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Author Topic: [Star*Babe] Trollbabe for Space Opera  (Read 6747 times)
James_Nostack
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Posts: 642


« on: April 02, 2006, 07:06:22 PM »

in 1998, TSR/Wizards published the "Star*Drive Campaign Setting" for their short-lived science-fiction RPG Alternity.  It was, as someone once phrased it, "Forgotten Realms in Spaaaace!" and I hated it for years.  It was generic, forgettable, implausible, and generally tasteless.  Imagine my surprise to discover, after reading Ron's "Narrativism Essay," that there's gold in them thar hills.  My contention is that Trollbabe could be tweaked to play in this setting.  I hope any Trollbabe experts will step in and provide feedback.

Setting - It's the future.  After the discovery of faster-than-light travel, humanity has colonized hundreds of worlds, and has established several interstellar governments.  And with governments comes warfare.  During the cataclysmic Great War, the frontier worlds of the Verge lost contact with the Core; they were on their own.  Over the next 150 years, some of these worlds prospered; others declined; one vanished without a trace. 

Now, however, the War is ostensibly over, and the Core governments have reestablished contact with the Verge.  Their fleets have arrived, looking to rebuild political ties, provide humanitarian assistance, and exert control over resources.

Premise - What's it worth to have a government?  Some of the Verge worlds are doing great on their own.  But others are falling apart.  And there's a mysterious army of Bug Eyed Monsters who want to destroy everything.  The Core and the Verge must reach some accomodation, but how, and at what cost?

Character - Trollbabes are recast as "Concord Administrators," (the name is taken from canon material--and yes, it sucks, so you're welcome to suggest something else), and are sort of like Dogs of the Space United Nations.  A Concord Administrator roams around, solving problems.  In theory their goal is to advance human rights.  In practice, especially in the Verge, this involves carefully balancing the conflicted interests of the locals and the new arrivals.

Situation - I see something like this.  Here's a planet known for (powerful star-ship building industry).  Now here rolls up one of the Stellar Nations, which wants to change the status quo by (nationalizing the star-ship building industry).  These plans have thrown people into confusion, and potentially drastic action (insert, let's say, three examples that tickle your fancy).  The Concord Administrator shows up, probably in pursuit of something else, and everyone reads the C.A. like a Rorschach blot, and reacts to his/her presence.

System - Trollbabe, using Technology as a conflict type instead of Magic.  (A ship-to-ship battle would be a combination of Fighting + Technology, obviously.)  The progression of Stakes would be tweaked to do Space Opera.  I'm thinking that instead of asking how the character arrives in town, but rather which criminal he or she is chasing down.

Color - to be provided later.  I've had some thoughts about streamlining the canon material, and this would be handled with lots of color for the seven solar systems of the Verge, the four Stellar Governments, and five Alien Species.  My worry here is that if I go too overboard with color, it might strip away that glorious sense of "player authorship" that appears to happen in Trollbabe games where the setting is kept pretty loose.

Any thoughts on this?  Am I missing any essential features of Trollbabe?  Am I barking up the wrong tree?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2006, 05:14:47 AM »

Hiya,

If you wanna, then I won't stop you. But ...

I think you'd be better off 'porting Dogs than Trollbabe.

Best,
Ron
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Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2006, 12:27:35 AM »

Yay! I was wondering what you were going with your Star*Drive musings.

Quote from: 'stack
Am I missing any essential features of Trollbabe?

There seems to be a shortage of... oh... trollbabes?

Really. I'm not clear how a Concord Administrator is in a situation in life similar to that of a trollbabe.

Reading through the setup a couple more times, that does look an awful lot like Dogs.
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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2006, 07:23:28 PM »

Quote from: Larry Lade
]There seems to be a shortage of... oh... trollbabes?  Really. I'm not clear how a Concord Administrator is in a situation in life similar to that of a trollbabe.

Okay, excellent!  See, I'm gonna lay out my theory here, and I hope people pick it apart, because (a) it will help me understand my setting better, and (b) it will help me understand the design priorities of Trollbabe better. 

My understanding of Trollbabe is that the protagonists have the following features:
* women
* can kick ass
* are the subject of people's projected feelings simply by being born.
* become the flashpoint of conflict, simply by showing up on the scene.

While all of these are essential to get the full Trollbabe experience, certain points seem less fundamental to the design.  (Coca-Cola should be consumed from a green glass bottle, but you can drink it from a cup and get a largely similar experience.)  The main points of difference between a trollbabe and an "Administrator" (ick!) is that Administrators can be of either sex, and are conflict-laden by virtue of their profession rather than by birth.

