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Old 09-17-2017, 01:58 PM   #21
doctorevilbrain
 
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

"The faster than light etc can come after the initial boxed set opens up as a secondary purchase'' If it doesn't have faster than light or it's equivalent, like wormholes or Stargates, than how is it Space Opera? It's not supposed to be a Science Fiction Box set. People except to travel the stars and meet aliens in Space Opera. I would want a boxed set that include everything from Buck Rogers to the New Space Opera.
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Old 09-17-2017, 02:25 PM   #22
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

A boxed space opera set doesn't need to contain everything that could be called space opera; it needs to contain a generic version of what people think of when they hear "space opera," and that's Star Wars. It needs to a genericized SW, and not just SW with the serial numbers filed off, but something completely different than SW but which contains all the important elements of SW. Psi Wars seems to be very close to what it should be, although Psi Wars is still too close to SW in that its elements are clearly derived from, rather than inspired by, SW.

So... there are blasters and force swords and psychic powers and galactic travel in spaceships and robots and an evil government, but there isn't a knightly order of psychics or spaceship repair robots that beep-speak to language-and-customs robots or an evil emperor who shoots lightning bolts out of his fingers. If you can look at it and say it might be Star Wars, that's fine, but if you can look at it and it is obviously from SW, that's not fine.
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Old 09-17-2017, 03:56 PM   #23
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

Some thoughts on this, that I've sort of refined since the last time we had this discussion.

First, I still don't think the set should contain a fixed setting. Lots of people claim to want a setting, but when it comes down to it, it turns out that the specific setting that gets included doesn't satisfy more than a small fraction of the audience. It's easier to create a relatively generic thing that can be applied to a specific setting, rather than stripping the specific setting details out and adapting it your own preference, so going generic probably appeals to more people than an exact setting.

That said, setting details can and should be specified. When I talk about being generic, I mean not saying things like "the galaxy is ruled by an Evil Empire, headed by Mad Emperor K'Thrax of the Eel-Spiders, and humanity is an oppressed slave race". You can specify, however, that faster-than-light travel exists, force screens and force swords are around, there are many alien races, and so forth. You can even provide specific things like the details of an alien race or a specific ship type, as long as those details are reasonably easy to slot into a GM's setting as they want, rather than heavily linked to other elements. You can do a write-up for the Eel-Snake aliens, and even specify a fair bit of their culture, as long as you don't specify which other alien species they oppress, or make it so that they have to be the designated oppressors/raiders on the edge of settled space/fallen race from before time.

Basically, to use an analogy, I'd like the Space Opera set to be a Lego set, not a model kit. I think that will appeal to the largest group of potential customers, and fits better with the general GURPS approach of being a toolkit.

For what specific elements should be included and addressed in the Space Opera set, I'd say there are two primary considerations to think about. First, we want to make this focused - the rules need to be designed to fit a specific type of game, and require as little tweaking as possible by the GM to get them to fit. Second, it needs to have broad appeal - it should make as many people as possible think "Hey, I could use that to run a game in my setting!". Obviously, these goals are opposed, and need to be balanced against one another. Make the game too focused, and only a small set of your potential market will actually think it's useful. But make it too broad, and you'll lose the benefit of this sort of thing entirely - people will look at it and say "it's sort of what I want, but I'd have to do a lot of customization. I'd rather get something else that's less work."

So, you need to think about those two goals when deciding which rules, setting elements, and general genre advice to include. When thinking about that, I'd say you can roughly divide your tropes, that is the various story elements you want to support through rules and such, into three broad categories.

First, you have setting tropes. These are your basic worldbuilding stuff - is there FTL? If there is, how does it work? What kind of aliens are present? Are there blasters or projectile weapons or lasers? And so on. Setting tropes, I'd argue, are actually the most genre-neutral. A setting can have force swords and have stories of dashing adventure and swashbuckling action, or grim-and-gritty tales of intrigue and treachery, where every slash with a force-blade cuts a life short. These tropes are the home of things like equipment stats and racial templates.

