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What sources do you base your sf universes on?

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I did once play in a game where instead of inventing his own aliens the GM just imported races from different films/shows/books like Klingons, Wookies, etc. I was skeptical at first, but it actually worked pretty well for a light-hearted game. The main advantage was that every time we met an alien the GM didn't have to pause the action to explain who they were and what they were like; "Two Klingons walk into the bar" and everyone already knows what to expect.

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I think that actually speaks to the reason why so few SF RPGs have shown any staying power. In Fantasy, you've got a warehouse full of races, monsters and other tropes that are in public domain and players already know: dwarves, elves, dragons, magic wands, etc. But there's not so much of a "Generic SF Warehouse" that game designers can draw upon without violating copyright.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Oddly, I think the biggest influence came from all the work I did for White Wolf on Vampire, Exalted, and other games. Namely, to create a setting that is fundamentally *not* stable. That may in fact be on the verge of exploding.

 

This is one reason Star Trek lost my interest and never influenced my SF setting design. The Federation is fundamentally stable. Oh, there's the occasional war, but it isn't a society that's about to turn into something else. (Or about to do so, or has just done so and is working out what it will be.)

 

Babylon-5 might have pushed me in that direction as well, but it was my WW work that really drove home for me that this was the sort of setting that interested me.

 

Dean Shomshak

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[Compilation] "to Star HERO Conversions & Adaptations"  

http://www.herogames.com/forums/topic/22965-compilation-to-star-hero-conversions-adaptations/  

 

 

Note: Out of Date, but a good reference point. Use a the Google Search Link below. "Space" then enter search See Bold face above.

 

https://www.google.ca/search?num=20&q=site:www.herogames.com&cad=h   

 

 

QM

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I think that actually speaks to the reason why so few SF RPGs have shown any staying power. In Fantasy, you've got a warehouse full of races, monsters and other tropes that are in public domain and players already know: dwarves, elves, dragons, magic wands, etc. But there's not so much of a "Generic SF Warehouse" that game designers can draw upon without violating copyright.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

To some degree, I think I'd beg to differ on this point.

 

Science fiction has (IMHO) enough standard alien racial tropes to get by. I'll admit not as many as many as fantasy literature, but think about this for a minute. How many times has the "cat like aliens" thing been done, and how similar were they? (A: more than I can count.) You drop a race of cat-people into your SF game, the players will know what to expect. The same goes for "wolf-like" aliens, insectoid creatures with so-called "hive minds", space amazons, amorphous blobs, beings of pure energy, evil space squids (hurray, tentacles) and you might consider androids/robots to be a playable species. Your players know what all of those are. Or at least they should.

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I think that actually speaks to the reason why so few SF RPGs have shown any staying power. In Fantasy, you've got a warehouse full of races, monsters and other tropes that are in public domain and players already know: dwarves, elves, dragons, magic wands, etc. But there's not so much of a "Generic SF Warehouse" that game designers can draw upon without violating copyright.

 

Science fiction has (IMHO) enough standard alien racial tropes to get by. I'll admit not as many as many as fantasy literature, but think about this for a minute. How many times has the "cat like aliens" thing been done, and how similar were they? (A: more than I can count.) You drop a race of cat-people into your SF game, the players will know what to expect. The same goes for "wolf-like" aliens, insectoid creatures with so-called "hive minds", space amazons, amorphous blobs, beings of pure energy, evil space squids (hurray, tentacles) and you might consider androids/robots to be a playable species. Your players know what all of those are. Or at least they should.

Fair enough. To some extent you just have to come up with new names for them.

 

But it's still an interesting question. One of the reasons I got burned out on high fantasy, especially in RPGs, was to some extent they all feel like the same game world I've been playing in since I was 15, with at most 10% variation for "My elves are different..." Gaming aside, I think that sense of YATRO* is a big part of why the fantasy genre has always limited mass-market appeal (ie - outside of core fandom) compared to SF. So personally I like the fact that most SF universes feel a little more distinct/unique, particularly when it comes to alien species. Even if you're just stealing everything from existing material, there's enough variety to choose from that you can mix & match into something that feels unique.

 

But OTOH, to what extent does the "commonality" of fantasy races (and other tropes) make it easy for players to jump in to a new game world and feel like they already know what's going on? But does that recognition factor help sell games? Does that lowering of the learning curve help players to learn & immerse themselves in the setting quicker?

 

* Yet Another Tolkien Rip-Off

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But fantasy games don't have to be based on Tolkien. The works of Burroughs, Howard, Leiber, and even Moorcock are very different from Tolkien, and all of them have been used as rpg settings.

Sure, and I like all those settings. (Tho I wouldn't classify most of Burroughs' stuff as fantasy per se, but that's another topic.)

 

I'm not saying fantasy game have to be based on Tolkien - just that the vast majority seem to be. You just don't see a lot of other works/settings that are based on/paying homage to those settings the way you do with Tolkien. Excluding rpgs that are specific to those licensed properties, how many original rpg settings have you looked at and thought "Oh, Yet Another Lankhmar Rip-Off"?

 

And to the previous point, most of those worlds are pretty light on "alien" races, aside from monsters.

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To some degree, I think I'd beg to differ on this point.

 

Science fiction has (IMHO) enough standard alien racial tropes to get by. I'll admit not as many as many as fantasy literature, but think about this for a minute. How many times has the "cat like aliens" thing been done, and how similar were they? (A: more than I can count.) You drop a race of cat-people into your SF game, the players will know what to expect.

 

Well, there may be a few stereotypical physical and behavioral similarities, but personality, culture, and motivations can differ vastly, as with Larry Niven's Kzinti, C.J. Cherryh's Hani, and James Cameron's Na'vi.

 

Thanks to Tolkien and his imitators, "Elves" and  "Dwarves" have become complete packages of stereotypes.

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Lately I've been on a low fantasy/SF kick. The campaigns I've created in recent years have been populated solely with humans. I know I'm in the minority here, but that's how my tastes run.

 

I actually have a hard time visualizing aliens that are not anthropomorphic so I also tend to think in human only terms. Of course, I also tend to think cybernetics and genetically engineered "breeds" designed for specific tasks. Add in A.I.* like androids and you have a pretty diverse body of playable "races" without touching upon true aliens. I think, in Hero terms, Alien Wars without the presence of friendly alien species is probably the best of the settings. I would reign in access to FTL and use a "gate" system, but otherwise the setting would be incredibly fun as a foundation. I would make the tech a little bit more futuristic

 

 

* I'm of the "A.I. are not all automatically hostile and different A.I. constructs will have different motivations based upon their interactions with organics and underlying programming" school of thought. 

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