Friday, September 24, 2010

Thoughts on Sci-Fi RPGs Part 3

Given everything that I've said on this topic the last couple of days, here is what the OSR Sci Fi RPG I would write might look like:


  1. Which, interestingly, is pretty much how my Moldvay/Cook sci-fi campaign looked, too.

    It was surprisingly simple to create a sci-fi setting with by-the-book Moldvay Basic contents. Fighters and thieves were pretty much as-is. Clerics became my equivalent of Jedi/Sith (depending on alignment). Magic-users were converted to psions, with spells representing mental powers.

    Elves came from Venus (swamp planet), halflings from various moons of Jupiter, and dwarves mined the asteroids. Mars was the desert home of all humanoids, divided into factions: ogres, orcs, and bugbear slaves; and hobgoblins, goblins, and kobold slaves.

    For me, much of the fun was forcing myself to use the rules as presented--just Moldvay and Cook--and making the mental transition from fantasy to sci-fi. Surprising results. I daresay clerics make better jedi than clerics...

  2. Erin,

    I meant to say earlier (i.e. my last post) how awesome (and motivating) your campaign sounded, so I'll do that here. The one thing I'd definitely be tempted to change in your basic set-up would be to define arcane magic as super-science — each "spell" would be some weird device that would burn out and need repaired after each use.

    It goes to show just how flexible Moldvay/Cook (and by extension, Labyrinth Lord) really is. The fact that Dan has used it as a base on which to modularly attach OD&D, AD&D and Gamma World to LL with the OEC, AEC and Mutant Future speaks volumes about the game.

  3. I think you're right about arcane magic = super science. I had taken that approach for the magic items in the rulebooks, but I think making magic-users super-scientists instead of psions would be much more consistent and sensible.

    A recent post on Scott's HUGE RUINED PILE got me thinking about Moldvay/Cook again, and my Pulp Solar campaign in particular because it was a radically non-fantasy departure from B/X D&D. Though I'm in the middle of a few other projects, I'm finding it hard to resist the strong temptation to revive Pulp Solar.

    My inclination for any such revival would be to maintain Moldvay/Cook as the core system. Though if there were ever a motivation for me to embrace LL, this would be it...

  4. Re: Clerics = Jedi (or Sith)

    That is EXACTLY the way I see it. I had never really been comfortable with the cleric class until that dawned on me.

  5. @Kilgore: yeah, it is odd, but clerics cast in the Jedi model make the class much more viable than devout worshipers of this or that deity. If you substitute "Jedi Council" for "Church of Law" and "adherent of the dark side" for "anti-cleric" it all seems to make more sense...

    My D&D roots don't go down this deep, but it seems that clerics originally were more about upholding alignment than a specific god or pantheon. Not sure when that train derailed, and I'm not saying it's all bad, but I don't think clerics were ever meant to be the "priests" that a lot of players treat them as.

  6. Erin & Kilgore,

    The original conception of the Cleric is pseudo-Christian. I understand it more in terms of what the Paladin would later become — a kind of Jedi Knight for the Church. Personally, I think the whole class gets derailed once you divorce it from a monotheistic/Christian milieu. In my own campaign, adventuring clerics are a specific order of clergy apart from priests.

  7. If you haven't read it before, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century RPG is basically D&D in space, complete with descending AC and laser pistols that do a d8 damage. But using B/X D&D as a framework for pulpy sci-fi sounds more elegant, and economical, to me.

    However, I'd have to say that Magic-users are closer to Jedi/Sith than Clerics, in my estimation. They've got the Mind Trick (Charm Person) and the force lightning (Shocking Grasp and Lightning Bolt), among other powers. They also wear robes, just like Jedi, and a light sabre hilt is rather small and light, much like a dagger. Just add Deflection as a 'spell' to deflect laser blasts and you're off to the races. :)

    Ed Green

  8. @Dave: I agree, and I think your Deacon class is a much better interpretation. By keeping actual priests as NPCs, you also solve the "problem" of non-human clergy--apparently only humans bother with clerics as such. And, in a campaign where alignment takes a role, using clerics outside of monotheistic boundaries starts to create other problems of setting continuity.

    @Ed: Interesting point - as I was revisiting the concept the last couple of days, I found myself wondering how well Cleric = Jedi and MU = Sith would work. Basically how Lankhmar handled the distinction between White and Black wizards (IIRC?).

    That said, I think I'd stick with clerics across the spectrum. I hear you on Charm Person (I used a modified version of Hold Person) for the mind trick, and Cause Light/Serious Wounds would do for force lightning (I think only sith/anti-clerics use it). But my thinking is also that the MU does make a good mystic/empath/psion (and, as Dave suggests, super-scientist), which seems like a good niche to fill in this sort of campaign.

  9. @Erin: I agree that the MU also makes a good super-scientist class. Also, the Cleric has significantly better combat bonuses than the MU, which is more in line with a Jedi-type character. Ultimately, though, there's no reason why you can't just switch the 'spells' around as needed to fit each class.

    Ed Green

  10. @Ed: Too true. If I did it over again, I'd probably make customised (and expanded) spell lists.

    Though for the original campaign, I deliberately forced myself to use B/X as written, with very few house variants (most being related to new equipment). It actually made for a highly productive campaign--not only did it keep me out of the proverbial weeds (where I really do spend a lot of gaming time), but it made it easier for the group to digest and run with.