Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Sci-Fi Goulash

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question "Why do you think science fiction is a lot less broadly appealing than fantasy as a genre for roleplaying games?" I got a number of thoughtful replies, but the one that still sticks in my mind is this one, which references Jeff Rients's even earlier post on the "genre of D&D." In that post, Jeff described D&D as "You play Conan, I play Gandalf. We team up to fight Dracula." The reason that description rings true is that Dungeons & Dragons was inspired by an older understanding of "fantasy," one I typically call "pulp fantasy," since you saw a lot of this stuff in the pulp magazines and in the work of authors who got their start there.

Pulp fantasy is a very expansive notion of fantasy that encompasses everything from Burroughs's Barsoom and Amtor tales to The Wizard of Oz to Howard's swords-and-sorcery to, yes, Tolkien's Middle-earth -- and more. The genius of D&D is just how broad its notion of "fantasy" is and perhaps the way in which subsequent iterations of the game have deviated most from its origins is the way that their conceptions of fantasy have contracted, becoming ever more self-referential and staid rather than embracing the bold lunacy that enabled Dungeons & Dragons to become, almost literally, the vehicle for any type of fantasy adventures its players could imagine.

There's never really been a science fiction game that's successfully adopted a similar approach to its subject matter, unless one counts Encounter Critical and, perhaps unfortunately , EC is a game a lot of us can't imagine playing straight. (Yes, that means I am a bad person: you have my permission to say so) Actually, I lie. FGU's Space Opera undertook this Herculean task and I think, all things considered, it didn't do a half-bad job. Most of the complaints about Space Opera are (rightly) directed at its rules system, not its kitchen sink setting where the United Federation of Planets, whose Navy is Roddenberry's Starfleet and whose Army is Heinlein's Mobile Infantry, squares off against a Galactic-Empire-meets-the-Third-Reich, in a galaxy inhabited by Vulcans, Kzinti, Lensmen/Jedi, Bugs, and just about any other sci-fi species/culture imagined between 1930 and the late 70s.

Though I no longer own any Space Opera materials -- how I wish I did! -- I remember well the conflicted feelings of awe and disgust I felt when I first read them. On the one hand, the game really was a solid attempt to create a "mega-setting" where Luke Skywalker could team up with Captain Kirk to fight Cylons on Arrakis, but, on the other, my narrow little mind, so obsessed with verisimilitude, just couldn't accept the idea of such a setting. I am sure I was not the only one who thought this way. The desire to have "everything make sense" is strong in a lot of gamers, especially those with sci-fi proclivities. Rather than deny this or suggest that one ought to simply "get over it," I'd prefer to think that all that's really needed is a better mega-setting, one whose "seams" don't show as much as they do in the Space Opera setting, whose borrowings (and outright thefts) from a variety of sci-fi media never managed to achieve that weird Gestalt that D&D did.

I honestly have no idea where I'm going with this. I've been thinking a lot about science fiction lately, especially science fiction roleplaying games, and what I've noticed is that they're getting ever more narrow and specific in their focus. Admittedly, this is true of just about all RPGs (and all entertainment, for that matter), but the problem somehow seems to me more acute in the area of science fiction roleplaying. It's pretty clear why this is so. The question now is: can it be addressed?

44 comments:

  1. Not old school, but the closest game I can think of to what you desire is Starblazer Adventures.

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  2. I have played the hell out of a lot of fantasy games and enjoyed them all. SciFi I have a more difficult relationship with. Like most people of my age rang I grew up watching Star Wars and Battlestar and Trek re-runs and I loved them all. But the SciFi games never filled me with the same wonder as watching or reading SciFi or playing Fantasy games.

    I tried Traveler and Star Frontiers. I guess SF is closest to what I liked. I enjoyed reading the FASA Trek and Doctor Who games, I never really liked to play them.

    If I were in your shoes and looking for a SciFi game fix I think I would look into the redone Star Frontiers stuff. http://starfrontiersman.com/downloads/remastered

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  3. Hm yes, I agree 100% James. I want a sci-fi game that is as encompassing of 'space opera' sf as Dungeons & Dragons was of fantasy, and with a similar level of complexity. I've been perenially disappointed, and now have a big stack of unplayed sf games on my shelf.

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  4. One problem I can see is that science fiction is often concerned with the taking something very much "real life" and tweaking a few variables, then exploring the consequences of those tweaks in depth. To me, that's a far cry from *most* of the fantasy source lit.

