Showing posts with label DarkerStars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DarkerStars. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Witches in Space for Thirteen Parsecs

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." 

 - Clarke's Third Law

 Come on. You knew I was going to go here.

Before I start I will say this, there is no "witch" class in the core Thirteen Parsecs book. But that doesn't mean you can add one yourself. As I mentioned yesterday, Thirteen Parsecs is 100% compatible with NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands, and those games have witches and sorcerers, respectively.  Rules-wise, there is nothing at all stopping you from adding either to your sci-fi game of Thirteen Parsecs

The only thing that remains is "How?"

Well. I have you covered. SPAAACE!!

While there are not a lot of witches in science fiction, they are there and they have made quite an impact. 

Bene Gesserit

The easiest one to talk about, and the one we should really talk about first, is the Bene Gesserit Order from Frank Herbert's Dune Series.  This order of Sisters practice extreme mental control, have psychic abilities, and have secret, occult even ways. They often even play the role as witches when being set up against the "Holy Order" that Paul is trying to create. I don't pretend to be an expert on Dune at all, but it is my wife's favorite series, and she can go on and on about much in the same way I can about Dracula or Lord of the Rings. So, I trust her assessment of this. Note that we both ignore the Brian Herbert books. Me out of no desire to read them and her for "dancing on the corpse of his dead father to make a buck with high school English class level writing." 

The Nightsisters, the Witches of Dathomir

Ok. What is not to love about the force using, Dark Side, magic (or even magick) Nightsisters, aka the Witches of Dathomir? Nothing. That's what.  There is even a great meme out there for them. 


I learned about these witches, and really, that is what they are, via the Star Wars RPG. I don't recall if it was a later book in the d20 line or if it was from the Saga system. But my very first experience was getting a box of Star Wars minis from Wizards of the Coast and there was a "Dathomir Witch" in the pack. Well, you can imagine my surprise.

We finally saw some on screen in the Ahsoka series. We even got Claudia Black to play one! 


Ok...I am not really serious here, but hey, if I can have a Pumpkin Spice Witch, then certainly, space is large enough for the Bene Gesserit, the Dathomir Witches, and the Bellerians. BUT if we take the equally not-so-serious idea that Space Mutiny exists in the same universe as the original Battlestar Galactica, well, they already had Space Angels and Devils. Witches don't seem to be that much of a stretch. 

Plus Bellerian sounds enough like Raëlian for me to have some fun with. 

Occult Themes in Doctor Who

I talked at length about this in a full post. Based on a recent line dropped by the Head of U.N.I.T. Kate Lethbridge-Stewart in the recent "73 Yards," supernatural elements seem to be going to become more common. 

And these are only a few easily accessible ones. I have not even gotten into books, like the Morgaine Saga by C.J. Cherryh, that have witches or witch-like characters. While Trek is notoriously light on witches, there was mention of the Wiccan religion in Season 2 of Discovery. Even Babylon 5 had "techno-mages." So yes, there is room in a large universe for witches. 

Witches in Darker Stars

While I have had witch-like characters in my play-tests of Darker Stars, there are no witches. The two starships I have been using in my games, The Protector and The Imbolc Mage, have their roots in my Witchcraft/Buffy games. But even the "witch" characters only have psychic abilities, and none to any great extent. I like to play-test with normal characters to start with, to get a feel for the game.

I do acknowledge that my own Sisters of the Aquarian Order would fit right into my Darker Stars setting and maybe even other "Solar Frontiers."  While overtly designed for the White Star system, they do work with NIGHT SHIFT and Thirteen Parsecs. But my habit is to make a new Tradition for different games. If I had the inclination to update the Aquarian Order, I might instead come up with something new for Thirteen Parsecs.  

My idea at this point? Something like the Aquarian Order, but maybe not so "light." An order of witches that began in the Dreaming Age of the Wasted Lands, part of the supernatural underground of NIGHT SHIFT, and then to the stars in Thirteen Parsecs.  An ancient, primordial witch cult that spans æons and light years. 

