ultimate conclusion. Maybe we'll even see it taken in other directions -- superheroes, Westerns, post-apocalypse, mystery, horror....

    Maybe we'll start getting some innovative games again.

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  3. Not only is this a great genre to delve into and see more of, Planet Algol is simply amazing. One of my first stops everyday. The detail, madness and innovation is a great mix. As these guys aren't too far away from me I should sneak over sometime and peek in the window while they are playing to take notes...

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  4. Maybe we'll even see it taken in other directions -- superheroes, Westerns, post-apocalypse, mystery, horror....

    I've been working on making my next campaign a more D&D: Western type game. :)

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  5. Yes, that's an interesting post and I do believe that there is a gap/interest to be filled with that style of campaign. It has yet to be fully explored.

    I've added your 'Stranger' character class to our campaign as a 'man out of time' but no player has had a go with it yet.

    I think that many players just coming back into the classic style of gaming look to still play the 'traditional' form of the game, but as the OSR movement grows, worlds will develop that will embrace this more complete aspect of the game.

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  6. This is fan-freakin-tastic news! :D

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  7. And for the OSR to take the lead in this would further reinforce that it isn't just about nostalgia.

    It'd be terrific if this were one of the results of the science fantasy revival, but I fear that the most vociferous advocates of "it's all just nostalgia" won't be deterred from their point of view, no matter what.

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  8. Not only is this a great genre to delve into and see more of, Planet Algol is simply amazing. One of my first stops everyday. The detail, madness and innovation is a great mix.

    Absolutely. Planet Algol is one of my favorite blogs these days and I too wish I lived closer so that I could get in on some of that campaign's awesome adventures.

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  9. Worth noting that Doug's Savage Swords of Athanor is also in print now. And I really, really hope to have Under the Dying Sun ready soon. ish. Soonish.

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  10. Athanor is fantastic setting cut from the same cloth as Algol.
    James' own Stranger class is another great addition to this genre.
    More OD&D science-fantasy pleez!!!

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  11. @James: Thank you so much for the support and enthusiasm, it means a lot to me and I certainly don't mind this project getting the exposure!

    @Ancientvaults: Where do you live? Somehow your fantasy aesthetic made me assume you lived in jolly olde Britain!

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  12. @Blair: I am in Idaho on the Washington border, squire. I was just raised on Britcoms. I am no stranger to Pike's Market, haved lived in Duvall, etc.

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