More and more recently I’ve heard the term “genre mash-up” used to describe RPGs that heavily draw on two sources of inspiration that, on first glance, don’t seem to go together. While the term is new, the idea is not. The novelÂ Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus is a 19th century example of mashing science with horror, while the Shadowrun RPG mashed traditional fantasy tropes with cyberpunk. And who amongst us “mature” gamers don’t remember stomping through the crashed spaceship in the Barrier Peaks?
Taking inspiration from one genre and applying it to another is a great way to create a fresh campaign while keeping some familiar elements for the players. This series of articles takes two genres and mashes them together for a new campaign. For the first article, we cheat a little bit and take two popular franchises from the same genre (unless you want to get pedantic andÂ differentiateÂ them as “science fantasy” and “soft science fiction”).
Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Imperial Star Destroyer Stryker. Its continuing mission, to exploit strange new worlds, to subjugate and assimilate new life and new civilizations, to boldly eradicate the last of the fleeing Jedi Order.
Yes, kids, this is a mash-up of Star Wars and Star Trek. The player characters are the bridge crew of an Imperial ship that has been sent beyond the boundaries of the Galactic Empire to bring new worlds into its grip while relentlessly hunting Jedi that remain after Order 66.Â In addition to the usual bridge crew rolls we’d also add a Dark Jedi advisor that basically acts as First Officer (he or she could also be a Sith Lord, but I’m sure someone would get his undies in a twist if I suggested breaking the “Rule of Two” so we’ll stick with the “Dark Jedi” grey area). The ship may also employ a bounty hunter (either freelance or a highly trained soldier) to root out any Jedi that may be hiding in the new systems that the ship encounters.
You can also deviate from the Star Trek model a bit and have “Lower Decks” PCs as a dedicated Away Team. Given that they are Imperial Officers the PCs would be expected to be skilled warriors and likely have a Dark Jedi apprentice (training under the Dark Jedi Advisor, naturally) with them. It’s this group that makes first contact and determines what gets reported back to the bridge.
Also, it’s likely that some (or all) of the PCs are members of the Rebel Alliance. They need to protect any Jedi or Force Users that they find as well asÂ send importantÂ information to the Alliance. This makes things extra complicated for the Dark Jedi Apprentice.
Here are a few plot seeds to get things started. All of these are taken from Star Trek plots.
The Doomsday Machine: An ancient weapon designed to defeat the Yuuzhan Vong has drifted into the galaxy. This weapon is designed to destroy living organisms, leaving worlds stripped barren of life but leaving technologies (and entire space ships) intact. Unless the Stryker can stop it this weapon will continue on course to the heart of the Galactic Empire.
Balance of Terror: The Empire’s reputation precedes it and one of the new civilizations sends a craft to destroy the Stryker. This new space ship is smaller but has certain advantages over the Star Destroyer. In an interesting twist an old acquaintance of one of the Stryker‘s crew (perhaps a Rebel ex-lover or old Jedi mentor)Â contacts them from the bridge of the other vessel and promises that no harm will come to the crew if they surrender. Not only must the Stryker defeat the new threat, but the affected character must deflect accusations of aiding the enemy in the process.
The Devil in the Dark: The Dark Jedi Advisor senses force-users on an unknown planet and dispatches the PCs to find and eliminate any Jedi on the planet. While investigating, the PCs discover that the planet harbors a group of Jedi younglings led by a Jedi padawan that is still a teenager. Do the PCs carry out their mission or can they find some way to save the children?
That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ve inspired some of you to send Imperial Star Destroyers to explore the final frontier. Until next time, Good Gaming!
I enjoy the mashing of genres. In your example, you managed to mesh two of my favorites. 😀
I’ve wanted to mix the modern espionage thrillers with the Dark Ages for a while now. Agents of “the church” setting out to fight off the things that crawl in the night – Van Helsing style!
My most successful campaign thusfar has been a mashup! It takes place in Eberron, and follows the crew of the House Lyrandar airship “Voyager”. The “bridge crew” are the PCs, and there current mission is to explore the unknown continent of Xen-Drik. They are to seek out new life forms, and new civilizations, to boldly go where no human, elf, halfling, half elf, gnome or half-orc has gone before.
(You can see where this is going I’m betting)
Its been a fabulous experience, both as a DM and as a player. The stories just write themselves, since I can draw on the typical fantasy trope, then throw in a dash of Star Trek plot flavor and bingo! Instant adventure that has the feel of an Eberron tale, with an equally familiar sense of a good Trek episode.
The golden rule seems to be about 60/40. 60% typical Eberron high fantasy, with 40% Trek. The 40% is cliche, using the ships artifice (transporters are teleporation artifice devices, the Khyber Shard core is the antimatter reactor, etc.) to get the PC’s into and out of jams. The same goes for the story telling. While chasing a elven crystal airship (See D20 supplement Airships for some great aireal flavored rules) in the grey mists of the Mournland, the Voyager manages to blow up the other ship’s unstable arcane reactor, and whoosh! A portal in time is punched open wisking them back to 2 days before the Day of Mourning in Cyre! Right out of Star Trek, yet Eberron all the way.
Has anyone else done a mashup that they really love? I’ve already started an Eberron meets Serenity/Firefly campaign in parrell. Its a geeks dream come true!
I ran d20 Modern meets The Matrix. The players created themselves as PCs and played a few years into the future. They discovered that their world was actually a psychic illusion created by mind flayers, to keep them pacified. While they toiled for their masters, their minds believed they were working, watching TV, or gaming. When someone’s brain was devoured, they dropped dead of a “heart attack” in the false world, etc.
The illithids created the Dream as a shared illusion, making it easier to sustain, but also requiring internal management so that it remained pleasant enough to believe. High-ranking officials in government and business were actually mind flayer projections.
In the real world, the PCs had to regularly escape and battle their former masters, while also finding time and ways to enter the Dream again, to discover a method to end the Dream without driving everyone mad.