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StarFate: a Fate/Stargate idea

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love the Stargate franchise. I recently watched all of Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe, and I’m almost done with season 8 of Stargate SG-1. In the case of SG1 & SGA, I’m rewatching — I have seen all of these before, except for the series closer of SGA.[1]

I should warn: there will be motherfucking spoilers here.

 

At its heart, SG1 & SGA are pulp serials. (SGU is a very different beast — a BSG take on the universe — and I didn’t care for it for a number of reasons, so I’m not going to touch it much.) That means that, as an engine for these stories, I’d go to Fate — ideal for pulp adventures.

Why Fate?

Fate’s fantastic for this! Look at Samantha Carter & Daniel Jackson — they’re characters with high authorial intent. In Fate terms: they have the privilege of creating broad aspects about a situation, like “Clearly this is Ancient™” or “Modified Frequency Blaster.” The high-intellect pulp characters like Doc Savage are represented well here, which SG is full of.

Setting the tone is also something one does with global aspects. “Named cast don’t actually die” is an aspect on the shows, though occasionally subverted against pretty harshly. (And then sometimes un-subverted. Hi, Carson.)

Add to that the fact that the stress system suits pulps well, the mechanics allow for different courses of action, etc., and you have something strong for SG. (And it’ll be even stronger when Fate Core comes out, for serious.)

Things about Stargate

The interesting thing about wormhole physics is how it constrains options. Matter going only one way means you can be cut off from an escape, but that there’s a maximum window means you can time an attempt to connect out. Along with that, the fact that the DHD can be moved or broken independent of the Stargate can cause all sorts of potentially stranded problems.

All of that’s crafted to introduce problems in the narrative. And that’s what we need to think about, from the perspective of the aspect “Wormhole Physics” — the ways in which the group can be compelled by that aspect.

The Goa’uld have the same hot point that the Vaylen in Iron Empires have — the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” vibe. I dug the Wraith from SGA enough, but I wouldn’t want them as my main foe. So, that enemy who can infiltrate us and take our will away, that’s juicy stuff. Add to that the Jaffa, the warriors bound to service because of their symbiotes, and you have a sense of complex motivations that can come from a people that are, 99% of the time, near-faceless mooks to fight.

Going Beyond Stargate

Here’s the thing that really drives my crank about this show: there keeps being a risk of public exposure. I want to see the world where that’s come to pass. We got a hint of one possible world when we saw Earth as a part of the Aschen Federation, although that was of Earth being effectively subjugated. Still, when I saw that episode, when I saw the firefight with Anubis over Antarctica, all of that, I was excited.

So that’s what I want. I want the world that’s five or ten years after the Stargate’s public, with a couple Earth-orbit battles in recent history. That’s the world I want to play in.

If there’s anything I’d ditch, it’s the whole “you Earthlings are too primitive” vibe that you get with some early- and mid-series episodes. From a gaming perspective, that just opens up a fucking huge can of worms, so it’s best to say “this is Earth’s level, and aside from the Big Nasty threats and the occasional distant allies that rarely show up, that’s what the world’s at, yo.”

It’s more interesting to make it a story about resources rather than about capability. The “if only we had more naquadah & trinium, we could build more ships” thing.

So, let’s take a page from the Aschen Federation episode, where humanity has advanced rapidly in ten years. We can pin part of that on other cultures who have advanced, some of that on technology left by the Ancients and discovered by humans of Earth, and some based on captured enemies. Let’s see stories about this Earth Defense Force stomping through the gate, about a hard war at times, though with many worlds that are still left untouched by that war (so that we can take a break to tell B-plot stories). Stories about what few ships our planet’s been about to build and maintain (and keep from being destroyed). All that stuff.

And let’s see how the world we know changes because of that.

(If there’s some familiarity here, that’s because Mass Effect did this, albeit later in the future and with a longer amount of time between public knowledge and game start.)

What Do You Want?

A bunch of you guys are Stargate fans. What fires you up? What would you like to see?

– Ryan

[1] Which, as a San Franciscan-in-exile, brought a couple tears to my eyes

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26 Responses to StarFate: a Fate/Stargate idea

  1. Daniel Solis says:

    What juiced me about the setting is the occasional brain-melting sentence like “We blew up a star to kill Apophis.” said while munching on cafeteria fries in the mess hall.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I wonder how to pull the mess hall scenes off in StarFate.

      Also, I could imagine a Daniel Solis-style game that is pretty much just told in the mess hall, recounting an adventure.

      – Ryan

    • Jeremiah says:

      I could totally see Mess Hall scenes as time for rest/recovery or even advancement depending on how you wanted to play it. Almost like Winter Sessions in Mouse Guard, but probably more regularly.

  2. Devon says:

    I love all things Stargate and, while I think going up against the Goa’uld will kick some serious ass, I really enjoyed the Ori arc. There seemed to be a lot more at stake during the last couple seasons of the show and I liked the fanatic feel of the enemy.

