Okay, I lied. I mentioned last week I’d go over more skills and perks, but seriously, what good will it do me to expound upon those aspects of the game if nobody wants to play it? So the question I’m going to try and answer should be obvious: why would someone want to play it? Seems to be a somewhat straightforward question, and despite the subject matter, I shouldn’t need a degree in rocket science to figure it out.
It’s not a space opera.
The mood & themes of the game are somewhat operatic, since they’re born out of short stories that are inspired by Greek mythology, and the Greeks know their tragedies. Instead of the glitzy magic-fueled universe of Star Wars or the semi-utopian ideal envisioned by Gene Roddenberry for Star Trek, the solar system here has become something of an 1850s United States: fractured to the point of civil war due to divisive issues and a have/have-not atmosphere between the inner planets and Jupiter’s moons. It’s much more a space western than a space opera. If this were a space opera, you can expect it’d be scored by Wagner and most of the characters would be dead by the end. How does this appeal to players?
People like playing heroes & anti-heroes.
Role-playing is wish fulfillment. People want to feel important, heroic and/or badass. And here, much like in other RPGs, the player characters are there to make a difference. We’ve got two rival governments, one well-established and cloaked in propaganda (Terran) and one nascent and unrefined (Jovian), that are either going to find a way to coexist, ally or even merge, or go at each other like a couple of angry pit bulls. The player characters can tip the scales either way, or can even work to maintain the balance. The idea here is to give players who enjoy the sort of science fiction that’s been shown to be popular in forms like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica a somewhat familiar and somewhat feasible sandbox in which to play.
Science fiction doesn’t necessitate ray guns and warp drive.
There are plenty of games that feature high-energy weaponry and distant alien worlds if that’s what you’re after in a sci-fi fantasy. Rifts, Traveller and the aforementioned franchises all spring to mind. Even the grittier grimdark world of Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader have bumpy-headed aliens and guns that make people explode. This game goes more of the Serenity route with slower-than-light travel that’s still pretty fast by modern standards and a rich social-political setting with the added bonus of familiar place-names and well-documented and measurable distances. By removing some of the conventional sci-fi trappings, my hope is that more of the excitement will be generated by the characters rather than an alien disintegrator.
Grabbing a player’s attention.
So provided I can get this game past the concept stage and out into circulation, how will it be described? “A Storytelling Game of Personal Horror” tells you everything you need to know about Vampire: the Masquerade, outside of the title. All Flesh Must Be Eaten is exactly what it says on the tin. Traveller is described as “Science-Fiction Adventure in the Far Future”. So how do I describe this project of mine in a single, condensed sentence?
“Future Action, Intrigue and Exploration in our Solar System.”
Not sure how I feel about it, but it’s a start.