Second, you have character tropes. These define what types of character, and generally how they're portrayed, show up in the game. Is a dedicated doctor character appropriate? How about a military commander? Or a mechanical specialist? And what about their specific traits? Is an alcoholic doctor going to fit? A blood-thirsty military commander? Character types and specific stereotypes are more important than setting tropes when it comes to defining genre, though mostly in a negative way - in some genres, certain character types simply won't be appropriate, at least as player characters. Character tropes are largely where things like what character templates are available, and the specific traits on those templates, will be set. This is also where you largely decide which sort of actions need specific rules, because when you decide what type of characters are appropriate, you also decide what they'll be doing, and you need to support that.

Finally, there are narrative tropes. These are questions of how the specific story the characters are in will be resolved, both on a specific, scene- or action-level, and overall: will it likely have a happy ending? Do individual actions matter in the grand scheme of things? Is heroism rewarded and villainy punished? This is also the level that decides how certain traits that characters might have are treated - does that alcoholic doctor come to a bad end, or have a redemption arc where they manage to swear off the drink, or do they just muddle through somehow? Narrative tropes will define broad, campaign-level rules decisions, things like which meta-narrative traits (e.g., Luck, Cursed, or Wildcard Skills) are allowable or even required for characters, or what sort of rules apply to everyone to influence the narrative (things like Impulse Buys rules, or stuff like Monster Hunter's rules for giving bonuses for detailed descriptions of cool actions).


So, putting all this together, I think the Space Opera set would be best designed to support the Space Opera genre specifically, and a few other sub-genres that I'd consider closely linked to it, or at least with strong overlap.

Space Opera itself, I'd define as stories that a) are set in space, or have space travel as a major, ongoing plot element, b) have higher than modern tech, c) involve characters influencing events on a scale larger than the strictly personal, and d) have characters whose motivations are personal.

Besides Space Opera itself, there are three other sub-genres I'd aim to support: Space Exploration (stories focused around exploring strange new worlds, etc., and solving the mysteries and dealing with the dangers thus uncovered), Military Sci-Fi (stories that center on military action, either on the "bug hunt" level or the broader "whole military campaign" scale), and Scoundrels in Space (narratives that involve characters on the "fringe" of society, trying to survive and even thrive, whether that requires criminality or simply struggle).

I think these three sub-genres tend to mesh well with Space Opera because the sort of characters they all involve are usually pretty compatible, and because, while their narratives aren't necessarily the same, they can relatively easily transition from one to the other and back again. For example, take that alcoholic doctor I mentioned above. All those sub-genres can definitely use characters with medical skills. The alcoholism might get treated somewhat differently in the different sub-genres, but it's not absolutely inappropriate as a character trait in any of them, and even stories that involve getting over it can later be partially or completely reversed as they backslide. Similarly, I feel that many of the character types involved in the core Space Opera genre will be frequently appropriate in the others.

So, that's what I'd like to see something targeted at - a ruleset that supports action and adventure, with some details on specifically military action, more nefarious sneaking about, smuggling, heists, etc., some exploration and scouting, and, over top of it all, the potential for all these actions to have bigger impacts on the world, while driven by ultimately personal motivations.
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Old 09-17-2017, 04:31 PM   #24
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

When I think of Space Opera, I think of Star Trek, not Star Wars. I Think of Star Wars as Space Fantasy, which is what George Lucas called it, not Science Fantasy. When I think of Science Fantasy as more Fantasy than space opera , I think of SpellJammer and Dragonstar. That's not what I would want at all. If it has a specific setting then maybe it should be called something else more specific.
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Old 09-17-2017, 08:40 PM   #25
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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Agreed. It'd be like putting Transmetropolitan under Space Opera; the two are quite distinct and very different. Transmet, Transhuman Space, and Shadowrun all have elements that can bounce between them, but Space Opera tends to be fairly safetech when it comes to transhumanist technologies.
Star Wars still edges up to 'dark' transhumanism though. At least the original trilogy did...

Vader was more machine than man, twisted and evil.

