Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Ultimate OSR Franken-Setting?

One of my well-read posts from last September (currently over 1200 page views) but with no reaction (0 comments or plusses, other than the one I gave it for promoting it on G+) was a book review of Ernie Cline's second novel, Armada. In it, I (like most of the reviewers of the book I'd read before picking it up) invariably compared it to his debut novel, Ready Player One. RPO is the superior book, and since I'm on winter break and the dissertation is complete, a few weeks ago I re-read RPO. I likely could have gotten through it in a day if I didn't have family obligations. As it was, it took me two. It's a quick read the second time through.

If you're unfamiliar with it, the book takes place in the near dystopian future, where peak oil and global warming have pretty much ruined everything. But the world's first true persistent VR, the OASIS, has become for most people their means of escape from the hell Earth has become. It has its own economy, and game credits translate into real money. People work there, aside from just playing. Pretty much every internet service is delivered through it. And from the way it's described, it's amaze-balls awesome.

The original designer/coder was a geek roughly the same age as me (born in '72, I was born in '73) and loved to throw in all the stuff he could referencing pop culture from the late 70's to the early 2000's, but mostly from the 80's. Within the VR there are countless planets. Some allow high technology. Some allow magic. Some allow both. As with any MMO, there are PvP zones and safe zones.

There is a zone with planets based on Star Wars, another on Star Trek, one on Firefly, etc. Every D&D module has been coded in there as a 3D environment you can explore, most on the planet Gygax. There are giant Japanese robot worlds and cowboy worlds and Middle Earth, Zork, Hyrule, etc. Whatever cartoons you grew up watching in the 80's? There's probably a world in there for it.
Acererak challenges you to Joust (by J. Delgado)

Basically, it's the Mother of All Kitchen Sink Settings.

So I'm imagining (some day, when time is no hindrance, which will probably never come) setting a game there. Players would start with Classic D&D (or Labyrinth Lord or whatever) on a D&D style planet, but once they've got the funds or means to teleport or travel through space, other worlds open up, and each world has the potential to add new options for the players' character races, classes, equipment, spells, etc. based on other OSR rule sets.

So visit the world of Tombstone, and Go Fer Yer Gun or Boot Hill cowboy characters, sixguns, etc. become available. Visit Gamma Terra, and mutant characters and recovered high tech "artifacts" enter the game. After visiting planet LV-426 (if you survive the face huggers), colonial marines and pulse rifles enter the game. Visit Smurf Village and um...try to catch them and turn them into gold like Gargamel? Or something.

Basically, I'd just be giving myself cover to throw in any sort of interesting pop culture references I feel like. And I'd be forcing myself to actually read through and implement stuff from lots of these OSR games I've collected on my hard drive, but haven't bothered to look at other than a cursory glance or two. 


  1. I bet it would be sustainable for about 5 sessions

    Nostalgia is a powerful and cloying drug

  2. Already kind of happened with Flailsnail games online. Your character pretty much as is in any setting being run by the GM of the game you join.

  3. @Noah: Yeah, probably. But then I find most "concept" campaigns struggle to make it that long even. "Hey guys, I wanna run a viking game!" Everyone thinks it's cool, until a month later when suddenly everyone wants to play grimdark space pirates or something. :D

    Matthew, yeah, FLAILSNAILS was on my mind when I wrote the post. The big difference here is that this would probably be with a sustained party of players, and a single DM running it, rather than a player flitting between half a dozen different games run by different DMs.

  4. Well, you make the PCs convert their gold won fighting dragons to the future-coin, and then try to survive dialed back to the harsh dystopian reality. Make 'em fight with other VR cults over the best Wifi roost or CPU cooler. Does the book explain where the energy for OASIS comes from? You need some logic for the near future exploration.

    1. The book mentions solar power as the main source, but doesn't go into detail. The assumption I make is that either it's somehow less efficient (nuclear winter effect - the book menions that some cities have been nuked) or artificial scarcity with rich people in big cities hogging most of the energy while the poor get by with what they can.

      If I ever do this, though, I'm likely to just set the whole game in the OASIS and leave it at that.

  5. That was such a great book. I've seen a few settings like this in other prose and comic-book stories, and in my opinion they tend to work best when there's one genre that all the different elements are filtered through. A space opera with various planets of varying primitivity is a good way to do it that doesn't require a great deal of explanation (even if you start on one of the primitive planets).

    Come to think of it, the big superhero universes are a bit like this, aren't they?