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Space Patrol [game]

Entry updated 16 April 2021. Tagged: Game.

Role Playing Game (1977). Gamescience. Designed by Michael Scott Kurtick, Rockland Russo.

Similarly to such other early sf RPGs as Starfaring (1976) and Traveller (1977), Space Patrol concentrates on transposing the colourful adventures of traditional Space Opera to a new medium. Unlike those games, however, it does not have an optional setting of its own, instead dedicating itself wholly to enabling players to participate in stories derived from existing novels and TV shows, with an enthusiasm and attention to detail suggestive of an interactive form of fan fiction. Considered as a game, Space Patrol is of limited interest; the mechanics are much influenced by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax's original 1974 edition of Dungeons and Dragons, poorly organized, highly combat-oriented, somewhat simplistic, and devoted to competition between players to a degree that has come to be seen as incompatible with the Role Playing Game form. However, the explicit nature of the rules' many references to previous works makes the range of influences on early sf RPGs unusually clear. Space Patrol's sources include Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry, Isaac Asimov's The Stars, Like Dust (January-March 1951 Galaxy as "Tyrann"; 1951), Ben Bova's Kinsman Saga, Gordon R Dickson's Dorsai, Joe Haldeman's The Forever War (June 1972-January 1975 Analog; fixup 1974), Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat, Robert A Heinlein's Starship Troopers (October-November 1959 F&SF as "Starship Soldier"; 1959) and Podkayne of Mars: Her Life and Times (November 1962-January 1963 If; 1963), Fritz Leiber's A Specter Is Haunting Texas (July-September 1968 Galaxy; 1969), Larry Niven's Tales of Known Space, Andre Norton's Time Traders, Alan E Nourse's Raiders from the Rings (1962), Alexei Panshin's Anthony Villiers, H Beam Piper's Space Viking (November 1962-June 1963 Analog; 1963) and Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium, as well as the more visual stories of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1929-1967), Flash Gordon (1934-2003), Lost in Space (1965-1968), Star Trek (1966-1969) and Star Wars (1977). The ultimate effect is of a kind of science-fictional Mulligan's stew.

The original game was succeeded by Star Patrol (1980 Gamescience; rev 1982) designed by Michael Scott Kurtick, Rockland Russo, an expanded and somewhat improved version of its predecessor which adds rules for starship combat and more detailed representations of its players' characters. Various new sources are cited, including Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom, David A Drake's Hammer's Slammers, Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth, Keith Laumer's Bolo and Retief stories, Eric Frank Russell's Men, Martians and Machines (May 1941-October 1943 Astounding; exp as coll of linked stories 1955), E E Smith's Lensman series, A E van Vogt's The War Against the Rull (stories April 1940-February 1950 Astounding; fixup 1959), and Them! (1954). This iteration of the system, however, also includes an original milieu which can be used at the Gamemaster's discretion, a briefly described Space Opera setting which resembles a less sophisticated version of the universe depicted in Star Frontiers (1982).

Related works: Two WarGames using miniature models were developed for the setting included in Star Patrol: the ground combat based Strike Team Alpha (1978 Gamescience) designed by Michael Scott Kurtick and the space combat game Star Command (1976 Clavius Publications) designed by Kurtick under the name of Michael Scott. The mechanics of Space Patrol were also used for the first licenced Star Trek RPG, Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier (1978 Heritage Models) designed by Kurtick writing as Michael Scott, and its significantly improved but "unofficial" successor Starfleet Voyages (1982 Terra Games) designed by Michael Scott Kurtick (see Star Trek Games). [NT]

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