Game Wish 27 Ginger’s latest

Game Wish 27

Ginger’s latest WISH:

The RPG market is dominated by fantasy (with horror coming in second). Why have most attempts at creating a science fiction RPG failed (commercially or artistically), and what would a hypothetical SFRPG need to catch on the way fantasy has?

The reason, I think, for SFRPG’s doing much less well than Fantasy and Horror RPGs is simply a reflection of the market of fantastic literature. Fantasy and Horror sell much more briskly than SF.

Looking at Amazon’s bestseller list of SF/F, out of the top 25, 2 (3 if you count Michael Crichton, who writes more in a thriller vein than pure SF) are SF and the rest are Fantasy or Horror. Fantasy sells, and sells much more than SF has, probably since the early 80’s. Once the “phat fantasy” and series fantasies really got cranking…Eddings, and Kerr, and Brooks, and Jordan…SF fell into an eclipse and hasn’t recovered since.

Some of the points from my fellow bloggers dovetail into this. Fantasy is far easier, I think, to make into a game, than SF. Whip up a world, a magic system, new races and creatures, and you have a fantasy novel…or at least that is the perception. Writing SF involves a lot more variables, and providing an SF universe is likewise much larger for a GM to deal with. I think, thus, that since there are more fantasy readers, or more fantasy is read, the creative efforts at RPGs naturally head to fantasy rather than Science Fiction

Worse, one of the only current good examples of an “SF” RPG, Star Wars, is based on a franchise which George Lucas has admitted has as much or more roots in fantasy and myth as it does in Science Fiction. Traveller is around in a couple of forms, now in a D20 format (and I wants the precious. 😀 Traveller was the second RPG I ever played, after D&D)

What you need, I think for a good SFRPG is a setting that both invokes the sense of wonder that SF allows for the variety and experience of an SF universe, while being manageable by the GM. I am interested in the new and improved Blue Planet setting, for example, and I think it might meet those requirements–but, then, people not interested in an aquatic, exotic, world are out of luck. Traveller is around in a few forms, as is Fading Suns. I can hope that Traveller T20 helps invoke interest in SFRPGs. I’d love to try my hand at it.

Quantity Multipliers for Shadows “She

Quantity Multipliers for Shadows

“She is Star…Empress of the Twenty Universes.”

–GLORY ROAD, by Robert Heinlein

There is an ecological niche between the single world or shadow, and the Infinity of shadows that Amber allows for. The Glory Road Universe of Heinlein has at least 20 known ones with more implied in Number of the Beast. (which is in itself contains an Infinity of worlds). In Anne Bishop’s Darkness novels, there are three worlds. Even Middle Earth is not a single world, since it is mentioned in The Silmarillion that Valinor, the Uttermost West, no longer exists on Middle Earth per se.

My characters, even outside of Amber, have had dealings with multiple worlds. Just as alternate histories and universes in Science Fiction gets my blood pumping, so do a plethora of worlds in a fantasy novel or fiction. I love the Kelestia Harn setting, with its constellation of worlds around the central one of Harn. In fact some of the ideas contained therein originally come from that setting.

Anyway, if a player wanted to buy the entire Harn group, or even something larger, like Arref Mak’s Empire of the Gleaming Banner, buying shadows one by one would be cost-prohibitive. So if items can have multipliers, why can’t shadows?

Quantity Multiplier Cost Name Number of Shadows Examples
*1 Single One Personal Shadow
*2 Named and Numbered ~2-8 Cadmus’ Local Group, Harn’s Kelestia; Anne Bishop’s Darkness Worlds
*3 Horde ~20-50 The Twenty Universes; Empire of the Gleaming Banner; 3rd Edition D&D Multiverse
*4 Region of Shadow ~200-500
*5 Province of Shadow ~1000 to 3000
*6 Swath of Shadow Tens of Thousands or More The Million Sphere, the Worlds of Eon

Of course, like items, the shadows inherit the points that you spend before the multiplication. So, if you had a Horde of Primal shadows, it would cost you 12 points Too cheap? Perhaps, but a good GM remembers that all of those Shadows means an influence on the story. And can you imagine the “maintenance” the character that even thinks about having a region, province or swath of shadow? To say nothing of the potential of mischief from other players, enemies, and the like.

In practice, it is unlikely a character is going to have more than a Horde of shadows and if you wanted to limit shadow purchases to that level, it certainly would be a defensible position.

Once a character has bought a set of shadows, however, there are two more steps in the tradition of Kelestia. The first is that they can customize individual shadows, paying extra points on a single member at a time. Second, they should establish the links between shadows beforehand. It is implied that the shadows are in the same area of shadow, and thus there is an opportunity for the player to provide means to travel between the worlds they have created.

