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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Note: Out of Date, but a good reference point.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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The things that inspire the type of science fiction campaigns I like to run are primarily cultural, societal, and philosophical. I like to explore ideas (science fiction is the literature of ideas) that push the envelope of our current conceptions of the universe, our place in it, and how we interact with each other and the alien or unknown. For inspiration, I tend to draw from: 

 

Ursula K. LeGuin (Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, et. al)

Philip K. Dick (Valis, Ubik, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, many others)

Samuel R. Delaney (Dhalgren, or Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand)

Jack Vance (Planet of Adventure, many others)

 

I'm less interested in military sci-fi as influences for my science fiction campaigns, even though I've read it. A focus on technology and gadgets, even though a staple of science fiction, doesn't interest me. The use of tech from a transhumanist perspective is intriguing, but I'm skeptical about how it would help society as a whole.

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What I remember of the original Traveler RPG books from the late 1970's and early 1980's.

 

Niven/Pournelle's Co-Dominium universe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CoDominium - a nice look at the aftermath of Earth's first big interstellar empire having fallen apart and being put back together. Planets at all ends of the tech scale from barbarism to the latest cutting edge research according to where you happen to be. A political system which doesn't even pretend to be fair but is seen as necessary to prevent future divisions which might lead to catastrophic wars. People/politicians turning strongly toward religious ritual (and hegemony) as part of tying humanity back together. Powerful trade guilds.

 

Firefly - the Brownshirts movement. Badly terraformed worlds, considering how much time a terraforming project would take, it isn't surprising that whoever doing it might run out of money or otherwise go out of business.

 

Star Wars - nothing with the Force, just the idea of tramp freighters wondering the galaxy trying to make a living, borrowing money from gangsters, running guns for deserving or undeserving causes, etc. When I watch Ancient Aliens, I imagine what it would have been like for Han Solo and Chewbacca to have landed on ancient earth and what those two might have done which would have created whatever things that episode is displaying. Imagine the temptation to go to a low tech planet and trade a few cheap technological trinkets for all the gold and jewels that will fit into your ship....

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On 8/20/2017 at 12:15 PM, bigdamnhero said:

 

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

 

I have the same thoughts on most fantasy, and most fantasy RPGs too. And that's why I enjoy non-traditional fantasy like Tekumel, or urban fantasy. Swords and sorcery is fine in the right group as it can blend with science fiction or horror elements.

 

But really, I prefer modern, near-future, or far future RPGs. Whether supers, cinematic action, space opera, etc. I'll take Westerns over typical high fantasy.

 

You had me laughing at YATRO! 😝

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Well, I'm out of my league here, since other than the authors from way back, I recognize almost none of the sources quoted so far. :(

 

My very first Sci-Fi setting was, as the person above me, pretty much straight up Traveller.  I don't say Classic Traveller, because at the time there were no other Travellers. :lol:  Traveller was my first exposure to RPGs, it was sci-fi (personal favorite genre of entertainment), and I was familiar with and enjoyed it.

 

It didn't last too terribly long.  Players used to being, and I wish I could remember who to attribute this quote to, but at least I can say I wish it had been me-- "medieval fantasy murder hobos" and superheroes (most of my first players had come from D&D and Champions) got a little bored with the politics and trade aspects of the universe.  Certainly, I tried very hard to accommodate their needs, but their needs seemed to be either "find me new and unusual things to kill" or "find me really powerful beings to beat into submission and then turn over to the authorities."  It quietly fell apart over the space of about two years.

 

In the end, I tested the waters by moving it more and more outward, beyond the beyond, and worked in more and more frequent aliens the further they moved away from known or at least "vaguely aware of" space.  We ended up with a universe that was sort of a reversal of comic book and sci-horor convention: humans were the fastest, strongest, hardiest breed in space, and a force to be reckoned with even in small groups.  It seemed to appease the Fantasy guys (who just wanted to see lots of different creatures, and kill them-- not the sentients, of course; my own sensibilities wouldn't allow for random murder hoboing), and the Champions guys rather enjoyed themselves-- they were defacto "super" again, at least for a while.