    I’m excited about advancing things 10 years after the ‘Gate goes public. I can see the possibility of some interesting encounters back on Earth, as people hero-worship them while others curse them for bringing the scourge of extra-terrestrials down on the planet.

  3. Nancy McKeown says:

    Time travel. I always love time travel. :)

  4. Colin says:

    I always wanted to run a game of SG-0, the black ops team that went through the gate and has been running a covert war against System Lords behind enemy lines while also having a spy vs spy clashs with NID.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    I think this pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter:

    Brenna: As you’ve begun to suspect, all of you have had your memories altered. You are Major Samantha Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, and you friend here is named Teal’c.

    Jack: Where does Homer fit in?

  6. WillH says:

    Rodney McKay has the aspect “Smartest Man In Two Galaxies,” which gets compelled the fuck out of whenever he is around his sister or Sam.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Totally. And any time his intelligence runs someone the wrong way in a way that complicates the situation.

      – Ryan

  7. RM says:

    Love Stargate. Unfortunately I have no useful comments to add to the conversation because I’ve never used Fate (though I’m very interested to see the new Fate Core and have been considering using it once the full release is ready, since from what I’ve seen it’s quite brilliant), but it warms my heart to see Stargate discussed in such detail. ^_^

    My favorite episode has to be the time loop one. Teal’c and O’Neill golfing into the Stargate…priceless.

  8. Ed Turner says:

    I only watched the first few seasons of Stargate before I lost access to television for a while, and for some reason I never came back, but even still what struck me most about the series was a sense of advancement which was absent from other shows I was familiar with. They weren’t just on a mission to acquire technology… they acquired it, adapted it, and re-used it in later episodes. It gave the impression of long-term progress that wasn’t necessarily based around the actual series plot, and that was fantastic.

    Reminds me of Truth and Justice’s trophy room idea… you’ve defeated one danger, and now you can drop some narrative currency to break it out to aid yourself in a future, unrelated task. “We’ve got a fleet of ships breathing down our neck, but, wait a minute, don’t we still have the number of that black hole from the Case of the Matter of Time? Perhaps we can use that to our advantage!”

    • RM says:

      Keeping a strong sense of benefits from former adventures and continuity in general is a good idea for an RPG in my experience. That’s the sort of thing that changes the game from just a series of jaunts that happen to have the same tools in the hands of players to an actual story with characters and consequence. The fact that there are systems now that are spelling that sort o thing out more clearly is wonderful.

      Don’t know much about Fate (see above), but I’m guessing this is the sort of thing Fate could handle with new world aspects? Basically succeeding at mission X gives you “Planet XYZ is being consumed by a black hole” as a universe aspect, and then you can activate that to use it in a plot or something? (Presumably with some limitation so it doesn’t become the go-to for everything, of course.)

    • Monte says:

      To riff off of RM’s idea, perhaps there is a set of “series aspects” that the players can invoke or the GM can compel. There can only be 10 series aspects, so when you get your 11th, you have to pull one down and narrate that it has been resolved (To’kra are now allies), upgraded (SG now has Asgard beam weapons tech), or destroyed (Stargate Command has declared that P3W-451 is off limits and there are security blocks in the computer).

    • Ed Turner says:

      RM,

      I like that, though I’d think maybe instead of a world aspect, it could be interesting to have it as an aspect that applies to the team itself. Call it a squad aspect. Something like “I dialed into a black hole and survived,” which affects the entire SG-X team, and can be invoked by any of them (or, if you prefer, can be invoked if the entire squad chooses to invoke it). As the team advances, they gain more squad aspects that generally relate to alliances or technologies acquired. Creates a team advancement separate from individual advancement, and mechanically enforces close group ties: if you leave the squad, you destroy or lose access to the squad aspect.

    • Daniel Solis says:

      Yes! I loved this casual continuity.

    • RM says:

      Ah, yeah. Squad aspects would be better–I like that concept!

      Not to go far off topic, but I’m guessing that’s probably a decent way of handling other “we have an X that helps us” things? For instance, in a Lovecraftian investigators RPG, would “Team Aspects” be a good way of covering things like the team having the Necronomicon or some such?

      Additionally, I wonder if this might be a good way to record choices the group made…for instance, to take it back to Stargate to stay on track, let’s say that in the mission involving the black hole, the group has found a tech that could actually force the black hole away from the planet (totally non scientific, but it’s an example!) The Tok’ra want them to use it because they want to colonize the world, but a large part of a Goa’uld fleet is near the world and if they let the black hole run its course the fleet will be destroyed. So you have a choice that affects quite a lot of potential things and I’m thinking that you record the choice they made as a new squad aspect? “We saved P3W-451 from a black hole” vs “P3W-451 is being consumed by a black hole” or some such? If I understand Aspects correctly, that would let the players use their choice for benefits during future missions (reputation bonuses if they saved the world, black hole as a weapon if they destroyed it) but also let the GM use it as…what is it called, a compel? In order to give the group disadvantages based on their choice: If they saved the world, the fleet later shows up through the magic of Aspects, and if they destroyed the world, they suffer diplomatic penalties through the magic of Aspects.