Depending on the setting, the milieu of the worlds, this can range from magical gates to inter-dimensional wormholes, to even something like having a foggy barrier that, if walked into, leads you to the adjoining world. In some cases, for example, Kelestia, there is a definable map of which worlds can be reached from which worlds. In that setting, Harn, as the center of the wheel can reach any of the worlds, but there is no direct link between Yashain and Terra. The availability of these links can also vary, two worlds can have a “weak link”, with few methods, or stronger links between other members of the family.

An example of putting this all together is a setting I am creating for Cadmus, for Deb Allen’s Rites of Passage. When I created the character, I established with Deb that Cadmus came from a small group of inter-connected worlds. Although we really haven’t explored the setting much as yet, I have had a vision in my mind of how this would all work. I’ve called the family of worlds “The Local Group”

Cadmus’ Local Group of Shadows (6 points)

Personal Shadow (1)

Restricted Access (2)

Named and Numbered (x2)

Cadmus’ Local Group consists of four worlds arranged in a triangle with the fourth
point, Terra, in the center. This central world is the main entry and exit point from the group.


This is much like Earth as we know it, with a history diverging in the 11th century A.D. As a result, the Byzantine Empire survived and lived on to influence much of history, and the colonization of the Americas. Cadmus, for example, lived in New Thessalonica, and speaks Greek as well as English

Orbis Astralis

A space-faring universe, this world is much like an amalgam of space empires, republics and other political associations. It is mainly humans, although there are aliens, the Q’rin, which seem much like the Eldar from the Warhammer Universe and might have links to the Fae of the other worlds

Orbis Arcanus

The reverse of the space-faring universe, this world is a fairly typical fantasy based world. Still in development as Deb has “definite ideas” on its nature

Orbis Faerie

This world is the origin and domain of the Fae, and may prove to be the secret to the Faerie found in the other three worlds. Still in development as Deb has “definite ideas” on its nature


Kelestia, from Harn

Chessboards, the Planes of Possibility

Alternity: Tangents, by Bruce Cordell

Usenet Archive now available on

Usenet Archive now available on google.

Now this is interesting. The old archives of Usenet are back up to browse on Google. I found some really old posts from when my email was as well as the variations on jvstin that I’ve used on various locations. It was strange to do searches and find and read posts of mine from 6 or 7 years ago on NYC politics, computer games, and other stuff.

I saw LOTR TTT again,

I saw LOTR TTT again, on Christmas Eve, this time at the Irvine Spectrum.
The interesting thing about it this time? Well, I managed even to make the Tolkien expert Scott Olson jealous because, you, see, the Irvine Spectrum contains an IMAX screen–and they show “regular” movies upon it. On Christmas Eve, it was Treasure Planet (earlier in the day but I didn’t see that). The “late” show, which I did catch, was The Two Towers.
It looked great! It didn’t cover the entire screen, of course, the aspect ratio of an IMAX screen is not the same as a regular movie screen. there weren’t any black bars, but it reminded me a bit of watching a widescreen movie on a television in that regard.

Christmas Wishes To Mom, Dad,

Christmas Wishes

To Mom, Dad, my family and friends and readers, I want to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas. I’d want to spend it physically with some of you, all of you, any of you, but you are in my heart and mind on this, Christmas Eve as I write it.

I am feeling somewhat better, physically, I think all of you know I have been battling a nasty cold the last few days. It’s still attacking me, but I am slowly winning the fight.

I also wanted to share with all of you something that just happened, a few minutes ago as I wrote this. I don’t do it to brag, or to toot my own horn, but merely to affirm to myself and the rest of you that, even alone, the spirit of the holiday is here, within me.

I was in the grocery store, on the checkout line, buying a few things. Ahead of me was a nice little old lady, the real grandmother type. She was buying some candy, some chunk canned chicken, and some cat food. The checkout lady asked her if she was alone and she said no. There was a pregnant pause and then she indicated me, standing on the line behind her, barely paying attention to the conversation. I could sense it though…she was alone on this christmas eve. I felt a twinge of sadness.

When it came time for her to pay for her groceries, about $13, I watched as she pulled out a few singles and some coins. It became apparent to me, and to the checkout girl that she didn’t have enough…she only had $7 or so. The checkout girl then asked her a question that I, back when I worked in a grocery store, saw every day. She asked her what items she wanted to remove from her order.

Something possessed me and I still can’t quantify it. I pay by debit card at the store, and so it was a fait accompli. I swiped my card, and paid for the bill and only then, once it was a done deal, told the cashier and the lady that I would pay for the groceries. I refused even the $7 that the lady had, something inside me told me to pay for the bill in full and so I did.

The lady thanked me, the checkout girl looked at me quizzically, and the people behind me just seemed relieved that the delay was over. But I felt like I did the right thing, and after I bought my own groceries, and walked out of the store with a spring in my step.

It wasn’t much…it was less than $13, but I think I brought a ray of happiness to that lady, on Christmas Eve. And that is my story.

Merry Christmas everyone.