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FASA 2.0 and Duck Soup

I’m decently aware that I may appear to be a doomsayer much of the time. Typically, my attempts at covering new technologies or gaming news make it sound like I see Elder Evils in every corner, waiting to rip everything that is good and righteous out of the world. For example, did you know Oxford Datahaven’s very own Messy Confessor is a herald of the apocalypse? His beard is surely Cthulhu’s genitalia, probing our society with its scraggly power.

It may be because I recently read David Wong’s article about restoring your faith in humanity, but today I’m pretty pleased with the world at large. Why? Last night it was pointed out to me that, among the thousand other things that happened at GenCon that I missed, FASA announced that it will be re-opening its doors.

For those of you too young to remember FASA, it was the brain-child of Jordan Weismann, L. Ross Babcock, and Jordan’s father, Mort. Sadly, they closed their doors in 2001, allegedly to “quit while they were ahead.” Thanks to FASA, while kids in the early days of RPGs were first introduced to gaming through Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest, and various franchise fantasy games, the 1990s were the days of big damn guns.

Just look at the missile-body ratio on that thing

My first RPG experience was Mechwarrior 2nd Edition, which is fairly indicative of the American mecha genre: big ugly machines blasting the holy crap out of each other because it’s awesome, that’s why. The in-universe metaplot was well developed and intriguing. But you could also sit a new group of player down and tell them “You blow shit up with robots” and still have a good game. I’m not saying blowing things up with particle cannons is necessary for a good game, but it certainly created a gap between what we thought gaming was like compared to previous generations of gamers. Listen to the rest of the FASA catalogue’s titles, and tell me they don’t mostly scream “steel and blood”: Battletech, Metaltech, Crimson Skies, Renegade Legion, VOR: The Maelstrom. The fantasy games that were present were less high-fantasy, and more brutal medieval: Earthdawn is a good example.

There have been a lot of attempts at re-creating FASA’s flavor over the years, but I think it’s safe to say no one ever reached the level of success they enjoyed, which included novels for most of its game lines, multiple lines of miniatures, extensive plot development, video and computer games, a virtual reality simulator facility (hilariously named the Extremely Secret Project), and a cartoon series. The cartoon series is still my excuse for why you’re never too old for cartoons.

Okay, we won’t brag on the art. It was the 90s

Even though most of their old properties are still produced by someone else, FASA retained a lot of their intellectual rights, and I’m excited to see what spins off into alternate timelines, and what ends up being a collaborative effort. Catalyst Game Labs has done great job at Shadowrun and Battletech, but Earthdawn has reverted solely back to the Freedonian Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Yes, the company is named after the country in the Marx movie Duck Soup. What’s not to love at this point? Oh, in the Shadowrun setting, they also nuked their own office building in Chicago.

And unlike a few other gaming developers who may or may not own Palladium RPG, FASA is handling their re-emergence with surprising grace. RedBrick LLC’s former leader, James Sutton, is now President of FASA Games, Inc. This means that the newly-born company, which may have permanently lost some of its old empire (especially flag-ship titles Shadowrun and Battletech), will be able to bring Demonworld, Earthdawn, Fading Suns, Noble Armada, Blue Planet, Savage Worlds, and Pathfinder: Earthdawn to the table. While this may not necessarily mean a return to the days of hi-tech heroes slinging super-sonic weapons from the cockpit of fusion-powered kick-ass machines, it does offer a good start to a company that’s been out of the game for a decade.

A kick-ass machine. Kicking ass

This is the part of the column where I usually tell the audience what this means for the world or the gaming industry. I think that I summed it up pretty well above, but just in case I didn’t, here’s a message for our friends at the new FASA:


Josh Snow is a skeptical transhumanist and some-time freelance writer. He’s also the  worst FASA fanboy ever, and sometimes proves it on his Twitter @ArkangelWinter

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