Friday, January 25, 2013

Revisiting "The Conquest Of Space Movie" For Your Old School Space Opera Campaign

There are some awful films in the public domain and then some drift into the status of cult because of their circumstances. Conquest Of Space is one of these. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction remarks "A truly awful film, The Conquest of Space is probably George Pal's worst production."
But is there still stuff to mine from this movie? The short answer is "yes". The longer answer is that there is a whole lot of hardware that can be used any number of retroclone science fantasy rpgs. 

The plot according to Wiki : 

Sometime in the late 1950s, mankind has achieved the capability of manned space flight and built a space station in orbit around the Earth, headed by Colonel Merritt, whose son, Barney, a Captain, is feeling a little homesick. At the moment, the space station's personnel have been at work constructing a giant spaceship to go to the moon, but on one occasion, a crew member becomes a victim of space fatigue after failing to connect a wire on time.
Later on, as Colonel Merritt has taken his men to the galley for dinner, the space station is lightly damaged by a meteor shower, but damages are soon repaired. After the incident, an inspector comes up from Earth and (after being questioned over the moonship's inclusion of wings) gives Merritt fresh orders from the president: not only is Merritt being promoted to General, but the so called moonship is going to Mars instead. As General Merritt selects three men and an officer to go with him, his close friend Sgt Mahoney is turned down for being twenty years too old, although three months younger than the General. Merritt's son changes his mind about returning to Earth, and volunteers for the mission. Sgt Imoto expresses his view on the Martian mission, explaining how Japan, beforeWorld War Two, served as an example for a world becoming overpopulated and about to run out of valuable resources.
After the selected crew members watch a news broadcast wishing them farewell, the Mars mission sets off, only for the General to find that Sgt Mahoney stowed away by hiding in one of the spacesuits. En route, something goes wrong with the communication antenna, so two men go out on a spacewalk to make repairs. They manage to get the antenna working just in time as the monitor shows an asteroid, twenty times bigger than the Mars ship, coming at them from the stern. Thanks to the general, the ship manages to avoid a collision, but meteors from the asteroid kill one of the spacewalking astronauts by puncturing an airline, leaving the crew to abandon him in space.
Eight months later, as the crew approaches Mars, the general becomes increasingly disturbed (showing that space fatigue is beginning to affect him), and as they come in for a landing and the "space speed indicator" approaches zero, he suddenly says "We haven't the right!" and puts on full throttle. His son, now the captain of the mission, struggles with him, wrenches his hand from the throttle, and brings the ship in to a rough but safe landing. Later, as the crew takes their first steps on the Martian surface, they spot water leaking from the rocket. Getting aboard quickly the captain discovers the saboteur is the general. In a fight with his son (as the leak is stopped), the two struggle and Captain Merritt fires his father's gun, killing the General. Sgt. Mahoney, who'd seen the last stages of the fight, threatens to have Captain Merritt confined for his actions.
The crew discovers, apparently surprised, that Mars is inhospitable and that that it is going to be a severe struggle to survive with their limited water for the year it will take for Earth to reach the right orbital position for a successful return. Despite the absence of water on Mars, like the child in Ruth Krauss's book The Carrot Seed, Japanese crew member Sgt. Imoto plants a seed hopefully in the Martian soil.
The crew celebrates Christmas on Mars glumly. Wisecracking Brooklynite Sgt. Siegle plays Christmas carols somberly on a harmonica while the other actors chew the scenery. Siegle complains they are on "a lousy, dried-up ball in the corner pocket of nowhere."
Sgt. Mahoney: The General wasn't crazy, he was right! We asked for it! There's a curse on this ship and everybody in it!
Sgt. Siegle: Baloney! You leave that stuff back on Earth. But it don't operate past the thousand-mile limit. "Only God can make a tree." Okay? Where is it? Where's the trees, and the flowers, and the grass? Where's the water? You hear me? Where's the water?!
Just then, Sgt. Imoto, who has been staring out the window yells "Look!" Since it is snowing on Christmas Day, the crew is saved and they manage to replenish their water supply. In due course, as the launch date approaches, the seed Imoto planted sprouts into a tiny flower. The viewer infers that Mars has water and can grow flowers; since "only God can make a tree," God is present on Mars and God must intend for humankind to exploit not only the Earth but also Mars and the rest of the universe.
The joy over the discovery of the flower is, however, short lived as the crew hear rumbling sounds and see rocks falling and cavities opening up in the ground, proving that Mars has underground water. The ground sinks slightly under the ship and even though the ship doesn't sink into the ground, it is leaning at an angle too risky to make an emergency liftoff. The crew then decides to try a more risky but desperate attempt to straighten up the ship: using the ship's motors to open up a new cavity, which does work, and the ship lifts off before the ground collapses.
As the movie closes, Sgt. Mahoney, who had threatened to accuse Capt. Merritt of murdering his own father on their return, changes his mind and decides that it would be better to forget about it and let the world remember the general not as a nutcase who tried to sabotage the flight but as a brave man "sacrificin' his life as he did, to bring his ship and his crew safely to a landing on the rocky desert of a new planet! … Fittin' end for a grand soldier." The captain nods and adds, "For the man who conquered space." The Irishman offers him "a cup o' tea", the captains says "thanks", the music rises to a climax, and the rocket glides off into a starry firmament behind the words "THE END."