I certainly have my work cut out for me. 

Monday, June 3, 2024

Vampires in Space for Thirteen Parsecs

 June is the month I usually dedicate to Basic-era (B/X, BECMI) D&D, but not always. I have D&D-related plans for June, but I am not entirely done with science fiction yet. 

I have been doing a feature most nights, largely without pomp or circumstance, called Dracula, The Hunters' Journals, where I post the entries from the novel Dracula on the day they were recorded.  It has been a odd thing to post all this Dracula and Victorian content in the midst of all the sci-fi material I have been talking about all month.  But it is not unprecedented. 

Vampires in Space, via NIGHT SHIFT

Vampires in Space

What do Buck Rogers, Doctor Who, Vampirella, and Colin Wilson all have in common? They are all different science fiction media properties that have featured stories of vampires in space.

One of the strong selling points I think of our new Thirteen Parsecs RPG is it's 100% compatibility with NIGHT SHIFT.  Creatures, characters, classes, and more can be lifted whole from NIGHT SHIT and dropped right into Thirteen Parsecs.  You just need to figure out why they are there.

The vampire in NIGHT SHIFT is based on the Gothic vampire of old, which, of course, has roots in mythology, but mostly in Dracula, Ruthven, and Carmilla. It is also flexible enough to allow for various modern re-interpretations against the Gothic archetype. There is no reason why this can't be extended beyond that to space.  And like I said before, I kinda owe it to my 10-year-old self to at least try a Space Vampire. 

Vampires in Space

So, how have Space Vampires been done already?

Buck Rogers TV Series: "The Space Vampire"

In this episode from the 1979 TV series "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," Buck Rogers faces a creature known as a Vorvon, a space vampire that drains the life energy from its victims. The episode blends science fiction with classic vampire mythology and powers, as the Vorvon can possess and control other beings. Buck must find a way to stop this menace before it can spread its evil influence throughout the space station. As expected, the Vorvon goes after Col. Wilma Dearing (though it does give Erin Gray a bit more to do). The vampire here can only be destroyed by flying it into a sun.

Doctor Who: "State of Decay"

This 1980 serial from "Doctor Who" features the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker. The Doctor and Romana II and unknown to them, Adric, land on a planet where a trio of ancient vampire lords. These human explorers encountered the last of a race known as the Great Vampires, and have enslaved the local population. The story explores the conflict between the advanced Time Lords and the primitive yet powerful vampires, mixing gothic horror with futuristic elements.  Here the Great Vampires are depicted as an ancient race, as old as the Time Lords themselves, and their wars with the Time Lords. Again, like the Buck Rogers episode, many Vampire mythological elements are re-translated here.

Of note, well at least to me, is a line dropped by the Doctor that every inhabited planet has myths about vampires. We will later see other types of vampires in future episodes. The Haemovores in the 7th Doctor's "The Curse of Fenric," the Plasmavore in the 10th Doctor's "Smith and Jones," and the Saturnyn, another type of vampire (sexy fish vampires, according to the 11th Doctor) in "Vampires of Venice."

I discuss both of these episodes here and more about vampires in Doctor Who specifically here

Lifeforce (1985)

"Lifeforce" is a fairly notorious sci-fi horror film directed by Tobe Hooper. The plot centers on a space mission that discovers an alien spacecraft hidden in the tail of Halley's Comet. Inside, the crew finds three humanoid creatures in suspended animation. When brought back to Earth, these beings awaken and reveal themselves to be energy vampires, draining life force from humans to survive. 

The film was a minor hit in 1985, maybe not so much for the plot or story, but because it featured then-newcomer Mathilda May, who appeared completely nude throughout most of the film. It also included Steve Railsback, who would later give a strong and memorable performance as the abductee Duane Barry in the "X-Files" and Patrick Stewart who would the following year go on to star in "Star Trek the Next Generation."

