Sunday, October 9, 2022

Return to Planet Funhouse Dungeon

Back in 2016, I wrote a post suggesting that there had never really been a sci-fi rpg equivalent of old D&D in the sense there had never really been a gonzo, promiscuously borrowing from all sorts of media sci-fi game of exploration that is generic. I think that statement is still largely true, if we limit it to games that really capture the gaming zeitgeist. Currently, horror science fiction hybrids seem to the order of the day.

It's true that gonzo/less serious science fiction has never been its most popular form in other media, but I feel like it's as popular as it has ever been with Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, and less popular but still big budget movies like Jupiter Ascending and Valerian.

The think, though, that the best model for a game of this sort is a show from nearly 60 years ago: the original Lost in Space. Sure it was aimed at kids and the amount of money spent on episodes left it with special effects like something from a decade earlier in comparison to Star Trek, but the mix of the lack of concern for serious science fiction (or logic at times) that came from making a kid-focused so combined with chasing the aesthetic of the popular Batman tv show, created encounters with the "unknown" that would be at home in any old school goofy dungeoncrawl.

A vending machine that can deliver androids to order--but then you have to pay for them. Faceless aliens in besparkled bowler hats. A space prospector that look like a miner forty-niner (complete with mule) but is blasting away to find an element that can create (or bestow) life. Space hillbillies. The Great Vegetable Rebllion.

Of course, Lost in Space has a bounded setting--and I think this is important. The Space Family Robinson are lost and marooned for most of the show on first one planet then another. This makes there adventures closer to a dungeoncrawl or at least wilderness crawl of a specific area. Of course, we never see the Robinson's methodically exploring, but there isn't a lot of ten foot pole poking around in Sword & Sorcery fiction either. If you want that sort of thing nothing stops you from doing it. 

In any case, I think the appeal of a science fiction campaign limited to one world, like Vance's Planet of Adventure or Lost in Space, but a world that is pretty gonzo as appeal.


Michael S/Chgowiz said...

So... Encounter Critical-esque? The con games that I've played with this particular game were pretty gonzo...

Trey said...

Sort of, though Encounter Critical is a more humorous Rifts to the extent that it embraces the gonzo in total. What I envision more now is something more like D&D PCs visiting a funhouse dungeon. The PCs are pretty "straight" and are built with fairly standard sci-fi expectations, but the setting/adventure is where the gonzo comes in. Could work either way, though.

Dick McGee said...

Have you seen the 1977 Gamescience RPG Space Patrol? It (obviously) never achieved the popularity of D&D, but it is, if anything, more prone to grabbing inspiration from anything and everything within reach. And it's not at all subtle about, they don't even change the names on all the aliens species they merrily include. If you ever wondered if a kzinti could take a green Martian in a fistfight, it's got you covered.