Saturday, July 11, 2015

Peanut Butter and Chocolate and Space and WWII

I've been pretty focused on fantasy gaming through DCC RPG for a few years now. And very focused on the same through various versions of D&D for many many years before that. I have delved into Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars (d20), and a few other systems, in the intervening time, but for whatever reason, fantasy gaming has held my attention almost exclusively.

Strangely, I have other interests in reading both fiction and non-fiction, as well as other media. History is probably the number 1 interest, even above fantasy fiction. I tend to hone in on periods of history where major social upheaval provides opportunities for social mobility. All those fancy words really mean, when chaos reigns, people like me have a chance at a different life other than toil and servitude.

The time period around the 1500's seems to be a huge draw for me-- when it seemed that the human race "woke up," realized they had a brain, and started flexing against the strictures of generations of fiat rule by kings, priests, and other thugs. The sengoku jidai period of Japanese history, the Renaissance in Europe, Age of Exploration and the founding/subjugating of the New World. All of these time periods and general locales seemed to undergo painful, war-torn periods from which emerged a completely different world. And all have held my obsessive interest at various times.

It's the same with World War II. The war was so pervasive and echoed so far down history that we still see and feel its impact -- and yet, we can barely imagine what people went through during that time. So many people had their lives taken from them, and so many others rose above the death and destruction to do things that we today find utterly astounding. I was a soldier, and I was in the first Gulf War, but I can still barely imagine charging up Omaha beach on D-Day, standing across the Siegfried line as my comrades fled around me and the Allies advanced, unopposed, crouching in a blown out building in Stalingrad trying to pick off one more Nazi officer, or piloting what was essentially a paper airplane with a thousand pound torpedo strapped to it over Pearl Harbor. From 1939 to 1945, there are too many stories. You can't tell them all.

Science (fact and fiction) has also always held my interest. Whether it was the pulpiest of space pulp to scientific journals crowded with concepts that took me months to understand -- I've always been captivated by our need to understand the universe.

So, yeah, it's only natural that when +James Spahn published the White Star Role Playing Game, that all the chocolate and all the peanut butter converged to one sweet delicious idea: WWII in Space.

+Edward Kann published a great set of RPG books back in the early 2000's called Rocketship Empires 1936. In it the human race was given the power of spaceflight by Martians and so headed out to the stars, very quickly developing technology of a decidedly pulp variety. The concept of the game was fantastic. It hit almost all the cylinders of my interest -- pulp, sci-fi, pre-WWII political strife. I wrote several scenarios based on his universe in the Savage Worlds system (you can still check them out over on the Mystic Bull Cafe. But, Ed abandoned that game, for whatever reason, and I moved on from it.

I did a lot of other work on scenarios and systems related to WWII, but I could never seem to find the right one, or enough folks interested in playing. Rocketship was close, but it was too early. I wanted to take the stories from the actual war and put the sci-fi spin on them. And I didn't want to be burdened by political situations, aliens, and other stuff that I didn't feel like fit.

So, I'm embarking on my own pulp sci-fi journey. Set in an alternate past, starting in 1939 as the war truly starts, only this time, the war starts in space. Why in space? Because that's where I want it to be. I'm not planning to write a campaign setting explaining every detail of alternate history. There's going to be no "campaign map" or write-up of regions, kings/rules, and armies. These are stories about men and women involved in the secret war between the United Kingdom of Planets and the Deutschstern Reich. Between the Dai Nippon Teikoku and the Soviet Star Republic. And unofficially, the American Galactic Union against any and all enemies.

Cut to the crawl...

In 1939, as the brush wars that would eventually become full scale conflict began between the Deutschstern Reich (DR) and the League of Free Worlds, the chamberlain of the United Kingdom of Planets (UKOP) dispatched teams of operators to gather intelligence on the enemy and to conduct disruption operations on its assets in Reichspace. Assembled from diverse cultural backgrounds within the League of Free Worlds, these teams were composed of 4-10 specialists in the fields of human and signals intelligence as well as military, science, and black operations. With broad missions of sabotage, intelligence, counter-intelligence and partisan recruitment, the Space Operations Executive (SOE) fanned out to the stars. Disavowed by the UKOP and the League and hunted by the elite weltraumkommandos, the SOE fought a shadow war against the greatest threat to peace our fledgling space forces have ever known.

And cut to the (working) logo...

The first adventure is a free one -- Bug Hunt. It's Pay What You Want over on One Bookshelf