Category Archives: Fluff/Inspiration

Starflight

Starflight cover Yesterday I mused about roleplaying in the SF genre and in the evening I remembered some of the computer games I enjoyed tremendously in my youth: the Starflight series and Star Control 2. Both game series featured space exploration, mining, tongue-in-cheek humor, space combat and a huge galaxy to explore. Starflight 1 for example had about 250 stars with over 800 planets. And aside from high-G planets or gas giants you could explore all of these planets, mine raw materials and explore ruins left by the Old Empire and the Ancients.

In both game series you commanded a modular spaceship that you could customize and upgrade to a certain extent and Starflight had a few classic roleplaying elements when it comes to creating your crew. Each ship officer had several skills like Navigation, Science and Engineering and could be from one of the races living on Arth, your homeplanet.

Star Control II cover The question is now: how can we take both games as an inspiration for a pen & paper RPG campaign? What I like a lot is the focus of exploration in both series. There’s a vast galaxy out there and the players are boldly going where noone has gone before. Because there is no FTL communication, a starship is mostly on it’s own. There’s probably an overall mission but what the players do is mostly there own decision, there are no Admirals holding their hands all the time. So in a way the crew of such a spaceship is a lot like the classic adventuring party.

A campaign inspired by Starflight/StarControl is probably best run like a slightly modified sandbox game. The players decide what route they want to take, but everything is given some direction by an overall mission. This may be finding a new home for humanity, fighting against a terrible foe, learning more about a now extinct precursor race, or whatever else might motivate your players.

The next step will be coming up with a setting that works a basis for such a campaign. I already have a couple of ideas that I might share with you in the upcoming weeks, but if you have any ideas of your own, feel free to share them in the comments below!

Some thoughts on roleplaying in the SF genre

FlyingCar While I am currently a fantasy campaign I am already thinking about what I could run next. And as so often before the idea to run a SF game crops up again. I actually decided on a system I want to use and now I am collecting ideas for a campaign. Of course I could run an preexisting campaign or use a background my players are already familiar with, but in my opinion creating a whole new universe is half the fun.

When I started thinking about what elements I want in my SF game I immediately noticed some of the problems with running games in that particular genre. Especially when you want to have at least some semblance of science in your science fiction things get complicated pretty quickly. Fantasy is easy. We all know what a sword is, we have a pretty good idea what an orc is and magic … just works. When creating a SF universe you have to put a lot of thought into almost any aspect. Of course you can just call it Space Opera and treat technology like magic. How does the hyperdrive work? Just fine, thank you. ;)

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Ask the readers: Original alien races for your RPG?

If you read my post here in the blog regularly you’ll know I have been planning a sci-fi game for the longest time. I’ve written about it, even posted a possible campaign background. Whether I end up using that, a variation or something completely different, there is one thing I love about sci-fi, aliens! You might love then or hate them but they are definitely a staple of the genre.

I have played games like Star Trek and Star Wars with their myriad, seemingly endless, litany of race. My latest campaign ideas call for a very human centric campaign. There will still be aliens but very few and mostly in the background. But whether I go big or small, whenever I begin to design a campaign I run into the same stumbling block, the aliens.

Yeah I know, it’s a love hate relationship… Here is my rationale. I love designing my own campaigns and dislike pre-packaged settings. In a sci-fi setting I love designing alien cultures because they give me a chance to explore a wholly different outlook, build new societies. However I am a big believer in pictures speaking louder than words, so I typically need to find an image to represent the new alien race.

If you think my writing skills could be better, you haven’t seen my drawings! I am incapable of illustrating the alien races in my mind. I have tried some workarounds, adapting aliens from other media like comics, TV, film, even video games, but I typically find that if the players know them they immediately associate the characteristics from their source of origin rather than the ones I’ve developed for them.

I’ve tried using images found online (for personal use, no copyright laws where hurt writing any campaign!) but typically there is one image for the alien, and I love having NPC images during games and it is really hard to believe ALL aliens of the species look exactly alike. So there is my conundrum, I want original looking aliens I can insert into my campaigns. I’ve thought about commissioning some artist, but wonder if the campaign warrants the expense.

So what do you do for your sci-fi campaigns? Do you like aliens in them, and how many? Do you repurpose existing aliens or create your own? Are there any artist reading this willing to do commissions? Dear reader I’d love your input on this…