Looking Back – Space Princess

Do you know I’ve been doing this blogging / game writing nonsense for about 10 years? Wow. That was never the intent. In fact, there was no intent – just me goofing around. I certainly never intended to write and publish books when I started.

So here I am, all these years into whatever the heck I’m doing, and I figure maybe it would be fun to look back. Today, I decided to jot down a few thoughts about an early publication of mine, and probably a mostly forgotten one, called Tales of the Space Princess.

Space Princess started out as my response on a message board thread that asked why science-fiction rpg’s had not become as popular as fantasy rpg’s, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. I don’t remember the other responses to the thread, but they were all genre-specific. My theory was that it had nothing to do with sci-fi vs. fantasy. D&D worked because it was a game above all else. Players controlled characters who wandered around a maze in search of treasure. Monsters and traps hindered them. Simple. Anything could be grafted onto D&D, and with each fun thing you added to the mix, D&D became itself more popular. It just so happened that the game was born out of a fantasy supplement to a medieval wargame.

The problem with early sci-fi games, I figured, was that they set out to replicate sci-fi movies and stories. RPG’s aren’t very good at that. Stories have plots, with characters under the writer’s control. They have pre-determined outcomes, which is anathema to games. Checkers works because you don’t know who will win – black or red. Dungeons & Dragons, early on, was the same way. If the characters died delving for treasure, you made new characters. Their death didn’t disrupt a plot – the characters were not central to a story, they were just “avatars” of the players. As a game, this works beautifully. In a novel, it would suck.

I went on to surmise that a sci-fi D&D could have been as popular as the fantasy D&D with the same focus on being a game that borrowed the trappings of science fiction. I took Star Wars as an example. In Star Wars, Luke, Ben, Chewie, Threepio and Artoo venture into the Death Star to rescue Princess Leia from Darth Vader. If we make this more generic, we get a party of adventurers go into a space fortress to rescue the space princess from the dark lord.

Of course, this got my brain popping, so I decided to actually write the game I was describing. I had published a few NODs and Pars Fortuna (more on that in another post), so I figured why not try something else new. I didn’t exactly base the rules entirely on the SRD because I wanted to try some new things. The characters, for example, didn’t have levels. You could start them out as novices, veterans or old-timers – their skills improved with age, but they got fewer luck points to get you through scrapes. This was designed to deal with the fact that, in the source material, you had young Luke Skywalker, old Ben Kenobi and Han Solo somewhere in the middle. How do you make a game work so that different “levels” of characters could adventure together? I had a similar challenge in Mystery Men – the Superman/Batman conundrum. Did my idea work? I decided to use “luck” as a balancing mechanism. Did it work? Heck – that’s for others to decide.

Beyond the rules, I tried to pack the game with all sorts of sci-fi stuff just the way D&D packed in the fantasy tropes. The playable species included humans, of course … which included anything that was basically humanoid and didn’t have special powers … androids and gynoids and “aliens”. The alien species had rules to allow all sorts of alien species to be created, either in imitation of species from existing sci-fi properties – such as vulcan and wookies – or something completely invented by the player.

The classes in the game are psychic, scientist, scoundrel, space ranger and star warrior. Looking through the book for the first time in years, I realize that I had forgotten about my sample characters in the game – Athena Laserwolf, the human star warrior (and an obvious homage to Morgan Ironwolf), Scrimshaw McGurk, the human scoundrel, and Zazzix, the alien psychic. The original art in the project was done by Jason Sholtis, and it was fantastic. It’s fun to rediscover things you wrote long enough ago to have forgotten!

For monsters, I tried to hit the highlights of sci-fi. Space brothers from UFOlogy rub shoulders with the ro-man from Robot Monster and martians from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The olvugai from Pars Fortuna made it into the game – I love sticking things from one of my games into others, to keep them all in the same “universe” – as did H.G. Well’s martians as zarks, the vulcans and klingons as red and blue voltans and the vampire from TV’s Buck Rogers made it in as the space vampire. I stuck girallons in the game because they were inspired by the white apes of Burrough’s Mars, and flail snails because I love flail snails. The point was to mix and match all sorts of nonsense to build gonzo space fortresses (i.e. dungeons), and that was what I did. I also included a way to build random (or non-random) alien animals.

I kept the equipment pretty simple, with some basic gear like weapons and spaceships, and then super-science gear – essentially the same as magic items.

Gameplay was designed to be divided into two phases. The first was the exploration of the space fortress to find and rescue the “space princess”, which can be an actual captive princess or a captive prince, or super weapon, or space station plans, or whatever you want it to be. The second phase is where the adventurers escape in their spaceship. They need a few turns before they can jump into hyperspace, and in the meantime have to battle some enemy fighters, a la Star Wars. Just as old D&D didn’t really deal with life outside of dungeon delving and stronghold-building, Space Princess kept it simple.