 

Clearing the slate, this time with a better understanding of this group of players, and time to prepare a new setting while the old one fell apart, I started a full-on Space Opera that not only grew and grew and grew, but still grows today, nearly thirty years after the last original player moved on.  I haven't the time and y'all haven't the interest for me to list all the various things that have been shoved into that thing, but it has been my most successful (obviously) campaign universe, ever.

 

During the eighties, John DeChancie wrote something that wasn't fantasy and wasn't military fiction and happened to pass in front of my eyeballs.  Like most of his stuff, it wasn't fantastic or earth-shattering or even, objectively, particularly "good."  But it was ridiculously _fun_, and I loved it.  I had started with the second book, ended up hunting down the first, and waited patiently for the third to come out (the ending of the second made it clear there would be a third).  Wished I hadn't picked up that third, as it was essentially a couple hundred pages of tying up lose ends, but hey-- I still enjoyed it.

 

For those who haven't read the Starrigger books, I'd recommend checking out at least one (that isn't the third one) if only for some fresh ideas for a campaign world.  I set a campaign wholly within that universe-- it appealed to me as it was _relatively_ low-tech, made intergalactic travel accessible (if unpredictable), and put it in the hands of any adventurer who wanted a taste.  By definition, the travel system forced a regulation of aliens (I enjoy space opera, but when every building on every planet has fifty different breeds of rubber noses, it begins to feel more like Fantasy)  Strangely-- and for me, happily, this universe proved rather popular (though I confess I felt a secret pride that it wasn't _quite_ as popular as the home-brewed Space Opera of the Home-brewed and hastily-concocted super hero world that still exists today.  How hastily, you might ask, if only out of courtesy over actual interest?  Well, the major players are still located right here, in Campaign City.  Yep; that hastily.  It made the original players giggle happily, and the newer ones don't often pick up on it, so the old Placeholder became the Official Name. :lol: ).

 

Those are essentially the three successful Campaign Universes I have launched-- there have been other, shorter ones, particularly on the sci-fi side.  But unfortunately, I can't really say what the influences were on the Space Opera one, specifically.  I know they are there.  If I read something I thought might be fun, I worked in a piece or two of it.  But thirty years of _that_---

 

Wait!  I know one influence.  It was a thin sci-fi RPG, product of the late 80s, I _think_.  Brown and white cover.  The idea was that animal genetics were spliced into humans-- or vice versa-- to create cheap, relatively expendable explorers tailor-fit for the unique climates of newly-discovered worlds.  The players were expected to be these explorers in hostile environs.  I didn't balk at the idea, because it would be another twenty years before I found out what a Furry was.

 

In a nutshell, my campaign history used these Betas (name lifted from the source material, but I can't recall the name of the game itself), were used--  bah-- short version:  Some were successful and sent off on colony ships using early C-drives without circumnavigating-physics drives, which would be another three hundred years or so  (warp drive, woof drive, whatever-- we had several such plot-driven engines).

 

Time dilation, etc, and some of the Betas ended up where they were going a couple thousand years before they left.  Those that lived through exploration became cultures, and you can see where this is going.  They helped fulfill player desire to be, as someone else mentioned above, a >shudder< cat person alien.  Other aliens, of course, but that one little not-so-good almost rip-off of Star Frontiers gave me a big plug-in I could chunk straight into player wish-fulfillment, so it stayed.

 

And of course, the Skyway campaign is almost _entirely_ DeChancie.

 

 

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Lately I've found myself looking more and more into the minutiae of a culture when detailing it. I am looking into things like a culture's architecture and entertainment, which I used to give little thought to when I was younger. I draw inspiration from the real world, although I tend to look for things that are distinctive, if not unusual. I also seem to like having a central theme when I create cultures.

 

I have a couple of ideas mulling around in my head. I'll post my ideas after I've fleshed them out a bit.

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I tend to run Fantasy, mostly these days , but I have an SF setting, that I have wanted to run formal one time. Rich Tocholka, was a boss of mine and we talked a lot about his game FTL2448. The well worn feel of it appealed to me and the authenticity and humorous treatment of bureaucratic issues kept things light; though it was a very dangerous system. So the attitude and flavor would be borrowed from that, but the Aesthetics would be borrowed from Aliens, and Outland (The Grubby Baseball Cap School of Science Fiction, where Corporations answer only to shareholders and most work environments are OSHA violations , but the pay is good.  

