Spaceport Bars and the Brawlers Who Love Them

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This post was inspired by this one over on the amazing Atomic Rockets. I’m going to talk about two of my favourite things, science fiction and drinking establishments. Or as I like to call it Science Drinking.

Under the subheading Star-Town I discovered the first of these covers:

It looked cool so I went digging for it, learned there were two and ordered them both through AbeBooks. I got the covers above but it turns out there was another printing of them with these covers (don’t know which came first):

Once my copies arrived I decided to read the stories from both anthologies together in chronological order. Can’t remember why, but there it is. As soon as I got started I discovered something cool I hadn’t anticipated. The stories from the two books were written spanning the period 1916 to 1988, the middle three quarters of the 20th century. As I rolled through the tales they presented an evolution of assumptions and concerns and language use. I love it when my science fiction intersects with my history.

I went further down the space bar worm hole and found Tales from the White Hart and Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Then I remembered someone telling me they enjoyed Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, so I Kindled a copy. And that’s where the transition from fiction to roleplaying games gets going.

Nice to see Star Frontiers keeping the faith.

I scoured my collection of gaming magazines, both paper and pixel, and was amazed to discover that out of hundreds of covers from the 70s and 80s — before half the mags turned into house organs and the other half died out — there was one illo of a spaceport bar. ONE. Baffling!

Check out Janet Aulisio bringing it:

Re: that Challenge cover:

I like the resonance of the cool guy and his wide-eyed girlfriend who’s looking over his shoulder at the incoming hitman (from 1990) with the cool Solomani guy with his wide-eyed Darrian girlfriend looking at the Zhodani Commandos who just walked in (from 1991). These aren’t the Droyne you’re looking for.

But those are it. From the hundreds of covers of SF RPG magazines and supplements I have, know of or searched online, I found a total of five spaceport bar illos. Just five (the last one’s further down). And that Rotten to the Core cover isn’t even at all alien-y. Again, baffling! Think about it, that’s like fantasy covers without taverns; that word. I like to believe there are a bunch more I just couldn’t find.

Now that I’ve told you about the fiction and the RPG illos of spaceport bars let’s take a look at actually playing in and through them. First, you’re gonna need some aliens. Both GURPS Aliens and Strange Stars are excellent.

And Traveller and Star Frontiers are two great games, each with a whole stable of cool alien races. Check ’em out.

To flesh out your various, varied and variegated patrons Fishwife Games publishes some really fun lists. Everything from alien names — and what they mean — to character motivations.

By now you’ve embraced your long-suppressed desire to open your own establishment. Well, to crowd your bar — whether you’re looking for star pilots or space hookers — you can’t go wrong with Zombiesmith’s A7-D12 (Airlock 7, Docking Lvl. 12), Oldhammer Citadel Adventurers & Pirates, Jon Boyce’s Colony 87, CP Models’ Sci-Fi ranges, Reaper’s Chronoscope Sci-Fi figs and Grenadier’s old Traveller minis. Those’ll give you plenty of limbs to lop off.

As for SF indoor fight inspiration, two of my favourite gaming blogs are sho3box and Magpie and Old Lead. Take a wander through sho3box’s tags and Magpie’s labels for a few minutes; they’ll get you sorted.

And while I don’t completely agree with their selections, this 10 Craziest SF & Fantasy Bar Fights list is definitely a good starting point to get your blood up, though how they left this one out is hard to grok:

You’re gonna need a floor plan, or at least an idea of how you want your joint to look.

I like to think of those three as a stack. Spungo’s Bar is in the Star Town downport. Alpha Blue (scroll down a bit for the link on the righthand side) is, or is at, the highport, or maybe it’s parked at L4 or 5. And the Floating Vagabond (that’s the last of the SF RPG spacebar illos) is in the belt, per the back cover. I mean, it is important to be able to go on a Bender wherever you happen to find yourself. Right?

These two Traveller docs contain some space station and Star Town bars for your imbibing and incising pleasure.

Next you need to pour the ferrocrete and erect some plasteel. These guys have you covered:

World Works Games Sci Fi.

