Blue Planet (role-playing game)
The cover of Blue Planet 1st version
|Designer(s)||Jeff Barber, Greg Benage, Jim Heivilin, and Jason Werner|
|Publisher(s)||Biohazard Games (BPv1)
Fantasy Flight Games (BPv2)
FASA Games (BPR)
|Publication date||1997 (BPv1)
Custom "Synergy Game System" (BPv2)
Custom "Synergy Game System Revised" (BPR)
The first edition (BPv1) was demonstrated and released at Origins in 1997 to critical acclaim, receiving a nomination for the Game of the Year Origins award. The rulebook, weighing in at just under 350 pages, is almost a worldbook, with about five-sixths of its length dedicated to the alien setting. In keeping with its environmentalist theme, the game was dedicated to Jacques Cousteau. The game received criticism for its overly involved character generation system and extremely lethal combat system.
A second edition of the game (BPv2) was published in 2000 by Fantasy Flight Games. This used a new role-playing game system, referred to as the Synergy Game System. The rules and modules were released in several books.
The intellectual property of Blue Planet passed back from Fantasy Flight Games to Biohazard Games in 2004.
In 2008, RedBrick republished "Ancient Echoes", the cetacean sourcebook for BPv2, which was originally printed in very small numbers by Fantasy Flight Games. In 2012, FASA Games published the Blue Planet Revised Edition (BPR), an updated version of BPv2. In 2015, the Blue Planet IP passed back to a newly-resurrected Biohazard Games.
Blue Planet is fairly unusual among sci-fi RPGs in that its setting is exhaustively researched and scientifically accurate. It is set on an alien water planet, with believable climate, geography, ecology and political situations.
Two hundred years from now, the human race has irreparably damaged its environment. Uncountable plant and animal species have gone extinct, and humanity has just begun rebuilding in the wake of a seventy-five-year-long worldwide famine. Just before the disaster, a mysterious artificial wormhole was discovered a fair distance out beyond the edge of the solar system. Expeditions discovered that the wormhole led to another star system around Lambda Serpentis, 35 light years away. The second planet of the system was covered with a single vast ocean and was suitable for human life, and was named Poseidon. One major colony ship was sent there before civilization collapsed on Earth, and the colonists were given up for as lost.
The GEO (Global Ecology Organization) and various Incorporates (read: Megacorporations) rebuilt the Earth's economies (but not ecology) and recontacted Poseidon, only to discover that the colonists had gone "native," abandoning their run-down technology for a simple, tribal life as fisherfolk. When the discovery of a "xenosilicate" ore revolutionizes genetic engineering, a gold rush brings new settlers, greed, and Incorporate warfare to the planet, threatening to destabilize the ecology of Poseidon. Some natives start ecoterrorist groups to protect their oceans from being despoiled, while the GEO tries to maintain law and order with genetically-engineered soldiers. Meanwhile, the rarely glimpsed and enigmatic aborigines dwelling beneath the ocean surface begin reacting to the increasingly intrusive and harmful human presence.
The native colonists of Poseidon are genetically engineered to be able to function underwater, either breathing through gills or possessing a high-capacity diving lung, as well as small fins to aid in swimming and saltwater-resistant skin. The game includes genetically "uplifted" dolphins and orcas as playable characters on either side of the native/immigrant dichotomy, covered in detail in the Ancient Echoes sourcebook.
Due to the proximity in story and themes, the French comic Aquablue can make a good graphical support for inspiration.
BPv1 uses a percentile (d100) system, while BPv2 uses one to three ten-sided dice (D10s) for the streamlined Synergy Game System. The combat mechanics in the Synergy Game System were completely rewritten, avoiding the use of hit locations, introducing a new initiative system, and using abstract armor and damage modeling, instead of the complex damage tables and detailed armor types of BPv1.
In Synergy, the average Attribute is 0 and the human range is from -3 to +3, while skills may range from 1 to 10. The higher the number, the better the attribute or skill. Aptitudes can be bought for skill groups, which implies natural talent with the given group. Depending on the Aptitude level, the number of dice rolled for tasks increases. Synergy uses a roll-under system -- you add your attribute and skill together, apply modifiers based on situation and difficulty, and roll equal to or below that number. Depending on one's Aptitude with the given skill, one to three dice are rolled, with the best result being kept.