The gender issue is important to Trollbabe, but not necessarily important to what I have in mind.  The fact that an Administrator doesn't have a "conflict-laden" soul might make a philosophical difference, but I'm not immediately convinced.  There's enough Premise in the Setting and enough conflict in the Situation to compensate.

Note that I don't envision the Administrator as being obliged to "solve" the stakes.  More like, "Damn, this case is more complicated than I thought," and whether the Administrator tries to engage with the larger situation or tries to walk away, there will be resistance and consequences.

Of course, if anyone can think of another approach to the setting that would be closer to the Trollbabe aesthetic, I'm open to suggestions.

Quote
Reading through the setup a couple more times, that does look an awful lot like Dogs.
Maybe so, but Trollbabe is the one I own.

Quote from: Larry Lade
I was wondering what you were going with your Star*Drive musings.

Stay tuned.   
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2006, 09:03:25 PM »

Um, dunno what to tell you, James.

You rightly describe the key features of a trollbabe protagonist, let's call them 1, 2, 3, and 4. Then you say, "well, 1 isn't going to apply, and uh, 2 is gone by it's replaced by this thing that's supposed to function like 2."

And I say, it's not 1, 2, 3, and 4, so it's not trollbabe, and the game Trollbabe is intended for trollbabes, period. You can go ahead and change it, but you take your own chances, I wash my hands of you if you do.

Successes in doing so have resulted in either new games or in appealing to a completely different audience than I'm interested in reaching with the game. And, I might add, easier and less significant audiences.

To put it most bluntly, Trollbabe without trollbabes is a cop-out. Dogs, on the other hand, is very very well-suited to the parameters you've described, and it also both utilizes and extends the scenario-building concepts in Trollbabe. It's worth the bucks for your goals, I really think they'll be well spent.

Best, Ron
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Larry L.
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Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2006, 11:09:10 PM »

James,

Now, when I saw the subject line, I actually envisioned something different. I imagined vanilla Trollbabe, but with the traditional fantasy elements replaced with a lightweight space fantasy. Like, maybe the trollbabe shows up on a planet, and she's wearing futuristic composite armors or something. Just a color change, but one that seemed appealing and exotic to me. That might be cool.

Running this in Trollbabe is not unlike just running it in Alternity. You're not doing that, because that system doesn't attempt in any way to address your premise, so why shoehorn it in?
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Chris Gardiner
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Posts: 45


« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2006, 11:37:36 PM »

Hiya,

Quote
My understanding of Trollbabe is that the protagonists have the following features:
* women
* can kick ass
* are the subject of people's projected feelings simply by being born.
* become the flashpoint of conflict, simply by showing up on the scene.

There's also the fact that Trollbabes have a foot in both the key cultures of the game, and yet belong to neither. I think that sense of between-ness, duality, and other-ness is very important to it. It's certainly been a big thing in our game. Partly, it means when there is conflict between humans and trolls, the trollbabes aren't, by default, on one side or the other, but they're involved in both. I'm having trouble seeing how you could get this effect using the Core and the Verge.

I'll add my voice to the chorus that the origins and motivations of the player characters you've discussed do sound like they'd fit more naturally with Dogs.
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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2006, 04:56:42 AM »

Running this in Trollbabe is not unlike just running it in Alternity. You're not doing that, because that system doesn't attempt in any way to address your premise, so why shoehorn it in?

Hi Larry, somewhere I got lost in those double-negatives.  Could you clarify?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Successes in doing so have resulted in either new games or in appealing to a completely different audience than I'm interested in reaching with the game. And, I might add, easier and less significant audiences.  To put it most bluntly, Trollbabe without trollbabes is a cop-out.

I agree with parts of this.  But would you say that Brand Robbins' recent thread, which didn't involve trollbabes, is a cop-out?  If so, a cop-out in regard to what?  My opinion is that at the end of the day, awesome play is awesome play, regardless of a certified pedigree. 

(Out of curiosity - what percentage of Trollbabe play reaches the intended audience?  And, for the record, who is the intended audience?  I have speculations about both of these, but I wonder if I'm right.)

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Jon Hastings
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« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2006, 05:38:36 AM »

There's also the fact that Trollbabes have a foot in both the key cultures of the game, and yet belong to neither. I think that sense of between-ness, duality, and other-ness is very important to it. It's certainly been a big thing in our game. Partly, it means when there is conflict between humans and trolls, the trollbabes aren't, by default, on one side or the other, but they're involved in both. I'm having trouble seeing how you could get this effect using the Core and the Verge.

