My Game Has Limited Budget
|A mundane, wooden box is a lot cheaper on the budget|
than a 'proper' space ship.
Its an odd restriction, when tabletop RPG allows one to use their imagination as much as they want. You don't need to bother about budget. Some people might, a bit, if they insist on using miniatures for Dungeons & Dragons but in my experience that rarely is enough of a limiting factor: people will repurpose a mini and go 'Okay I know its a bandit, but its a hobgoblin'. Most people who use mini and map nowadays use some mat where they can erase and draw at will. Only those gifted with time and skill usually bother to build elaborate sets, unless they are war gamer who can reuse terrain. As a result, the idea of 'budget' is a non-issue for tabletop. Even in an era of supplement creep, there are things like the SRD/OGL and Pathfinder has a wiki where all the info is available. There's no need to buy books.
Overall, anything can happen. A game can be set in any number of villages, cities, biomes or planets with only the GM's words to change the setting. Fantastical monsters can be dime a dozen, spaceships can show up as massive fleets and action scenes can be as overly detailed with flourish as much as one choose to elaborate upon. But what if it wasn't so?
Suppose my game was based off televised Science Fiction, from the sixties to the late nineties. This was the era of televised episodic budget science fiction: immensely popular, yet still not quite mainstream in the way they are now. These shows were often very ambitious but sadly lacking in budget. This is the era of Classic Doctor Who, of the original Battlestar Galactica, of Star Gate, of Babylon Five, of Star Trek from the Original Series to the end of Voyager. Television budget was often a mess. Computer generated images weren't a thing yet or, if they existed, were extremely primitive and limited until the tail end of the nineties. That's why aliens looked like 'men with weird foreheads in funny clothes'. There was no budget to allow twelve feet tall, four armed reptilian creatures or floating psychic amoeba, at least not in any form which would age well visually. Aliens were usually just people in funny clothes, maybe with some makeup or at best some 'rubber suit monster'.
Not only that but the action was limited by budget too, as was every aspect of world building. Most (in)famously is the example of the ubiquitous Transporter technology in the original Star Trek. It existed because some cheap sfx trick was much cheaper and easier to do than build the following: a shuttle's interior, a shuttle's exterior (with launch pad/hangar bay), a shuttle model for it flying in space and maybe oversized parts of the Enterprise's back showing said model landing or launching from the ship itself. It was just easier to add some bad sparkly after effect and make people vanish into thin air, the same way it was easier to make the Tardis magically look like a police box. Both elements would end up becoming so iconic to their respective universe its basically impossible to imagine the settings without them.
What Would It Affect?
|Vasquez's Rocks aka 'Kirk's Rocks' aka 'every single|
rocky alien planet ever'.
So if a game was ran to emulate this era of television, what would it be like? How much would it change? Would it fundamentally alter tabletop RPG? No, not at all the core elements are still there. This is more of a 'cosmetic' thing and a set of restrictions on the Game Master's part. It would be best suited to episodic games (granted, given my pacing, something closer to a classic Doctor Who serial) to fit the style of the era.
- All aliens would either be humanoids or rubber suit monsters. The former would range from the obvious cop out of 'human aliens' to 'rubber forehead aliens' while the latter would be better suited to something that's less of a person and more some monster, as it would not be able to convey emotions properly due to the bulky suit.
- There would be very little, any animals shown especially not alien wildlife. This is too costly. Any set in the wilderness would be some quarry or random forest which just so happen to look very conveniently like Earth. There would be very little exotic environments without straining an episode's budget or trying to get creative.
- Sets would be quite limited and reused as lot, so if the game is focused on a ship (the Enterprise and the Tardis are good examples) or space station (like DS9 and Babylon Five) it would make heavy use of the same major reused locales as much as it can. When a new set need to be used, the descriptions would try to mention as many reused elements as possible to show its the same old sets with a few pieces added/removed and maybe a coat of paint.
- There would be a very commonly recurring caves, a bunch of desert rocks and/or a quarry set for any kind of mine shaft, alien tunnels and long lost civilization ruins. That they all look the same would just be a happy coincidence. These desolate locations would be heavily abused as any kind of evil lair or dangerous location.
- Props face a similar situation. If an adventure showcase some ancient alien artifact which take the form of bronze colored geometric foam and cardboard shapes topped by a crystal, then a later adventure might conveniently happen to have an alien ship control's be a stack of geometric shapes, but in green and grey.
- Many minor NPC would be recurring actors in different makeup, so some element of their physical descriptions and mannerism would be repeated as the same guy in one episode plays an asshole security guard who gets murdered by an alien and 3-4 episodes later plays an alien trader in makeup.
- Spaceship action would be kept to a bare minimum, as the budget cannot sustain massive space battles, those requiring too many models and/or CGI. If the game is text-based then as many 'shots' of recurring spaceships would be reused as stock footage. Heavy kitbashing of ships may occur if the game use space ships a lot.
- Finally, action scenes would be somewhat limited to basic action stuff with some added 'pew pew' laser effects for the guns. This is not the kind of setting where advanced weapons, power armor and complex shields effects can be used. This will result in the characters being a lot more 'grounded' with little to no display of any kind of superpowers, with even supposedly fearsome warrior races displaying little super strength beyond tossing someone to the ground. Psychic powers, likewise, will be mostly effects-less. They just happen without any description of glowy lights and sounds and tend to be abstract. In other words, it isn't Warhammer 40 000 , Mass Effect or Halo, with big spectacle of military scifi and/or space magic.
- This would also mean monster's abilities would need to be abstract, such as mind control or death rays as graphic things like acid or melting people is not only out of the budget but also not allowed on television.