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Author Topic: Space Opera Gaming  (Read 6923 times)

Mishihari

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #30 on: December 07, 2021, 01:13:03 PM »
I like
  Fast action
  A setting akin to the age of pirates
  FTL
  Lots of sciency-looking stuff
  Space combat
  Ancient ruins
  Alien aliens
  Exploration among uncharted stars (brownie points for anyone who catches the reference)
  Humor
Don't like
  Humans are irrelevant to the setting (I'm looking at you, Iain Banks...)
  Godlike AI
  Time travel
  Rey
  Really dumb science mistakes

As an example, Pirates of the Caribbean in space would be perfect.   Authors that hit many elements of the right tone, though not all of them are space opera, include Poul Anderson, Andre Norton, Larry Niven, John Ringo, Jerry Pournelle, and David Drake.  Counterexamples would be Iain Banks and Peter Hamilton.

Aglondir

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #31 on: December 07, 2021, 06:27:11 PM »
A setting akin to the age of pirates
I'd like to see a space opera setting that ditched the WW2 dogfights for broadsides and boarding parties (breaching pods.) Where the goal of space combat isn't to blow up the opposing ship, but capture it.


Exploration among uncharted stars (brownie points for anyone who catches the reference)
Sorry, missed it (?)

Rey
LOL


Marchand

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #32 on: December 08, 2021, 05:59:49 AM »

Don't like
  Humans are irrelevant to the setting (I'm looking at you, Iain Banks...)
  Godlike AI


As an example, Pirates of the Caribbean in space would be perfect.   Authors that hit many elements of the right tone, though not all of them are space opera, include Poul Anderson, Andre Norton, Larry Niven, John Ringo, Jerry Pournelle, and David Drake.  Counterexamples would be Iain Banks and Peter Hamilton.

As far as pirates in space goes, have you caught the Alastair Reynolds Revenger/Shadow Captain series? It pretty much aims for exactly this vibe. Space pirates delving space dungeons for treasure.

Also, not sure I follow on Iain Banks. Culture people are not Earth humans but in practice they might as well be (and some of them fit into Earth 1977 well enough to pass as locals in State of the Art). Is it that the Culture is heavily influenced by its AIs? In practice the AIs are either working on a different plane and so ignorable, or when they interact with humans, they show basically human personalities and motivations. The drones are really just people in robot suits.

Consider Phlebas, set during the Idiran war, has some very gameable sequences, like the raid on the temple or on the doomed Orbital, or the final race to secure the macguffin in the tunnels.

"If the English surrender, it'll be a long war!"
- Scottish soldier on the beach at Dunkirk

"Sorry, we don't have the facility to take you all prisoner."
Lt-Col John "Johnny" Frost, responding to German offer to discuss surrender terms, Arnhem, Sept 1944

S'mon

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #33 on: December 08, 2021, 06:54:41 AM »
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.

I agree, there is a pretty broad genre that can legitimately be considered space opera. Just from TV & film I'd certainly think Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly; and I think a lot of military SF like Starship Troopers could reasonably count. Literary SF like Asimov's Foundation series or Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep I think counts, though very dry Hard SF I think lacks that 'operatic' dramatic feel. I don't think Arthur C Clarke ever wrote Space Opera.

The scope does not always have to be the Fate of the Galaxy, either - swashbuckling space opera can have smaller stakes, as long as there's drama and flair.

S'mon

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #34 on: December 08, 2021, 07:02:37 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.

You can do anything in any game, the question is whether the game itself offers support for that activity. Are there rules with an obstacle-action-reward play loop for that activity? Traditional D&D has a ton of support for dungeon-bashing. Traveller has a full play loop for free trading. For exploration, it is good at generating environments, but afaict it does not generate rewards for exploration, so the GM has to come up with something. I'm not aware of any game that has a full play loop for being a wandering rock band (not even Cyberpunk 2020!) or for being graffiti artists.

Edit: For the rock band, I'd expect
(a) environment generators - what gig, where.
(b) Obstacle generators - obsessed fans, travel issues, technical issues - and ways for the PCs to address them beyond simply rolling the 'solve problem' skill.
(c) Rewards, dependent on PC choices and achievements.

Otherwise it's just a chargen system followed by the rulebook author waving their hands "You're on your own now".

