“Vortex” Update 5b.21 — Duct tales

Interplanetary transport
Space truck

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5b.21 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 2 met on Monday, 3 October 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Bulldogs, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but ecological degradation and internecine conflicts persist. Open and official First Contact with Galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Will heroes rise to the challenges?

A band of grifters and near-humans retrieved dangerous samples from a battlefield north of Karachi and the Ghanki undersea station. It stole starship engines from a lunar base and an orbital city and was involved in medical disasters in the Venusian colonies. After finding a dimensionally displaced derelict, the team made inquiries into its cargo amid religious turmoil on Titan….

>>FATE 3e “Vortex” Team 2 (5b), crew of the Appomattox:

-“Gabriel Adams” [Paul J.]-male North American Terran near-human with telepathy, courier and pilot

-“Hector Chavez” [Beruk A.]-male Latin American Terran human, “burned” operative and communications expert

-“ARTHERR” [Greg D.C.]-Advanced Resonance Theoretical Heuristic Exploration and Research Robot created by megacorp Vimeco

-“Jasmine” [Sara F.] female Martian Felinoid (Synth, “Uplifted” tiger), former professional pit fighter

-“Mr. Richmond Garrett” [Dave S.C./absent]-male Southern American Terran human, space snake-oil salesman and social climber

-“Dr. Dieter Klein” [Rich L./absent]-male European Terran human, semi-retired physician, altruist and thrill seeker

-“Nero Bartholomew” [Non-Player Character]-male Terran human, former owner of the “Fortune’s Fool,” ship’s cook

-“Averki ‘Deep Dish’ Dyashenko” [N.P.C.]-male reptilian Synth (genetically engineered humanoid), onetime Venusian miner

>>”15 to 18 October 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” The crew of the Appomattox delays its mysterious mission to bring Vatican artifacts to Epsilon Eridani. Instead, the group continues its investigation into the murder of fundamentalist preacher Hugh Doyle at Eclipse Station near Saturn.

Hector Chavez hacks into the space station‘s security to review surveillance recordings. The onetime spy traces the movements of smuggler Adrian Valentin, who bought a generator from the Mukhtadi brothers that could have been used to kill Doyle.

Valentin, who also contacted Doyle with increasing frequency before his death, brought the generator to a docking bay. However, construction there interfered with the cameras. ARTHERR checks personnel files of the work crews and finds that chief Ignatz Maroni and several “Synth” (synthetic humanoid) laborers were on duty.

Jasmine brings a box of coffee to a construction site, where she meets rude Maroni, as well as Felinoid (“Uplifted” panther) Rosario Tamuz and Ursoid (“Uplifted” bear) Prini Vonchadry. Rosario [N.P.C./Greg] recognizes the former wrestler, who was banned from the ring after inadvertently killing a competitor. She and taciturn Prini [N.P.C./Beruk] invite Jasmine to join them for drinks after the strenuous job.

Capt. Gabriel Adams continues trying to persuade gynoids Tanya and Galia to help him conduct a heist of the Lucky Garden Casino. Rather than face angry medics or preachers again, Mr. Richmond Garrett stays aboard the Appomattox, attended by Nero Bartholomew and Averki “Deep Dish” Dyashenko.

Comparing notes aboard their yacht, ARTHERR reminds Hector that Archbishop Javier Fuentes had asked them to investigate the crime on behalf of the United Ecumenical Movement, which Doyle was no fan of. The investigators also learn that the itinerant preacher had offended local gambler Rev. Winston Jones by trying to have his followers take over Eclipse Station’s chapel.

Apparently, Doyle had orchestrated similar moves on other colonies in the outer Sol system. Using a Bible cipher, the spewer of fire-and-brimstone speeches directed his faithful to crowd out “the sinners and those lesser than Man” — referring to Synths, including artificial intelligences/robots and “Uplifted” animals.

Hector and ARTHERR view footage from after Valentin left the docking bay and before Doyle’s death. They see the smuggler enter the Ringtown Diner, where he talks with Louise Reinhagen, the widow of an Oromax megacorp executive killed in the Hephaestus Stadium disaster near Venus.

By reading their lips, ARTHERR is able to reconstruct some of the conversation between Doyle’s former supporters. Just as magnate Esteban Bakafret had helped provide the preacher transportation, so had Reinhagen given him financial support. The robot confirms suspicions of a blackmail plot leading to Doyle’s murder, but more evidence is needed.

