Sunday, June 17, 2018

Adversaries in Space Opera

Art by George Wilson
However much Mankind may come to an accomodation [sic] with many of diverse races it will encounter in universe, there will always be some so starkly 'alien' that no common ground will be found on which to build friendly relations.  Such races are the 'monsters' of the galaxy.
Space Opera presents three intelligent races to be used as opponents for humans and human-aligned races.  Unfortunately, we have not been graced with any Gene Day depictions of these entities.

First, the Bugs (no other name provided) are cribbed from Heinlein's Starship Troopers.  “The Bugs are not individuals,” we learn, “but rather are 'units' in a vast 'hive consciousness.'”  The rules describe Brain Bugs, Workers, and three grades of Warriors.
Highly sensitive psionic Adepts who are able to attune themselves (barely) to the thought frequencies of the Bugs have confirmed that the function of the 'Brain Bugs' is not to lead, but to maintain a psionic link, joining all members/ units in the 'Hive Mind.'  Only the 'Hive Mind' has awareness and intelligence.  Individual units have only instinct to guide them when not in contact with the Hive.  'Brains' act as communicators to express the will of the 'Hive Mind' and to supply the collective consciousness for evaluation and decision.
The psionic 'range' of a Brain Bug seems to be five hundred meters.  Brain Bugs have a 'Body Mass' of 100 kg while Workers and Warriors range from 350 to 700 kg.

Master of Orion was not released until 1993, so we cannot accuse Space Opera of taking “Klackons” from that game.  Space Opera Klackons “are amphibious, crab-like beings with heavily armoured shells and large pincer claws which can be used to manipulate objects or to tear food and enemies apart.”  Large pincer claws would not seem well suited for manufacturing and operating advanced technology, but I'm not going to argue.  “It is possible to conduct trade with Klackons,” the rules state, “using sign language and the pidgin evolved for spoken communication.”  However, Klackons do not exclude sentient beings from their diet and, on occasion, “the Klackon's hunger overcomes the desire to do business.”  We also learn that Klackons are obsessed with the number seven.  Males of the species average 175 kg while females average 125 kg.

Given that the novel is in the public domain, Space Opera unabashedly states that the Mertuns “may be regarded as similar to” the Martians from H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.  “The Mertuns are an octopoidal race from low gravity planets and...They also use heavy Tripod Walkers...”  We learn that they “are a totally unemotional race devoted to cold, hard logic.”  Lacking emotion, they are “not overly hostile...[but] neither are they are they a 'friendly' race.”  In terms of government, “Mertuns appear to have not set social organization, but it is a suspected that individual communities function on a pattern not dissimilar to 'Athenian Democracy.'”  Mertun 'Body Mass' ranges from 100 kg to 250 kg.  No mention is made of any susceptibility to common germs.

Section 17.0 is titled 'The Beasts' and is not quite two pages in length.  Understandably, Space Opera does not provide an extensive bestiary.  Instead, we are provided with a chart that provides details on eighteen animal classes.  Said classes are differentiated by approximate body mass.  Class 'O' represents the least massive type at 5 kg.  Mass increases as classes regress to the beginning of the alphabet (e.g., class 'N' is 10 kg, class 'M' is 15 kg, etc.).  This means that beyond class 'A' there are classes 'AA,' 'AAA,' and 'AAAA.'  Evidently, using 'P,' 'Q,' and 'R' was not an option; neither was having 'A' be the least massive class with mass increasing in ascending order.  Each class has a carrying capacity, damage factor, stamina factor, shock characteristic roll, hand-to-hand combat factor, and a range of natural weapon damage.

For unknown reasons, Space Opera spends a paragraph stating the obvious:
...Aquatic species will spend all their time in water (fish, whales, dolphins) and may be gravely threatened when thrown on land.  Amphibious creatures (even animals like otters and alligators) are capable of functioning on land or in the water.  Flyers are capable of flight and tend to be slow and clumsy on the ground.  Finally, there are some triphibians (ducks or geese) which can fly, move on land, or swim...However, large, heavy animals will rarely have any flight abilities.
So, “Aquatic species will spend all their time in water” and “Flyers are capable of flight.”  Good to know.

Additionally, “Animals, particularly carnivores, will have pelts, making it possible to go into the hunting and trapping business.”  Value of pelts is determined by the StarMaster.  An important note is provided:  “animals killed by energy weapon fire have a flat 75% chance of the pelt being ruined (100% with flamers, explosives, etc.)”


  1. The real adversaries are the Space Nazis of the Azurich Imperium and their arch-rival Space Commie enemies of the Galactic People's Republic.

  2. Needs Eich, Ploor, and Species 8472.Space Opera doesn't really live up to Doc Smith.