Airplanes, Mecha, Space Ships–Oh My!

In my post about Elite Dangerous a reader names Gordon pointed out that there will be a roleplaying game based on the computer game. At first this sounds like an awesome idea, but on second thought I noticed a few problems with RPGs like this. In the computer game you’re the Commander of your own space ship and that’s exactly what most people would love to play in the RPG. But does this work in a roleplaying game?

If everyone pilots his own space ship what keeps them from splitting up and exploring the universe on their own? And what about the one guy who doesn’t want to pilot a space ship? While this might not be entirely impossible, it’s extremely hard to give everyone equal time in the spotlight – especially if someone is piloting an awesome space ship and the other plays a feeble space janitor.

In the case of larger space ships the problem can be alleviated. Every player character should be able to have a function on the ship. And in a way the space ship is more akin to the players’ base or home. But in the case of vessels piloted by one person only, things can get messy.

This problem regularly crops up in games based on board games or videogames that revolve around airplanes, mecha, space ships, et cetera. You either force everyone to be a pilot, or you make the pilot profession unavailable to everyone. A third alternative is to ask every player to have several characters – a pilot one and one support character (like a technician). We tried this approach in a Mechwarrior 2nd Edition game. It worked quite well, even though it messed with my immersion. It just feels weird to me, running more than one character if I am not the GM. Your mileage may vary of course.

I am very intrigued by games like Dream Pod 9′s Terra Nova and Jovian Chronicles, but I am not sure if I’ll ever run those. In the past I’ve even thought about using the setting of the now defunct MMO Earth & Beyond (in which each player piloted a small space craft) using for a RPG, but quickly threw these ideas out of the window, because I couldn’t find a solution for the “everyone-has-their-own-space-vessel” problem.

So even though I love games in which players can pilot powerful mecha or fast jet fighters, I rarely run these because of the reasons mentioned above. And I think the upcoming Elite: Dangerous RPG might have similar problems. Or perhaps it’s not the games’ problem but mine.

What do you think about this issue? Have you run games involving airplanes, mecha, and space fighters? What did you do if someone wanted to play a non-pilot character? Please share your experiences below.

WotO Part XXI

Sci-Fi Fridays! Wanderers of the Outlands Part XXI

Of all the Sci-Fi Fridays! posts, this is the easiest one to write, since it was written for me. As part of the preparation for my Savage Worlds sci-fi campaign, about which you’ve been reading the background materials and house rules over the past 20 weeks, I asked the players to write introductions to their characters.  I typically give out bonus Experience Points before the campaign begins for things such as these, and this time around was no exception. They could earn bonus Experience Points for drawing or finding character portraits, finding a miniature, writing a background, all in all if they did everything they would get 5 XP and their first Advancement (in Savage Worlds terms) before the game commenced. Needless to say, every player did it!

Besides the campaign survey, which I had handed out months ago as I sat down to prepare the campaign, as to make sure my preparations met their likes and expectations, I also asked them for a little list before the game began. I called it the List of 9. I wanted them to list 3 plots they would like to play, 3 goals their character had, and 3 enemies they’d like to face. No further instructions. Some players gave me general one or two word answers, others wrote paragraphs for each. That was ok, I wanted an idea, a baseline to know what they would like to play as we began the game.

Continue reading


Off-Topic: Elite Dangerous

It’s not often that I write about my other, non-RPG hobbies. But there’s one computer game on my mind right now, that I just have to talk about: Elite Dangerous by Frontier Developments.

BBC_Micro_Elite_screenshotElite Dangerous is the latest game in a series that started with the 1984′s Elite for the BBC Micro written by David Braben and Ian Bell. Elite was the first computer game that had an open-world, real 3D graphics and could be played for months. Its successors Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters came out in the mid-90s and had much better graphics, a more realistic universe including a realistic flight model. Frontier: Elite II is one of the games I enjoyed very much, even though it had a lot of technical issues.

Hmm, perhaps I should write a few sentences about what Elite is about. In the original game you started with a Cobra Mk III space ship in the Lave system and some credits you could spend on trade commodities. You could then try your luck as a trader, pirate, or bounty hunter. The overall goal was to reach Elite status, but how you reached that goal was up to you. In Elite there were 6 galaxies with 256 stars each you could explore. In the upcoming Elite Dangerous you’ll have the whole Milky Way to explore. In a way it will be THE open-world game!

For some reason I missed the Elite Dangerous Kickstarter but during the last months I almost watched every piece of Alpha footage I could find on Youtube. The graphics definitely look great and the gameplay I’ve seen so far is pretty awesome even considering that the game was still in Alpha.  The sound design is just awesome and the UI really helps to immerse yourself in the universe. Elite Dangerous will also be a multiplayer game (single player is still an option though) which allows you to play with other people.

At the moment I am really tempted to buy the Premium Beta package. It’s quite expensive (120€) but it includes access to the beta plus the full game when it comes out including all future expansions. At least two expansions are already planned: one that will allow to fly around in planets’ atmospheres and land on planets, moons, etc. and a second one which allows you to leave your space ship to run around in cities or even go game hunting on alien planets. Wow!

What are your thoughts on Elite Dangerous? Have you backed the Kickstarter back in the day? Do you still remember the original game or one of its sequels? Please share your thoughts below!

A Roleplaying Games blog