Thursday, December 09, 2004

Savaging Buck Rogers

In 1928 Amazing Stories printed a story entitled Armageddon - 2419 featuring a new hero, a hero who would inspire generations of new heroes. That hero was Anthony ("Buck") Rogers. The sequel to this story (The Airlords of Han)was published the next year as was a new cartoon strip featuring this Rip Van Winkle-esque hero. Buck Rogers was a man out of time using skills developed in the 20th Century to combat a threat in the 25th century. The Rip Van Winkle theme in speculative fiction wasn't a new one, Edward Bellamy used it in Looking Backward and H.G. Wells used it in The Time Machine. But this time there was one large difference; the hero could never return home. The future was the hero's new home, and he needed to do his best to protect what remained of the land he loved in a new and distant world.

For he purposes of Savaging, I will be devoting my efforts to 2 areas initially and I may add a third and fourth. These are the Buck represented in the 1929 comic strip (this is also a conversion of the TSR High Adventure Cliffhangers game), a conversion of TSR's Buck Rogers in the XXVth Century Game, and a conversion of the more recent Gil Gerard television series. Converting these three versions will offer a wide variety of campaign styles ranging from very un-PC pulp action to modern social commentary SF, with the XXV conversion falling in the middle. Later I will add the Buster Crabbe serial which takes yet another approach to the future. A brief description (with eventual hyperlinks) of each period is listed below:

Buck Rogers (High Adventure!): Adventure...Excitement...Thrills!

Anthony Rogers is a World War I veteran pilot working as a surveyor when he is trapped in an abandoned mine somewhere near Pittsburgh. While he is examining the mine there is a cave-in and Buck notices some strangely glowing rocks. As he is trying to escape he finds it hard to stay awake as his body succumbs to a mysterious gas...

When he awakens, Buck finds himself in a new world...the world of 2430. Buck witnessed new and wonderous technologies, but Buck was immediately thrown into conflict when he saw a group of Bad Blood raiders attacking a female soldier. After assisting the young woman (Wilma Deering) Buck learned a new and awful truth... The America he had known and loved is gone, no longer is America the great democracy he loved. During Buck's slumber the Mongols (also called the Han) have conquered the world in a great world war. Small semi-democratic enclaves had formed an underground resistance to the Han, but the future was in desperate need of the military skills and hopeful outlook Buck had to offer!

Buck Rogers in the XXVth Century

The 1990 Mike Pondsmith Buck Rogers game is maybe my favorite representation of the Buck Rogers story. It presents a world of space pirates, mad scientists and fleets of invading dictators. Unlike other Buck Rogers stories, there is interplanetary travel in this version. It is as if Buck's creators looked at the tales they inspired and improved on their original by incorporating the best of E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman and DC Comics Adam Strange.

In history as we know it the Cold War between 1989 and 1991 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In thie Buck Rogers future that never happened. In late 1999 the long dormant Cold War resurfaced and Soviet hardliners launched a powerful offensive from space. The Masterlink platform directly threated the United States, but the US could not directly attack the Soviet Union in response and it seemed that they would have to live under the terror in the skies. So the US Air Force planned a special "black ops" mission to knock out the Soviet satellite. Ace pilot Buck Rogers was sent in an experimental plan to attack the satellite. He was successful, but at the apparant cost of his own life. Thus began the Last Gasp War, a limited nuclear exchange where the US was largely sucessful in defending itself from a limited assault. But even this limited use of weapons was enough to end the nuclear age and the world restructured into three political groups.

During the years of Buck's absense, overpopulation, and the invention of a viable fusion drive, was responsible for Terrans migration to colonies throughout the solar system. These colonies begin genetic alterations to make the compatability of individuals to the environment an easier transition. Though it doesn't take long for genetic modification to be used to create new "slave" races. It didn't take long for the new colonies to become the new "nation-states" of the future with Mars as teh new Superpower seeking to dominate the other worlds through and organization called the Solar Alliance Protectorate. Into this world Buck Rogers awakens having been "discovered" by New Earth Organization scientists.

There are a couple of ways you can go with this background. Play it straight with it actually being Buck Rogers the "living myth." Or for a darker tone you can take advantage of a future where computer organisms (fully sentient AI) and genetic manipulation are common by having the "awakened" Buck Rogers be a golden lie constructed by NEO at the time he is most needed.

You decide.

When it comes to the products, I highly recommend you go out and buy the XXVth century stuff. As I convert it I will be very sparce in decription, out of respect for TSR's copyright, but I will provide Savaged templates for the races etc. I may even include original "Adventure Seeds," but time will tell.

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