SF Campaign Quiz

I stumbled across this when going through my old emails, and I thought it might interest some of you.  This was a survey I sent out for a group I was going to run a SF campaign for once a month online; they had agreed they wanted to play some kind of SF campaign, but they weren’t sure what.  Usually I’d start with an idea for the kind of campaign I felt like running, but since I was play-testing Zap! at the time, I was open to almost anything they wanted to try.


How serious do you want the tone of the campaign to be
  • Played for Laughs (Galaxy Quest)
  • Campy but played straight (Flash Gordon)
  • Straight, with leavening of humor (Star Trek Original Series)
  • Straight, with little or no humor (later season DS9)
  • Grim (Battlestar: Galactica remake)
  • Other:

Hardness of SF

How hard do you want the SF to be?
  • Sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic
  • Anything goes as long as you wave your hands sufficiently vigorously and invoke nano, quantum, or tachyons.
  • Stick to standard SF tropes like FTL travel and cloning, please.
  • At least make a stab at plausibility, don’t include anything known to be impossible without flagging it
  • Stick to actual speculative science
  • Everything has to be vetted by Scott (one of our two resident physicists)
  • Other:
Which of the following elements would you like to see? *
if there’s a conflict, these choices will override the previous answer in specific areas
  • Space ships
  • FTL Travel
  • Psionic powers
  • Alien life forms
  • PC alien races
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Teleportation/Matter transmission
  • Near Future
  • Alternate Present
  • Farther future, but Earth still known/relevant (3-400 years)
  • Far future, Earth history known but Earth lost
  • Earth? What’s that?
  • Terra-forming
  • Interstellar civilizations
  • Time travel
  • Extra-dimensional travel
  • Virtual worlds
  • Resurrection/Restore from Backup
  • Increased Longevity
  • Robot PCs
  • Interstellar War
  • “Uplifted” animals
  • Genetically engineered humans
  • Allegory and social commentary
  • Universal translators
  • Matter replicators
  • I’m good with any or none of the above
  • Other:

Campaign Structure

Episodic or Epic
  • Episodic: I want the stories to have discrete beginning, middle and end
  • Seasonal Arcs: I want the individual episodes to eventually add up to a larger arc, but that arc might be only one of several with these characters
  • Epic: I want one overarching story, with the bulk of what happens being driving that story forward
  • Non-dramatic: I want to explore and do stuff, and if I see any dramatic structure happening, I’ll zap it with my blast pistol.
  • Other:


Should PCs die?
  • Never.
  • Only by player choice.
  • If they do something everybody agrees is lethally stupid
  • If they do something that the GM thinks is lethally stupid
  • If the dice say so
  • If the dice say so, but with player veto
  • Inevitably
  • Multiple times per session, thank goodness for backups
  • Multiple times per session, thank goodness characters are easy to create
  • Other:

Are the PCs special?

ordinary schmoes or heroes?
  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them. And then there’s the PCs
  • Ordinary folks thrown into extraordinary circumstances, trying to get by
  • Competent professionals, doing their jobs
  • Elite, the special squad within the ranks of the pros
  • We’re the A-Team, we get called in when the elite have failed
  • Legends, the ones that taught the A-Team everything they know
  • Mary Sue Squad
  • Other:


How far and wide do the PCs roam?
  • Based in a particular city-sized locale
  • Globe trotters
  • Interplanetary is an adventure
  • Interplanetary is a commute, Interstellar is an adventure
  • Interstellar commuters, Intergalactic adventurers
  • Time travelers
  • Dimension hoppers
  • Other:


Why did nobody tell me how great Thorgal is?  (Ok, Trey Causey tried back in 2013, but I wasn’t reading his blog back then, and made the mistake of not crawling through all the archives when I added it to my list of must-reads.  Mea culpa.)

Despite the name, Thorgal is not about Marvel’s new female version of Thor, but a Belgian fantasy comic that’s been produced since 1977, by the team of Jean Van Hamme (writer) and Grzegorz Rosiński (artist).  It’s definitely in the science-fantasy mold, as Thorgal is an orphan from outer-space plopped down among the Vikings.  Not too much is made of that, actually, except him having a great destiny.  The first volume of the English translation goes into it, but apparently it was originally volume 7.  I think for the English editions they moved it up to its chronological position, because they wanted to start with an “origin”?. This gives it a slightly odd feeling, since it originally served as a flashback and doesn’t have any of the foreshadowing devices you might expect if it was really the beginning of the story, but if you just let it flow I promise you’ll be richly rewarded.

I’m particularly taken with Aaricia, the cleverest princess of them all (not her actual billing, just my reaction to her). Whether it’s rescuing Thorgal, rescuing a god, or solving an ancient riddle Aaricia can always figure it out. Unfortunately I’m only three volumes in and she’s currently sidelined, but I’m hoping to see a lot more of her in the future.

Thorgal is more than just a viking slab of beef, particularly in terms of conscience, but it’s Aaricia, pictured above, that I really like.

update just finished volume three, and Aaricia saves the day as usual. Go Aaricia!


You can get the first book here (Amazon associates link, so conceivably I could get some money if you choose to order it via the link)


Basically DungeonPunk applies the gritty, cynical aesthetic of CyberPunk to heroic fantasy, usually with magic as tech. Sometimes this is just a surface gloss: long coats & mirror shades on your dual-pistol wielding dwarf warrior.  What I’m looking to do is emphasize some of the things that I see as making the “Punk” part:
  • The street finds its own uses for magic (tech)
  • Criticism of conformity: you can have a comfortable life, or freedom, but not both. Opting for freedom drops you into the seamy underbelly of society, scrabbling for a living.  You’re not really a punk, imo, if the Establishment is universally hated and despised.  Fighting against alien invaders who want to eat you isn’t punk; fighting against alien invaders who want to give you boring 9-5 jobs with health and dental in alien call centers is.
  • The protagonists are society’s outcasts and losers, not the movers and shakers.  Being a high-level adventurer doesn’t get you an audience with the king and the hand of the prince/princess, it gets you an unpleasant interview with the head of the secret police where he offers to drop the charges if you do a little job for him…

Here’s the TV Tropes link: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DungeonPunk

Some images:

Train Golem

Lightning Rail




Torchlight 2 Wardrobe


Out-RAGE-e-ous Accents

Here’s a comment I left on an RPG Blog II post about Dwarves with Scottish Accents:

eh, it’s amusing and it passes the test for character accents: it’s easy enough for amateurs to produce recognizably. It matters not at all whether it’s authentic, only that the audience can recognize it. The fact that people know it’s inauthentic may actually be a feature: people who are much too self-conscious to attempt an accent where they might be judged against the real world seem to be comfortable with doing the over-the-top parody accents: och aye Scottish, oh I say English, ve haff vays German, I shall taunt you a second time French, bork-bork-bork Swedish, keel moose and squirrel Russian, arrr me hearties Pirate, fur shur rilly Valley Girl…

I know our group does a lot of silly voices, for which we mostly have Rachel and her Sister Theresa to blame.  I know that in addition to the ones I mentioned above Doug sometimes does Monty Burns: eeeexcellent, complete with finger steepling gestures, and a kind of well, shoot iffen that don’t beat all Hick. What ones am I missing?  There are a bunch of bad celebrity voices that I do, but I’m not sure whether they count….