Monday, August 17, 2009

Gothic Space Opera

In an effort to get more involved with friends, I picked up some multi-player games, including Dawn of War 2 at the recommendation of a friend. Thoroughly impressed by Dawn of War 2, my fascination for 40k rekindled. Thoroughly obsessed with 40k, I began to ponder how to make a GURPS version once again.

I have a rule about conversions: I don't do them. Too many people try to get a particular setting exactly right, and either they fail (and the players complain) or they spend years putting together something that will result in a C&D order from the IP holders. So, I don't do it. Instead, I prefer to file the serial numbers off and make something unique that belongs to me, something that fits well with GURPS with a minimum of work, and something new that my players can explore.

So, instead of making GURPS: 40k, I'd rather make GURPS: Gothic Space Opera.

But what is Gothic Space Opera? If it's "Star" Marines protecting the "Imperial Dominion" of "Humanity" at the behest of the Divine God-"King" while fighting the evil force of "Anarchy" and "Space Elves" and "Intergalactic Bugs," you can still read the serial number through my poor attempt at creativity. The first rule of ripping someone off: rip off lots of different people, and you end up with something sufficiently unique that you're not actually ripping off anyone.

So, what else is Gothic Space Opera? The clearest and most similar example is probably the Fading Suns RPG which I've never played, but heard much about. I'll have to look into it. Going farther afield, Dune is clearly Gothic, with its vast spaceships, it's ancient orders of secret conspirators, its god-emperors and its elite warriors. Googling up the term turns up a few interesting results: Some people consider Revelation Space to be Gothic Space Opera, which I hadn't considered, as I started with the Prefect, but indeed, the rest depict the barbaric time following the downfall of civilization replete with immortals, vast cathedral-ships, spiraling gothic architecture and so on. Finally, someone pointed to the Chronicles of Riddick as quite gothic, another source I hadn't considered.

Some themes emerge: Gothic Space Opera is really just medieval dungeon fantasy in spaaaaace. Nobility is found in the blood, and the knights and warriors of space are inherently superior to those poor, common, dirt-sucking peasants. Everyone follows the edicts of the king, and there is a wide array of squabbling political groups, inquisitors, clerics, nobles, and orders of knights. The empire used to be greater and more awesome, and the further you dig into the past, the more awesome it was (there was a golden age, and then a silver age, and now we live in the brutal "age of steel"). Science is magical and people understand it only poorly, often leaning upon the relics of the past to get by. Stuff is bigger, more awesome, and baroque. Legacy is very, very important, and one gets the impression that the galaxy is huge, and you are just a very small part of everything else that is going on.

We'll look more into this idea later. I do like the idea of coming up with Space Opera Lenses, after I finish my core Space Opera set.
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