The King is Dead

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Space Operetta 33,000: Sci-Fi Comedy for Savage Worlds

Space Operetta 33,000

Space…
It seems to go on forever…
But then you get to the end and the gorilla starts throwin’ barrels at you.
--Futurama

It’s the far future (or maybe long ago in a galaxy far, far away) and life goes on as always.

 
On board the HMS Decider, the second shift – an oddball assortment of junior officers and those passed over for promotion one too many times – find themselves in command of the Imperial Discovery Fleet’s flagship when the senior bridge crew is killed on an away mission.  They’re months away from the nearest starbase and this is their only chance at command of their own vessel.  How badly do they screw-up first contact with innumerable alien cultures?

In a ratty cantina on the bog planet Mephitic VI, the best smuggler in the galaxy has an attack of diarrhea right before a meeting with an old coot and a mushroom farmer about smuggling some droids past the People’s Bureaucratic Republic’s blockade.  The job goes to a second-rate smuggling outfit that underbids him.  Will they get the secret plans to the Counter-Insurgency or do they eat too many of the farm-boy’s mushrooms?

On the Outer Fringe of the galaxy, a not-so-very intrepid band of interns is fact-checking the entries of that esteemed repository of all knowledge, the Encyclopedia Interplanetica, in preparation for its new edition.  Unfortunately for them, it seems the Encyclopedia is woefully out of date; fortunately for them, they’re one step ahead of their bar tabs.

In another time and another place, Futurama is cancelled again… 
 

I’ve never believed in 13 as an unlucky number, but this year has really sucked.  I’ve had a few genuine tragedies (that I won’t bother you with), some really annoying financial trouble (but we’ve kept our heads above water), and some cases of “adding insult to injury.”  The re-cancellation of Futurama is one of those insults. 

Futurama has been one of my favorite TV shows ever since it premiered.  Like Scott Pilgrim, I identify strongly with Philip J. Fry despite being his opposite in many ways (in Fry’s case, I’m book-smart with a degree and a steady job with a pretty decent paycheck).  Like Fry, I’m perpetually stuck in a go-nowehere position and my greatest talents seem to lie outside of the professional sphere; one of those talents we share is being good at loving the lady we love no matter what.  Philip J. Fry is an inspirational figure (if definitely not aspirational).
 
 
Space Operetta 33,000 is a Savage Worlds setting of sci-fi comedy.  Whether you lampoon your favorite (or least favorite) space opera sagas or rip off Douglas Adams, the name of the game is relishing the dumb things we role-players do anyway in a setting that doesn’t make you roll up a new character if you push the wrong button.

*** Warning: Deliberately trying to improvise brilliant dialogue and full-fledged comedy skits is doomed to failure.  Nobody is that funny.  The best thing to do instead is play crazy situations straight and just revel in the quips and goofy behavior that comes naturally from friends gathering around the gaming table.***

While all the rules you need are in Savage Worlds Deluxe, the Science Fiction Bestiary Toolkit has a really helpful assortment of (admittedly old edition) NPC archetypes from fake Jedi to a star fleet bridge crew.  Additional alien races and alternate spaceship rules can be found in the other sci-fi toolkits, Slipstream, and issues of Savage Insider.     

Races
This might be a fun time to play with the Making Races guidelines in Savage Worlds Deluxe.  Otherwise, have fun re-skinning the standard races into fake Klingons and Vulcans brilliantly original races of your own conception!  Playing up the All Thumbs Hindrance of the otherwise lofty Elves or the Bloodthirsty Hindrance of otherwise sexy cat-people Rakashans seems like comedy gold to me.

Skills
No changes, but the GM should be sure to throw the characters into situation where they don’t have the needed skills.

Hindrances
No changes, but Doubting Thomas kind of requires that the characters encounter supernatural beings fairly regularly and that may not fit your version of sci-fi.  GMs should keep a list handy of the characters’ Hindrances and work in opportunities to exploit them whenever possible; for instance, characters with Bad Eyes (Minor) will be constantly having their contacts popping out or their glasses knocked off.

New Hindrance:  Absent-Minded (Minor or Major)
You tend to forget things – as in actual objects. 
With the Minor version of the Hindrance. when you declare you are using a device (blast-gun, chronic screwdriver, sandwich) that you haven’t used yet, the GM may once per session require you to make a Smarts-2 roll in order to have remembered it.
With the Major version of the Hindrance, the GM may simply declare you left it in your other pants.

Edges
No changes.

Gear
Futuristic Gear is the most widely available, with Medieval Gear perversely being more common than Modern.

Setting Rules
As has been pointed out before, the combination of Critical Failures with Heroes Never Die practically defines a comedy setting.  To simulate Futurama’s particular comedy-violence style, I would recommend the use of Gritty Damage (how many times have characters lost limbs?) and High Adventure (see the Claw-Plach scene in episode 209 “Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?”).

Powers
Weird Science is a must.  The hilarious way Psionics can actually backfire on the entire party makes it a likely candidate for inclusion.  Use Magic, Miracles, and Super Powers at your own risk.

Bestiary
Most NPCs are going to be as incompetent as the PCs, so you can usually assume d6s in all Attributes and d4s or d6s in their Skills.  As mentioned before, Savage Worlds Deluxe, the Science Fiction Bestiary Toolkit has a great collection of NPC archetypes (and some monsters).

Of course, you can always use Sitting Ducks' Futurama profiles for a ready-made crew.
 

I’ll miss you, meat-bag.

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