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Author Topic: Space Opera Gaming  (Read 632 times)

jeff37923

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #15 on: November 24, 2021, 05:58:50 PM »
Hm, well, you could do it like Goblin Slayer basically as a subversion of genre tropes.

I've never watched Goblin Slayer, but sure, you could play as a subversion of Space Opera genre tropes... but within the context of this thread, why would you want to? The OP's question wasn't about how to play Space Opera while not really playing Space Opera; it was about how to play honest-to-god Space Opera.

Except the definition of space opera has changed over the years. A lot of the responses here regard space opera as a direct descendant of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, but there was a time when Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle were writing space opera with Footfall and The Mote in God's Eye. Some have even called Alastair Reynolds House of Suns to be space opera.

"Honest-to-God" space opera should be defined.

Wrath of God

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #16 on: November 24, 2021, 06:37:37 PM »
For me Space Feudalism is Da Way.
Somewhere between Fading Suns, Dune and Warhammer.

Bit more diverse and larger than FS with its (5 houses, 5 sects, 5 guilds standard), less sprawling and less based on SUPERHUMAN than Dune, less insane and parodistic than 40k.
Both psionic and some occult/theurgic/mystic more organised powers are fine for me. Diversity of weaponry.
Some sort of anti-technology stance as common tendency among mankind at least default mankind.
Definitely space demons.
Aliens both somehow humanoid - potentially linked by common meddling of ELDER RACE, and alien from world independent from ER meddlings.
Not much massive bombastic wars like in 40k. If such happens they fuck up whole civilisation for few generation.

Now one thing in those 3 that always annoyed me was some future space religions that payed symbolic structural lip service to real life Abrahamic religions while being fundamentally something else - Ecclesia in Warhammer, Church in Dune. I decided way to avoid this sense of irkness would be to remove abrahamic religions from backstory - evolve world independently from Year 0 (one would say even earlier but I think generally speaking Israel was geopolitically one plucky Caanan kingdom among many, and never had like reallly imperial role in history sans religio) and then like move humanity from pagan philosophies of imperial era, to religion based on revelation while in space.
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Ratman_tf

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #17 on: November 24, 2021, 07:14:41 PM »
Hm, well, you could do it like Goblin Slayer basically as a subversion of genre tropes.

I've never watched Goblin Slayer, but sure, you could play as a subversion of Space Opera genre tropes... but within the context of this thread, why would you want to? The OP's question wasn't about how to play Space Opera while not really playing Space Opera; it was about how to play honest-to-god Space Opera.

Except the definition of space opera has changed over the years. A lot of the responses here regard space opera as a direct descendant of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, but there was a time when Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle were writing space opera with Footfall and The Mote in God's Eye. Some have even called Alastair Reynolds House of Suns to be space opera.

"Honest-to-God" space opera should be defined.

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Shawn Driscoll

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #18 on: November 24, 2021, 11:18:02 PM »
What KILLS Space Opera for you when it raises its head?
When spacebombers fly over other spaceships and drop their payload of bombs on them. Anyway, space opera is just soap opera in space is all. So figure out how you would run a soap opera. Then add space to it.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2021, 11:20:38 PM by Shawn Driscoll »

David Johansen

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #19 on: November 24, 2021, 11:27:46 PM »
The space bombers are just using the ship's internal artificial gravity to power their release, what's wrong with that? :D

I generally feel the big problem with Star Wars is that the movies generally need five minutes of explanation added.

I lean towards harder sf.  I do like FTL because it lets you go somewhere new every week.  You can face entirely different geopolitics from one session to the next.

For space opera I do like some consistency and thoughtfulness.  To me the big line is thinking about how various technologies would affect society.  You can postulate a matter / energy conversion system so advanced that it can create virtual worlds and artificial sentient beings but please explain why they keep using it when it malfunctions every single time it comes up.
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GeekyBugle

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #20 on: November 25, 2021, 11:36:15 AM »
I like all those things OP.

My big problem with Space Opera - a genre I love - is that for easy long term RPG play you need a default game activity, and space opera gaming does not have the equivalent of D&D's 'go in the dungeon & loot'. Traveller has 'buy & sell', and Star Wars has 'go shoot some Stormtroopers'. The former is a bit dull. The latter is ok for linear mission based play, but does not lend it to the kind of sandboxing I like.

This is a brilliant summary of my experiences. I have never had a satisfying space opera sandbox experience because of this.

The other KILL switch is having alien species that are so psychologically similar to humans that they feel like humans in rubber suits. I prefer a human-centric setting with aliens being so alien that they are not playable as PC's.

Mix in some Stargate then:

You go exploring to find tech from "The Ancients tm". You rescue Humans on those other worlds. You fight the Evil Aliens by using said "Ancient Tech".

All of this could be as a goverment agent, a plucky group of adventurers, etc.
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3catcircus

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #21 on: November 26, 2021, 08:02:40 PM »
This is not about systems, per se. This is about genre conceits and "what is cool". AND more importantly, do established Space Opera settings get in the way of your ability to enjoy other settings in the genre?

