Monday, June 28, 2010

Red Dwarf: Sci-Fi Original Edition Game Setting

In lieu of Futurama, I’ve been watching a lot of Red Dwarf via Netflix, one of my favorite television shows. Now I’ve got an urge to play an RPG with the setting - one based around the last known human being alive on an enormous deep space mining vessel.

Right then, for the sake of it, how would this work? I know that there was a Red Dwarf RPG released back in 2003, but I’d like to use something very rules light that I’m already more familiar with… X-Plorers seeks to be something OD&D would have been if it’d intended to be Sci-Fi based instead of Fantasy. That would work nicely, as would Terminal Space, which explicitly states that it’s a Sci-Fi supplement for OD&D. I could also use the original Traveller rules (I have the little black books and supplements). For the moment, I’d choose X-Plorers - I’d like to support a new publisher and the only reason I prefer it is that it’s in print. There’s something satisfying about holding a professionally printed game book, although I should mention that TS should be available soon on too.

The physical game setting is mostly aboard the mining vessel itself. The ship is so large that in episode 21, the character Rimmer (a holographic projection) takes a ten day holiday hike through the ship's combustion engines with two small robots as companions. A whole civilization evolved from a pregnant cat on board, ultimately abandoning ship in the midst of holy wars and in search of their god (Lister) and holy land. There’s also occasional run-ins with other space vehicles or bases and planets or asteroids. Smaller shuttle vehicles are used for exploration when these are encountered. The thing to keep in mind is that the human players (or one of them at least) was kept in stasis for three million years until a radioactive contamination of the ship was no longer dangerous. During this time, one might assume the entire human race had died out or evolved into something unrecognizable. Portions of the ship may have been inhabited by extraterrestrials for long periods (and maybe still are)… Or maybe there’s nothing out there anymore. There might be remnants of cat people lurking in distant recesses of the ship as primitive tribes. There’s always the possibility of time anomalies caused by spacial rifts and wormholes too.

One difficulty in using the setting would be the limited number of characters at the game start. In the show, there are only Dave Lister (the sole surviving human, and the lowest ranking member of the 400+ member crew), a descendant of his pet cat (now a semi-intelligent humanoid), and a holographic projection of Lister's bunkmate, known as Rimmer. Later in the series, they are joined by Kryten, a laundry robot, as well as by Kristine Kochanski, a former girlfriend of Lister. There’s also the ship’s artificially intelligent computer which is malfunctioning but still manages to navigate the ship and maintain most of its vital systems.

This is also what I like about the idea - that there are so few characters. As GM, I’d want to play the computer. Shades of Paranoia

Though the ship’s computer (“Holly” in the show) and the one hologram character it can provide power for can’t die, the remaining PCs might snuff it at some point. The artificially intelligent robot can be rebuilt or replaced with backups. So really there’s only the one human and the cat-man. If the human character died, I might rule that he could be cloned or rebuilt by nanobots (in one episode, everyone on board was brought back to life this way.) For game purposes, I’d have this process take a certain amount of time (perhaps 100,000 years for example) so death would still have consequences. Or instead, technical complications and malfunctions mean only one new character can come out of stasis every so often. Other crew members might be able to be brought back to life as well, or perhaps the holographic character’s program becomes corrupted and the original is replaced with another crew member. If or when the cat died, I’d rule that his foreign physiology would prevent any resuscitation. Players wanting another cat-man would have to go find one running loose in the bowels of the ship somewhere.

Well, that about covers the basics. Red Dwarf fans out there? Anyone ever play Deep7’s Red Dwarf rpg?


Capheind said...

To be honest I'd probably try something more story oriented and goofy, Like fudge or Risus for something like this. As much as I love both D&D and Red Dwarf the setting just seems a little too madcap.

Jarrah said...

I've never played the Deep7 version of the game, but I have read it. For my take, I'd use an idea from it, and rather than having Cat people who evolved on the ship, instead have an empire of Rabbit People who overtook a colony somewhere, and now Rule the Galaxy with an iron fist (or paw), while the Rat and Mouse people skulk around in the dregs of their society. There would be a Rat and a Mouse on the crew, being a scavenging team that stumbled on the Dwarf shortly after the Last Human came out of stasis.

Jay said...

Yay for choosing X-plorers! It's good to support new endeavors I think. :)

Coopdevil said...

Portions of the ship may have been inhabited by extraterrestrials for long periods (and maybe still are)…

Something that the writers made a deliberate decision about when creating Red Dwarf is that there are no "extra-terrestials". Every intelligent being encountered can be traced back to Earth - Cat is descended from Terrestial cats, the GELFs were man-made etc.

If you want extra PCs, there's no reason why Kryten's "bad head" doesn't escape and find a body somewhere. :)

ze bulette said...

@Capheind: I'm not even sure I'd want to play it as a fun house or in comedic way. Something about the extreme loneliness of the setting appeals to me. Although maybe it would be impossible to play it otherwise - in the words of Holly,"Three million miles from Earth, the mining ship Red Dwarf...Message End. Addition: As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?"
@Jarrah: It makes sense to have other intelligent races just for NPC interaction possibilities. Per Coopdevil, their terrestrial origins would be in keeping with the setting.
@Coopdevil: Quite right about the ETs, and I'd forgotten about the GELFs (Genetically Engineered Life Forms). The lack of ETs goes back to my comment to Capheind above, so I agree it might be best to leave them out of it.

Unknown said...

As much as I love the TV series, I don't think that this is suitable for an RPG.

Some things are better left alone.

But you could certainly craft a fantastic board game out of it, possibly one with dynamic elements (card-based?).

ze bulette said...

The more I think about it, the more I realize that it's Red Dwarf itself I like, that is, the giant uninhabited ship, more than the characters (at least as far as adapting it for an rpg).

I'm with you on the board game idea though, that sounds like something someone could easily whip up with encounter card spaces or something. ...Just checked, and found this - What hasn't been done? :)

Adam Dickstein said...

I actually ran an awesome Red Dwarf campaign using the Deep7 system, which, if you look at it closely, resembles a sort of simplified, 'Reverse-Traveller'. This enabled me to use a surprising amount of Traveller material for my Red Dwarf game.

The campaign was set aboard the Titan Science Institute Deep Space Explorer 'BLUE GIANT'. Launched about 50 years after the 'Red Dwarf', this more advanced vessel was designed to seek out new worlds to, yes, develop and just make all the more spiffy for human use and possible occupation.

The change of vessel had a two fold purpose which I think succeeded rather well. First, it gave the campaign its own unique feel and identity. Second, the exploration nature of the ship and many of its more advanced features made the campaign a bit more like a British comedy version of Metamorphosis Alpha.

Jim said...

As an FYI, I was at my local secondhand book shop and they had 2 (or 3) copies of the Red Dwarf RPG. If you are interested, I could give you their name/number. Maybe they'd send it to you... :)

ze bulette said...

Thanks Jim, I've had my eyes on a copy for sale but maybe I can get a deal with your folks - sent you an email. Cheers

Albert R. said...

Two words:
Encounter Critical :-)

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