Monday, July 02, 2007

Tripping through the galaxy

WARNING: The appearance of space nipples in the graphics below may make the following post Not Safe For Work.

Starfaring is a cool little game. Written by Ken St. Andre of Tunnels & Trolls fame, this sci-fi aventure game dates back to the embryonic era of rpgs, when the formulas we play by nowadays had yet to solidify. Don, my personal Traveller guru, thinks its unfair to compare Trav to the earlier Starfaring. He points to the contemporary Starships & Spacemen from FGU as an example of a game in Starfaring's genre. I think TSR's Star Probe/Star Empires duo can be placed in the same pidgeon-hole, maybe Gamescience's Star Patrol as well, but I dunno about that last one.

I'm not really familiar with any of those games, but I think the basic deal with them all was strategic space imperialism in a loosely defined sci-fi universe, with a moderator overseeing game activity. Each player is Captain Kirk in the GM's galaxy and the players compete at least as much as they cooperate, all flying their own ships. I think Don's wrong about comparing these games to Trav. Traveller was probably going to look a lot like this sort of game, before it was retooled in the wake of Dungeons & Dragons's breakout success. You can look at the original Traveller books today and it's clear (to me, at least) that Trav is a hybrid case, a transition form preserving some earlier wargaming concepts. It wasn't until I got Starfaring that I could see what those earlier concepts actually were.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here about the mechanics of this game. The Museum of Role Playing Games already has that angle nicely covered. While you're there, the rest of the Museum is well worth a read. That site was one of the reasons I started looking seriously into OD&D and classic Traveller so many years ago. Today, I'm going to be showing off Starfaring's amazing art.

With the exception of the inside back cover ad for T&T, all the art in Starfaring is credited to Ernest Hogan. Googling a bit leads me to suspect that this is the same Ernest Hogan who wrote the sci-fi novels Cortez on Jupiter, High Aztech, and Smoking Mirror Blues. That Ernest Hogan is described in a few places as a cartoonist and illustrator as well as a novelist. Enough jibber-jabber, let's look at the pretty pictures!


What kind of artist puts his signature on a boob?


BACK COVERThis one perfectly captures the spirit of the game.


"Because we all know everything is cooler with big creepy eyes!" - Melan, yesterday.

Space Arabs!


I really feel for the girl. In the game the Slishi are the main enemy of humanity. Also: Holy crap! Tentacle sex!


I swear this exact ship appears in Tom Wham's Planetbusters.

In the future many spaceships are piloted by brains in jars.
Bodies still wear out but brains can be preserved for much, much longer.

That's roughly half the illos in the game. I picked out the ones I liked best to scan in and share. Personally, I totally dig this art. It's a cartoony throwback to the disco-fueled era of drugs and one night stands. Unlike a lot of stodgy sci-fi game art, Hogan's pieces are fun!


  1. So if I wrote sufficiently naughty fanfic, it could be Slish Slash!

  2. Jeff --

    Thanks for posting about this game. It looks...




  3. Wow. That's something, all right.

  4. Anonymous6:42 PM

    I did some googling as well and it looks like an Ernest Hogan did a number of articles on various cultures for Different Worlds magazine including a couple on Aztecs.

  5. Actually, I've always thought WTF about Starfaring. I've always wondered if there was another half the game somewhere.

    But I had found Starships & Spacemen first, and it still feels like a better game.

    And for serious Sci-Fi, Traveller should have had to compete with some derivative of Ringworld, but Chaosium seems to always miss good opportunities for some strange reason.

    And Jeff -- you are correct about Traveller; remember, it's origin is similar to D&D in that it started with some rules similar to Chainmail (with play by the guys would would become CITW), and then Marc, Loren and Frank saw Star Wars. That movie totally changed the game. Consider the original rules to be Imperium meets Chainmail, and then the authors all go to see Star Wars together.

    Recreating the combat scenes would lead to what would become Snapshot, etc...

    Still, I always wondered why Starfaring didn't have solo adventures, like Tunnels and Trolls. Ken St. Andre could have beaten the British Steve Jackson to all those solo fighting books.