Rosario and Prini take Jasmine through increasingly cluttered back corridors of the station in orbit around Titan. The tiger-woman is surprised to find a squatters’ camp, where the Synths can relax away from overseer eyes. Chim (“Uplifted” chimpanzee) mechanic Faisal Batar smokes another cigar.

Rosario asks Jasmine about her wrestling career and says that she wishes she had killed intolerant Doyle. Prini grunts in agreement. When Jasmine mentions the ritualistic aspects of the slaying, Rosario expounds on a theory that a Synth worshipping “dark gods” is responsible.

Prini observes that Melita Veturia, a Canid (“Uplifted” canine) supporter of the Synth Liberation Front on Mars and another suspect, wouldn’t mind eliminating a hatemonger, but disembowelment and pentagrams aren’t her style.

Jasmine manages to refrain from drinking more alcohol from the makeshift still. Rosario recalls seeing an “Uplifted” octopus with a cargo lifter around the time that Valentin passed through the docking bay. Jasmine excuses herself to return to her ship, as Prini talks about her encounter with the infamous pit fighter on various social media.

With Jasmine’s information, Hector runs another video search and finds footage of the Octopoid leaving an access tunnel between the docking bay and the site of Doyle’s murder. The away team goes to the Jeffries tube, and ARTHERR wheels himself in, scraping the white medical paint off one side.

The exploration droid finds a wider area in the passage where the octo-assassin could have assembled the field generator and battery used to restrain Doyle. Shortly thereafter, however, ARTHERR triggers a laser mesh that wily Hector crawls in to help disable. Burly Jasmine holds a rope, and Gabriel arrives to assist.

Undaunted, ARTHERR continues forward and is ejected as the duct swivels and shoots him out of Eclipse Station! He uses maneuvering thrusters to re-enter, as acrobatic Gabriel easily hangs on and Hector retrieves the industrial laser emitters.

Gabriel easily evades another trap — saw blades spiraling down the tube. The burglar loses part of one of Richmond’s fancy jackets. ARTHERR slides along the blade and is undamaged, and Hector and Jasmine go to meet them back at the crime scene.

They conclude that after Valentin procured the equipment and gave the order, the Octopoid could have suspended itself from the ceiling and used the generator to trap Doyle, who had been lured to the back passage somehow. Now that the means and possible motives have been established, the investigators want to confirm all the responsible parties.

After some debate, the team decides to question Ms. Reinhagen. Gabriel pilots the Appomattox down to the moon’s surface, while Hector calls with a blackmail counteroffer. The burned op tells Reinhagen that he knows she met with Valentin and talked about Doyle’s death before it happened. The wealthy widow initially denies everything.

Capt. Adams talks his way past an android butler and into a luxurious dome in New Syria. The psionic detective talks with Reinhagen, who says that Valentin was blackmailing her (not Doyle, as originally supposed) for an improper relationship with the preacher. She had threatened to go public with her support of Doyle and his teachings, somehow provoking Valentin to order the hit.

Jasmine returns to the Lucky Garden Casino to talk with Erta Garza, a Delphine (“Uplifted” dolphin) astrogator she had previously invited to join the Appomattox‘s crew. Not only does Erta know an Octopoid in Eclipse Station, but she also introduces Jasmine to him!

Kolidari, co-owner of the casino, relaxes in a pool/hot tub with the Delphine and curious Felinoid. (Using a voder, Kolidari sounds like archaic-era actor Sean Connery.) He brushes off any implications about Doyle and says that Jasmine should come and work for him rather than the other way around.

Even Gabriel’s underworld experience is of limited help as he tries to untangle the web of smuggling, illicit affairs, religious factions, and Synth activism around Doyle’s murder. He and Richmond’s plan to rob the casino is made more complicated by Kolidari‘s involvement.

Jasmine and Hector are less interested in a potential heist than in getting in touch with people back on Mars and Earth. ARTHERR reminds them that whatever they do, it will have to be done quickly, because the leaked Ru’ulok (heavy gravity reptilian alien) faster-than-light plans will soon allow the authorities and others to reach them in a matter of days….