I'd add that Trollbabes are not authority figures, they are more powerful/effective than most of the NPCs they will encounter, they are unique in the setting, and they are bound to no law but their own morality.  And it's the combination of all these things that make their presence "inherently destabilizing" to any situation they get caught up in.

So, yeah, James, you probably want Dogs...

But - if I were going to try to mash together Trollbabe and Star*Drive (about which I know nothing more than what you've told me), well, first I'd allow for the resulting game to be its own thing.  Second, I'd borrow the concept of the Singularity as it is used in "New Space Opera" novels like One Million Open Doors by John Barnes and Singularity Sky by Charles Stross:

The setting would be a Verge world, cut off from Core Space: backwards in terms of techology, but, more importantly, culturally stagnant.  The characters - Star*Babes - were originally from the Verge world, but, at some point (like when they were teenagers), somehow they were whisked off to Core space.  I picture this as a kind of alien abduction, but rather than aliens doing the abduction, it's humans armed with Singularity Nano-Technology.  The game is about what happens when, years later, the Star*Babes return to their homeworld, with a bunch of Nano-Technology of their own.  Important in this conception is that they (a) are free agents and (b) have a reason to go back home.  This allows us to have PCs who are "caught between two worlds", uniquely powerful in the setting, and bound to nothing but their own morality.

A few tweaks:

1) I'd change Magic to Nano-Technology and emphasize that it is super-destabilizing.

2) I'd switch the way Fight and Social were calculated.

3) I'd telescope the Scale (so it goes Personal - City - Nation - Whole World).

4) I'd probably encourage the players to have their characters be on different worlds and I'd collaborate with them on coming up with their PCs' homeworlds' culture.

Now, I'm not sure any of this would work - it's already pretty far removed from Trollbabe, so, at this point, we're starting to move towards designing a whole new Trollbabe-based game.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2006, 06:09:22 AM »

Quote
it's already pretty far removed from Trollbabe, so, at this point, we're starting to move towards designing a whole new Trollbabe-based game

Which is, of course, a wonderful thing to do. I very strongly suggest that people not "use Trollbabe for [fill-in-the-blank]!" but rather design their own games utilizing whatever features from Trollbabe they'd like.

And no, you don't need my permission to do that. It's legal. It makes sense.

Hi James,

Quote
would you say that Brand Robbins' recent thread, which didn't involve trollbabes, is a cop-out?  If so, a cop-out in regard to what?  My opinion is that at the end of the day, awesome play is awesome play, regardless of a certified pedigree.

You seem to be confounding "cop-out" (a topic and participants issue) with "no fun" or "not awesome." That makes no sense; a cop-out in the terms of my post can still be awesome play for its topic and participants.

Quote
(Out of curiosity - what percentage of Trollbabe play reaches the intended audience?  And, for the record, who is the intended audience?  I have speculations about both of these, but I wonder if I'm right.)

My answer is not suitable for internet consumption. It would make the brain-damage thing look like a brief squeal of static.

Best, Ron
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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2006, 08:19:24 AM »

Hi Ron, you'd written that your thoughts about Trollbabe's intended audience and the percentage of play involving that audience "are not fit for internet consumption."  I was wondering if they were fit for PM consumption instead; I'm curious, discreet, and difficult to offend.  It's clear that the game is very special to you, and I'd be interested in hearing more about it if you don't mind.

Incidentally, I hope my comments in that thread aren't taken as disparaging the game: it's quite kick-ass as written.

best,
James
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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2006, 08:20:25 AM »

Ack, that was meant to be a PM, not that I mind especially.
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Larry L.
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Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2006, 09:12:16 AM »

Hi Larry, somewhere I got lost in those double-negatives.  Could you clarify?

In short, Trollbabe doesn't sound like the right tool for the job. Dogs does.
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sirogit
Member

Posts: 503


« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2006, 03:06:47 PM »

My answer is not suitable for internet consumption. It would make the brain-damage thing look like a brief squeal of static.

Best, Ron

Ron,

I really think the rpg community in general would be better off being aware of this paticular criticism. Yeah, it'd make people sad, but it is very difficult to present a radically different value without being offensive, and without radically different values the rpg scene is in some way doomed to stagnation, something you probably don't care that much about but I like seeing trouble.

Give in to the dark side.

Please?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2006, 05:49:38 PM »

This thread needed to end after the third post. C'mon guys, find something else to talk about.

Best, Ron
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