Apparently, though comments have gone down, viewership over here at Barking Alien has gone up. For reasons unknown, I had something in the order of 46 page views at 3 am this morning. 3 am? Much as myself, I have to assume that a large part of those who enjoy reading this blog are nocturnal. Well, to the aliens from Pitch Black and Vampires I say welcome. Hope you enjoy the show.
In 1982 I discovered the Star Trek Role Playing Game by FASA during my first excursion to my FLGS. I was 13 years old. It changed my life. Basically.
I won't recount that tale just now as I have already covered it in the past but for those who don't know it it's a fun read if I do say so myself. You can check it out here.
Just a few months before finding the FASA Star Trek game a friend and I had purchased Villains & Vigilantes. Between the two games, D&D got pushed further and further aside in favor of exploring the final frontier and leaping tall buildings. Drudging through yet another dark, dank dungeon had lost its appeal.
Star Frontiers by TSR had also come out around this time and I did purchase it and play it fairly often. Unfortunately for SF, ST existed. Star Frontiers might've gotten more play if there was no Star Trek RPG but there was and it rocked.
Star Frontiers also suffered from a few handicaps. Its alien species were limited (only 3 PC species other than Humans) and came off as a bit silly. The mechanics of the game made actions feel too easy somehow. When compared to the 'Am I going to make it?" percentages of Star Trek, Star Frontiers made everything feel like it was a breeze. Not having my books in front of me I forget why that was. I seem to remember many skills starting at 100%, being brought down by difficulty levels/numbers and than you add percentile bonuses from your attributes. I remember one player having a 110% chance of doing something. I guess that's what all those football coaches are talking about when they ask you to give 110%. Who knew?
After about 82-83' it became 'a thing' for my group and I to experiment and try new games. We played a lot of Space Opera I recall (though for the life of me I'm not sure how. I looked at it again recently when James M. at GROGNARDIA was talking about it and I couldn't make heads or tails of the damn thing). Though the focus was primarily Sci-Fi and Superheroes, comedy games got their fair share of attention as well. For the most part, I wouldn't try or play many Fantasy games until the late 80's or even early 90's. We weren't rich, so we only tried games one guy or another in our group was willing to purchase and few of us were that into Fantasy. That changed a bit when our group expanded and many of my new friends had very different interests.
By 1988-89 the Science Fiction related games (other than Star Trek) I had played or run included...
Cyberpunk, FTL: 2448, Gamma World/Metamorphisis Alpha (we often combined these two), Mekton (love me some Giant Robots), Paranoia, Space Opera, Star Frontiers, Star Wars (WEG D6 and a lot of it!), Starships and Spacemen, Traveller (Gave it a second chance, loved it, still do), Traveller: 2300 (awesome Aliens, only an ok game) and probably a dozen more I don't recall.
When all was said and done...eh, who am I kidding. We never really stopped loving the idea of trying new games. Still and all, Star Trek, Star Wars and Traveller always won the popularity contests in the end.
Which brings me to an interesting observation that I've noted before but feel is very important...
For a good chunk of my time in the hobby of RPGs I've played Sci-Fi and Supers campaigns. These are games that often share a few key elements for me...
1. They are modern or future settings with a greater focus on or importance of laws than traditional Fantasy. Kill a guy, take his stuff, get in really big trouble.
2. The players are often law abiding or they are the law. Again, no killing enemies and taking their stuff. Not so much a rule from the GM, just not in genre unless you're playing the crooked cop.
3. Its not about stuff. Starfleet officers have stuff like Tricorders, Phasers, etc. I don't need your stuff. I got my own stuff. Superheroes don't need stuff. Some are richer than Richie Rich (Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne). For others, why take the bad guy's ray gun when I can shoot rays from my own eyes. End result, no culture of adventuring to gain treasure.
4. No (or rarely any) arguements over whose the leader. In Sci-Fi, the Captain is usually the leader. In Superheroes, whoever best fits the mission is leader. Going into space? Lead the way Silver Surfer-type guy and Green Lantern-type guy. Tracking down a serial killer? What do you think we should do Daredevil-type dube and Batgirl-lady?
5. Easier to explore the milieu when you have a homebase to go back to. For Sci-Fi its usually your ship or a space station. Why wait til '10th level' to have a castle. Start with one that flies around with you to each adventure local. For Supers its your headquarters. No roaming endlessly with no real purpose or sense of community. Side benefit: PCs care about NPCs because they see them all the time. They're part of the neighborhood. They become family.
I veered a bit too much toward talking about Superheroes in this installment then I wanted to but I have been playing both genres so long they often play off each other in my mind. That said, more differences between Sci-Fi and Fantasy (as I see them) in the next post.
Have a Great Weekend!