Bell Bottoms and Blaster Bolts
by Digga Dominus
Sorry. This is not a role-playing game based on the adventures of Derek Wildstar, Nova, Captain Avatar or any of the heroic crew of the Argo – also know as The Space Battleship Yamato, the WWII super destroyer made spaceship and savior of Earth. If you’re old or otaku enough to remember this ancient anime, you may recall the British space opera comic StarBlazer Adventures (SBA) by Cubicle 7, which is what this new RPG is actually based upon. If not, as with all arcane nerdology, feel free to PM Chris Hussey or Keith Curtis – use large font, make‘s it easier for them to read.
Not being an aficionado of sci-fi British comics from the ‘70’s – despite having Spock’s face tattooed on my butt, fascination with major boobage, and loving Earth, Wind and Fire – I was attracted to the game for it’s use of the FATE system. Back in episode 65, the enthusiasm of a certain beer-nippled former host got me to check out and fall in love with Spirit of Century (SotC) by Evil Hat Games. Love is too strong a word. Not being particularly into 1920’s Pulp, with all it’s setting cliche racism and entertaining sexism, I became…intellectually enticed (brain boner) by the core rules of FATE.
SBA is to Sci-Fi what SotC is to Pulp. I love Sci-fi, as the science officer on my left cheek can attest to.
The setting and system seem an excellent pairing like Gungans and lightsaber strikes to the face. FATE uses a design fractal with SBA such that characters, aliens, monsters, starships and Rebel Alliances can be created and interact the same way regardless of size. Scale, skill and Stunt selection are the only differences and heroes’ actions can be focused upon amidst a galaxy-sized conflict. The main limiter is that an entity can only directly affect (roll against) objects within two increments of its scale level. Although the Fantastic +6 rated Navy of the Galactic Empire can’t target you specifically, its Great +4 Finances can hire a bounty hunter with Great +4 rated skills like Blaster carbine, Starship Piloting and Jetpackery – though Abysmal -3 at Sarlaac avoidance .
Should the hunter catch up to you, the 620-page SBA book could block his shots – hot glue on a leather handle and you got a heavy shield. Big deal. You don’t mind reading, you’re on a blog after all. It’s PHB, DMB and MM in one for less than the price of each. The editing in some spots sadly reflects the length; there’s only so much a poof redder can catch given its size. I’m just talking about instances of “Armour”, “Colour” and “Manoevre”; these are cultural faults of the UK. The system is simple enough that you can glean what was intended.
There are also tons of examples and great advice for GM’s that can be applied to any game. Story Teller and players can pass around a blank sheet of paper taking turns adding planets, names, space objects and aspects to for a galactic sector sandbox, while communicating the type of adventures they’d enjoy – if you care about such things.
Lots of the volume is black-and-white art copied from the original issues. Aliens with Afros, clunky toaster oven like robots and brave heroes with feathered coifs abound, groovy.
Even if you don’t want to run a game based on this particular genre of old school space opera with its silver jumpsuit uniforms, pointy bras and cut-off shorts wearing mandroids – complete with special attachment in a rainbow of colors – you can mine the system for any science fiction setting you’d like, whether hard like Heinlein or soft like Star Wars. I do prefer the starship design system I wrote for FATE, but I’m an awesome GM and shouldn’t hold others to my standard. If you like SotC, or are interested in getting into story games, I highly recommend it.
[Editor’s Note: Digga Dominus is not employed to endorse this game or the FATE system, he’s just a huge fan boy of the game and invites you to read more of his RPG views at Da Dominion. We discourage you from following the link.]