Fat Dragon Games Starships.

Ainsty Castings Starport and other ranges.

Take a look at Antenocitis Workshop and Miniature Scenery for some more inanimate objects to smash and scrap.

And though they’re listed as sold out, Dwarven Forge has a couple of sets that could be useful. You might find some out there in the wild, on eBay or Craigslist, at conventions or your local club.

Finally you’ll need some rules.

I like the idea of all this buildup going full West World (like a mashup of the scenes at 15:22 and 49:35) by way of a Science Fiction version of Blood and Swash or Beer and D6s.

Depending on how full-blown skirmishy you want to get you could play the fight out with Rogue Stars or Galacta-3.

Or you could run one of my two personal favourites, Rogue Trader or Mutants and Death Ray Guns. They’re like a bastard son of realtime strategy and first person shooter. RPS?

Hmm, I might have to come up with something along those lines. Say, Belters and Benders? No I’ve got it: Belters on Benders!

As a final note, if you like Atomic Rockets you owe it to yourself to goto both Technovelgy and SF Tropes. You’ll be glad you did. There’s hours worth of material to mine there.

Oh and I just recently unearthed this nugget of wintanium at Midlam Miniatures. To be honest I’d never heard of either but this collection is fun, and their figs are nice too.

Speaking of Rogue Trader:

I love, LOVE, *LOVE* the Citadel Christmas Marines. There’re two, but this guy’s my favourite. Bolters and Beer Steins? Hmm.

And speaking of Christmas!:

Four-armed Galactic Santa drinking in a Spaceport Bar?

The worlds are as they should be.

[Edit: Trey Causey (of Strange Stars fame) posted a cool list of Spaceman’s Bar Encounters on his great blog From the Sorcerer’s Skull.]

[What about second edit?: My buddy B. Portly Esq. just filled me in on this piece of awesome:

Yeah you read that right. It’s got the OK main title of Adventurer. But it has the incredible subtitle of A Game of Man to Man Brawling in the Far Future! How did they not lead with that?

Yaquinto? Yes please!

You can find a great run down on it at Board Game Geek.

And now that we’re talking about grid games I’m pretty sure Snapshot is fit for purpose too. Jump to look at my Snapshots.

OK, that’s all.]

[Third time’s the charm!:

Having just discovered it, I feel very strongly I should add this. For the greater good.

Modern Drunkard Magazine

Right. Now I’m done.]

Godzilla Commander

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Two of my favourite movie lead title sequences are the openings of Godzilla and Wing Commander. So, naturally …

Godzilla is longer, but there is some fun synergy between them. Like this:

Yep, that happened simultaneously.

But my favourite coincidence between the two films is:

They both have non-French-born (Morocco and Turkey, respectively) French actors in supporting roles as Intelligence Officers. C’est ça!:

Those are first-time-on-screen shots, not simultaneous; but you get the idea.

All-in-all, good times.

J. P. Law, Esquire

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I finally found this fig after a decade!:

Yep. Ten years.

That’s a Griffin Miniatures — they pub’d Harbinger Magazine — Harbinger of Vengeance.

Truth be told, I’m pretty sure I missed the magazine completely. Apparently Harbinger Magazine used to give you a fig with every — or every other(?) — issue.

I learned about this particular Harbinger entirely randomly. I can’t even remember how. Not only that, but I thought he was called Harbinger of Justice. Yeah, I was looking for the wrong fig, for years! Here’s the Harbinger of Justice:

He’s pretty cool too I guess.

But then a couple weeks ago, as I do every once in a while, I dove down the eBay-hole, looking for Citadel Fimir and their AD&D Githyanki (you know what I’m talking about). And I stumbled upon this marvel:

Just feast on his majesty! That’s right. You see it. Flapping there. Looking terrific.

So I placed my order …

And lo, he has risen!

I might have to call him Michael (or … maybe … Legion … ?).

The guy I got him from — blackmoor — has some other Harbinger Harbingers too. Go check ’em out.