      Or is that entirely off base?

  9. John Powell says:

    I love all things StarGate – except the Ori. Fuck those guys. I’d pretend none of that ever happened. I also hated the all-powerful Wraith until they nerfed them halfway through the first season of Atlantis.

    I’d set a campaign right now – The Destiny’s crew is frozen between galaxies, and the (so far) covert war with the Lucian Alliance is heating up. Major themes should include the people’s right to know versus protecting them from themselves. The Free Jaffa government is taking a decidedly fascist turn, do we support that because we need them? The city of Atlantis, and the Antarctic base are our aces in the hole. Earth’s major defense installations are all connected via Asgardian beam technology. Talks are now beginning about relocating the city to the Moon or somewhere else in the Solar System, so we can utilize it’s StarGate without interfering with the Gate at SGC.

    And I’d bring the Ba’al clones back at some point to mess with the PCs.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I just today ended what I consider the best closer for SG-1: Threads, S8E18. The two after that, the obligatory time travel eps, don’t fire me up. And the Ori were weak, but the only reason I’m going to watch S9 & 10 are to finish it out for research fodder. Also, I fucking love the Ba’al clone storyline.

      I’m very likely to steal some of these ideas you’ve presented for StarFate. :D

      – Ryan

  10. John Powell says:

    I’d totally play in that game if you ran it. Google hangout, Skype, gpnw, whatever – let me know.

  11. Not sure what I can add to the discussion, but I’m loving this idea. I agree that the Ori storyline was pretty weak, but that’s because I didn’t dig the “religion is evil” vibe of it. It’d be interesting to see something like Dresden’s city creation for planet creation for StarFate.

    I’d also love to see a blog post with your thoughts of SG:U, as I enjoyed it very much (although for much different reasons than SG-1 or SG:A).

    And yeah, the time loop episode with Teal’c and O’Neill is awesome. Definitely my favorite.

    • RM says:

      Yeah…I wasn’t a huge fan of the Ori stuff or seasons 9 & 10 in general. Honestly, I think it could work, but it just felt like a different show to me. I don’t tend to handle large-scale show changes well anyway, though, so I honestly can’t say whether I have a problem with the Ori concept itself or if it’s just that the show changed and that bugged me too much to give the new theme a chance. If they’d actually concluded SG-1 and then opened a new spinoff show called “Stargate: The Next Generation” ^_^ or something like that, it might have worked fine for me.

      I do agree that I felt more of a “religion is evil” theme from the Ori than from earlier foes…which is odd, considering that Stargate has always used the “the gods are aliens and some of them are indeed very evil” idea, so you’d think I would have felt that all along. Maybe there were just more elements in earlier seasons to gentle that up (like the frequent presence of the Asgard to show that there were some good alien “gods”). As a religious person myself that feel did bother me, but that isn’t enough to drive me away from a show unless they start really screaming it at the top of their lungs and letting their point destroy the plot (which would be a problem no matter what the point is–if you’re writing a story you have to write a story, not a statement).

      That said, the references to Arthurian lore were pretty cool. ^_^

      I could certainly see the Ori plot working in RPG form as it has a good focus on goals, a timeline element as the Ori crept across the galaxy, and a good structure for ascending enemy threats with the priors and such. I wasn’t a fan of the plot but I could see it as having great potential for a game setting.

  12. John Powell says:

    Among my favorites is the two-parter episode, “Heroes” because of SG-13’s Colonel David Davidson, played by Adam Baldwin. His monologues about his wife and kids are hilarious, as are his team mates.

    Other favorites are all three episodes written by Christopher Judge (Teal’c). Look them up.

    • RM says:

      Wow, I’d forgotten about “Heroes”–that was a great two-parter, yeah. Very much enjoyed it.

  13. Ryan Macklin says:

    Reading all of these responses makes me think that the setting should have two dials: during the Goa’uld War and the future I outlined.

    – Ryan

  14. Feldion says:

    I’ve never actually seen Stargate but I have played X-Com and been tempted to read a fanfic crossover which sounds quite like your future setting in some ways.

    The military powerhouse and aggressive (and self-sacrificing) tactics of X-Com combined with all the setting of Stargate. Humanity even starts creating Sarcophagi to keep its deathrate low.

    Anyway, this idea seems like a cool one. Best of luck!

  15. Chuck Cooley says:

    The one StarGate campaign I pitched was called “SG-13” or “Why Does This Shit Always Happen to Us”. Our Heroes (the Players, not canon characters) get in a firefight in the pilot episode, and the Maguffin goes off, blowing them through a defective gate at Exactly the Wrong Moment, and they can’t get back. So they wander through a series of Gates, almost Sliders style, trying to get home. They have a gadgeteer with them, of course, who eventually gives them some limited control of where they gate to next, a-la Dr. Who. (Don’t give the players the ability to go anywhere in time and space, unless you have an infinite amount of time for prep.) On the other hand, if this was handled badly, it could be the worst kind of railroad. The pitch didn’t sell to my players, but anyway, that’s my idea.