 

Most of of my reading in the past decade has been War History, and other nonfiction. SF these days Selena lot less adventurous and hardware centric than it used to be. But for my campaign, Starship interiors Look like Submarines or Missile Silos, and Jump Drive is only available to Large Corps and the Military, but In System ships are as common as Civilian Aviation is now. No Aliens seen yet, but Isolated human colonies can get pretty strange with the genetic mods, implants, and occasionally cultish Utopians trying to distance themselves from the mildly distopian and indifferent mainstream.  Beam weapons are mostly vehicle mounted, and Space Warfare follows the model

mostly put forth by Steve Gallacci@s Albedo Comic (with a little of Paul Gazes).  The Expanse is also a bit of a recent inspiration to get me to think about this again.  AI exists, but is heavily regulated and is too large and distributed to place in a humanoid Robots. Robots them selves are perhaps as smart as dogs, and far less fractious. Habitable planets are very rare, so most coloni s are constructed man made environments. It’s definitely not Star Trek. But SR, isn’t as popular as Fantasy, or Even Superheroes, so most of this is still, just notes. 

Edited by Scott Ruggels
Corrected the name of the SF TG show I was citing

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On 9/28/2018 at 8:47 PM, Duke Bushido said:

...

In the end, I tested the waters by moving it more and more outward, beyond the beyond, and worked in more and more frequent aliens the further they moved away from known or at least "vaguely aware of" space.  We ended up with a universe that was sort of a reversal of comic book and sci-horor convention: humans were the fastest, strongest, hardiest breed in space, and a force to be reckoned with even in small groups.  It seemed to appease the Fantasy guys (who just wanted to see lots of different creatures, and kill them-- not the sentients, of course; my own sensibilities wouldn't allow for random murder hoboing), and the Champions guys rather enjoyed themselves-- they were defacto "super" again, at least for a while.

 

There is a recurring meme on Imgur, named,”Humans are tough”.  Lot of neat little story fragments and vignettes on just such a topic. 

 

Quote

 

 

During the eighties, John DeChancie wrote something that wasn't fantasy and wasn't military fiction and happened to pass in front of my eyeballs.  Like most of his stuff, it wasn't fantastic or earth-shattering or even, objectively, particularly "good."  But it was ridiculously _fun_, and I loved it.  I had started with the second book, ended up hunting down the first, and waited patiently for the third to come out (the ending of the second made it clear there would be a third).  Wished I hadn't picked up that third, as it was essentially a couple hundred pages of tying up lose ends, but hey-- I still enjoyed it.

 

Starrigger was a favorite of Mike Pondsmith (of R. Talsorian Games). He explored getting the RPG rights to the series, but to no avail. 

 

Quote

 

 

 

Wait!  I know one influence.  It was a thin sci-fi RPG, product of the late 80s, I _think_.  Brown and white cover.  The idea was that animal genetics were spliced into humans-- or vice versa-- to create cheap, relatively expendable explorers tailor-fit for the unique climates of newly-discovered worlds.  The players were expected to be these explorers in hostile environs.  I didn't balk at the idea, because it would be another twenty years before I found out what a Furry was.

 

 

 

That game would be Nial “ Nicolai” Shapero’s “Other Suns”. Published originally by Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU). that game had the movers and shakers of what would become Furry, a couple of years later, working on it. Art was by Ken Sample, and Ms. Po Cheah Shan (sic). The genesis was the players of Shapero’s Killer D&D campaign wanted to play SF, so they discussed it and cobbled it together. Shapiro, being a Northrop (before Grumman) engineer, as well as a LASFS member in good standing, kept things mostly plausible. But his writing and adventure ideas did serve to fire the imagination. That game stayed in my mind for a long time. It’s influence is still somewhat evident in the Paradox Universe of Writer MCA Hogarth currently written today. Dave Bryant, himself another artist described what could have been the early years of that universe with his Double Helixers, and he, Gallacci, Sample, were the early beginners of Furry Fandom, with MARC Merlino of the CFO. The mascot of the CFO, the Skiltaire, a mustelid with antenna, became a race in Other Suns. 

Edited by Scott Ruggels
Spelling errors and autocorrect issues

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