Wrath of God

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #35 on: December 08, 2021, 09:51:20 AM »
Quote
Blue: IMHO that's a no-no, Space Opera tends towards a black & white morality. Unless it's the charming rogue that will/has reform and joins the good guys.

Some parts of it sure - like Star Wars. But then there are many works counted as Space Opera commonly without such assumptions: Dune, Legend of Galactic Heroes, Hyperion.

"Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.”

"And I will strike down upon thee
With great vengeance and furious anger"


"Molti Nemici, Molto Onore"

Mishihari

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #36 on: December 08, 2021, 03:16:17 PM »

Also, not sure I follow on Iain Banks. Culture people are not Earth humans but in practice they might as well be (and some of them fit into Earth 1977 well enough to pass as locals in State of the Art). Is it that the Culture is heavily influenced by its AIs? In practice the AIs are either working on a different plane and so ignorable, or when they interact with humans, they show basically human personalities and motivations. The drones are really just people in robot suits.

Consider Phlebas, set during the Idiran war, has some very gameable sequences, like the raid on the temple or on the doomed Orbital, or the final race to secure the macguffin in the tunnels.

It may have to do with which books I read.  I think I read Excession first, in which humans are essentially pets of the AIs.  They don't accomplish anything, they don't get to make any decisions, and nothing they do is of consequence because the AIs are better at everything.  I think I read one more which didn't change my impression, then gave up on the author.

I'm not saying it's not gameable, and I'm not saying it's not space opera.  I'm just saying I don't enjoy the setting and don't care to read or play anything based on it.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2021, 04:49:48 PM by Mishihari »

BoxCrayonTales

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #37 on: December 09, 2021, 03:20:29 PM »
I think "space opera" has become so broad as to be effectively meaningless. I prefer to take a sentence or two to describe what the player characters are expected to be doing.

I'm currently working on a setting inspired by a variety of influences, primarily 80s/90s gritty scifi. There's FTL travel, cyberpunk, a bug war, psychics, espionage, mechs, corpos, genemods, cyborgs, and so on. It's basically d20 Future. I wouldn't call it space opera, tho.

HappyDaze

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #38 on: December 10, 2021, 12:37:36 PM »
A setting akin to the age of pirates
I'd like to see a space opera setting that ditched the WW2 dogfights for broadsides and boarding parties (breaching pods.) Where the goal of space combat isn't to blow up the opposing ship, but capture it.
If you don't mind WH40K, the FFG Rogue Trader game was age of sail piracy in space. When going against non-Chaos/non-Xenos vessels, capture was far preferred over destruction.

DragonBane

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #39 on: December 10, 2021, 02:26:40 PM »
Old Star Trek style.

Cool Action.

Great people.

Phasers.

Cool aliens. Even that Gorn lizard thing would make a great monster.

Babes in miniskirts.  ::)
« Last Edit: December 10, 2021, 02:34:17 PM by DragonBane »

DragonBane

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #40 on: December 10, 2021, 02:32:56 PM »
How do you get rid of a post here?

jeff37923

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #41 on: December 10, 2021, 05:05:37 PM »
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.

You can do anything in any game, the question is whether the game itself offers support for that activity. Are there rules with an obstacle-action-reward play loop for that activity? Traditional D&D has a ton of support for dungeon-bashing. Traveller has a full play loop for free trading. For exploration, it is good at generating environments, but afaict it does not generate rewards for exploration, so the GM has to come up with something. I'm not aware of any game that has a full play loop for being a wandering rock band (not even Cyberpunk 2020!) or for being graffiti artists.

Edit: For the rock band, I'd expect
(a) environment generators - what gig, where.
(b) Obstacle generators - obsessed fans, travel issues, technical issues - and ways for the PCs to address them beyond simply rolling the 'solve problem' skill.
(c) Rewards, dependent on PC choices and achievements.

Otherwise it's just a chargen system followed by the rulebook author waving their hands "You're on your own now".

T4 Main Rulebook, p167 -

Performances: Characters may also sell their artistic talents in performances. The normal base payoff for a performance tour (one month) on each world is Cr500 times the market world’s population code (from its UWP). Multiply this times
the appropriate skill level of the performer (Acting, Art, Dance, Music, or Writing), and then multiply it again by the Broker skill of the character acting as agent (which may be the performer himself). Then consult the Actual Value Table for the final payoff, applying the usual modifiers (including Broker skill). No modifiers apply for souceworld or marketworld; it is assumed that the performer tailors the show to suit the audience.

