Planetary Romance

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Kythkyn
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Planetary Romance

Post by Kythkyn » Fri Apr 05, 2019 7:31 pm

Let's talk Planetary Romance! The John Carter / Barsoom series is probably the best known example, but there are so many more. I'm not looking to create a thread about that though. I want to talk tropes! What do you like? Dislike? What brought you to the genre? Why did you stay?

I think it's a really interesting idea at heart. I like the adventure, the strange mix of mediæval and high/lost tech. Like, sword fighting and air ships. Too cool!
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Dread Delgath » Sat Apr 06, 2019 7:16 pm

tl,dr version: I like the exploration of the unknown aspect of D&D as a player the most. As a DM, I love creating places to explore and interact with. Sword & Planet has always been about exploring the unknown and fast & furious combat with weapons that aren't fully understood, but effective.

The long version: I have placed a ruined city (a crater) in my homebrewed campaign world, and the original idea was that it used to be the 'cultural center of the region' over 1000 years ago, much like the ancient Inca, Mayan or Aztec ruins found in various regions in the Americas.

Although I've introduced the ruins to my players, they've never shown any interest in exploring it more than a couple of small dungeon areas that I had already developed, so I haven't developed it further. Over the last few years, I've thought that the crater in the center of the ruins could be the crash site of a spaceship, and the ruins are the eventual product of the crash survivors. This isn't evident immediately though, the players should eventually discover this truth through exploring the ruins and putting the pieces together.

(Maybe this has a "Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls" vibe to it, and this isn't really 'sword & planet' in the strictest sense, but it is pulpy adventure, and I think that may have a viable place in a translation of the 'sword & planet' genre/trope.)

But where did the inhabitants go? Why are the ruins deserted, and why are the remains left in such pristine condition? The answer: The inhabitants eventually collected the materials necessary to create a gate so they could get back home! Where is home?

I haven't decided on where, exactly yet, but I don't think it should be the Red Planet itself, but something very much like "sword & planet" setting. I like the natural approach to the melding of sword & ship, a low magic pulpy feel, with the addition of gun technology that fire something like 'radium bullets' from John Carter.

Unfortunately, I haven't developed anything more than this, setting wise, but I have picked up a few non-standard classes & races for 5th edition, bookmarked for later inclusion into this sub-setting within the main campaign. Of note, the Babbage race (a construct race, different than the normal Eberron construct race "Warforged"), Mutophage race (mutant, in the classical Gamma World sense), Gunsmith, Artificer, Alchemist, & Sapper classes, Starcasters of Leng faction, and a few others that I can't recall off the top of my head.

I found all of these things online, mostly tumblr or other sources that came up using a google search for D&D maps, ironically. These races & classes wouldn't be available to players immediately, but as my campaigns have always had the element of death for PCs, once the ruins have been explored a bit and a few neat things have been discovered, any new PCs could be drawn from these non-standard races & classes.
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Coronoides » Sun Apr 07, 2019 8:14 am

I like the technology created by late 19th and early 20th century authors who were usually not science educated but still trying to imagine what more advanced tech might look like. Barsoom for example has 8th ray airships that predate the real invention of the aeroplane. Barsoom also has radium firearms.
I like the vividly detailed cultures. Did you know in the books the Barsoomians had no stairs! Little details made Barsoom seem real.
Also that the genre was based on the science of the time the founding authors lived in. For example the worlds further out from the sun cooled first so are further along in evolution. Space 1889 which has one foot in this genre did a good job of this
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by shesheyan » Sun Apr 07, 2019 12:15 pm

I haven't had much romance in my campaigns over the years. Too much testosterone around the table I guess.

The only time I had a real romance develop in a game was with a female player. She played a neutral good fighter (2e). Her character fell in love with a ship captain during a sea crossing. They would meet every time the captain was back in the capital. It was a fairy tale until...

One day she discovered he was a ruffian involved in the human trafficking of beautiful women for trade sex industry in other countries. She was torn between her love for the man and hating who he really was. The player was really good. She accepted the curve ball I just threw and rolled with it. He admitted everything and claimed she was a mark at first because of her beauty but he fell in love with her. He was ready to stop trafficking and marry her. In the end, she couldn't trust him, her neutral good alignment prevailed, she arrested the captain, he was jailed and hanged for his crimes.