What elements do you like in a Space Opera?

 - Human space federation?
 - FTL?
 - Pseudo-Science?
 - Lots of humanoid aliens?
 - Capital ship customization and combat?
 - Fighter-scale combat?
 - Psionics? How powerful?
 - Politics/Exploration?

What KILLS Space Opera for you when it raises its head?

It all depends on how it is handled.

I think psionics are bullshit "space magic" from a crystal worshiping bygone era of science fiction literature. Don't like them one bit. However, the way that they are handled in the Babylon 5 setting and the Official Traveller Universe as the Zhodani Consulate are really done well and thus are tolerable. I'd like to see more adventures showing how these settings got to that point because I can easily see Akira level and Stranger Things level of disasters previously in the setting history as people experimented with psionics.

If the setting only gives lip service to science and engineering, then it is science fantasy like Star Trek and Star Wars. Yet they work when they are internally consistent. This is one of the reasons why the Star Wars sequels and Star Trek Voyager failed - the characters that had been established went against their own moral and ethical convictions to behave in manners particularly unlike their characters as had been established.

If you go for hard science space opera, you have to deal with the probability that Faster Then Light travel is impossible, that life on other worlds may be just simple unicellular forms (mainly because mitochondria may have been just a happy accident on Earth), and that magical nanotech can't happen because of engineering thermodynamic problems (a lot of heat will get generated during assembly/disassembly). These factors would make for an interesting setting, but would not capture the interest of most players (as evidenced by the responses to this thread).

Lets look at direct neural interface between humans and machines. This looks highly improbable the more you look at the difficulties involved, yet it gets kept around and used because it is a cool idea to have in a game. So it stays because of Rule of Cool.

Where ideas in space opera, and science fiction in general, gaming fail is when they break the suspension of disbelief in the players. Star Wars as a setting works with all its violations of known science because it established a suspension of disbelief in the audience thanks mainly to its cinematic roots. It doesn't matter that AT-ATs and AT-STs are some of the most impractical war machines ever seen, they look cool and provide a credible threat to the heroes since they first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back - so they are accepted in the setting. Staying within the Star Wars setting, Mary Sue Palpatine (Rey) fails the suspension of disbelief in the sequel trilogy because there is nothing that she cannot do with the Force while Din Djarin succeeds in The Mandalorian because while he is heroic he has limitations that he cannot exceed which helps to maintain the suspension of disbelief.

I'm starting to ramble, but whether or not a particular space opera setting works for me (and I like it) depends more on how it is implemented than what exact aspects it has in it.

So. In regards to the neural interface and other "future tech." We're already there. It's crude, but there are things to allow amputees and quadriplegics to control stuff. 

There are many "almost there" technologies that can be used to make things imperfect and unsafe with FTL travel, direct neural interfaces, laserguns, Star Trek style teleporters, etc.

Even psionics should be imperfect with the possibility of burning out your brain, inadvertently destroying stuff of injuring those around you.

Oh - and the whole starship combat - it needs to be silent and it needs to be four dimensional rather than "WW2 dogfights with spaceships."

Charon's Little Helper

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #22 on: November 26, 2021, 11:48:41 PM »
I like all those things OP.

My big problem with Space Opera - a genre I love - is that for easy long term RPG play you need a default game activity, and space opera gaming does not have the equivalent of D&D's 'go in the dungeon & loot'. Traveller has 'buy & sell', and Star Wars has 'go shoot some Stormtroopers'. The former is a bit dull. The latter is ok for linear mission based play, but does not lend it to the kind of sandboxing I like.

I find starship sci-fi (not necessarily full-on space opera) works well when the setting allows for small groups of privateers to be viable. Maybe not in the core systems, but on the outskirts/frontier/etc.

So you can take jobs as pirate hunters, as guards for a convoy, to hunt down stolen cargo, or to hunt down a bounty etc.

While privateers specifically don't fit a lot of sci-fi settings, having the PCs be bounty hunters who moonlight as general purpose mercs isn't generally super hard so long as there isn't instant interstellar communication.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2021, 11:50:45 PM by Charon's Little Helper »

Mistwell

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #23 on: Today at 01:16:15 AM »
My big problem with Space Opera - a genre I love - is that for easy long term RPG play you need a default game activity, and space opera gaming does not have the equivalent of D&D's 'go in the dungeon & loot'. Traveller has 'buy & sell', and Star Wars has 'go shoot some Stormtroopers'. The former is a bit dull. The latter is ok for linear mission based play, but does not lend it to the kind of sandboxing I like.

I don't mean to be insulting, but this sounds more like a failure of your own imagination than it does a failure of the game systems or official settings. For both Traveller and Star Wars in the official settings you can do campaigns of exploration, colonization, political intrigue, free trade, mining/prospecting, and many others. Hell, some of the weird ones that worked was a wandering rock band,  a new market group of a fast food restaurant chain, and a wildcat graffiti artist collective out to tag every world in known space.

Every time I see your ideas concerning traveler I get inspired. Do you have a blog or videos or anything collecting your ideas or campaign reports or anything like that?