For example, a performer with with Music-3, managed by a trader with Broker-4, performing on a world with a population code of 10, would have a base price of Cr60,000 (3 x 4 x 10 x Cr500). If the roll on the Actual Value Table were 9, the Broker skill would raise this to 13, resulting in a 200 percent payoff. The performer would receive Cr120,000 for this set of shows.

These rules are what we used for the rock band and the graffiti artists.

As far as generating gigs and obstacles, I'd just log onto artists websites and social media to steal ideas from those. Rolling Stone was great for pop culture ideas.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2021, 05:08:13 PM by jeff37923 »
"I do not want to create a story, I want to create a stage. The player characters will perform on that stage and interact with the setting. When the players talk to their friends about what their characters did, then there will be a story."

Svenhelgrim

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #42 on: December 11, 2021, 12:10:23 PM »
I love all of the things listed.  BRING ON THE CHEESE.

Lurkndog

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #43 on: December 12, 2021, 12:05:08 AM »
OP got me thinking about the necessary minimum requirements of Space Opera - the stuff without which you can't have it. I think it's the following:

- There is an active, dynamic conflict or threat with a moral dimension. There are Bad Guys out there, and if someone doesn't do something, the Bad Guys will win.
- Extraordinary individuals have a chance to change the outcome of that conflict. The Big Damn Heroes step up to the plate and actively participate in the conflict. A party that spends all of its time looting space dungeons and swindling primitive natives while not giving a shit about the Evil Empire is NOT Space Opera
- Individual actions triumph over objective chances. The Big Damn Heroes can succeed even if they have a smaller force, less advanced weaponry, and a crappy logistics train.

MAYBE:
- The technological assumptions of the setting (be they realistic or not) are set up in such a way as to facilitate space combat. The setting allows for spaceships to go pew-pew at each other, because it's cool.

In my opinion, anything else might be a common element in Space Opera, but is not strictly necessary. You CAN have S.O. without a sprawling interstellar empire, you set within a single solar system. You CAN have it with only humans, or with a bewildering array of aliens. You CAN have it handwaved bullshit technology or with reasonably realistic hard sci-fi. You CAN have it with or without space magic, whether that be psionics, nanotech, cybernetics or actual supernatural powers.
A couple additions:
  • The system must be set up to do man-to-man scale combat, vehicle scale combat (car/flying car scale), and space combat.
  • As a corollary, the system must allow fast healing through tech or space magic. Realistic healing is right out, nobody's got time to spend a year recuperating from a fall down the stairs or a gunfight.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Space Opera Gaming
« Reply #44 on: December 12, 2021, 01:38:31 PM »
What elements do you like in a Space Opera?

For me the things I definitely like are:
- FTL. I want scope and multiple worlds with the same people.
- I like the science and tech as hard as necessary to be convincing, while still wild enough to be fascinating and different. (Yes, energy hand weapons aren't as realistic a possible tech as we once thought they might be, but I still want my pew-pew rayguns, dammit!)
- Spacecraft combat, both at small (fighter) and large (capital) scales.
- Politics and exploration, definitely.
- Action as well as drama.
- Aliens I can take or leave, but I definitely like a universe large enough to contain them even if they aren't in a given story.
- I definitely like psi/mystical powers, although not at such a level that characters without them become irrelevant to the plot.

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

The things that I really don't like are less specific tropes and more general attitudes, all of which can probably be summed up as anything that feels too "anti-human", or "anti-hope". Alastair Reynolds' stuff looks very bleak and cynical, as does much of Iain Banks' Culture stuff or John Scalzi's Interdependency. Hitting too hard on ideas like "no place in the universe will ever really live up to Earth as a home for humans", "transhumanism is both inevitable and dehumanizing", "people are just no damn good and won't get any better out in space", etc. I don't mind acknowledging the universe's vastness and darkness, but not at the expense of any light.
Better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. -- Mark Twain

STR 8 DEX 10 CON 10 INT 11 WIS 6 CHA 3