The Gassy Gnoll: Random, Deep, Spacey Thoughts

That’s right, the Gnoll is going random on your… web page. Blame it on too much sun, not enough sleep, and a dream where gnolls are playing soccer something similar to Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf. Obviously I picked the wrong week to cut back on caffeine.

SPACEX - F9-Liftoff (SpaceX.com)

With SPACEX not only successfully launching their Dragon spacecraft into orbit and working with the International Space Station to actually attach, it really struck me about how far we’ve come since I discovered space in grade school. I remember when NASA paraded the Space Shuttle Enterprise around the country on the back of a huge 747 and I went to see it at Stapleton International Airport in Denver (well before Denver International Airport was a gleam on the horizon). And I was sad to see our shuttle fleet retired last year. The fact that we have a private US-based company now finalizing plans to commercialize Earth orbit and beyond gives me hope again.

What does this have to do with tabletop gaming? I am a big fantasy geek. Ever since I discovered Tolkien and D&D, there’s been no looking back. And recently playing The Dresden Files at the City Wide Gaming Event here in Colorado Springs a couple of weekends ago, I’m really curious how a rejuvenated space program could work into an urban fantasy campaign.

Sure, we have all the
alien variations in the superhero realm – Venom, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Skrulls, the Kree, Martians, and even Superman are a short part of a very long list. And if you add in extra-dimensional beings like those from H.P. Lovecraft that show up in places like Hellboy, then that’s another long, strange list. Not to mention the Alien and Predator-style visitors that would like to use us for target practice on occasion…

But let’s say, in the next 25 years, that we have a healthy space-based economy. Scientific labs. Hotels. Manufacturing. Zero-G sports. The works. In the world of The Dresden Files, our heroes often traipse across barriers into the world of the fae and occasionally even go so far as to summon extra-dimensional beings from other planes (which never goes well). I want to know whose domain we may be invading by leaving the safe, comfy confines of Earth.

Here are a few brainstormed ideas for how aliens might work into an urban fantasy setting:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

    2001: A Space Odyssey-style – In a high, stable orbit between the Earth and the Moon there lies an alien artifact waiting to be discovered. It is in fact a doorway to a dark portion of the center of the known universe where the Big Bang began. There, sleeping, are beings waiting for younger races to discover and activate these artifacts scattered throughout the universes. What will they do when the cosmic doorbell rings? Let’s just say I’m hoping nobody is home…

  • John Carter of Mars-style – As we start colonizing the Moon and leapfrogging to Mars, we discover remnants of old races. DNA of a lost civilization that, like the 7-11, Starbucks, or McDonald’s that wasn’t on the corner yesterday, tries to recreate itself on our world. Imagine we poor humans stuck in a battle between ancient aliens and the fae!
  • Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, or Jerry Pournelle-style – We’re not alone in the asteroid belt wen we start to mine… And as we start invading their territory, they begin hurling giant rocks of death towards earth. Some of these rocks manage to open up subterranean worlds, letting out creatures from outside time just like Jules Verne proposed nearly 150 years ago. What happens when worlds collide from multiple angles?
  • Battlefield Earth-style – Yes, the aliens are here for our resources. They want to suck the world dry of magic. But let’s twist it. We defeat the aliens, whose ships crash land all over the world, leaking massive amounts of magical energy back into the everyday. What happens when the world is awash with magic? What would you do in a world where everyone gained magical abilities? How would existing magical creatures adapt? How would we?
  • The Invasion (William Keikle)-style – In the book, aliens invade and start terraforming the planet aggressively which just happens to kill most of us pretty quickly. As the population dwindles, some talented individuals discover an affinity for magic (fewer people, higher concentrations) and start to fight back, enlisting the aid of any other magical creature they can find.

Yes, there seem to be a few repeated themes in there. I always loved the concepts inherent in the Techno-mages from Babylon-5 as well, adapting technology until it reaches the point where it might as well be magic. Perhaps the Atlanteans have moved elsewhere in our solar system and are seeking to reclaim their original home. Maybe there’s nothing out there at all and the abyss yawns at our approach, which could also be a serious downer…

What sorts of space-meets-magic ideas can you come up with? I would love to know. 🙂

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