The relation involved sexual intercourse the night before she discovered who he really was... a few weeks after the death of the captain I asked the player if she wanted to roll to learn if she was pregnant. She said yes, rolled and discovered she was not. It was a bit disappointing. She wanted the character to be pregnant to continue the sub-plot. But in those days dice rolls were final and it never crossed our mind to «decide» she was pregnant.

So, if you are going to do Planetary Romance you need romance and it needs to be used as plot points to make the game exciting. BIG PLANET by Jack Vance makes very good use of planetary romance as plot device. It's a short read, I strongly recommend.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40881.Big_Planet

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by ripvanwormer » Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:25 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Sun Apr 07, 2019 12:15 pm
So, if you are going to do Planetary Romance you need romance and it needs to be used as plot points to make the game exciting. BIG PLANET by Jack Vance makes very good use of planetary romance as plot device. It's a short read, I strongly recommend.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40881.Big_Planet
The name of the Planetary Romance genre comes from the earlier meaning of romance, "a work of fiction dealing with events remote from real life, especially one of a kind popular in the 16th and 17th centuries." Planetary romances don't necessarily have to include a love story (though they usually do).

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by shesheyan » Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:37 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:25 pm
shesheyan wrote:
Sun Apr 07, 2019 12:15 pm
So, if you are going to do Planetary Romance you need romance and it needs to be used as plot points to make the game exciting. BIG PLANET by Jack Vance makes very good use of planetary romance as plot device. It's a short read, I strongly recommend.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40881.Big_Planet
The name of the Planetary Romance genre comes from the earlier meaning of romance, "a work of fiction dealing with events remote from real life, especially one of a kind popular in the 16th and 17th centuries." Planetary romances don't necessarily have to include a love story (though they usually do).
Well, you learn something new every day! ;)

My post was influenced by the author of the OP. I know she likes Bleu Rose which is a romance RPG. Hence my angle of attack on the topic.

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by willpell » Sun Apr 07, 2019 10:12 pm

Generally not my favorite genre. I tend to dislike mixing fantasy and sci-fi elements, and these stories generally predate the modern understanding of astronomy, so they seem kind of silly when they talk about "the jungles of Venus" or whatever. The one example that I'm really familiar with is the "Planet of Peril" and "Prince of Peril" diptych, which I enjoyed greatly as a kid. But I haven't read them in a long time, and I might not like them when I do.

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Coronoides » Mon Apr 08, 2019 7:36 am

willpell wrote:
Sun Apr 07, 2019 10:12 pm
Generally not my favorite genre. I tend to dislike mixing fantasy and sci-fi elements, and these stories generally predate the modern understanding of astronomy, so they seem kind of silly when they talk about "the jungles of Venus" or whatever. ...
You say ‘silly’ I say nostagalic. This is one of the things I like about the genre. Each to their own. :)
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Sturm » Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:27 am

ripvanwormer wrote:
Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:25 pm
Planetary romances don't necessarily have to include a love story (though they usually do).
Indeed I doubt there is a book in this genre which does not include a love story as a very important plot element (usually hero and princess), even if obviously I do not know them all.
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by ripvanwormer » Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:17 pm

Sturm wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:27 am
ripvanwormer wrote:
Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:25 pm
Planetary romances don't necessarily have to include a love story (though they usually do).
Indeed I doubt there is a book in this genre which does not include a love story as a very important plot element (usually hero and princess), even if obviously I do not know them all.
Star Wars really subverted the "hero gets the princess" trope. There was still a love story, but not the standard one. Whether Star Wars belongs to the Planetary Romance genre is another question, but clearly there were influences.

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Sturm » Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:51 pm

Yes indeed it is closely related to the genre but, coming decades after the first ones, played a bit with the classic trope.
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Illuminatus » Mon Apr 08, 2019 3:01 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:25 pm
The name of the Planetary Romance genre comes from the earlier meaning of romance, "a work of fiction dealing with events remote from real life, especially one of a kind popular in the 16th and 17th centuries." Planetary romances don't necessarily have to include a love story (though they usually do).
It’s funny that this should come up, because this is part of how I got into Planetary Romance, then Sword and Sorcery, and ultimately D&D.

