Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dungeons in Space

Ha! Y'all probably think this is going to be some kind of review of Terminal Space, the truly cool OD&D add-on from Albert Rakowski.


Though I did write a big long essay/review/piece-o-blog-fodder on the subject the other day. For those worried that I might be in some kind of "missed deadline funk," rest assured that NO I have just been busy with other projects and deal-i-o's.

[side note: thank you to everyone that gave me words of encouragement. My "downed-ness" on myself only lasted 4-6 hours. The Doc snapped me out of it with these words: "um...I thought deadlines were MEANT to be broken. Nobody makes deadlines." Well, Kris, there are two types of people in this world: those that show up to the movie early, and those that walk in during the previews. For most of my life I've prided myself on being one of the former...guess I need to lighten up a bit!]

Anyhoo, I decided to SKIP the big essay 'cause it was even more rambly and meandering than usual, and because I can sum up what I want to say in a handful of bullet-point impressions:

  • Great work, as an OD&D supplement, does the thing proud
  • Reminds me quite a bit of Old School Traveller with the random design systems and monsters and with the ship construction
  • The game is a TRUE "D&D in space" unlike, say, SpellJammer (which is basically a nautical game...with crossbows and magic helms substituting for lasers and fusion engines).
  • The game is a TRUE "D&D in space" rather than just "a space game using the OD&D system." You still have magic-users, clerics, and magic...which makes the whole thing GODDAMN AWESOME. Really. It's about as pulpy sci-fi/fantasy as you could ask for. I suppose I will need a blog post to elaborate a bit...oh, well.
  • I love, love, LOVE the "7th stat;" the new Technology ability score. If the game didn't have magic-users (see last bullet-point) I would simply drop Intelligence from the game and substitute Tech in its place. Tying it to starting ca$h is also cool...isn't the 3D6 roll for starting gold a bit like making Gold a 7th stat?
  • The new character classes are OK. I don't know that you really need a pilot class...I'm glad everyone CAN pilot a ship. Scientist and Technician are decent enough archetypes...but are they really adventuring classes?
  • I am glad A.R. didn't go over-board on skills. OD&D didn't need to give people "sailing skill" to do naval combat, after all.
  • A great, great little game that I highly recommend. The artwork is super-cool.

All right, so if this post is NOT about Terminal Space, than what the hell IS it about?

Well, dungeon adventures in space, of course.

I was walking the beags with my brother the other day and discussing the challenges and frustrations of A) finding a good superhero RPG, and B) creating one's own superhero RPG (especially in a 64-page format natch). But one thing I realized in talking with ol' AB is that the comic book superhero genre is one of only ones the even comes CLOSE to working in the same vein as the archetypal RPG Adventure Game (i.e. D&D).

The basic premise of D&D is that a bunch of DISPARATE INDIVIDUALS band together and EXPLORE AN ISOLATED SITE, generally with SOME GOAL (like acquiring wealth) and often resorting to COMBAT AND FORCE, at least in some degree.

Except for the "isolated site" (the proverbial "dungeon") a super team (a la the Avengers, the X-Men, the Defenders, the Justice League, the Teen Titans, etc.) all fit the bill.

Other genres just don't always work so well. Western and Spy genre certainly not, and neither do many "sci-fi" genres except in the most gonzo fashion (Gamma World has a couple of site based adventures, but it can get old/cheesy when every session is "oh ANOTHER hidden installation, huh?"). It should go without saying that "group Vampire" is pretty silly, at least in the style of an "adventuring party."

Notice how HPL's stories are always about a single protagonist? And yet half-a-dozen editions of Call of Cthulhu espouse this idea of a "team" of investigators.

There's a metric ton of RPGs that try to ape the D&D archetype. After all, RPGs are a SOCIAL GAME. They're meant to be played ("game") with a group ("social"). And many designers create games using those same archetypal assumptions:

- there are multiple players
- they want to work cooperatively
- they want a variety of different "character types" to distinguish themselves from each other
- they want to go on "adventures" and fight things (combat!)

Even AB believes, 'hey any RPG should have a good combat system...that's why people play RPGs according to old ABles...Of course, AB doesn't play RPGs and calls WoW his home-away-from-home (when he has access to a computer) so take his philosophy with a grain of salt.

Indie gamers and those with what was once called the "Narratavist Creative Agenda" would of course take issue with would I on most days. But that does NOT mean that dungeon exploration ain't desirable, creative, or downright fun...note this blog is called B/X Blackrazor.

HOWEVER, I don't think it's desirable in every friggin' game.

Terminal Space gives you the means to take your Dungeons & Dragons adventure into space. And if I hadn't run out of time right now, I'd tell you about one more RPG that did something similar...the whole reason for this post, in fact.

However, you'll have to wait for Part 2...I need to go pick up dinner.
; )


  1. Does anyone remember the old Dragon magazine module "Fedifensor" - basically - fighting githyanki on a hollowed-out asteroid in (astral) space?

  2. @ Omlet: You're welcome!

    @ Roger: I'm not familiar with that one, but I plan on stopping by Ye Olde Game Shoppe tonight and they have a ton of old Dragon mags...I'll take a look for it.
    : )