    I think most "starship adventure" media and games are more akin to fantasy than science fiction in this sense. That might be an issue for hard sci fi fans.

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  5. Thanks for the nod on the comment James.

    I think a winning strategy would be to take a general sci-fi war game and then translate it into a man-to-man game. The goal being to mimic the success of having a foundation of mass combat and unit types and then "dialing into" the individual action on the map. Being able to, "zoom in and out" as it were.

    Step 1: Translate chainmail into a sci-fi war game.
    Step 2: ???????
    Step 3: PROFIT!

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  6. I concur wrt Star Frontiers. SF gave players the tools to play out almost any kind of sci-fi rpg without saddling them with some narrow preconception of what the setting "SHOULD" be. My SF games were a mish-mash of Aliens, Dune and Warhammer 40K and I daresay it was better off because of that. I played GammaWorld too but the campaign didn't last as long as the SF one. You've hit on something here James and I very much agree with your mega-setting idea. No wonder D&D and SF continue to be my fav rpgs even after all these years.

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  7. James, a few years ago, I went to the FGU website and they were selling their print products at a reasonable price. Of course, I live in Gilbert, AZ, so Scott Bizar actually dropped off my purchase at work. :) I can't figure out from their site if they have anything in stock, or not. Here's a link if you are interested: http://www.fantasygamesunlimited.net/category/Space-Opera-4

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  8. Oh my god. What.
    I have to have this game. That sounds so beautiful.

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  9. I think the Mass Effect computer RPG is a great template for this.

    It definitely draws from Star Trek, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.

    The mechanics wouldn't be to my taste for P&P game, but the setting is more or less exactly what you are talking about in your post.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_effect#Setting

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  10. Another way of looking at the question is: can there be a toolbox sci-fi RPG? I think the answer is yes. Starblazer Adventures has already been mentioned. While it is based on the old DC Thomson Starblazer comic books, it does not have a default setting. Instead, much like the comics it is based on, it covers a wide range of possibilities.

    Another one that springs to mind is the Mongoose version of Traveller. While Traveller is normally associated with GDW's 3rd Imperium, Mongoose have done a decent job of separating the rules from the background. Provided you only pick up the green-line "books", it is a generic sci-fi game.

    As far as settings go - is a mega-setting really the way to go? While Space Opera may seem to have a mega-setting, my experience of it was that it had a number of smaller settings that had been jammed together. The seams did show, and they creaked. The setting used in Spacemaster was much better, in my opinion, as an example of a mega-setting that worked.

    Do I want a mega-setting in a sci-fi RPG? Not really. In my experience, mega-settings are just mish-mashes of tropes. Individually they may be cool, but collectively they are often clumsy. I prefer to create my own settings, given half a chance. However, if someone was to create a mega-setting, I would quite happily rip off the bits I wanted.

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  11. I feel like medieval fantasy is way easier to get "buy-in" for new players since it--at least to a newbie--it covers way less territory. It has "imaginability" going for it.

    If I said "let's play a sci-fi game" my players are wondering if it's Trek or Wars or Blade Runner or Flash Gordon or Matrix or Alphaville--all VERY different in terms of mood, visuals, "what can I do what can I not do" etc..

    Medieval fantasy is--despite schisms in the D&D community-pretty "imaginable". We all are on the same page--dragons, conan, you know the drill.

    In other words, pointing to a historical era--even a fake mythical version of one, makes things easier on the newbies than pointing to a totally imagined era.

    Then there's the problem of visualizing the sci-fi era in the game: if it's a licensed game "It looks like Star Wars" and that's great, easy, but the game is (seemingly) limited by its association with that pre-existing world.

    If it's not-licensed then the new players have to look at the artwork--which is probably not nearly as professional or evocative as the movies or books that inspired it and imagine it into something compelling. Only Warhammaer 40k and a few others have managed the level of visual intensity and consistency necessary to fix their worlds in the public's mind, and it took a long time.

    Medieval fantasy gets it easy: any image from that era could be in D&D, the imaginability is there for you.

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  12. Lately I have been giving serious consideration to a sci-fi campaign where Star Frontiers' setting is next door to Mekton Empire, which is not too far from Tom Moldvay's Terran Empire from Lords of Creation. I'd be taking Mutant Future with Terminal Space classes and skill and X-Plorers spaceships, because I'm not sure I want to wait for Goblinoid Games to get me a complete set of rules for LL in space.

