Friday, May 13, 2022

Plays Well With Others: Horror in Space (BlackStar)

In space no one can hear you scream
It's Friday the 13th! Something of a holiday here at the Other Side.  

May is SciFi month and for the first two weeks here I have dedicated it all to Classic Traveller. I find myself at a bit of a crossroads.  Do I continue with the Classic Traveller OR do I go along to the progression from Classic to Mega Traveller and beyond?  Choices. Choices. 

In the mean time since today is the scariest day outside of October 31st (well, than and Walpurgis Night) let go to a discussion you all know I LOVE and that is horror in Space.  In particular, the Mythos flavored Cosmic Horror of Lovecraft AND the exploration of Space ala Star Trek.

Since I am going to look a few ways to do this I am going to put it under the banner of Plays Well With Others.

My "Star Trek meets Cthulhu" campaign is known as BlackStar and I have detailed the ideas I have had here.  

The game started out as a combination of various OSR-style games because that is what I was playing a lot at the time. But as time has gone on I have given it more thought and explored other RPG system options.  Every combination has its own features and its own problems.   Let's look at all the options I have been considering.

Basic Era/OSR

The first choice was the easy one really.  I went with the two main books for their maximum compatibility, Starships & Spacemen and Realms of Crawling Chaos.  Both are based for the most part on Labyrinth Lord.   This gives me a lot of advantages. For starters, and the obvious one, there is just so much stuff for this.  If I don't like the Cthulhu monsters from Realms, I can grab them from Deities & Demigods, Hyperborea, or so many more.  The Lovecraft/Cthulhu stuff is covered.  The "Weakest" link here is Starships & Spacemen.  Well, it's not weak, but it is not my favorite set of Trek-like RPG rules.

Starships & Spacemen & Shogoths

Given the rules, I could add in bits of Stars Without Number. That *might* fill out some of the rough spaces (for me) of S&S.  There is a lot, I mean really a LOT I can do with all of this.

It would also make running The Ghost Station of Inverness Five much easier. 

The Ghost Station of Inverness Five

D20 Systems

I'll admit it. I like d20. I enjoyed d20 games. There are LOT of options if I want to go 3.x d20.

d20 Games

Pathfinder, Starfinder, d20 Call of Cthulhu, Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos.  All of these are great and at least 90% compatible. Again, I am sick with riches when it comes to Cthulhu/Lovecraftian materials here. Starfinder is good...but it is not Star Trek.  In fact my preferred Sci-Fi d20 game is the Wizards of the Coast Star Wars.  I know. I am strange.  

Certainly, the d20 Cthulhu books would be easily converted to OSR, but they already have analogs in the OSR world.   But having all of these is certainly helpful.

Since my weakest link seems to be Trek-like rules, maybe what I need is a good set of Trek rules.

Star Trek RPGs

Currently, my two favorite flavors of the Star Trek RPG are the classic FASA Trek and the newest Mōdiphiüs' Star Trek Adventures.  Both are great. Both are really fun. AND there is even a Mythos/Lovecraftian game using the same system, Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20.  Now this game is set in WWII, but that is not a problem. 

Trek and Cthulhu

Here I have exactly the opposite issue.  There is a LOT of great Trek material and limited on Cthulhu/Lovecraft material.   I could add in material from Call of Cthulhu as needed. Also, I have the PDFs for Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 but none of the physical books. The 2d20 system is also much newer for me and I don't know it as well as some of the others.

Traveller

I have been talking about Traveller all month long and it would remiss of me not to try something with that.  Thankfully things are well covered there.

Traveller and Chthonian Stars

So I have not even touched ANYTHING yet regarding the Cepheus Engine or new Traveller, but to jump ahead a bit there is a game setting for Traveller Chthonian Stars. It takes place in 2159 (a date I can use!) and there is a lot to it, but the basic gist is Humankind has begun to explore the Solar System and that is about it.  Then we introduce Cthulhu Mythos material to that!  Sounds a bit like BlackStar: The First Generation.  I'll get a proper review up later in the month, but there are a lot of great things in this setting.  Reading over it it really makes me want to try this using just Traveller.  They really make it work well.  Plus I could still use the Classic Traveller system, more or less.

This provides me with a solid sci-fi game with great mythos support too. The publisher has since updated this game to their more inhouse version called The Void. Not sure if it uses the same system as their Cthulhu Tech RPG or not. 

The Expanse RPG
AGE System

I really love Green Ronin's AGE system. I also LOVE the Expanse.  So I grabbed their Expanse AGE-based RPG and am hoping to do a lot more with it.  So imagine my delight when they ran a Kickstarter for Cthulhu Awakens an AGE-based Mythos game.   The Solar System spanning of the Expanse is nowhere near the Galaxy spanning of Star Trek, but maybe I could run it as a "Prequel" game.  Get a ship out to Pluto to discover something protomolecule-like but instead make it mythos-related.  A prequel to my Whispers in the Outer Darkness.  A Star Trek DY-100 class pre-warp ship would fit right in with the ships of the Expanse.  I should point out that the Expanse takes place in the 2350s, the same time frame as my proposed BlackStar campaign in the Star Trek timeline. 2352 for the launch of the Protector and 2351 for the Expanse RPG.

