Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Jess Nevin's Red Planet For Fate Core


With apologies to the Sisters of Mercy:
Red
Red planet
Red
Red world
Yeah, that was bad. Anyway.

It is unfortunate that we don't see the depth and breadth of the science fiction market these days that we would have seen in bookstores 30 or 40 year ago. Once again we are in a phase where, if it isn't the new shiny and written by someone whose native language isn't one of the standardized forms of English we just don't see it. Russia, and the Soviet Union when it existed, has long been a source of thought provoking genre fiction that celebrated perspectives that we don't see from American or English writers.

The "golden age" of Soviet Science Fiction was a particularly optimistic branch of SF to boot, which I'm sure surprises anyone old enough to have grown up during some portion of the Cold War.

Red Planet is a new World of Adventure for the Fate Core rules, available at the OneBookShelf sites as a Pay What You Want PDF. Written by Jess Nevins of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana and annotating Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fame, the book is an exploration of the tropes of a nearly forgotten sub-genre of Science Fiction of the 1940s and 1950s from the former Soviet Union.

The PDF isn's a long one, only 64 pages in total, but it has a lot packed into those pages.

The science fiction that is celebrated by Red Planet is particularly pulpy, with echos of the American heroic pulps like Doc Savage, or the space opera of Doc Smith or Flash Gordon. The situations are wild and weird, and often blur the lines between science fiction and fantasy. This approach used to be much more common than it is these days, before demographics and marketing became a part of the creative process of genre fiction.

There was a lot of bad things that happened in the real world under the auspices of the Soviet Union, and Communism, and Red Planet does not sugar coat or ignore them. These aren't Alt-Communists softened up for propaganda purposes. In fact, the setting goes far to show that the Communism of the Soviet Union, and the Capitalism of the United States, lead to war and upheaval in their battle for supremacy. The protagonists of the setting, the nation of the Union of Materialist Republics, are a rebellion against both of these cultural forces. The Materialists were colonists on Mars, the Red Planet of the title.

Once on Mars, these colonists sparked a revolution against both their own Communist oppressors back on Earth and the Capitalist enemies of their oppressors. With their rebellion, these colonists became their Union. Their culture is not only their own, but has also assimilated (relatively peacefully) the native Martian populace. The racial makeup of the Union of Materialist Republics is made up of that mix of humans and Martians. The setting of Red Planet can be viewed as similar to the original Buck Rogers stories, just with less Yellow Menace.

The Red Planet of the setting is a Utopia. So to speak.

If it was a perfect utopia, there probably wouldn't be any place for the types of adventurers that we see in role-playing games. There is going to be friction and conflict between those of the Union, with the various social and cultural factions of the Earth. There is also an extradimensional faction of creatures that are not native to the solar system, or the reality, of the setting. They are two-dimensional beings called the Geometrists. The Geometrists have superior technology to Earth or Mars, as well as psychic abilities beyond anything capable of the people of the solar system.

There is also still "space" for exploration in the solar system, so characters of that type will find plenty to do among the stars of the Red Planet setting.

If you're a fan of pulp science fiction like Flash Gordon, or pulpy science fantasy like Star Wars, there will probably be things in Red Planet that will appeal to you. It is remarkable well fleshed out, considering the short page count, and there is plenty of material to spark adventure in the setting. I am glad to see tabletop role-playing publishers striking out from the safety of traditional fantasy setting and creating worlds that are different and challenging to gamers.  If you haven't checked out Nevin's Red Planet, you really should.


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