Luke had several moments where he questioned himself and his bionic hand (his 'growing' similarity to Vader's machine-ness) leading to him realize he was turning away from the 'right path', away from humanity and into the dark.

Droids are inherently a lesser being than any meat sophont, despite their personality, humanity, or sapience/sentience.
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Old 09-17-2017, 09:07 PM   #26
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

I still think all we need is GURPS Action 5 - Space Opera, but that might just be me.
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Old 09-17-2017, 09:35 PM   #27
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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Originally Posted by Kelly Pedersen View Post
Besides Space Opera itself, there are three other sub-genres I'd aim to support: Space Exploration (stories focused around exploring strange new worlds, etc., and solving the mysteries and dealing with the dangers thus uncovered), Military Sci-Fi (stories that center on military action, either on the "bug hunt" level or the broader "whole military campaign" scale), and Scoundrels in Space (narratives that involve characters on the "fringe" of society, trying to survive and even thrive, whether that requires criminality or simply struggle).
Well said. I could be wrong, but I think that throughout this long Space Opera discussion, people's ideas for "campaign focus" or "mission statement" generally come down to those three: Space Exploration, Military Sci-Fi, and Scoundrels in Space.

A few other oft-mentioned candidates come to mind, though one could argue that they're your three sub-genres in other guises. In fact, I'll try to do just that:

Star Trader

This is a fan-favorite sub-genre, but IMO a pure "let's trade and make money" game wanders far off from space opera (and most players' idea of fun). Merchants hate risk; pure traders will run like a spooked blizzlebit from anything with a whiff of "adventure".

PC traders will be the people exploring strange unknown worlds for new goods, buyers, and routes, which beings the game back to Space Exploration. Or they'll be the people dealing in hazardous cargoes, smuggled goods, "no questions asked" deals, and other shady schemes that promise a big payoff, which makes the game Scoundrels in Space.

Rebels Against the Empire

I have it on good word that a movie or few has done well with this concept... However, Rebels clearly has at least one foot firmly in Military Sci-Fi, with the other in Scoundrels in Space if the PCs are a rag-tag team of covert guerrillas away from the main battlefields. Or they're full-on Scoundrels if their gig is running schemes on the sidelines for profit.

Star Patrol

Also a classic! This one steers clear of Scoundrels in Space if the PCs are upstanding members of the Patrol. (If.) But to me, the Star Patrol label covers plenty of Space Exploration ("first in" action on new worlds, deserted hulks, spooky distress calls, and other mysteries). Which, more often than not, will lead to blaster battles against pirates, aliens, and space monsters i.e., small-scale Military Sci-Fi.


So anyway. I don't know whether a Space Opera boxed set should focus on one of Space Exploration, Military Sci-Fi, and Scoundrels in Space, or all three at once. But I think it's a pretty good trio to explore.

(I also fully expect that someone will shortly demonstrate why this is not the magic trio I think it is. : )
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Old 09-17-2017, 10:51 PM   #28
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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When I think of Space Opera, I think of Star Trek, not Star Wars.
I think that's a pretty idiosyncratic interpretation. "Space Opera", as a term, was coined (pejoratively, at the time) to describe science fiction stories that focused more on flashy descriptions, action, and such things rather than "hard" science. Things like the Buck Rogers serials were definitely included in it, and those sorts of things were a major influence on Star Wars for George Lucas. Star Wars is the incarnation of space opera, not Star Trek.

In any case, the distinction, realism-wise, between Star Wars and Star Trek is not that great. It's basically a genre convention, not an objective measure of "realism". Star Trek and similar works just take the time to try justify their impossible superscience and supernatural powers with a veneer of technobabble, whereas more standard space opera fare like Star Wars doesn't bother. But Star Trek's "cosmic energy beings", "trans-warp drives", or "telepathy" is not particularly more grounded in real science that Star Wars' "Force" or "hyperdrives".

