A Space Opera Recursion for The Strange

Posted: 2014-11-14
Last Modified: 2021-05-17
Word Count: 621
Tags: penandpapergames rpg

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Original Post

Recently I’ve been playing The Strange with a reasonably stable group. Yesterday I had an idea for a space-opera style recursion (parallel world for the rest of the gaming world), and having nobody else to tell I’m telling you. Don’t you feel special?

The problem with wedging an entire galaxy, or even a solar system, into one of the Strange’s recursions is that recursions are supposed to be small, much smaller than Earth, so that the GM isn’t madly mapping planets for every adventure. The two best defined – and canonically largest – recursions are Ardeyn (about 2000 miles across) and Ruk (about 200 miles across, or so the map appears). Most are only as big as a city; some are as small as a house, or a room. The only real planet is our Earth; everything else is a fragment in the vast dark matter cyberspace of the Strange.

But Space Opera tropes to the rescue! In Star Wars and even less sciencey space operas,

  1. planets only have single biomes (the jungle planet, the ice planet, the desert planet, the one-big-city planet, the parking structure planet)
  2. Our Heroes only explore a tiny fraction of the planet’s surface area, maybe a city or county’s worth.
  3. very planet, ship, and asteroid has Earth gravity, since actors hate being on wires for more than a scene (unless they’re Chinese, and really has anyone asked Michelle Yeoh or Jet Li if they actually like wire work?)

So, imagine something like Mongo in the 1980 Flash Gordon movie: individual lands floating in space, each with its own climate, flora, and fauna. (Hawk-people optional.) Not that this is remotely original, even in gaming: Sundered Skies, Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, yadda yadda. Even Slipstream for Savage Worlds borrowed heavily from Flash Gordon.

In the Strange, then, imagine a larger recursion split apart. Maybe it split into islands in the Strange, close enough to reach via void-ship or experienced chaosphere navigators, where gravity inexplicably pulls “down” despite the lack of a large mass in that direction. Maybe it’s planetoids around its curiously small but bright sun, where gravity on each chunk is exactly 1G over the entire surface but horizons are only a short walk away, a la the planet of the Little Prince. Each chunk has a force field dome that keeps the atmosphere in, and smaller space junk out. Each worldlet may consist of a sweltering desert, teeming forest, or seemingly endless snow fields, but most have a climate similar to Southern California. (Substitute the greater London metropolitan area, Cardiff, or just outside Tokyo as necessary. Less civilized places look like a quarry or the Vasquez rocks.) In any case, a tenuous dust field surrounding the pieces makes rocket travel possible … but stray too far and you’re in the Strange, with all the hazards that implies.

The actual civilizations and politics are a bit hazy. Let’s stick with tradition: a megalomaniacal emperor/empress rules most of the worlds. Everyone lives in fear of his clone/robot soldiers, ruthless human(?) commanders, and especially his heavily armored and cybernetically enhanced right-hand man(?). A ragtag resistance hides on unpopulated worlds, hoping to stir cowed citizens and disloyal nobles into open rebellion. If only they had a hero to rally around …

Postscript (2021-05-17)

Monte Cook Games eventually published a recursion that leveraged the tropes above. However, I think their version simply ruled that, no matter how big a planet looked it only had only one region that actually existed, and “spaceships” always landed there. (I think I bought that book, but I don’t think I did more than skim it.)