When I was a little kid I was only interested in hard SF (space ships, lasers, hi tech, etc.) I was at the bookstore once looking over the SF section and nothing moved me. My dad, who had absolutely no interest in SF or fantasy, came by and said “How about this one? This looks interesting.” It was Princess of Mars. I looked at the cover and there was a guy with a sword. Strike one. Then I read the box cover for the Ballantine Books boxed set, and it said something about “romance.” Like the little kid in Princess Bride my reaction was “eeeeww.” Then my dad explained the “other” meaning of romance, and I decided to give it a whirl.

I fell in love with the John Carter books, then on to Conan, then Middle Earth, and, well….here I am at the Piazza.

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Kythkyn » Mon Apr 08, 2019 7:57 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:17 pm
Star Wars really subverted the "hero gets the princess" trope. There was still a love story, but not the standard one. Whether Star Wars belongs to the Planetary Romance genre is another question, but clearly there were influences.
Star Wars is Space Opera, not Planetary Romance.

But yeah, the Romance part of Planetary Romance is definitely kissy lovey romance, whatever else the term meant for literary genre, it doesn't apply here so much. Just as Space Opera doesn't exactly mean what Opera is or did.

But anyway, I think a lot of what makes it a difficult sell as a literary genre now is exactly what makes it an easy sell for a role playing game. We know that there aren't cities on Mars now a days, but gaming allows us to explore genres that mainstream geekdom has largely left behind
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by willpell » Mon Apr 08, 2019 10:57 pm

I'm more interested in coming up with smart explanations for why something *doesn't* contradict what we know about the world, instead of just handwaving away all objections with "this is a made-up fantasy universe where nothing has to make sense". For instance, if you want cities on Mars, maybe think about how there once WERE cities on Mars, and why there's no longer any trace of them; boom, you can create a setting for a tragic Fall-of-Rome style story about the last days of the Martian civilization, and foreshadow the inevitable destruction of their whole society (in a way that doesn't give the players reason to think they can or should prevent this, since the point of the plot is to live through an apocalypse, not to stop one). That's not a terribly clever example, but at least it requires some thought; simply ignoring the existence of our current scientific understanding is the opposite of provoking thought, which is why I have a hard time being attracted to things like Spelljammer or Barsoom (though "hard" is not "impossible").

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by ripvanwormer » Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:12 pm

Kythkyn wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 7:57 pm
Star Wars is Space Opera, not Planetary Romance.
I think what Lucas did in creating the original Star Wars was take a lot of the tropes from Planetary Romance—sword fights, princesses, a mix of medieval tropes and technology—and place them in a Space Opera setting. Frank Herbert did the same thing with his Dune series.

Credit should go not just to Lucas, but to Leigh Brackett, who wrote a lot of prototypical Planetary Romances as well as Space Opera before writing the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back.
Kythkyn wrote:Just as Space Opera doesn't exactly mean what Opera is or did.
Space Opera is called that because Westerns were called Horse Operas, because they were like Soap Operas set in the Old West, so Space Operas are supposed to be like that, but in space. But the definition has grown more complex with time. The main distinction between a Space Opera and a Planetary Romance is that a Planetary Romance generally involves a hero from an advanced technological civilization stranded among a more primitive culture. In the case of John Carter, he's a guy from 19th century Earth living among the more primitive Green Martians and the Red Martians, who have decayed from their technological peak. You sort of get that in Star Wars with Luke (whose father was a Jedi knight on Coruscant!) being raised among moisture farmers on a desert world on the galactic frontier, and later having the main characters join the Ewoks.
Kythkyn wrote:But yeah, the Romance part of Planetary Romance is definitely kissy lovey romance, whatever else the term meant for literary genre, it doesn't apply here so much.
You can see the difference in where the author places the story's focus. The original "romances" were the Medieval Chivalric Romances—tales of questing knights and derring-do. They were called romances because they were written in a vernacular Romance language—French—as opposed to Latin. The fact that the knights usually ended up hooking up with some fair maiden meant that the term later on became associated with stories of love in general.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the term Scientific Romance became associated with stories based on scientific speculation, stuff like H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds and Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Planetary Romance is a specific kind of Scientific Romance where the action takes place on one or more planets other than Earth. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has a much more nuanced article on the subject.

