The Blue Planet Curse

I have a lengthy interest in the fictional world of Poseidon. I moved to Korea in 1997 and on a whirlwind visit back to my hometown in ’99, I saw the first edition on the shelf of my much-missed FLGS. A quick flip-through showed me ideas which grabbed me, but my wallet was empty from a long day of shopping for another year in Asia. Promising myself I would return to get it the next day before jetting back to the land of the morning cacophony, I departed the store. I didn’t make it back. I didn’t realize it then, but that was the first cold clutch of the curse upon me.

Time passes. The memory of Blue Planet fades while I run all sorts of cool games and become a part of a large and active gaming group in Seoul. In those days there was a certain uncertainty about whether I would stay here or return home, so the idea of building up a large library here was one that I tried to avoid. Once that particular dam broke, however, all bets were off until the doomed declaration of “From now on, I shall only purchase PDF books….!” died its ignominious death, off screen, unheralded.

In 2005 as I recall, FFG had one of their famous print product sell-offs where you could get all sorts of cool games that needed to be cleared out of warehouses before the taxman came a-callin’ at exciting prices like $5 each – in hardcover, no less. A fellow GM in the gaming group was kind enough to share this news with us and I found myself looking at their website and the line of Blue Planet releases for V2 – all for $5. The hardcovers were sold out for the Player’s and Moderator’s Guides, but the softcovers were available and the rest were hardcovers. I ordered them immediately, and that – amusingly enough – was the last time it was possible for me to get anything sent here from FFG directly.

V2 was a dramatic departure, welcome for many, from the percentile system employed for the first edition. The writing also took on a more collaborative tone, with the authors indicating different approaches to play with fairly consistent openness while sticking with a cogent through-line built on providing insight into their preferred approach. I find it interesting how effective this is and sad how few other companies have the ability to follow suit.

I was convinced when the books arrived that the very next campaign we ran would be Blue Planet. It wasn’t, and in fact, since 2005, I have been trying to launch a campaign set on Poseidon. It is one of my most often-pitched games, and it features in numerous lists and videos revealing ‘games I would like to play next.’ Still, the tides of 15 years have ebbed and flowed while the spines of the Blue Planet V2 books regard me coolly from my shelves as game after game was added and game after game was taken down to play. I have managed to run a few sessions of the game, of course, but for one non-Blue Planet reason after another, its ship has never sailed toward the long campaign the game deserves. The curse had now become a fact of life.

See the source image
Anguish, I tell you~

In 2013, FASA briefly held the license for the game and produced a revised and condensed edition. Undaunted by almost a decade of failure at that point, I seized the three books they produced (which fortunately incorporated the essentials of what had taken 7 books in the previous edition) and kept trying. In the then quite new seeming 6×9 digest size with limited color and a print on demand vibe with narrow margins, gutters, and tight spines, these books did not have the dramatic impact of their V2 predecessors, but the lure of Poseidon still whispered from the pages.

It whispered in vain.

Why do I have such a compulsion to run this game? That is a good question, and I think a lot of other aficionados of Poseidon will each have their own specific lure drawing them to it. In my case, I will keep the answer to myself for now. I live in hope that the curse can be broken.

We are in the last month of 2020. In 2019 a new version of the game was announced and it is an even more dramatic departure than between V1 and V2 – if those plans ever reach the pier. Information is both sketchy on that front and slow.

Image result for blue planet recontact

In August, I learned that two fellow gamers of my acquaintance were open to the idea of trying Blue Planet for a campaign, even if only (at first) to put me out of my misery. I guess they had a long-held dream to be members of the Silver Bullet Band. I also learned within that same period of time that two other gamers of my acquaintance were looking to get into a game. They too were receptive to the suggestion of Blue Planet. Could I dare to dream….?

I set up a group on Facebook to coordinate plans and schedules and within a fairly short period of time the Saturday Alternators were set to go. Scheduled to run on the off-weeks when the twice-monthly The Sky Is No Limit campaign for Leagues of Adventure is not, our Blue Planet campaign began to take real shape. Called Wastelands, the premise is of 3 brothers and 1 cousin pooling all of their meagre resources to emigrate from Earth and restart their lives with the promise of a new beginning on this ‘off-world colony’. Drawing from the desperate imagery of a dying world from Blade Runner, the naïve ambition of Silverado, and the raw determination and family dynamic of Tombstone, the framework for character creation and the actual campaign pitch came together quickly. The group also seemed to gel right away. Session 0 was both productive and fun to be a part of.