    Also, I am looking at running EC totally straight for a pseudo-historical fantasy campaign set in 8th century central Asia or an unreasonable facsimile thereof. My players are less likely to buy into that one, however.

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  13. Star Trek used to have more of that craziness too, especially if you just look at the original series.

    That was a setting where you could time travel to the 60's, visit ancient rome but in the modern day, a world run by 20's gangsters.

    And of course, during the animated series days, the Kzinti might show up too.

    Trek used to take itself WAY less seriously and I always liked that.

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  14. I think the “You play Conan, I play Gandalf. We team up to fight Dracula” idea is also why superhero gaming is also very popular. The superhero comics, and thus games, were very expansive. There’s nothing wrong with “you play Batman, I play the Hulk, we team up to fight Belaric Marcosa.”

    How to apply that to Science Fiction, I don’t know. The problem is that any “science fiction” that embraced the pulps would be derogatorily called fantasy.

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  15. I definitely don't want any official setting in this mooted SF game. I *do* want a bunch of detailed alien races, space monsters, starships, weapons, equipment, treasure tables, etc - the D&D/Mutant Future type paradigm, only in space.

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  16. Encounter Critical is all you need.

    Encounter Critical is all you'll ever need.

    Encounter Critical is all anyone has ever needed.

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  17. Back when playing third edition a player of mine had bought the psionics handbook and the Star Wars D20 RPG. At the time I wasn't interested in running psionics in my D&D game. I was curious to run a quick SW game however. I ended up running a game one night that used 3e, SW, Psi HB, and the Forgotten Realms, when half of my players couldn't show up.

    The players started off as jedi's hunting down a dark jedi. The dark jedi had been using a worm hole to visit another world for his evil plot (the Realms, Zentil Keep and the Church of Bane to be exact). So the jedi's crashed landed in the Anauroch desert. They fought Zentil soldiers, psionic goblins, found a side-kick on their crashed shipped - a gonk droid, and became heroes of the locals - a tribe I based off the Fremen of the Dune mini-series which were on TV.

    It was fun! I regret I never did more of this game. Especially funny was the fact I was to lazy to house rule the two d20 rules together and instead just ran them both side by side. So the SW characters had DR armor class, wound and vitality instead of hit points. Man o man, did two jedi's with lightsabers slice through everything! It was fun. :)

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  18. A sci-fi game which incorporated all elements of Star Trek, Star Wars, Terminator, etc... was the Lightspeed RPG. Fuzion based and easy to get into. Chris Conkle, author of Lightspeed, started it all with his d6 based Space Rangers game and it ended up years later as Lightspeed for Fuzion. Fun game, fun setting.

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  19. And don't forget the Commies of the United Ranan Worlds in Space Opera. Nefarious, bureaucratic and doomed to collapse into criminal and/or capitalist enterprises. Couldn't have happened in the real world...

    And as people have mentioned, Starblazer Adventures is a wonderful throwback to the glories of pulp sci-fi, being drawn from a collection of (very) loosely related comics from the 1970's, which could, and did, have anything in them. Reading them definitely revives a longing for old school space opera. [Although to actually use them you would need to like the FATE rules, which is not everyone's cup of tea.] After all, any game with "Science Police" has my seal of approval (and yes, I'm also looking at you Superhero 2044). But as a source of ideas, it's wonderful.

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  20. 1. I'm guessing I'll get sneered at for mentioning GURPS here, but I'm going to mention it. The core rules are maybe too heavy, but that's because they have the kitchen sink built right into them. There's a ton of inspirational sourcebook stuff that really actually allows you to homebrew your own gonzo genre-crossing campaigns from fresh ingredients (China, Space, Old West), rather than half-digested ones that already come with IP tags attached. So why not discuss GURPS? (My apologies if you recently did and I missed it: my attendance online has been spotty recently.)

    2: Ringworld. My question with any insane mashup setting is "is it always like this, and if so, what does that mean?" It's fun in a comic series to have Spidey team up with Van Helsing against Hitler and his robot Rotwang, but if the world has been like that for a while then they should all have their own new ecology together; the shock of the new should wear off. And if they're aware that they don't really fit together then inevitably the focus turns to the meta-setting question: what are these people who don't fit together doing together?