Dave, I’m sorry that you missed our latest game. Paul and Beruk, remember to let me know about your availability for the Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” telecom fantasy game this coming Sunday. I met with Brian and Bruce’s friend Rich G., who’ll be joining us at next Monday’s “Vortex” Team 1 session. Have a good week, -Gene

Role-playing roundup: Science fiction, fall 2011 edition

My favorite author
Favorite author Isaac Asimov

Continuing my look at recent role-playing supplements such as The One Ring, I’ve managed to squeeze in reading some sourcebooks in between work, travel, and running games. Fantasy may be the primary genre in which I’ve played — and superheroes, steampunk, and time/dimension travel have yielded many memorable characters — but science fiction is still my first literary love.

As I’ve mentioned before in describing my “Vortex” game, my sandbox setting is largely inspired by classic space opera such as the novels of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and David Brin. It’s no surprise, then, that I liked the PDFs of Star Frontiers Remastered, StarCluster 3, and Stars Without Number so much that I ordered hardcopies. Stars Without Number is about to get a revised printing from Mongoose, publisher of the latest incarnation of Traveller.

The detailed “future history” of games such as Stellar Horizons and Ashen Stars is similar to that of “Vortex.” (I took a class on the topic back in college.) In these settings, humanity has colonized the Sol system and beyond but faces new threats such as alien horrors, as well as old ones like infighting. I like the political and technical extrapolations of Stellar Horizons and the idea of Player Characters as interplanetary troubleshooters in Ashen Stars.

At the same time, I’ve incorporated elements of more recent cyberpunk and transhumanist fiction in my campaigns. I’ve already used ideas from Panopticon, a supplement for the excellent Eclipse Phase, in recent sessions. I also still regularly refer to GURPS Terradyne, Blue Planet, and Jovian Chronicles for megacorporations, genetically engineered species, and descriptions of colonial life, respectively.

Speaking of mixing genres, the fantasy/cyberpunk Shadowrun has endured even as fashions have changed in the past few decades. I played and ran the game briefly in college. The Fourth Edition and the 20th Anniversary Edition — even though Shadowrun has been around for longer than that — are slick and straightforward, with solid rules (point-buy character creation, dice pools using D6s). I would have preferred more thorough location and faction descriptions rather than “flavor-text” fiction, but that was the style of games from the late 1980s and most of the ’90s.

Similar to Ashen Stars in time period is Chthonian Stars/Void, which has a strong horror bent. I haven’t yet gotten it, and Cubicle 7 did reply to my query about supplements for Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer and Legends of Anglerre. They’re delayed, but I look forward to eventually using them for “Vortex.” I’m also enjoying the lean FATE version of Bulldogs in the meantime.

After grabbing nearly every star map published for RPGs in the past 30 years, I recently ordered the excellent poster maps from Project Rho Productions. I’ll eventually need every human-habitable system within 100 parsecs, but this is a great start!

“Vortex” Update 5a.17 — First Contact at Proxima

Nearby star systems
Stars within 12 light-years of Sol

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for Session 5a.17 of the “Vortexspace opera campaign. Team 1 met on Monday, 23 May 2011, and is using FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures/Mindjammer, Diaspora, and Limitless Horizons.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but ecological degradation and internecine conflicts persist. Open and official First Contact with Galactic societies, themselves at war, threaten Terra’s very survival. Can heroes rise to the challenges?

Two aliens and their human allies encountered xenophobes and megacorporate intrigues on and around Earth. After visiting factionalized Mars and acquiring a starship in the Asteroid Belt from the Olvar Star League, they continued their mission of diplomacy and exploration to Titan, Tyche, and Alpha Centauri….

>>”VortexTeam 1 (5a), crew of the Blackbird, as of spring 2011:

-“Tela” [Sara F.]-female Tharian (winged reptilian humanoid alien) escapee from the Encegulans, engineer

-“Chris McKee/Agent Prometheus” [Josh C.]-male Terran cyborg human sniper working for eugenicists at Black Box Security Co.

