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23 October 2013 @ 06:13 pm
3PSO: The Threepenny Space Opera  
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.

gatewalkergatewalker on October 24th, 2013 05:13 pm (UTC)
Well, here's the best I've got...
The idea of having all character be able to do something in vehicular combat without needing to be specialized for it is something I've been muddling over awhile as well. Not very seriously, since I don't run or play in anything with vehicular combat as a rule, but it crops up every now and again.

The only time I can think of it being done "well" and the quotes are there for a reason, is the video game Wild Arms 3. In WA3, you get a sandcraft type vehicle to drive around on the worlds oceans of sand that you cannot actually walk on by foot, and while doing so you occasionally get attacked by...well, gigantic sandswimming kaiju. In the sandcraft, your four party members each have to take a differant role, and you can assign who goes where. The roles are:

The Helmsman: Moves the craft and releases flares to adjust the flow of battle. When the Helmsman gets a turn, you can do thins like try to move behind the enemy to line up a shot on their weakpoint, or try to move out of the enemy's attack range, stuff like that. Obviously, the pilot in a sci-fi analogue.

The Gunner: Self explanatory, fires the gun that does the damage and kills the monster.

The Harpooner: Fires the harpoon, which lets you pull monsters in closer to deal more damage with the gun...at risk of the monster doing more damage to you. Can also restrict monster movement. Hard to think of a way to make this kind of position work for space faring, unless you want to get into space combat actively using tractor beams against eachother? That could be cool, actually.

The Deckmate: The "White Mage" of the crew, can repair hull damage and buff the stats of the other positions. Feels like "engineering" would fit this role in a space game.

Of course, this system has it's hiccups as well, but it's still the best I've seen vehicle combat done where you still have each member of the party doing something, instead of just going from controlling the party to controlling a single entity(the vehicle itself).

Here's a video of how they do it, if you want to take a look. Hopefully this can spark a few interesting ideas for how to do ship combat?

one in a billionsiege on October 24th, 2013 11:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Well, here's the best I've got...
Remember "Outlaw Star"? You have Navigator, Sensor control, Missile and turret control, and the Helmsman/pilot controls both overall maneuvering and the special combat waldos (as well as any weapons they hold). And sometimes you can have separate pilots controlling separate waldos -- the ship designs were incredible.

I tried to make a tournament-style module for BESM based on the space race in that anime. You could choose one of several different teams to be on, with a different array of characters and motivations. The best ship (ersatz Outlaw Star of course), for instance, had no crew -- but you could hire a full crew of ratmen IF your character could get over his traumatic fear of rodents AND you promised half your profits to them (instead of spending it all on the ship like usual).

On top of that, there was a diplomatic meeting between several political factions taking place on the nearby space station, with a bomb-threat subplot that would take away time and resources from the race itself if you wanted to deal with that. Some of the teams had political motivations that would force them to choose between plotlines. Fortunately, it had its own reward if someone solved the mystery before any delegates got killed, and in the overall campaign that meeting would have consequences later on depending on what craziness got pulled off and what sort of role-playing happened between the players and delegates.

And that's just one possible event on a journey between the stars.

Edited at 2013-10-24 11:05 pm (UTC)
Your Obedient Serpent: weird scienceathelind on October 24th, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Well, here's the best I've got...
One thing I'm looking at for inspiration is the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator, a LAN game in which everyone takes different stations on the bridge of a starship.

Take a look at the manual. They go out of their way to make sure that EVERY station can have a SIGNIFICANT impact on game play -- even Communications!

"Uhura, what do you do?"

"I'm going to taunt the enemy captain."

Yes, eventually, the ideas I get from Artemis will be a 3PSO entry unto themselves (probably mixed with Wild Arms and Outlaw Star).

Edited at 2013-10-24 11:48 pm (UTC)