    3. if everything does fit and is welcome in the relentless gumbo, if the point is that the world is big enough to encompass everyone, how do you retain any individual flavours, or the significance that each element had in its own limited setting? To borrow a line from a very carefully-concocted stew of old references, "once everyone is special, no-one is." The thing I dislike in such gumbo gaming is that everything just becomes another means to the same end. Lightsabers in Star Wars are mystical badges of higher responsibility: their significance draws on cues built into the setting, which include the Empire, the Force and skepticism about it, the humanity of the heroes and the robotic nature of the villains etc etc. In Space Opera there isn't room for such deep background on a single kind of weapon/equipment. Instead they're really effective cutting torches.

    ...sorry about the contrarian tone. Gumbo gaming has its attractions too, sure.

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  21. I few years back, I tried to create a GURPS campaign using the races from both GURPS Fantasy Folk and GURPS Aliens. It was meant to be a "Space" game, but the ships' hyperdrive traveled interdimensionally. It was sort of like Spelljammer-Ultra-Tech. It was a lot of fun, but I'd pulled in too big a group, and I don't have the chops to be a long-term GM (Fred Brackin has likened it to building beautiful train stations, but then not scheduling any traffic through them).

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  22. One of the reasons I'm quite into the Warhammer 40K RPGs is that, as originally designed (and this is still somewhat the case) the 40K setting was designed as the sort of place where any of the action in any of the stories in 2000 AD could take place - so Judge Dredd could conceivably team up with the Strontium Dogs to hunt down Nemesis the Warlock. The canon is a bit more nailed down than that these days, but it still sort of applies.

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. The reason fantasy gumbo works is because the overwhelming majority of fantasy settings share the same ancient/medieval tech level, so it's no great hassle to mix Conan-like characters with a Middle Earth-like setting while mixing in monsters from real-world myths and folklore -and in doing so, having a fairly coherent setting.

    Science fiction is another matter entirely. The technology level of Star Wars (for example) is way beyond anything in Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Forbidden Planet et al. In Star Trek it takes years to travel from one side of the galaxy to the other. In Star Wars, people hop on spaceships and travel across the galaxy as casually as a passenger might board a commercial jet and travel from one city to another in real life. Weapons are also vastly different in different sci-fi settings. This site goes into more detail:

    http://tinyurl.com/6c4j3

    So if you have Star Wars tech levels as a baseline, characters from most other settings are going to be at a severe disadvantage. At best you'd be introducing Vulcans or whatever to the GFFA (Galaxy Far, Far Away). If you go with Trek or Galactica as your standard, introducing Star Wars-type ships and firepower into the setting would be almost like inserting modern weapons and transport into the typical quasi-medieval milieu.

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  25. Did anyone else ever dabble in the "Amazing Engine" series of games that TSR put out in the early 90's? Had a set of basic rules and a character core that you created and imported into all of their game settings, and could switch back and forth, etc...

    They did have 4 Sci-Fi settings: Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega (a remake of the original), Bughunters (Space Marines vs aliens), The Galactos Barrier (Space Opera) and Once and Future King (King Arthur in the 46th Century or thereabouts! Armored Space-knights and so forth).

    I only really messed with the first two of those in my brief forays with the Amazing Engine. But it is kind of interesting that when they were trying to create a sci-fi game, they ended up making 4 different ones instead of one "mega-setting" (That or they just wanted to sell more books), each one essentially tapping into one of those separate veins of Sci-Fi.

    Is there something inherent in Sci-Fi that makes a mega-setting impossible or very difficult? Was TSR just giving in to everyone's presumptions that you had to split them up?

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  26. @Arthur:

    The original Rogue Trader rule set! That was just a set of rules and design sequences with a background tagged on. After that, I gave up on WH40k. By 2e, the authors had removed the flexibility; and by 3e the background was inherent and the arms race was on. I only returned to W40k with Inquisitor and the release of the RPGs.

    @Coldstream

    The Amazing Engine sci-fi settings were very different in tone and tech. Obviously, MAtO had to fit in with the original sensibilities. Bughunter tried to rationalise the Alien movies into something sensible with its backstory of a conflict between races using different technologies. Galactos Barrier was pure gee-whiz space opera, complete with mysterious rays and strange powers. OaFK was space knights, pure and simple. They could all have been done with a flexible enough system (which Amazing Engine supposedly was), but I think TSR just wanted to make more money. After all, the adage is that you make more money from core rules than you do from supplements and settings.

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  27. All I have to say is that I love that photo.

