Space Pictures and Tabletop Roleplaying Games

I love me some space clouds. Thanks to the advances of modern technology, a whole lot of science, and an even greater amount of international cooperation, we now have some pretty fucking cool pictures of space. I can only imagine that more and more pictures from NASA have come out since I wrote this and if I go online for anything over my vacation, it will have been to look at neat pictures of space clouds. I mean, just look at this thing! It’s so freaking fluffy! Which makes since, since it’s a loosely adhered cloud of space dust that is only visible because we’re so far away from it. Like the haze of humidity during a warm summer sunset, we can only perceive it because we’ve got light bouncing off every bit of it towards our eyes.

The general concensus is currently that no nebula is visible from inside, since they’re too dispersed to be that visible and if they were dense enough to be visible while inside them, they’d be in the middle of turning into stars or planets because physics and gravity and whatnot. As I said in the linked post above, I try to avoid learning too much about the specifics of space stuff because I enjoy preserving the wonder of rampant speculation. I’ll look things up if I want an answer (and also because sometimes it’s fun to discover that no one really knows), but I like to enjoy this chosen uncertainty I’ve embraced for now so I genuinely don’t do that too much.

Since I’m running a D&D campaign that is taking placing in a Sci-Fantasy style setting at the center of the multiverse, I get to play with these ideas all the time. The locations initially available for the players to explore in the campaign are all in a nebula, one that is dense enough to be extremely visible. I don’t think my players know much about space stuff, or perhaps they’ve just written it off as “Magic Stuff” that doesn’t need to necessarily make sense, but I actually put a lot of thought into why their world is the way it is. After all, I want there to be interesting stuff going on and what’s more potentially interesting than something not behaving the way it ought to. I keep hoping one of them will ask about it eventually, but no one has said anything about it, despite the location being called “The Starblaze Nebulae.” They haven’t even asked why I refer to it in plural terms all the time. I’m beginning to fear that the entire campaign might play out before they think to ask, much less explore, those questions.

That said, even if it never gets brought up, I still enjoy it. I put all that stuff together for me, for something I can enjoy knowing about, developing, and having in my back pocket. A little non-essential treat for the DM. After all, I need to have little things for me in these games I run, otherwise they’d stop being fun for me. It’s always great if the players figure it out (my hints and foreshadowing usually tend to show up in the themes of the adventures, quests, and through-lines that they encounter), but it isn’t necessary. It just helps them understand what to expect or what is going on in the game as a whole. Still, since I usually bend the world to suit the players as we go, a lot of stuff that was sprinkled in early-on can wind up never coming back, so I try to avoid being too heavy-handed. I wouldn’t want to give people an idea of what the games about that might wind up being wrong.

Still, I’m pretty tempted to share a bunch of space stuff with them all on the off-chance that one of them starts to figure it out. I’m in dire need of a treat for the DM right now, since we’ve had a bit of a rough-go of things as a D&D group during the last couple months. This is the group I removed a player from due to beliefs and philosophy that was incompatible with the safe and inclusive space I work to maintain in all my TTRPG groups, so we’ve all been a bit stressed out about that, even if my remaining players all agree that I did the right thing. I’ve redoubled my efforts to make things fun and exciting for them, to capitalize on the smaller group we’re playing with now, but I haven’t had a chance to do anything to increase the fun for myself. I still get the rewarding experience of leading a game and telling a story with friends, but I need some kind of little treat to sprinkle into the game to help me stay interested and engaged in my presently burned-out state.

Even if I don’t get my players to bite on the space stuff, to start thinking a bit more critically about the world as a whole, I still get to enjoy some nice space pictures. It might not be enough to keep me going long-term, but it’s enough for now.

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