RPPR Episode 148: When the Fat Alien Sings – Space Operas

News: Red Markets is on DrivethruRPG (PDF) and Indie Press Revolution (print and PDF) Buy it now! I was at Patrecon, a conference for Patreon creators and you can briefly see me at 2:05 in this video about it. As always, check out the RPPR Patreon!

Synopsis: We’re in a space opera mood at RPPR. I am running Ashen Stars, Thor: Ragnarok was great and a new Star Wars movie is coming. So, Dan, Shaun, Tom, and I discuss what space operas, what they entail and how to use them in RPGs. We also mention the Picaresque genre, Spaceship Zero and of course we have shout outs and anecdotes!

Shout Outs

  • Conspire: a storytelling game of conspiracies
  • Synthicide: A sci-fi RPG about blowing up robots and exploring the universe.
  • Twilight Imperium 4E: It’s back and better than ever
  • Demon Underground: a web comic by a fellow Patreon creator, Bob.
  • Delirium Brief: The newest Laundry novel returns to Bob as he deals with the most deadly threat he’s ever faced.
  • Raiders of the Lost Art: A documentary series about stolen artwork, currently on Netflix.
  • The Outlaws: A Korean crime thriller about the invasion of a Chinese gang in Seoul.
  • Re:Creators: An anime series that sounds like a Base Raiders adventure.
  • The Wailing: A horror film about a small farming village in Korea under siege from a mysterious plague.
  • Air Crash Investigation: A documentary series that looks into infamous plane crashes.
  • Ninja Kitty: A cool creator on Patreon of erotic art. (NSFW)

Song: Hyperspace by Jaunter

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  1. Good timing! I’ve been consuming a lot of Neal Asher and Iain M. Banks lately and I’ve been wondering about RPPR in a non Eclipse Phase context for a while.

    I have Fragged Empire and Coriolis and I can’t wait to dig into that and I’m going to pick up Ashen Stars at Dragonmeet.

    I think the earliest stuff I remember sinking my teeth into is probably the Flash (aaah) Gordon movie and cartoons Ulysses 31. Also Warhammer 40k.

  2. For another space opera kick check out legend of the galactic heroes aka logh aka Ginga Eiy? Densetsu aka Heldensagen vom Kosmosinsel, its an anime from the 80’s with 4 seasons of 25 ish episodes each which is a lot but if you watch the fisrt season you’ll be hooked.

    it tells the story of a war between the free planets alliance and the galactic empire. As the eternal war between the two powers grinds a man on each side rises to change history forever, the reluctant republican hero Yang Wen-li tries to live till retirement so he can study history and the ambitious count Reinhard von Müsel seeks the power to free his sister from being the emperors concubine.

    Its just brilliant hundreds of characters who are well characterised, a deep plot full of intrigue meditations on war, history, governance, republicanism, autocracy and institutionalised bullshit.

    the music is all classical as well if you care for that sort of thing.

    its now available on hidive if you have a premium account if you like your anime legal.

    anyway its good but quit long i got hooked on it and as yang posits

    “Alcohol is humanity’s friend. How can I abandon a friend?”

  3. Sort of deconstruction idea just popped up while hearing the related discussion, what if the whole plot of the campaign is around the players being players and they end up killing the big bad evil villain first session while at some speech or the like. then follow with the disastrous fallout of having the big bads forces in chaos or gone wild with out their masters reins to hold them or having the players take over and how the rest of the galaxy/setting react to this? this can be planned of the get or (if you know your players) set it up as a contingency for the setting.

    … (Starts writing down this idea for personal use later)

    Always a treat to hear back and forth discussion on sub-genre and how to apply them to games. Earliest space opera was definitely Star Wars. However, personal favourites later on were Mass Effect and a little CGI series called Shadow Raiders/War Planets.

  4. What would you guys classify Dune as that c enters primarily around 1 planet.

    Also I just remembered Bucky O’hare and Exo-Force (though that one’s more of a military SF but for kids).

  5. @Adam Makey
    Dune centers on Arrakis, but features several planets in the first novel, let alone the rest of the series. Each of these planets serves a valuable role in the plot, mainly to illustrate the frankly melodramatic characters of the overall factions involved. Giedi Prime showcases the Harkonnen as a self-serving industrial complex with no regard for the environmental or social consequences of their actions. Selusa Secundus is discussed as a blasted hellscape that justifies the ferocity of the Sardaukar. Kaitan is the gilded baroque throne world of the Empire, hiding deep rot under pomp and glistening riches while foreshadowing that the rustic forwardness fostered on Arrakis will be the key to revolution. Caladan is used to establish Paul as not only a future hawk out of water, but also the bringer of water to Arrakis. Plenty of planets in the first novel. Even without the crucial influence of these disparate worlds, Dune showcases a far more serious presentation of what essentially is a solid space opera. The epic scale ramps up all the way through Chapterhouse. So uh…yes. Dune is totes space opera.

  6. Crazon:

    Your idea sounds a little like the long-running Traveller campaign I joined for a while. Sometime before I joined, the PCs had interviened in a small nation-state on a balkanized planet. Though they didn’t do it themselves, the result of their meddling was the assasination of that country’s king. The king’s succesor (his sister/wife, it was a really fucked-up country in the first place) was even worse, so we returned to depose her and the spec-ops team we brought in from a neighbouring country simply assasinated her as the prelude to an invasion. After that, we discovered that the queen had been experimenting with cloning and imprinting memories, as suddenly multiple copies of the dead queen appeared and rallied loyalist troops to fight the invaders, and each other. The last time we visited the planet while I was with the group, we went to release an engineered blight that would eliminate the resource that the nation-states of the region had been fighting over: a tree which produced an anagathic which had the side effect of driving people insane if they consumed enough of it. I’m sure we solved that planet’s problems for good that time. At one point, one of the players was plotting out our travels on a star map and we noted the numerous lines going to and from that one particular star system, another player blurted out “I knew it! It is the arse-hole of the universe!”

    The earliest space opera I was exposed to were old Flash Gordon & Buck Rogers serials that were being shown on a classic cinema tv show, sometime before Star Wars.

  7. Matt Mercer

    Space Opera blahblahblah. Great podcast. Checking your archives, there’s nothing on running a dungeon delve. Maybe because you folks don’t run them. It gives you more cred when you actually run games that players find themselves in.

    Also! A more horror-based ‘sword & sorcery’ game with a strong social dynamic is waiting to be created. Do it. Rather than coin, the players trade and exchange ” wit, fear, and humor ” tokens to survive disabling terror. Yeah.

  8. I enjoyed the separation of space opera into genre and setting. I think that’s a useful distinction, particularly when considering gritty reboots.

    Deep cut on Spaceship Zero! I also have a copy because I really enjoy the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, but I have yet to play it. It sounds like Shaun no longer has a copy, but you can still get used copies for reasonable prices on Amazon if you’d like to revisit it.

    I’m also pretty stoked for upcoming Ashen Stars APs.

    @Crazon I really like that idea. It’s very appealing in a more realistic power vacuum sense, rather than the politically load-bearing boss usually seen in fantasy and some space operas. Of course, the question of what happens to all the orcs and men in Sauron’s army after Lord of the Rings has always perplexed me.

  9. Yay Red Markets. (Not in Space yet though)

  10. I’m very keen to hear an RPPR space opera game. It is genre where you can go as large as you like and explore a huge range of possibilities. My personal favourite are Harry Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” books – they combine space opera with cons, heists and crime drama.

    Also, I tried writing a space opera rpg a while back. I plan to re-write the rules but I tried to put a lot of stuff in the GMs section that can be mined for ideas:


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