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  28. I've written a lot of modern and sci-fi products over the years and I always have said adventures for them are extremely hard, because there's no "Tolkien-Howard mean" like there is for Fantasy.

    I think comics has the same thing, a "Marvel-DC mean".

    With modern, or sci-fi, there's no accepted middle ground and so you have to pick.

    Post apocalypse is an exception to this, because it's not a science fiction game imo, its fantasy.

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  29. Kind of related to what Zak is saying, I have found that all my attempts at sf have failed. Mostly it's been that a science fiction setting is too wide. When you have a whole universe to save, the task seem so much more daunting than the local medieval kingdom.

    That is also a reason it's harder to nail down the "core story", which means that what Zak said about common elements, visual or otherwise, becomes a mess.

    As for mega-settings, I think you have to take a step further back. Be prepared to grasp the totality. Everything.

    Rifts.

    Seriously.

    It works, in it's own dopey way.

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  30. where Luke Skywalker could team up with Captain Kirk to fight Cylons on Arrakis.

    That sounds, itself, like an incredibly limited subset of SF. What about a game where Darth Vader and Cortana fight against the Caleban-machines enslaving their minds in a matrix of false subrealities by taking psychotropic antihallucinogens that allow them to travel through time to create unstable alternate realities? Why limit the characters to laser-guns and spaceships when they can have the Spice and TARDISes?

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  31. A pretty good summary of why it's hard to do sf right, yes.

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  32. Probably because it's sounds like 90% of the fanfic out there: amateurish.

    It might work in a RPG type format, but I'm very reluctant to say so.

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  33. I scanned quickly, but I don't believe I saw Traveller mentioned. That was a good, cheap little game that we tried out briefly.

    Our lack of enthusiasm was mostly revolving around the lack of Flash Gordon/Star Wars type "technology"; We were all very familiar with Star Wars, this being early 80s, so the idea of going from light-sabres to 'body pistols' seemed hard to cope with. Also that game just used plain old dice and we wanted lots of different dice...

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  34. Oddly enough, this is why I like Palladium's RIFTS. I mean, the setting is absolutely ridiculous... but makes sense because of interdimensional RIFTS. It seriously is a setting where a Saiyan from Dragonball Z, a Jedi, River from Firefly, and Case from Neuromancer, and Dracula all have a tailor-made excuse to show up and kick butt or run screaming from Cthulhu. Now, RIFTS breaks down due to insane stats and too many classes/races/toys, but the great thing is, they create a setting where literally ANYTHING can happen.

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  35. The second time I played D&D (Holmes, but very loose - no dice!), the DM had one of us find a powerful ring with time traveling powers. At one point we "jumped" and ended up on the bridge of a spaceship with a pointy-eared fellow saying "highly illogical". It made perfect sense at the time, because of course Star Trek was in the future of D&D-land.

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  36. @Dave Cesarano

    I'd agree RIFTS was a goofy enough setting to have a world where anything could happen and I would agree that it gets too bogged down in so many different races, classes, items, and everything else (thank goodness there are rules to differentiate between a 40% and a 45% Sewing Skill. I don't know how many times that's come up in other games and the rules just weren't there).

    But is that the problem inherent with an "all-encompassing" Sci-Fi setting? There would just have to be too many classes, races, toys, etc...to cover everything you might want?

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  37. @richard - I wasn't going to read this thread of comments because I don't care much about sci-fi RPGs, but I'm glad I did, because "relentless gumbo" is an awesome name for... something. Like a rock band. :)

    Re: what someone said about differing tech levels in sci-fi, that's true, but I imagine an actual culture that had mastered galactic travel had probably encountered a lot of varying tech levels.

    I think that's one of the reasons it makes MORE sense to use a fantasy-based game than a hard sci-fi based game to do this, because like they say, sufficiently advanced tech is indistinguishable from magic.

    I don't know - it doesn't seem as insurmountable to me. I'd love to play in a gonzo sci-fi mashup.

    Like, if Star Trek was Wagon Train in Space, imagine a Bedouin-type merchant caravan of starships, moving from planet to planet for trade.

    Their ships are slow, like Trek, but they have more star wars style gadgetry, light sabers, and such.

    I think that would be neat. We've seen space as the sea before. I don't recall ever seeing space portrayed as a desert. But I did mention, sci-fi's not my thing. :)

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  38. I've been working on setting material for the "universe" I want to play in and just making it simple enough that I could adapt it to whatever rules. I went with X-plorers and D&D so that it was accessible to those who wanted both sci-fi or just a sprinkling thereof in their fantasy.