So while, for example, A Princess of Mars and its sequels includes a love story between John Carter and Deja Thoris, that's not really the primary focus of the book, which spends more time on the adventure and derring-do. For a modern example of Planetary Romance without much in the way of what we'd call romance, I'd point toward the He-Man and She-Ra franchises (new She-Ra had Princess Prom, but that was more about Glimmer's platonic jealousy that Bow was finding new friends rather than anything really romantic). Typically, Planetary Romances are distinguished by having a hero from a more modern, technological world in a world of comparative primitives (in the Masters of the Universe/Princesses of Power franchise, this would be Adora's and Adam's mother, Marlena, who was a NASA astronaut from Earth stranded on Eternia).

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Kythkyn » Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:48 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:12 pm
So while, for example, A Princess of Mars and its sequels includes a love story between John Carter and Deja Thoris, that's not really the primary focus of the book, which spends more time on the adventure and derring-do.
I think this is a case of different people taking different things away from the same book
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by shesheyan » Tue Apr 09, 2019 12:42 am

I don't know if it qualifies but I once ran a mini-campaign with the Savage Worlds rules and the Slipstream setting book. It was very much like Flash Gordon comics and movies.

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Coronoides » Tue Apr 09, 2019 11:13 am

There is another setting for Savage Worlds “Mars: A Savage Setting of Planetary Romance” that would be a good setting if the the authors didn’t deserve to be taken out and shot for thier lack of editing and proof reading. Here is a link to my review:
http://rpgreview.net/content/mars-savag ... nce-review
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Kythkyn » Tue Apr 09, 2019 4:02 pm

Coronoides wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2019 11:13 am
There is another setting for Savage Worlds “Mars: A Savage Setting of Planetary Romance” that would be a good setting if the the authors didn’t deserve to be taken out and shot for thier lack of editing and proof reading. Here is a link to my review:
http://rpgreview.net/content/mars-savag ... nce-review
There are some Dungeon / Polyhedron articles that I guess this was based on, but the setting was Jupiter rather than Mars in the magazine
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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Havard » Tue Apr 09, 2019 6:09 pm

Kythkyn wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2019 4:02 pm
Coronoides wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2019 11:13 am
There is another setting for Savage Worlds “Mars: A Savage Setting of Planetary Romance” that would be a good setting if the the authors didn’t deserve to be taken out and shot for thier lack of editing and proof reading. Here is a link to my review:
http://rpgreview.net/content/mars-savag ... nce-review
There are some Dungeon / Polyhedron articles that I guess this was based on, but the setting was Jupiter rather than Mars in the magazine

You mean Iron Lords of Jupiter?

What makes you think Adamant Entertainment's MARS setting is linked to Iron Lords of Jupiter, besides both being inspired by the same source? Were any of the same game designers involved?

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Kythkyn » Tue Apr 09, 2019 6:27 pm

Havard wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2019 6:09 pm
What makes you think Adamant Entertainment's MARS setting is linked to Iron Lords of Jupiter, besides both being inspired by the same source? Were any of the same game designers involved?

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Havard » Tue Apr 09, 2019 6:29 pm

Kythkyn wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2019 6:27 pm
Havard wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2019 6:09 pm
What makes you think Adamant Entertainment's MARS setting is linked to Iron Lords of Jupiter, besides both being inspired by the same source? Were any of the same game designers involved?

-Havard
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Aha, thanks for confirming my suspicions! :)

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Re: Planetary Romance

Post by Yaztromo » Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:59 pm

I also like the point of view of technology being something from a forgotten past that now can't be very understood anymore. A mix of technology and archeology, in fact.

In general, planetary romance is very pulp and pulp is very easy to convert and adapt for roleplaying.
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