-“Aughest-vor…” [Jason E.R.]-male human from the Lemuria orbital city, onetime dilettante, solar-sail racer, pilot

-“Lt. Kevin Reese” [Bruce K.]-male Terran human, burned-out officer and explorer in the Interplanetary Patrol

-“Gombo Shisel” [Rich L./absent]-male Mongolian/Martian human, former horse rancher and wilderness survival expert

-“Syzygy” [Brian W./absent]-Trinoid (trilateral amphibious alien) xenologist with an organic laboratory and a pet cat named “Mr. Sniffles”

-“Dr. Bucket” [Non-Player Character]-United Earth Authority astromech robot assigned to the Blackbird

20 to 22 September 2194 A.D./C.E. or 0 Terran Galactic Era:” The adventuring party readies the Blackbird to leave from Camp Alpha on Toliman, a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri A. Maj. Walt Vanderbilt, acting commander of Tiger Squadron, orders Lt. Kevin Reese and his civilian companions to take the search for the missing Lt.Col. Hollis Shelman into space.

Tela and Dr. Bucket secure the Tiger Hawk Sandstorm ground-effect vehicle and prepare for sublight travel (at 1 AU per hour), and Chris McKee checks the weapons locker in his cabin. Aughest-vor plots a search pattern around the last known location of Lt.Col. Shelman’s Raptor-class fighter.

Syzygy (with Mr. Sniffles) and Gombo Shisel offer to stay behind to analyze the local ecosystem and help the North American Aerospace Marine Corps troops learn how to coexist with the native Tolimanian “mantiles” (insectoid/reptilian pack hunters).

Kevin asks Tela to divert power from the navigational array to sensors, which detect the ion trail of the missing Raptor, as well as an anomalous cloud of hydrogen and helium. Agent Prometheus climbs into the gun turret, and Aughest sets course for Proxima Centauri, the third star in the system.

The Blackbird passes Furon, a “cold” gas giant orbiting dim Proxima Centauri, but there is no sign of Shelman’s craft. Dr. Bucket helpfully notes that flares from the red star could interfere with sensors, and Lt. Reese doggedly decides to continue searching the area.

The atmosphere of the next gas giant, Shedar, is very similar to the cloud found near the ion trail. Aughest pilots past icy rings, electromagnetic currents, and various gravity wells. Tela spots three large objects moving against the winds of Shedar.

Passive sensors indicate that they’re swimming along the magnetic field toward concentrations of hydrocarbons in the turbulent outer layers of the gas giant. When the Blackbird actively scans, two of the shark-like ships circle around, and Tela collapses from psychic overload!

Cautious Kevin tries to communicate with the three vessels, which regard him as “a solid.” Paranoid Chris trains a particle beam on the nearest potential foe but holds his fire. Hotshot Aughest-vor pulls an Immelman turn and plunges toward Shedar!

The astrogator nearly loses control, but Aughest manages to avoid one of the unidentified craft by only 100 meters. Gunner Chris keeps the three objects in his sights, and closer sensor readings confirm that they’re ships rather than individual spacefaring creatures, which Tela had hoped to meet.

The aliens aboard the three ships identify themselves as “Dwellers of the Clouds” to Lt. Reese, who asks about their intent and whether they have encountered other humans. Dr. Bucket says that the Olvar (mammal-like arboreal aliens) are aware of species that live in gas giants, but most interactions with them have gone badly. The robot declines to speculate how they could have developed interstellar travel.

The Dwellers confirm that they were harvesting from Furon and offer to take the Blackbird to a “broken one.” As ruby Proxima Centauri rises behind Eldritch, its innermost planet, the Terrans (and Tharian) approach several gas-dweller ships. Tela regains her faculties, but Chris is disappointed at not being able to shoot anything.

A damaged Raptor, dwarfed by the blimp-like starships, is quickly maneuvered into the Blackbird‘s landing/cargo bay. Tela examines the fighter and concludes that it was probably hit with a pulse similar to what affected her. Kevin thanks the Dwellers of the Clouds, and Chris takes a disoriented Lt.Col. Shelman to Gombo’s quarters and gives him a sedative.

Lt. Reese says that he hopes for mutually beneficial future relations between Terrans and the gas dwellers, but their replies are cryptic and border on condescension. Aughest-vor is only too happy to fly away from Proxima, and Tela theorizes that the Raptor could have been damaged when the aliens arrived from Transit (faster-than-light) mode.

Chris reports that the advanced aliens must have put the missing marine in some sort of stasis, since Hollis couldn’t have survived long in their atmosphere without life support. He also notes that the fighter is missing one missile, which was probably fired in panic during the collision.