The Merritt Space Station 

Merritt Space Station 

Crew :60 


Refueling, Drydock, Star Ship Construction 
Rotational Artificial Gravity, Medicial Facilities 

Hit Points: 30 

This station is still used today for the deployment of asteroid mining, temporary housing, and complete drydock facilities for small to medium exploration craft. This station only has a shelf life of seven years before needing to be completely updated. 

The Bull Pup Space Exploration System 

The Bull Pup Space Craft /Plane 
Crew : 8 
Drive System : Nuclear/Ion Drive system 
Full sensor suite
Hit Points: 22 

Used in Asteroid mining, exploration, and gas mining. 
The Bull pup is a complete space craft system that has been in use for over 400 years. It is reliable,cheap, efficient  and completely transportable making this an ideal system for many miners, spacers, and salvage men. 

The Von Breun Space Sled
Crew : 6 
Hit Points:4 
Drive : Nuclear pellet/chemical rocket 
This is one of the most common rocket sled systems produced for over 300 years. Fast, effiecient , and reliable this system can be created in under 4 hours by a crew of only 2 men with the right tools. 

The Big Boy Nuclear Booster System 
This system is used to enhance the already formidable Bull Pup with addition thrust, drive, and capability. Holding over 50% more nuclear fuel then standard models. The big boy is a performance enhancing addition to an already impressive model. At a cost of only 200,000 credits even the smallest mining outfit can benefit from having a big boy on their side. 

Using The Conquest of Space For Your Old School Space Opera 

 The Mars of Conquest is the same Mars that we see in Robinson Crusoe in Space. A mars that has suffered a mass extinction of most of the native life. Yet its mineral wealth and resources are in tacked. The planet yet retains the Wells/ Boroughs elements that would be seen in later movies. This is a very mean Mars just waiting to spring on mankind. 

Conquest is a horrid movie story wise but there are enough elements that can be used in many other games. For Star Ships and Space Men Second edition the characters can easily be used as templates for miners, drovers, and spacers. 
For Xplorers the movie's mission can easily be adapted as a complete campaign into itself. Add a few ruins and your ready to rock.
For Terminal Space the space craft and hardware prove yet another option for exploitation into a game.
For Stars Without Number  "Conquest of Space" proves a number of things to loot. The hardware is cheap and can easily be sold by any mega corp. The planet Mars in Conquest is a perfect example of the sort of problems that arise during exploration. For further exploitation add ruins or megadungeons. Yet for my own games I've used this movie as part of my Post apocalyptic  Mars Cycle.

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