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London Ramblings

Musings of a London Migrant

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Pointy Rockets and Crimson Skies...
A little while back I ruminated on how it might be fun to adapt the Savage Worlds Pulp "Slipstream" setting to Deep7's Red Dwarf RPG, as a "holodeck adventure" or alternate universe (or any one of a number of ways you could drop the boys from the Dwarf into it).

Well, that's just got a whole lot easier with the latest in Deep7's Airship Daedalus RPG supplement, the "AEGIS Interplanetary Guidebook". This takes the basic 1930's setting with its occasional wierd science and demonic magic and turns the dial up to 11 by placing the H. G. Wells "War of the Worlds" into the timeline and the subsequent reverse engineering of abandoned martian technology leading to a thriving space race with bubble helmeted space suits, pointy finned rockets and more rayguns that you can wave a proton disintegrator at. It's a nice addition to the series, but... I have some issues with it, mainly with the art.

Deep7 have a habit of using "photo realistic" computer graphics in their books nowadays. Now this is fine for technology; spaceships, vehicles, technology, robots, even the occasional alien, but try to depict a human (or human-like alien) with it and it just dives straight into uncanny valley. It looks both wrong and ugly. I like it not. I didn't like it in the main Airship Daedalus rulebook and I don't like it here either. The other thing is some of the spaceship designs. OK, every pulp era source like Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers (the old Larry "Buster" Crabbe ones) has been raided, fair enough, but there are a few there that raised an eyebrow. Like at least three Gerry Anderson craft. Seriously? You didn't think anyone would notice? I certainly did, putting a few bubble canopies on Thunderbird 3 does not disguise the fact that it is still Thunderbird 3. A few others I noticed as well, like a Mysterion "vertical rocket cycle" being suspiciously close to a Trade Federation Single Trooper Aerial Platform from "The Phantom Menace" or a Nazi "TX-25 Teufelbach fighter-bomber" being a dead ringer for the Alliance Fast Attack Ship from the "Keep Flying" Firefly Online website. It just smacks of laziness, surely a halfway decent graphic designer could have knocked something original together with little effort. Let's just hope the copyright lawyers don't catch wind of it.

So issues with the rulebook, but aside from that it does make a very useful toolkit for a Red Dwarf/Slipstream conversion, same XPG mechanics and and the same sort of pulp era science fiction setting. All you really need for bringing a bit of Raygun Gothic to complicate your Dwarfer's lives.

And of course Ace Rimmer would fit into this genre so so perfectly. "Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast". What a guy!

So that's one thing taken care of, however...

While looking through the Airship Daedalus material again I was also struck by what an ideal system it would be for roleplaying another 1930s setting, that of Crimson Skies.

Crimson Skies was a boardgame created by Jordan Weisman and Dave McCoy for the FASA game company, released in 1998 and set in an alternate 1930s where simmering resentments from the Civil War, influenza epidemics, prohibition and finally the Wall Street Crash have fractured the USA into several competing nation-states and the whole economic, technological and political shape of the world has been altered. The trans-continental railroads have been torn up, the nascent highway network never materialised and if you want to move anything anywhere you take to the skies. Cue the honking big airships!

It's an alternate universe Earth, of course there's going to be airships. Duh!

And where you have airships plying trade, what are you going to get? Sky pirates! Yes indeedy. The game is basically a minatures wargame pitting various milita, mercenary and pirate factions against each other in ever more improbable but utterly cool fighter aircraft. Basically what the authors thought was "what would it take to generate airborne pirates" and this balkanised America is what they came up with. It's a glorious setting, beautifully realised and filled with larger than life characters who are the superstars of this era. A lot of the aircraft are based on experimental (but generally hugely unsuccessful) aircraft designs of the time. But this world runs on rule of cool, so bolt on a few more fins and off we go into the pale blue yonder. It's pulp hero, but it's also deiselpunk, years before the term was even invented, "dieselpulp" if you will. Hardly surprising it won the Origins Award for "Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game" and "Best Graphic Presentation of a Board Game" of 1998. It went on to spawn a couple of videogames that stil have legions of fans, as does the original game.

 (Dieselpulp? Good word, must remember that).

I had it. And I got rid of it in the downsize. And I regret it.

Fortunately I still had a few books on the shelves,so I rescued those. Even more fortunately someone of teh interwebz had put up pdf scans of a load of it on Mediafire, bless em. So I have these and luckily the pdfs I don't have and the books I do match up perfectly.

I could get them back, found a site that sells most for not much more than I sold them for, but the main rules boxed set goes for silly money and the "Behind the Crimson Veil" pirate sourcebook is nowhere to be found. I've looked. Still, I have all the info I need for the setting, a little work and I can be hurling my little Bell Valiant towards the pirate fighter group threatening that airship with it's vital cargo of vaccine.

Not on my watch, you sons of bitches!

*dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka*

Additional- While browsing the net for Crimson Skies stuff I did find out some interesting facts, such as there was going to be a Hollywood Sourcebook, but it was never released. There was also mention of the Holy Grail of the Crimson Skies gamer community, the fabled Zeppelins and Bombers Sourcebook. Always conflicting rumours of this, there was a limited release, or there wasn't anything, or it was only ever produced in Germany (the Germans were HUGE fans of Crimson Skies). Turns out the guy who wrote it, Patrick Koepke (also did the Texas Republic Sourcebook), had indeed submitted a first draft to FASA just before the company shut down and eventually, hearing of all the fans who were desparately trying to find it, found all his notes, polished it all up and finally released it as a pdf.

If you're still looking, it can be found here- http://www.montanaraiders.com/zeppelinsandbombers.html

Very nice it is too. Interesting to see that in the CS world airships the size of the Hindenburg are considered among the smaller sizes available. Honking big airships, like I said.