Space Princess … it originated in a message board discussion, turned into a chance to try new things in a game, It was a fun little experiment for a new author. Looking through the game, I’m actually pretty impressed with how much stuff I packed into a 44 page game! I guess maybe I should pull Tales of the Space Princess back out and give it another go. My daughter had a blast testing it when she was 14, and I think we have the old character sheets tucked away somewhere …

The Space Princess Has Arrived!

Available in E-Book for $5.00 and in print for $10.00.

The old Space Princess came in at 48 pages with the table of contents, OGL and a page of character sheets (they fit four on a sheet, so I’m not sure character sheet is the right term). The back page is a map you can use for your first space fortress – I’m posting it below as well.

Lots of Space Princess ideas bubbling in my head today, so the next few weeks will see a few posts dedicated to it here. I already want to do an expansion called Space Patrol that will get a little more into a setting, but also throw in some classes, monsters and rules that will make it more useful for depicting characters in a fleet that travels between stars, a “star fleet” one might call it, wearing technicolor uniforms, exploring strange, new worlds (maybe even THE Strange New World), etc. etc. etc. You get the idea.

If you buy it, I hope you like it and get some use out of it – and if you come up with your own ideas and additions and post them, please let me know!

Okay – back to writing the Hellcrawl. Next big projects are Blood and Treasure and 1800 – American Empires. Tomorrow – some pre-modern mutants for Mystery Men!

 

Martians!

BAH!

Ah – December! The crisp air, the smell of expensive holiday-themed candles, fruit cakes … it always brings one thing in particular to my mind. Martians!

In particular, the hapless buggers who dared kidnap Santa Claus. Having had the annual viewing of the MST3K classic riffing of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and with the eminent release of Space Princess, I figured it made sense to mash the two together. When the Christmas season rolls around and you’ve gathered your friends to play some Space Princess over a glass of eggnog, you’ll be well prepared.

Martian
The Martians are green-skinned humanoids of a (formerly) warlike race. From an early age Martians are educated by thought waves projected from computer banks and received by cybernetic antennae jutting from helmets almost always worn on their heads. These helms act as communicator devices (see Super Science). Martians arm themselves with freeze ray guns. Most wear skin-tight green costumes, while leaders are designated by their use of cloaks.

Martians dwell in subterranean cities that abut their famous canals, which transfer water from the poles to the warmer climes. Martians require very little air and are immune to cold. Despite their planet’s lower gravity, they appear to be just as strong as human beings.

The elders of the Martian race are called chochems. These mystics can employ four psychic powers. They dress in robes and carry staves.

For the past generation, Kimar has served as the leader of the Martian people. It was he who personally led the expedition to bring Santa Claus and Christmas to the Martians. In the time since the arrival of Santa, the Martians have become less warlike and more generous. Still, some elements among them seek a return to the old ways. A leader among these rebels is Voldar, a mustachioed thug with a cruel sense of humor.

MARTIAN WARRIOR: HD 2; DEFENSE 6; MELEE 6 (fists 1d4); RANGED 6 (freeze ray gun); MOVE N; STR 4; DEX 4; MEN 3; KNOW 5; DL 2; SPECIAL: Immune to cold.

CHOCHEM: HD 1; DEFENSE 4; MELEE 4 (staff 1d6); RANGED 4; MOVE N; STR 3; DEX 3; MEN 5; KNOW 7; DL 2; SPECIAL: Immune to cold, four psychic powers (activate +12).

VOLDAR: HD 6; DEFENSE 9; MELEE 12 (fists 1d4); RANGED 9 (freeze ray gun); MOVE N; STR 6; DEX 4; MEN 3; KNOW 5; DL 6; SPECIAL: Immune to cold.

KIMAR: HD 8; DEFENSE 13; MELEE 12 (fists 1d4); RANGED 13 (freeze ray gun); MOVE N; STR 4; DEX 5; MEN 4; KNOW 6; DL 8; SPECIAL: Immune to cold.

By the way – if any artist out there would like to draw their rendition of Capt. Kirk performing his famous flying kick on Voldar while Santa and Spock look on, well, I’m sure we’d all like to see it!

Images found here and here.

Deviant Friday – Joel Carroll Edition

Readers of the Land of Nod should not be strangers to Joel Carroll, the artist who worked on Mystery Men! and oft posted on this blog. While you folks might know him primarily for his superhero artwork, he dabbles in many eras and I actually first discovered him on a site showing some of his D-n-D monster sketches. Check it out, gentle readers …

Owlbear

 

 

Rocket Raccoon

 

 

Rocketeer

 

 

Spacegirl

 

This lady would look good in Space Princess. In fact, how about some stats for that game …

 

 

Hooked Horror

 

 

Displacer Beast

 

 

Devil Dinosaur

 

 

Bossk

 

And I might as well give him some Space Princess stats as well …

 

Bristolwhip Kaiju Tokusatsu

 

 

The Marquis