After a day’s flight (subjective Terran time) back, Lt. Reese is pleased to return Lt.Col. Shelman to Camp Alpha. Maj. Vanderbilt asks the Interplanetary Patrol officer to leave the missile out of his report to the United Earth Authority. Kevin and Chris agree, and they celebrate over glasses of brandy.

Tela briefs Syzygy on the successful First Contact situation, which could have gone much worse because of the aggressive impulses of both the gas dwellers and humans. Gombo announces that he plans to stay on Toliman because his experience with animals on the Martian frontier can help the marines, as well as colonists coming on the Zheng He, but he adds that he’ll try to catch up.

Capt. Robin Buckley, a former flame of Kevin, invites notorious Aughest-vor back to her bunk. The next morning, Aughest consults U.E.A. and Kharvamid Alliance records and finds a few inhabitable solar systems on the way to Oasis Station, about 40 parsecs from Earth. Tela worries about returning to space controlled by the trade guilds and the Ru’ulok (heavy-gravity reptilian pirates).

The U.E.V. Bellerphon went to 61 Cygni after dropping Tiger Squadron off at Alpha Centauri, so the crew of the Blackbird decides to boldly go where no human has gone before, to Van Maanen’s Star, about six days away….

I hope that each of you enjoyed our latest game, despite a slow start. Brian and Rich, we missed “Syzygy” and “Gombo!” I’m glad that we’ve been able able to trade miniatures, books, and videos, as well as discuss our favorite fiction. The Blackbird‘s adventures are just beginning….

Jason, thanks for your offer to run a one-shot of Darkpages; I’ll reply separately once I’ve had a chance to reread the rules. If anybody else is interested in one-shots, miniseries, or crossovers this summer, let us know on the Yahoo/eGroups message board so we can look at the schedule.

Speaking of scheduling, the latest Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” teleconferencing fantasy session (T3.28) is scheduled for Sunday, 29 May 2011, and “Vortex” Team 2 (the Appomattox crew) will meet on Memorial Day for its planned heist of Ru’ulok FTL drives. “Vortex” Team 1 will play again on June 6, but I won’t be available on June 13. Have a great holiday weekend! -Gene

>>”VortexTeam 2 (5b), crew of the Appomattox, as of spring 2011:

-“Gabriel Adams” [Paul J.]-male North American Terran near-human with telepathy, courier and pilot

-“Hector Chavez” [Beruk A.]-male Latin American Terran human, “burned” operative and communications expert

-“ARTHERR” [Greg D.C.]-Advanced Resonance Theoretical Heuristic Exploration and Research Robot created by megacorp Vimeco

-“Jasmine” [Sara F.] female Martian Felinoid (Synth, “Uplifted” tiger), former professional pit fighter

-“Dr. Richmond Garrett” [Dave S.C.]-male Southern American Terran human, space snake-oil salesman and social climber

-“Dr. Dieter Klein” [Rich L.]-male European Terran human, semi-retired physician, altruist and thrill seeker

-“Nero Bartholomew” [Non-Player Character]-male Terran human, former owner of the “Fortune’s Fool,” ship’s cook

-“Averki ‘Deep Dish’ Dyashenko” [N.P.C.]-male reptilian Synth (genetically engineered humanoid), onetime Venusian miner

Space opera’s TV struggles

Comparison of fictional space vessels
Starship comparisons

Like other genres, space opera has also taken a beating on television this year, with Doctor Who facing a minor backlash for being too scary and continuity-driven, Stargate Universe ending that long-running franchise, and Caprica getting canceled in favor of Blood and Chrome, another spinoff of the “reimagined” Battlestar Galactica (“BSG”).

I’m surprised that the producers of science fiction shows haven’t learned from the experiences of Star Trek and Babylon 5 (“B5”). Both Star Trek: the Next Generation and Stargate SG1 featured humanity’s best and brightest exploring a dangerous galaxy (not to mention the original 1960s Star Trek). Like B5, their sequels, Deep Space Nine and Atlantis, respectively, took place on remote space stations surrounded by war.

However, the next wave — Star Trek: Voyager, Babylon 5: Crusade and Legend of the Rangers, and Stargate Universe — all “darkened” the tone of their respective universes with postapocalyptic themes and wandering ships without the inspirational heroes and occasional humor of their predecessors.

The newer BSG also followed that trend in its melodramatic makeover of the 1970s series, while Andromeda, Firefly, and Farscape tried to balance heroes and antiheroes and were quickly canceled. (I am, however, cautiously optimistic about Doctor Who spinoff sequel miniseries Torchwood: Miracle Day, but Doctor Who and Torchwood are more about time travel and conspiracies than space opera.)

