Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's A Hell of A Thing

I can hardly believe that upon looking at the section of my blog page that notes which subjects have been mentioned and how many times each is identified, Galaxy Quest comes up only twice before this post. That is practically inconceivable.

For those of you unfamiliar with the film
Galaxy Quest...what the heck is wrong with you? Do you not like to laugh? Are you afraid of humor, cool special effects and space adventure television parody? Are you mad?!?


I love this movie. I think I've seen it more times than any other film with the exception of the original Muppet Movie (topping my list at 35 times...don't ask, big Muppets fan). As any good GM worth their salt will tell you, if you love something enough, you game it. The Muppets RPG is in the works I assure you.

Some years back (2003) I was going to my old gaming group's regular get together when something occurred the caused us to be unable to run our regularly scheduled campaign (I forget what). Jazzed to run something, anything (sometimes you just get in that mood) I created a
Galaxy Quest game right there on the spot. The system was loosely based on Teenagers from Outer Space, though I made a number of changes and added special abilities for 'Job' on the ship.

The Commander has Overdramatis Personae. He or she gets a progressively larger bonus for any action/roll which is overly dramatic or hammed up. The more overacted the higher the bonus essentially.

The Operations Officer has Cyberlingual Interface. They can talk to the computer. Anyone can use computer skill to get info from the computer but only the Operations officer and speak with it directly. This PC must repeat pertinent information the computer has said out loud. Information obtained in this way is often better than that obtained by normal computer skill use.

The Pilot or Helm Officer has The Moves. If an appropriate catchphrase is uttered out loud, the Pilot gains a bonus to any one maneuver or pilot related action including increasing speed and attacking ("Pedal to the Metal Commander!"). Each catchphrase can only be said once per adventure.

The Engineer chooses to be Old School or New School. Old School Engineers can develop new weapons, alter the ships abilities, etc. by explaining a complex action in the simplest terms possible. It should relate to something that is a common, everyday action or idea. The ability is called Plain English for now. A New School Engineer can do the same thing using Technobabble. One must give a fully detailed and convincing explanation of how they are going to reroute auxiliary power through the plasma manifold in order to create a chain reaction powerful enough to generate a temporary quantum rift.

The Science Officer comes with Know-It-All. In my opinion the scientist or science officer in a science fiction game should be pretty damn important. I mean, the name of the genre is in the guy's job description for pete's sake! So, to this end, Know-It-All is a very powerful ability. Basically, the Science Officer can use this ability to make a leap of judgement about what is happening in the game based on the information they have and try to convince the other players they know what they're talking about. If the rest of the crew believes the Science Officer the GM must include the data as facts in the adventure, even if they are way off base. That's right, with Know-It-All the Science Officer can literally alter the plot of the adventure.

Doctors get something similar to Engineers in that they can cure a disease, heal the wounded or counteract a poison in one of two ways. An Old Country Doctor can do it if he uses some crazy home remedy (Human or Alien), acupuncture and acupressure or even Voodoo magic. Modern Medical Doctors need to use the biology themed equivalent of technobabble and the most advanced medical technology available. Not that the Old Country Doctor has a penalty with those new fangled contraptions and the Modern Medical Doctor doesn't know any home remedies. He was probably raised by a hologram.

Last of the jobs and perhaps my favorite is Security. Security's ability is called Glorified Extra. You start with a bonus to all physical stats and combat skills but only able to take a single hit. Anything stronger than a punch from a Human and you're dead. You also start with the name 'Crewman'. If you fail to survive you roll up a new character named Crewman #2. If you survive, you get to take a second hit and become Crewman Jones (or Smith or Wicsowski or whatever you want). Survive a third adventure and you're Crewman 1st Class Jones. Surviving odd adventures gives you a rank. Suriving even adventures gets you a name. Each adventure survived gives you another hit you can take (all other characters have a fixed number of hits based on a stat that almost never changes).

Yeah, this is just the basics. Playable species include Human, Token Alien, Background Alien and Prodigy. Spaceship combat is largely cinematic with few rules of any kind. Action is fast, skills are both simple but classically science fiction-y (Energy Weapon, Computer, Pilot Starship, etc.).

In my next post I'll go into some more detail about the game, the elements of the previous adventure I ran and my ideas for my upcoming return to this awesome setting.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender,

Barking Alien


  1. Those are great. Especially how the Security player only gets a last name if he survives. You should make up more games on the fly.

  2. Heh tell me about it. Glad you like it. Wait'll you hear about the Token Alien...


  4. Excellent movie, and an excellent homebrew system. I think you really captured it. I'm interested to read what separates a token alien from a background alien.