Thursday, May 14, 2009

Boldly Going... to Oz!

After reading Jared's blog, and then this one by Adam Dickstein, I am am now compelled to share this with you.

When my gaming group first consented to try Adventures in Oz, I was ecstatic. The rules would get a thorough playtesting by some of the best players I could muster. However, this meant that I had to come up with stories to put them through. Frantically turning to my Big Shelf O' RPGs (maybe once I get a working camera again, I'll take a picture of how big my collection really is), my eyes light upon my collection of Star Trek RPGs.

To my knowledge, I have every Star Trek RPG ever published. Not every supplement or adventure, but at least the main book for each. I've got the FASA RPG that came in a box. I've got each of the Last Unicorn Games Star Trek books. They did one main rulebook for the Original Series, the Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine. They intended to produce one for Voyager, but the company collapsed before that could happen. I've also got the complete line of Decipher Star Trek hardcovers. There were some books that were published on PDF, but I'm not a fan of PDF in general.

Okay, now that I'm done with the bragging, let's get on with things. The thing that really ties the two franchises together is the idea of exploring the unusual. Star Trek does it intentionally, while Dorothy does it almost accidentally.

The Enterprise's mission is to "explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and civilizations", so it's no surprise that the beloved starship did just that. Each week was a new story with a new planet, a new race of people, or some new phenomena.

Dorothy's exploration was not because she was necessarily looking for it, but because so many things happened to be in her way as she was going somewhere else. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is just looking for a way home and find her way to the Emerald City. It's just that on her way there, she happened to make some friends and have some adventures. In The Emerald City of Oz, Dorothy wanders away from camp briefly and gets captured by the Spoon Brigade of Utensia. Once she is released, she then tried to find the camp again, but wanders into Bunbury and Bunnybury.

The crew of the Enterprise is a bunch of meddlers. Every episode, they try to fix something or solve some mystery or destroy the computer that was running a civilization just fine before they showed up. Dorothy and her friends, however, don't feel the need to meddle much. They will from time to time, but for the most part they are simply passing through on their way somewhere else. Once they get where they're going, however, they feel free to meddle away.

In The Scarecrow of Oz, Trot and Cap'n Bill did not try to reform Ork society, or solve the mystery of why it snowed popcorn in the land of Mo. But once they got to Jinxland, they staged a royal coup, changing the balance of power forever.

This is not always the case, as demonstrated by Dorothy's visit to Bunnybury in The Emerald City of Oz. Her interaction with the King of Bunnybury, though minor, was just enough to help the king be content with his royal lifestyle.

In a gaming scenario, I think the Star Trek model of one new place per adventure would probably work best. It's what I've done in my Oz playtest game. In part because when you introduce something into an RPG, the players are expecting to be able to play with it. Players have been known to spend half an hour on something that the GM has simply intended as a color detail. Putting an interesting person or community in the game and expecting the players to simply ask for directions or spend the night and move on the next morning is simply madness.


Nathan said...

Oddly enough, although Oz is an incredibly small area compared to the vastness of space explored in Star Trek, it seems to contain a greater variety of life forms. {g}

Barking Alien said...

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant. I think it explains a lot about where my interests lie.

I am a fan of exploration, discovery and challenging perceptions. The concept of meeting new and bizarre creatures, communicating with unusual societies and looking around odd landscapes really gets me jazzed. Add a positive, optimistic outlook in the face of hardships and you got me.

The final frontier does indeed extend to somewhere over the rainbow.

Barking Alien

JCW said...

Oddly enough, I've never thought to blend the two worlds together, let alone develop a fine analogy to explain one's perspective as well as you have done.

I come from the D&D era of the 70's. That means I'm quite old decrepit (I think I spelled it right).

I have been following an RPG on Twitter that seems to have successfully blended Star Trek and Harry Potter.

They too seem to have developed the same perspective you have to explain their RPG philosophy.

Someday, I'll have a go at all this new stuff.

Till then, Scientia Est Vox!

James C. Wallace II

Oz RPG said...

The key to doing an RPG crossover is to find the commonalities between the two franchises. Too many people just think "This is cool and this is cool. If I put them together, it'll be even cooler!" But without something tying your Jedi Knight to your Starfleet Science Officer, it's just not going to work.

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