This movie is, in theory anyway, based on the 1976 book by Colin Wilson, "The Space Vampires." I read the book after seeing the movie, and they have a few connections, like some vampires and character names. They are so different. I'll talk about the book separately.


Ah, Vampy. Vampirella is a character from the eponymous comic book series created by Forrest J. Ackerman and artist Trina Robbins, first appearing in 1969. She is an alien vampire from the planet Drakulon, where blood flows like water. After her planet is doomed, she travels to Earth. Blending science fiction and horror, Vampirella fights evil supernatural beings while struggling with her vampiric nature. The character has become iconic, appearing in various comic series, novels, and a 1996 film adaptation. of late she is often paired with Red Sonja in a number of reality spanning adventures. The strangest, and oddly the most fun one? "Red Sonja & Vampirella meet Betty & Veronica." On paper it should never work, yet it does.  Part of this, I think, also is due to the amazing art of Maria Sanapo.

Clark Ashton Smith's Works

Clark Ashton Smith, a long-time favorite here at The Other Side, incorporated vampiric themes into his science fiction and fantasy stories. In "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" (1932), explorers on Mars encounter a parasitic creature that drains their life force, functioning similarly to a vampire. His works often feature otherworldly landscapes and cosmic horrors, blending the supernatural with speculative elements.

The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson

This 1976 novel is the basis for the movie "Lifeforce." It follows the story of alien vampires who travel to Earth and attempt to drain the life energy of humans. The novel delves into themes of sexuality, existentialism, and the survival instinct, blending sci-fi with classic vampire lore. 

The vampires, the almost Lovecraftian "Ubbo-Sathla," here, are more like Sex-Vampires. So that much tracks with the movie. The novel takes place in the late 21st century, not the 20th, and the discovery of the alien ship is in the Asteroid belt. 

Shambleau by C.L. Moore

"Shambleau" is a science fiction short story written by C.L. Moore, first published in the November 1933 issue of "Weird Tales" magazine. It is the debut story of her character Northwest Smith, a space-faring adventurer often compared to figures like Han Solo or Conan the Barbarian. "Shambleau" is noted for its innovative blend of science fiction and horror, as well as for its exploration of erotic and psychological themes.

The creature, Shambleau, is an exotic alien beauty with snakes for hair like Medusa. She has a hypnotic effect on those around her and, like Wilson's vampires, drains life energy. In many ways, she is a vampire, much in the same way that the Leanan sídhe is. There is also a scene in the Lifeforce movie where the female vampire (Mathilda May) is created out of the blood of two victims and she bears a passing resemblance to the description of Shambleau. 

Vampires in Thirteen Parsecs

How you do vampires will largely be up to your Thirteen Parsecs campaign. For example, I will likely not have them in my "Space Truckers" games except as a gag. But "Darker Stars" is a different story. 

I would have them as an ancient but dying race. Their homeworld orbits a "Black Sun," a Brown Dwarf star. Their planet would be the last dying remains of a great feudal empire where Vampires were all the nobility. They took to the stars to find new planets to drain, but encountering humanity from Earth, they met their first real resistance in their 10,000-year reign. Part of the Darker Stars camping mode would be this first contact.

I once saw a meme that said you can turn a Gothic cathedral on its side to make a gothic-looking spaceship. That's what the ships of the vampires look like. Something that should look ancient and like it was built as an act of worship to their Vampire masters. 

To give you an idea of what I am doing in Darker Stars, I don't even consider the Vampires to be the biggest threat. 

I can't wait to get this all to you.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Aliens, Monsters, and the Unknown in Thirteen Parsecs

Alien girl by Hernán Toro
Alien girl by Hernán Toro

It's a sci-fi Monstrous Monday and I wanted to talk a little about monsters and aliens in Thirteen Parsecs.

Like our other RPG NIGHT SHIFT, Thirteen Parsecs is a "tool kit" game. That is, we will give all sorts of rules, some sample settings ("Solar Frontiers"), and let you build your own.

