Okay, I’ve been GMing and playing rpgs for a while now, and I’ve done DnD high fantasy, 4E Steampunk, nWoD horror, political vampire, investigative nMage, and hack and slash 3.5. But I’ve never run or played Space Opera… ever.
I am quite surprised at the reception the peeps had when I suggested a Space Opera game. It seemed our group had a hidden cache of rabid starwars fans and closet trekkies. (I was even surprised some understood Huttesse! o_o) But anyway, since this is our first run toward a Space Opera Game, I suppose I best give a quick rundown on what Space Opera is all about.
The Space Opera Mindset
To be able to play in a Space Opera, you have to first think like a Space Opera.
- Proper Names. Since I can’t exactly spend time to go to this type of specifics, and you still wish your character to be witty, just say something that is acceptable in the 20th Century, but change a letter or two to make it sound (as Trillian of Hitchiker’s Guide said…) “SPACEY.”
For example, Seinfeld becomes Zanefield. Paris Hilton becomes Maris Zilthon. But some references whom you think still exist in the setting can still be said normally: like Burger King. Because I really think that even in Space, Burger King will survive. Note though: Don’t mimic other scifi stuff that substitute the word ‘Tele’ with the word ‘Holo’ (Television and Telefone becomes Holovision and Holofone) They’re uneducated translations. ‘Tele’ is greek which means “Far off, from a distance” and is still applicable whether Holographic technology is already possible. A Television with a Hologram is still called a Television, and so forth.
- Also, I suggest watching films like Riddick, Galactica, Star Trek, Firefly, and Babylon 5 – as well as military scifi such as Starship Troopers, perhaps comics like Warhammer 40k and Star Wars KOTOR, and pop in some novels from Ursula Le guin and Orson Scott Card.
Believe me, its like gentle hypnotism, before you know it, you start saying stellar galactic stuff out of the blue. (Sorry Classic Star Wars fans, I cant suggest it since classic SW doesnt really give too much hard-science to help give you the future-friendly mindset)
- Pointyman gave more info on Space Opera roleplaying in his cool article here..
Space Opera, even Anime-inspired Space Opera, do not normally have superpowered beings. The exceptions, however, are the Warhammer 40k universe (who incorporates lichdom, psionics and eldar mysticsm), Star Wars (which, quite frankly, is just High Fantasy in space), and fantasy-inspired space operas (like Farscape and Andromeda). However to specify the setting of the game – let me put up things in the billboard:
- The setting is neither too light nor too dark a setting. Its an unforgiving setting, yes, but one that doesn’t cross the emo category, but actually spoofs and makes fun of itself. Kind of like Firefly.
- Space Roaches. When mankind went into space in their state-of-the-art starships, the roaches hitched a ride. So yes, your starships sometimes still need an exterminator.
- Blasters, Proton guns and Ion Cannons are limited only to ships. The tech level in the game can only give you folks standard guns and ammunitions as gun-type weapons. So yes, like military scifi, there are still Desert Eagle revolvers and Arctic rifles in the game – and those are the most widespread weapons. Experimental high-tech weapons, however, may still incorporate ray guns… but those are RARE. Think of Joss Whedon’s Firefly: The setting is similar to that.
- Cigarettes and booze are still around. (Meh, was there any doubt?) Both of which has evolved past the “it can be hazardous to your health” to downright toxic. Some inns are known to challenge people’s constitutions by giving off special drinks called Sputzes to see if you can take it. These are highly experimental and may contain unknown ingredients scavenged from nebulas and the like. Many patrons have died off these illegal drinks, so be careful.
- Stealth Suits ‘ala Predator do exist. But they are military grade, and are not widely distributed. If you have one, you can sell it for some massive cash. But then why would you?
- My friends have been asking if there are Aliens in the setting. My only response to that is… FIND OUT. (lol) Anyhow, in this version of Alternity Stardrive, the aliens (Fraal and the like) have never been discovered, and FTL travel was done by purely human genius alone. (This ain’t Star Trek chums, this is more Firefly: no aliens… yet.)
- Just to clarify… there are no hovercars in the game. There are still land vehicles (automobiles and motorcycles ala cyberpunk) and some sky vehicles (jets, skyships and the like). Its just that sky vehicles are much more expensive than the land-based ones. There are of course Starships, which make the costs of sky vehicles seem like that of penny-candies. Only the big ‘uns can have a starship. After all, even the crappiest starship o the galaxy is better than nothing.
- Yes, there are cybernetics. If you lost an arm, apply for a cybernetic one. Androids are here too, artificial humans with computerized databases for brains, and are almost exclusively used for social relations. Robots are called ‘Droids’ in the game, and are mostly military in origin. Mecha and Powersuits however, do not exist.
- FTL Travel is only limited to capital ships, destroyers, and star freighters. Small-sized starships are unable to use these heavy technology for the sole reason that ‘it just doesnt have enough room.’ The STARDRIVE (called Hyperdrive in some fiction)in this setting is still an experimental project.
- Yes, there is human and animal cloning. However human clones are rarely accepted as ‘humans’ and are secondary citizens only. Some civilizations (particularly the Federation) use clones in ‘almost’ slave-like functions. Some more questionable organizations even make clones as infiltration devices, and some import them as specialized prostitutes. They are also known to clone food, especially in those planetary sectors that do not normally support domestic life.
- Mutations in humans are there but very rare. Meaning your character, if you are a mutant – are one of the very few ‘special’ ones. Of course, the Federation, paranoid of the danger mutants may cause, do not see it that way.
- You may hear references towards the First Galactic Age, Second Galactic Age, and the Third Galactic Age in the setting. These signify the changes in mankind’s lifestyle through the ages, similar as what we know as the Dark Ages, the Renaissance Age, and the Modern Age. Like them, most of the records regarding those ages are lost.
- Quantum and Relativity inspired Tech levels should be avoided. STARDRIVE, the first of the Quantum tech is supposed to be one of a kind – that’s why its so dang unique.