Maybe this "First Mission" might explain why Star Fleet is building its experimental ships at Neptune Station and not Utopia Planitia.  There is something they discovered on Yuggoth/Pluto that makes the Warp-13 engines work. There is my protomolecule connection!

It is possible I could retweak my "At the Planets of Maddness" for this system/setting. Though in my heart I really wanted Shoggoths and Elder Things for that adventure.  Pluto and Yuggoth clearly imply the involvement of the Mi-Go.

--

I have all those choices listed above and that is also not counting games like Eldritch Skies that also combine space travel with Cthulhu/Mythos.

Chthonian Stars might have an answer for me.  What if this story is not being played out over a single campaign, but multiple lifetimes?

I could do something like this.  Note, this is only a half-baked idea at this point.  

Victorian Era:  Scientists work out the means of travelling the Aether to the stars. (Ghosts of Albion*, Eldritch Skies, Space: 1899. Using Ghosts to make the Protector connections a little clearer).

1930s: Scientist found dead with brain "Scoped" out. Investigate. (Call of Cthulhu)

2150s: Travel to Yuggoth discover an advanced civilization was once there.  Items from 1890s and 1930s are there. (Expanse, Chthonian Stars, Cthulhu Awakens)

2290s: Star Trek Mercy (this one is pure FASA Star Trek). Maybe this can be the one with the Klingon Skelleton ala The Creeping Flesh.

2350s: These are the Voyages of the Experimental Starship Protector. (OSR or Mōdiphiüs 2d20)

I could even do an epilogue in the far future of the Imperium.  

And some other stuff to include all my BlackStar adventures.

Maybe all of these are tied to the "Black Star" an artifact that makes space travel possible and is at the core of the Asymetric Warp-13 engine?  Some was found on Earth but there is a bunch of it on Pluto.

Too many ideas, too many systems.  Gotta narrow it all down at some point.  But one thing is for sure, the system used will depend on what sorts of adventures the characters will have. Mōdiphiüs 2d20 is best for adventures and exploring. OSR games are good for monster hunting. FASA Trek does a little of both.  AGE would be suit the New Adventures in Space theme well.

3 comments:

Dick McGee said...

"I have all those choices listed above and that is also not counting games like Eldritch Skies that also combine space travel with Cthulhu/Mythos."

I was going to suggest maybe a look at Dark Space from Iron Crown Enterprises, but since it's long OOP and doesn't appear to be on sale through DTRPG (although Noble knight seems to have a copy) I guess it wouldn't help much. It certainly did the Cthulhoid horror side of things well enough, although the scifi side of it was less Trek and more a mash-up of Dune, Fading Suns, and some Spelljammer elements. Interesting setting, if nothing else.

Sean said...

Mothership is well worth looking at for scifi/space horror, and while not horror focused Starforged (part of Ironsworn) is loaded with excellent roll charts.

JB said...

I'll be honest...I haven't really been following (or reading) these BlackStar posts. I just went back and skimmed 'em (six years worth!) and definitely remember the first one and being...eh. Not super impressed (with the concept or the enthusiasm)...recall that the the "Black" in BlackStar was an acronym based on the systems you were using. Probably didn't help that a lot of these posts figured "things Trek" and I'm not really a Trek-guy.

That being said, I AM a fan of space horror...it is perhaps the only type of horror I really dig (perhaps because I find space to be a very scary thing). I don't think that bit was emphasized enough at the beginning...and so I didn't follow the evolution of the thing. However, stuff like The Black Hole, Event Horizon, and (duh) Alien are right in my wheelhouse...and, the horror stuff found in (especially) the original Star Trek series was a lot of my favorite and most memorable bits (Space 1999 had some horror stuff, too, though I didn't watch much of it).

The intersection of horror and SciFi (I guess "dark SciFi") was a large part of my childhood, I guess, and it left an impression. I can still recall watching the old Logan's Run TV series...and I was, what? Three years old? Four? Lot of darkness back in the old days with the "post apocalyptic" wasteland influence (even Buck Rogers)...it wasn't till the late 80s/90s that all that stopped except for the odd entry like Pandorum. We stopped being scared after the Star Wars SDI boondoggle. Hell, we could always nuke the aliens from orbit, right James Cameron? Hoo-AH! Marines!

Movies like The Thing, War of the Worlds, Invaders from Mars, or the TV film "V" were pretty horrific. Next Gen Star Trek was not. At all. Give me the UNKNOWABLE of space, rather than just another Galactic Civil War involving diplomacy and stand-up battle (because of failed diplomacy).

Anyway. The fact that you've carried on BlackStar this long using a cobbled system IS impressive. Probably, it just needs to be written up with its own rules...

However, if you're looking for system suggestions, you might take a look at the GUMSHOE systems. It is definitely focused on the "investigative" aspect of RPGs and two particular books (Ashen Stars and Trail of Cthulhu) are probably compatible enough to serve your purpose. Maybe. It's been a few years since I've read Ashen Stars, but I *think* it could be run in a faux-Trek fashion.

[you might look at WarpStar also...a kind of WH40K RPG. The premise of the thing is great and might be adaptable to your needs. However, I *HATE* the system they used to execute the thing]

Anyway, please keep on keeping on. I promise to be attentive to BlackStar posts in the future. Meanwhile, I'll start working on my own mash-up of Classic Traveller and Beyond the Supernatural...
; )