Some of our settings will have aliens. Jason has a few he has been working on for his Solar Frontiers. Derek has some others. 

For my Solar Frontiers, aliens are treated very differently.

In "Space Truckers," aliens only add flavor to the game. The eponymous Dixie of Dixie's Truck Stop is described as an "attractive alien girl with blue skin and bug-like antennae."  But otherwise, she is pretty much a human. There are Ursians, bear-like aliens who make up the police force of the "Colony Hyperspace Patrol" or CHyPs. There are Porcines who control most of the Badlands where Space Truckers have their shipping lanes. And finally, there are Lot Lizards, who are lizard people. I have a chimpanzee-like species that are the best engineers on the Frontier and more. But again, these are just for dressing. They still all more or less act human. Maybe exaggerated traits, but human enough to relate to. This is part of the fun of this particular setting. It is meant to feel like a 1970s Trucker movie in space.

"Darker Stars" is very different. 

In this Solar Frontier, humankind has moved out into space and found monsters waiting for them. 

While we will have some monsters in the core rules, my goals here was to re-purpose monsters from both NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands. Indeed this is the source of those monsters. Darker Stars is my "horror in space" setting.

Let's take an example of a typical Darker Stars sort of adventure.

The crew of your starship encounters a derelict spacecraft. You send a landing party to investigate only to be attacked by the crew. The long-dead crew.

Our dead crew, and they could be human or aliens, will use the Zombie stats from NIGHT SHIFT. If you think about it, what are the Borg or even Cybermen but fancy zombies? The commanding officer? A mummy or a lich.

Does this mean there is magic here? Well...I take Arthur C. Clark's view here with his Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The captain of this ship, knowing his crew was in danger makes a radical adjustment to ship's life support and keeps everyone from not dying. "Not Dying" isn't the same as "Alive" though.

But don't worry. There will be aliens, both as playable races and as creatures to encounter.  

It will be up to you whether your encounter with them is more like Ripley's or Kirk's.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Sci-Fi Month: Thirteen Parsecs is LIVE!

Thirteen Parsecs

Thirteen Parsecs

We want this game to be your sci-fi RPG of choice, so help us make that happen.

This uses the same O.G.R.E.S. as NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands. 

Much like NIGHT SHIFT, there are core rules for playing in all sorts of Sci-Fi genres; Space Opera, Action, Comedy, Horror (of course!), and more.

There will be "Solar Frontiers," mini-settings you can use to start your game (much like the Night Worlds for NIGHT SHIFT). My Solar Frontiers will be "Space Truckers" and the currently titled "Dark Stars," my "aliens and horror in space" setting.

Jason will provide the bulk of the core rules and his two Solar Frontiers, and our long-time collaborator (and demo game GM extraordinaire) Derek Stoelting will also add his Solar Frontiers. We are all working on adding rules and expanding what worked best in NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands. We have over 75 years of game design experience for a couple dozen different companies/publishers.

Speaking of our other games, Thirteen Parsecs is 100% compatible with NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands.  Do you want to play deeper, dark sci-fi horror? NIGHT SHIFT + 13P has you covered. Want to pilot your Time Ship back to after the KT extinction and find a world populated by the proto-human experiments of the Great Old Ones? Wasted Lands + 13P! Or combine all three.

I am planning an epoch-sweeping adventure that takes you from Wasted Lands to NIGHT SHIFT to Thirteen Parsecs, in the vein of one of my favorite books and movies, 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's not exactly the same, of course (I do not liken myself to a Clark or a Kubrick), but it's an echo of a time when I read both 2001 and Lord of the Rings one summer.

Help us make this a reality! We are going strong out of the gate but let's hit those stretch goals.

We are exactly the type of publisher these crowdfunding sites are really for: small professionals with grand ideas and the desire and skills to get it done; we just lack the capital for some art and printing costs upfront.

All of our and Jason's crowdfunding has met our goals, and more importantly, we have delivered on time. We are even offering some nice perks for early backers.

So please check us out!

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