Like Star Trek: Enterprise, Caprica was a BSG prequel that filled in backstory that we either already knew or that wasn’t as engaging as the main exploration and conflicts. That’s not to say that each of these programs didn’t have compelling moments and good actors — they all did — but they didn’t hold onto audience goodwill or ratings with obviously rehashed plots or continuity conflicts.

On the other hand, Star Wars: Clone Wars shows that a space opera prequel can be done well. Initially dismissed as entertainment only for children who like George Lucas’ inferior movie prequels, the computer-animated Clone Wars has redeemed Episodes I through III with intertwined plot threads, actual character development, and blazing action in keeping with the tone of the entire saga. Sure, Season 3 had its share of heavy-handed political episodes, but they provided a context for the Sith’s schemes and Republic’s battles.

I know that human spaceflight hasn’t captured the public’s imagination as it did during the Cold War, but I think that the concepts of unity, exploration, and adventure are as valuable as ever. As a fan of serials from the 1930s Flash Gordon through Clone Wars, I hope that good space opera continues to find a place on TV. What do you think?

Coming soon: Animation and fantasy TV!

Some favorite space operas

Starships named Enterprise
Starships Enterprise

[Note: Reposted with some revisions from the “Vanished Lands” Yahoo/eGroups site.]

Fellow role-players and genre entertainment fans, to follow up on a conversation from this past Monday’s FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures: Vortex” game, here’s an admittedly subjective list of the best space opera movies and TV shows by decade:

>>1900s to 1930s movies: A Trip to the Moon, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials

>>1940s and 1950s: Forbidden Planet (movie), Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (TV)

>>1960s:

-Movies: 2001: A Space Odyssey

-Television: Doctor Who (to present), Space: 1999, Star Trek

>>1970s:

-Movies: Alien, Star Wars [Episode IV:] A New Hope

-Television: Battlestar Galactica, Blake’s 7, Macross/Robotech, Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers

>>1980s:

-Movies: Aliens, Dune, Heavy Metal, Outland, Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, Star Wars [Episode V]: The Empire Strikes Back

-TV: Star Trek: the Next Generation

>>1990s:

-Movies: The Fifth Element, Stargate, Starship Troopers

-TV: Babylon 5, Space: Above and Beyond, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

>>2000s:

Movies: Moon

TV: Farscape, Firefly/Serenity, Stargate SG1

>>Do you have any favorites or recommendations? Here are some good online resources:

http://www.filmsite.org/sci-fifilms.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_science-fiction_films

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_space_opera_media

http://movies.ign.com/articles/677/677739p1.html

http://io9.com/328003/the-rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-space-opera

http://www.allenvarney.com/av_space2.html

This list is by no means comprehensive, and it overlaps slightly with related subgenres of speculative fiction, including alien invasion/horror (The Day the Earth Stood Still), comedic/spoof (Galaxy Quest), cyberpunk/dystopian (Blade Runner), kaiju (Gamera), planetary romance (Warlord of Mars), postapocalyptic (The Road Warrior), police procedural (Alien Nation), and time/dimensional travel (Twelve Monkeys). Space opera is distinguished by relatively easy interstellar travel, familiar interactions between humans and aliens, and mostly heroic characters and plots.

What prompted this? Although we’ve previously discussed our favorite science fiction in various media, in “VortexTeam 1, Jason and I were tossing around allusions, and Josh noted that he recognized only a few of them. I’m sure that Beruk knows more pop-culture references than much of Team 2. Everybody should be familiar with most of the items listed above!

I haven’t even touched on the best space opera books, comics/graphic novels, and games, which are worthy of another discussion! As Brian and Jason noted, the big ideas of science fiction are generally presented with more variety and strength in literature, while fantasy and horror seem more accessible to movie audiences. What do you think?

One advantage of a “sandbox,” homebrew game is that we can incorporate our favorite influences into a shared setting. “Vortex” has 22nd century humans and some established history, but they’re just starting points. I’ve enjoyed seeing the crew of the Blackbird dealing with human-alien relations and the crew of the Appomattox run its cons and get entangled in local affairs. Now that both starships are heading into deep space, the sky’s the limit!