    I'm big on X-plorers right now because it's very wide open, but really any system that lends itself to be pulp-like would suffice.

    I think Zak S. hit the mark, there's just so many different things out there that can be classified as "sci-fi" that setting becomes a whole layer unto itself from the get-go. Fantasy is much more of a common tongue we all speak thanks to myths and fairy tales.

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  39. Well, there's nothing preventing the GM from saying, "Pretty much everybody you meet has the same tech level, or an equivalent level of cool powers and abilities. But how that plays out you don't know, and you never know when you'll meet people with much higher or lower tech/natural ability levels than you."

    Oh, and I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Drake's fun space opera setting in the Leary-Mundy books. Much more on the Patrick O'Brien side than the Hornblower/Weber side of Napoleonics in Space. Since one of Star Trek's big influences was the Hornblower books, it's amazing that more sf writers haven't plundered it.

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  40. There's an important distinction here, though: D&D didn't give you an amalgamated universe. It gave you the tools to procedurally generate your own amalgamated universe, while still giving the resulting universe a very particular form that unified all D&D campaigns along a fairly common baseline.

    The rules/guidelines it set forward for doing this -- both formal and informal -- have become so ingrained in gamer culture that we tend to overlook them. They've become second nature; a reflexive action.

    And a particularly important part of the procedural method described by D&D was, IMO, the dungeon: A simple-to-run, easy-to-play, self-contained adventure structure. (It's also very difficult for a neophyte, designing their own dungeon, to screw up so badly that they end up with something that's unplayable.)

    Generic SF games have generally lacked ALL of this. Early Traveller is probably the closest by providing such a rich procedural method of universe and character creation, but it lacked both the the core adventure structure and the true kitchen-sink toolset to capture the totality of the genre. And later editions embraced a core setting.

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  41. Something to mention is the "power level" of characters.
    Average people vs larger than life action heroes.
    Not all rule sets cover both extremes well (among the ones mentioned, GURPS and HERO). And I never liked level based systems.

    I never had problems GMing the "average joes" with Traveller New Era (with it's own setting or another one, as rules are very flexible), or Star Wars heroics and space opera over the top action with D6 System (old WEG's Star Wars, or later D6Space). Both games have me well covered in any sci-fi game I want to run, and work well as generic systems.

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  42. Justin Alexander makes very good points:

    "There's an important distinction here, though: D&D didn't give you an amalgamated universe. It gave you the tools to procedurally generate your own amalgamated universe, while still giving the resulting universe a very particular form that unified all D&D campaigns along a fairly common baseline.

    The rules/guidelines it set forward for doing this -- both formal and informal -- have become so ingrained in gamer culture that we tend to overlook them. They've become second nature; a reflexive action.

    And a particularly important part of the procedural method described by D&D was, IMO, the dungeon: A simple-to-run, easy-to-play, self-contained adventure structure. (It's also very difficult for a neophyte, designing their own dungeon, to screw up so badly that they end up with something that's unplayable.)

    Generic SF games have generally lacked ALL of this. Early Traveller is probably the closest by providing such a rich procedural method of universe and character creation, but it lacked both the the core adventure structure and the true kitchen-sink toolset to capture the totality of the genre. And later editions embraced a core setting."

    I agree completely. The successful space opera game should:

    1. Contain sufficient tools for universe creation/generation, but assume a baseline tech level. Traveller comes close to this, except that (IMO) its animal-generation systems are far too generic.

    2. Contain tools for 'automated' adventure generation, like the D&D Dungeon. Traveller fails here, except as a space-trading game. There need to be methods for generating an adventure 'environment' with both risk and reward elements.

    Examples:

    Planetary wilderness.
    Alien ruins/dungeons.
    Inhabited space stations/star bases.
    Space - space ships & other hazards.

    These should all have encounter tables, treasure tables, an XP or similar reward system, et al.

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  43. I also think that the needs of auto-generation require a very simple base ruleset, such that alien monsters, intelligent species, enemy starfighters etc can be created as easily as a pre-3e D&D monster: "Hit Dice 9d8 hp 38 AC 3 Speed 12 ATT: 1 damage: 4d6" can and should work equally well for an animal, an intelligent alien, or a star ship.

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  44. I've posted a sort of response to this post on my blog. In case anyone's interested, the address is http://apolitical.info/teleleli/?p=1377.

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