Session 1 was delayed several times before we got to play, but play we did. That session was a great deal of fun with lots of grit, some action, heavy drama, and deep laughter. Considering that most of the group was up and trying to play a serious SF RPG around their 6 or 7 am, that is really, really saying something!

If you are thinking, however, that we have left the curse behind like some forgotten shore, you are mistaken. Session 1 was played on Saturday, October 31, 2020 and we have not been able to get together again since. Will we make it this weekend…?

At this point, I should be fatalistic, I suppose, but a small, diligently practicing optimist lurks inside me. I am going to hold my breath. Diving an attack sub into the oceans of Poseidon is a dream worth realizing~

Fragments of a Dream~
Comments
6 Responses to “The Blue Planet Curse”
  1. I remember seeing the corebook of the first edition in my FLGS store many, many years ago and loving the PDF releases of V2.

    Glad you finally got a chance to play Blue Planet! I might give it a shot eventually as well, as I’m shopping around for what to run in 2021

    • Runeslinger says:

      It offers some very interesting variation on the action adventure, I find. I look forward to being able to talk with you about it (or one of them anyway). I wonder if we might try to game together via video conference in the new year?

  2. >”V2 … The writing also took on a more collaborative tone, with the authors indicating different approaches to play with fairly consistent openness while sticking with a cogent through-line built on providing insight into their preferred approach.”

    I thought this was intriguing. Do you have an example of this approach?

    Great write-up. Blue Planet has been a head-scratcher for me, all the editions through the years. I feel like I have a better understanding now.

    • Runeslinger says:

      The first edition was quite slim and packed with information about the setting and the system, but very little about turning all of that information into a clear idea of what a campaign set there might be like, or what gaming on Poseidon could be about. I think it hooked some people right away and they used it as support for what they wanted to do, and I think it baffled a lot more. The ‘Access Denied’ information for the GM was very useful, I thought, as seeds to start things, but there were a lot of options, the setting was very detailed and intricate, and there is a definite leap of faith feeling to dive in.

      V2 had the authors writing directly to the reader in some sections and indicating how to interpret and use the system in different ways, recognizing that some people are looking to just play and make new characters as needed for that play, and others are looking to have their characters delve into a series of events prepared by the GM and develop as they work their way through those challenges. The ‘Access Denied’ sections got clearer and offered more specific suggestions , and greater attention was paid to helping the group get started – such as separate Player and Moderator books.

      In V1, the writers talk about preparing for the game and they talk about the challenges of finding the right way to pitch the game for a given group. In V2 they do that and then go a step further to show what they have been talking about.

      eg: V1
      Designing Ca.paigns Because campaigns are created
      through the interactions of a number of players, they can never
      be fully scripted in advance, and as a result are “works in
      progress.” Nevertheless there are a number of planning choices
      that can be made that will do much to make for a more enjoyable
      Blue Planet game.
      -Group Template
      -Theme
      -Conflict
      -Mystery
      -NPCs
      -Plot
      -Scenarios
      -Making the game your own

      Each of these bullet points is described in terms of what it is, but no examples are given.

      eg: V2
      Premise
      A campaign concept defines who the characters are,
      what they are doing, and why they are doing it. It identifies
      what they can attain or achieve, and what is at
      stake in the course of their adventures. It provides the
      game moderator with information that empowers him to
      create relevant scenarios that are both motivating and
      appropriate for the characters. The concept might suggest
      background developments and plot twists and help
      in the creation of meaningful non-player characters. The
      campaign concept allows the game moderator to focus
      his creative energies on those elements of the setting and
      story that are likely to be most central to the campaign.

      The following are just a few of the archetypal campaign
      premises in the Blue Planet setting.
      • The characters are GEO Peacekeepers stationed at an
      isolated outpost or garrison.
      • The characters are- GEO Patrol officers in one of the
      waterworld’s major colonial settlements.
      • The characters are an ecoterrorist cell fighting a covert
      war against the Incorporate’s exploitation of Poseidon.
      • The characters are covert operatives in the security
      forces of an Incorporate state waging industrial and
      political espionage against its rivals.
      • The characters are gangsters and enforcers in one of
      the syndicates that dominate the criminal underworld of
      Poseidon.
      • The characters are native insurgents waging a desperate
      war against the encroachment of the newcomers who
      threaten their traditional way of life.
      • The characters are rugged pioneers battling a dangerous
      planet-and sometimes themselves-in an effort to
      carve a new civilization from the wilderness.
      • The characters are research scientists struggling to
      uncover the secrets of Poseidon and its ancient legacy.
      • The characters are guides and frontiersmen who brave
      Poseidon’s savage wilderness to explore the planet’s
      darkest corners.

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