Friday, November 2, 2012

Space Opera = Capes

My wife has a fairly awful flu bug at the moment, which caused me to be a bit late to my play-test last night (it also had me up till 1:30am with the boy, and then missing the first half of today’s work day in an “emergency child care” capacity…Friday is usually Mom’s day to watch the hijo). Fortunately (unfortunately), I only had one player show up for the evening session, so the total number of people I disappointed was minimal.

Of course, when it’s just Josh and me at the table, we often end up bullshitting for most of the session anyway. Don’t get me wrong...I love digressing off into tangential meanderings in person as much as I do on a blog post. But my normal disposition leads me to drunken rambling in buddy-buddy situations, and fun as that is, I do have some objectives regarding game design and whatnot.

Still, it WAS productive...Josh made a psychic (think “Jedi”) character at my request and just talking through the class abilities was useful, helping me articulate what and how the powers functioned. I was also able to bounce ideas off him regarding jettisoning the fringer/survivalist class which always seems to pop up during game sessions and which just doesn’t work for me in a non-one-off session. Oh, yeah…and we decided Beast Handler is just a stupid, stupid “special ability” (think “feat”) to have in a space game. Not sure what I’ll replace it with, but it’s just dumb for a game set (mostly) in space rather than planet-side. After all, beasts only really come in two shades in the space opera genre: trusty riding mounts and hungry antagonists. The idea behind the feat was the ability to turn the latter into the former…but that kind of defeats the point of the GM including them in a game session, doesn’t it?

Besides “lion taming” is better handled with the heart suit (think “charisma/Reaction”) anyway.

We also talked quite a bit about Star Wars in general, prompted by the recent news of Lucas-Disney and my recent reading of The Secret History of Star Wars. One of the (few) virtues Josh was willing to extol on the original films/Lucas productions was the art direction that (aside from haircuts) give the films an extremely timeless-classic visual quality. Although, he admits, the films might only appear timeless due them having such a dramatic impact on our psyches at a young age (in effect coloring “the look of Sci-Fi” for years to come thereafter), he can’t help but feel a lot of other sci-fi films over the years have appeared “dated” or poorly age compared to the old Star Wars trilogy. It doesn’t have the gaudy outfits and crazy headgear found in the old Flash Gordon space opera-types, for instance. To which I replied:

“What the hell is more Flash Gordon than dudes wearing capes in space?”

Capes abound throughout the Star Wars universe. With the exception (perhaps) of The Phantom Menace, there is a new caped individual to be found in each film of the series…whether you’re talking Vader or Lando or Luke (in Return of the Jedi) or Dooku or Grievous, I would say the presence of capes is a defining (if nonsensical) part of the art and visual style of Star Wars.

I mean, really…why does Grievous need a cape? Does his cyborg body get cold? His fleshy parts consist of a couple internal organs in a metal torso…all he needs is a hot plate or heating coil! Don’t tell me it’s to better carry his lightsabers: it’s called “wear a weapon harness,” dude. The cape is total show and visual space opera. It’s flourish.

Same with Count Dooku. All this crap I read in the D20 games or the wookiepedia about him wearing some sort of “armor-weave” cape…like it’s body armor? For what…back protection? It doesn’t cover his head or any of his 6’5” torso from the front. Is it supposed to guard against back-shooting? Isn’t Dooku a Jedi Master and thus presumably aware of such threats to his person?

Let’s just face facts…people wear capes in Star Wars because it’s space opera and opera of any stripe is fond of the cape. In Star Wars (and it’s equivalent) the cape signifies a badass, pure and simple.

What? You think Lando was chopped liver next to Han Solo? Need I remind you that he was the ruler of his own mining colony, not to mention the original owner of the Falcon, tough enough to fly it after years of “rust” and blow up the 2nd Death Star? Did you forget he had the balls to talk his way onto Jabba’s payroll with little more than a snaggletooth mask and a force pike? Not to mention all Lando’s natural charm and swagger…there’s a guy who earns a cape.

Frankly, I’ve decided that capes are as deep a part of space opera (and Star Wars, and SW-knock-offs) as weird-ass headgear is to Old School D&D. After our (tipsy) conversation last night I’ve been spending the day considering ways to work capes (and the earning thereof) into my DMI space opera game…though only for the serious ass-kickers, of course.

[by the way…happy Dia de los Muertos!]


  1. Even Boba Fett had a cape.

    Boba. Fett.
    The fellow encased in armor head to toe.

    Your theory is sound.

  2. Oh, yeah, I know...Boba Fett's just one I always forget to mention (perhaps due to my childhood action figure's lack of cape).

    If Fett is man enough to wear a fancy cape, why isn't YOUR wannabe character?

  3. And yet, Fett's cape was still badass! Of course my personal favorite caped star warrior was Lando.

    1. Boba Fett wears a cape AND a rocket pack. That's more jackass than badass!

  4. Hell, this makes me want to wear a cape.

  5. Don't think for a second, JB, that you can rant about something like capes and not expect some jackass to come along and give it some in-game mechanics.

  6. Grievous wears his cape to show off his Kaleesh heritage. Look it up. The markings mean something. Same for the magna guards of his, he does it as a small reminder of home.

  7. @ 8thScorp:

    Oh, I believe you. But I would guess the character's visual design was created in the concept art stage before any backstory about the character was written. Someone wanted him to be able to twirl and flourish on-screen like an old school villain. If they could have justified a mechanical mustache for stroking, Grievous probably would have sported one.
    ; )