athelind: (Sci Fi)
The Threepenny Space Opera: An Introduction


This is the first in a series of posts under the head of The Threepenny Space Opera, in which Your Obedient Serpent bandies about ideas and concepts for science fiction RPG settings. These are primarily Notes To Myself, and the different concepts may or may not be compatible with each other in a single milieu.

I have been in a Star Wars Saga Edition game for the last four years, and, while I enjoy it a great deal, I confess that I enjoy it in spite of the setting, not because of it. It is hardly an original insight to assert that the Lucasian setting isn't "really" science fiction, but rather, fantasy with a thin veneer of technology; it has some truth to it, but that doesn't curtail my ability to enjoy a rip-roaring laser-adorned Hero's Journey.

If forced to pick a side when the line is drawn between Romanticism and Enlightenment, however, Your Obedient Serpent falls squarely in the latter camp.1 There are elements of Classic Space Opera that are Very Important To Your Obedient Serpent, and they can only be shoehorned into the Galaxy Far Far Away with great effort -- and are entirely absent from, say, Dark Heresy and many of the other starfaring settings offered to the RPG community.

I am rambling, which is nothing new. Let me therefore invoke that tool of PowerPoint abusers worldwide, and proffer a Bullet List:

  • I want a vision of a hopeful, optimistic future. Cautionary tales are an important part of the science fiction estate, but they aren't, contrary to Post-Modern thought, more "mature" or "sophisticated" or "valid". When all the visions of the future are dystopian, when the only message from tomorrow is "Beware", then where will we find the hope and inspiration to drive us forward?

  • I want to Explore Strange New Worlds. Even Star Trek: the Next Generation fell short on this one, keeping NCC-1701-D largely within the borders of the Federation, boldly staying where everyone had gone before; the movies, of course, abandon the notion of "exploration" entirely.

  • I want to Save the Day with SCIENCE!! I want a setting and a system where the Vulcan manning the sensors contributes as much to the adventure as the Dashing Space Pilot.

  • And on that note, I want a game that doesn't shy away from starships and space combat, while making sure that ALL the player characters can take active roles when the Space Pirates drop out of Netherspace, or the Negative Space Wedgie looms on the main screen. I want a game that's not afraid of starmaps, and where travel between the worlds is an opportunity, not an obstacle (or a quick screen-wipe).

There will be more forthcoming.

1 In the topsy-turvy backwards world of Literary Jargon, I am an unrealistic dreamer because I reject Romanticism.

athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
According to Wikipedia, the full designation of the Robot from Lost In Space is the B-9, Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot.

How in the name of everything did they resist the temptation to dub the thing "G.U.N.Th.E.R."?

This is now Troped, of course.

athelind: (Parallel Worlds)

Conservation of Surnames: If two people in a comic book setting share a surname, they must be related, no more distantly than first cousins.

The Arkham Hypothesis: Gotham City is smack in the middle of Lovecraft's New England. Arkham Asylum really is in the Gotham suburb of Arkham.


Iris and Wally West are therefore close relatives of Herbert West.

athelind: (work)
I don't often mention events at my current job, but last night bears some note.

Around closing time, I noticed that the mall was starting to get busy. This wasn't unexpected, since the new Harry Potter movie was slated for a midnight debut. I had some puttering around to do -- normally, I vacuum during the slow periods on Thursday night, but I had a few other tasks and not that many slow moments.

i decided to stay open while I was vacuuming, and see who wandered in.

A little after 9, I called my boss and let him know that I had more people wandering around the store than I'd had at any other point in the day.

Lots of bored people standing in line = lots of after-hours sales for the comic store.

... particularly after I sent a co-worker out to drum up business by handing out freebie comics and letting folks know that we had Harry Potter wands left over from Halloween, and were selling them at 20% off.

(I didn't clear that particular discount with the boss, but given that I sold all but two of the wands, and most everyone who came in to look at and/or purchase wands wound up buying other stuff, I don't think he'll complain.)

We wound up staying open until 11; a full third of yesterday's sales were made in those last two hours. There were, evidently, several thousand people in a line that ranged all the way around the mall. The theater wound up shutting down other shows so they could open Potter on more screens and clear the crowds out faster.

The energy of the crowd was infectious. Everyone was upbeat and happy and excited, and the realization of just how long two hours of waiting in a line really was only diminished that slightly (and fueled the impulse to head into Geek Heaven to find reading material, decks of cards, and other ways to kill time, so hey, bonus). That aura of enthusiasm kept me rarin' to go (RAR) well after I normally would have been fading out (aided and abetted by a 7PM can of Dr Pepper), and I have to admit: I had fun.

Pity we didn't have more Potter paraphernalia in stock.

My last customer of the night was also my favorite: a person in a Green Lantern shirt who admitted she was really there to see the GL trailer on the big screen. You gotta respect that.

athelind: (Warning: Cognitive Hazard)
(11:54:05) [ profile] toob: I love etymology.
(11:54:28) [ profile] athelind: Me, too!
(11:54:40) [ profile] toob: It comes from the Greek for "True Word."
(11:55:46) [ profile] athelind: Hee. All these years, and I never looked up the etymology of "etymology". I lose Hofsteader points.
(11:57:45) [ profile] toob: I am hopelessly addicted to the self-referentially ironic.
(11:57:58) [ profile] athelind: Ditto.
(11:58:25) [ profile] toob: You can't say ditto to that!!
(11:58:28) [ profile] toob: *implodes*

athelind: (Dragon Conspiracy)
Conspiracy rants are often amusing.

Conspiracy rants that cite Mage: the Ascension as factual material are Comedy Gold.

athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
What happens if the Doctor picks up a party of first-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons player characters? It's guaranteed that at least one will have a Bag of Holding, and there might be a Portable Hole in the party, as well.

By the Narrative Causality Conventions of AD&D1*, bringing either of those into the TARDIS will result in some kind of Negative Space Wedgie that automatically kills the whole party.

By the Narrative Causality Conventions of Doctor Who, however, the resultant Very Bad Thing will result in Several Minutes of Tension and Possibly A Cliffhanger, but it will be resolved by the Doctor invoking technobabble, running around the TARDIS console, and possibly pulling out the Sonic Screwdriver.

Combining the Narrative Conventions, I estimate a 30% chance, +5% per Regeneration Level of the Doctor, that the Doctor will not only neutralize the Anomaly, but that the solution will also incapacitate or eliminate or eliminate whatever aggressor the party was confronting when the TARDIS appeared.

This assumes that this is the Doctor's first encounter with the party, of course. If he's established an emotional stake over at least the course of an episode, that probability will drop to 25% + 2%/Regeneration Level.

In any case, a bad roll will, of course, result in the restoration of the full AD&D1 narrative conventions.

*In particular, unlike most forms of narrative (including later RPGs), AD&D1 eschews the principles that the narrative must continue to a dramatically satisfactory conclusion; in other words, Total Party Kill is not only an acceptable outcome, but, in extreme examples, a desirable one.

Desirable to some participants, that is.

November 2016

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