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Well said. I could be wrong, but I think that throughout this long Space Opera discussion, people's ideas for "campaign focus" or "mission statement" generally come down to those three: Space Exploration, Military Sci-Fi, and Scoundrels in Space.
Yeah, I think you're largely right. Mind, I would actually count Space Opera proper as a fourth sub-genre, one which the other three could easily segue into. Any of the other three can have the stakes raised a bit, their characters given some personal reasons to get involved, and their decisions given a bit more weight than usual, and *poof*, you have space opera. It's why I like that selection so much.


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Originally Posted by tbone
Star Trader

This is a fan-favorite sub-genre, but IMO a pure "let's trade and make money" game wanders far off from space opera (and most players' idea of fun). Merchants hate risk; pure traders will run like a spooked blizzlebit from anything with a whiff of "adventure".
I tend to agree. The "Scoundrels in Space" sub-genre probably needs some support for trading and merchant activities, but it's mostly background, as I see it. No need for detailed rules about what cargoes are available for sale vs. what will sell well at the next destination, and definitely no reason to get into the fiddly details over whether your spaceship is financed by a bank, leased from someone, or how many years you have to run it to amortize the cost. That sort of stuff should all, in my opinion, be abstracted into one question: "Can we find something legal worth trading (which will have an adventure at the end of the trip before we can make a profit), or do we have to do something shady this run?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbone
Rebels Against the Empire

[...]

Star Patrol
I'd argue that these aren't necessarily sub-genres, as such. Rather, they're specific campaign frames that, as you mention, draw on a couple of the sub-genres already mentioned to supply their standard stories. Again, this is yet another reason I like the thought of supporting the three sub-genres (plus the "overgenre" of Space Opera), because they let a GM vary the activities in the campaign, just by fiddling with which one they're drawing on this time. The Space Patrol frame, for example, usually draws on Space Exploration and Military Sci-Fi most heavily, but if your bold space captain and her loyal bridge crew need to go behind enemy lines when the war against the Empire of the Eel-Snakes heats up, suddenly you have all these rules for covert activities and stealing from numerically and institutionally superior enemies that you can draw on from the Scoundrels in Space section. Handy!
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Old 09-17-2017, 11:21 PM   #29
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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Mind, I would actually count Space Opera proper as a fourth sub-genre...
Here's where things get fuzzy, or at least resistant to consensus. Are those three things you mentioned actually sub-genres (and if so, of what? Space Opera? Sci-Fi itself?), or frameworks, or what? Is Space Opera a genre or sub-genre or a "lens" ("More fantasy elements!") atop a genre or sub-genre?

I'll leave that to people more versed in these things. I'll just say again that Space Exploration, Military Sci-Fi, and Scoundrels in Space (call them "broad concepts, possibly sub-genres if you will, within sci-fi and/or space opera") struck me as a neat trio for categorizing a lot of game and fiction concepts.


Many fiction concepts would seem to fit into one of the three:

Space Marines Bug-Hunters, or Frontline Rebels Against the Empire: Military Sci-Fi.

"First-In" Scouts: Space Exploration.

Space Pirates: Scoundrels in Space.


Others might combine two:

Star Patrol: Space Exploration + Military Sci-Fi (in the guise of "Shoot 'Em Up Star Ranger Sci-Fi").

Scruffy Guerrilla Rebels Against the Empire: Military Sci-Fi + Scoundrels in Space.

Roguish Scheming Star Traders: Space Exploration + Scoundrels in Space.


(Hm, what would be the ambitious fiction/game concept that combines all three?)

In short, the three concepts struck me as a good trio for a hypothetical Space Opera boxed set to focus on. That's just my quick reaction, though; there may be far better ideas out there. Until then, though, I like your suggestion!
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Last edited by tbone; 09-17-2017 at 11:28 PM. Reason: A couple typos, a little clarification
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:01 AM   #30
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Default Re: Spitballing a Space Opera Boxed Set

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(Hm, what would be the ambitious fiction/game concept that combines all three?)
A little concept I like to call Star Trek: Privateer. Ferengi and Federation explorers and roguish adventurers venturing into the Delta Quadrant in order to seek out new life and new markets of civilization all the while dodging the Dominion, occasionally protected/accompanied by Federation patrols. Sometimes, the PCs would get conscripted into the conflict.... :)
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