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The Astralnauts roam the galaxy hunting alien ghosts

Thanks to a G+ post by Greg Gorgonmilk, I checked out the weird, colorful world of The Astralnauts over the weekend. Created by artists Alex Pardee and Matt Richie, the Astralnauts are a team of spacefaring ghost-hunters who track down extraterrestrial spooks.

If you read that and immediately thought “campaign setting!” then I like the cut of your jib. It sounds like Ghostbusters meets Star Trek, with a side order of Stargate SG-1, and I like all of those things a great deal.

It looks like this:

(Artwork by Alex Pardee, image from io9)

Ghosts . . . in . . . spaaaaace

A gallery show for Astralnauts artwork opened this past Friday, and I wish I was close enough to visit — their stuff is bananas. The concept behind the Astralnauts is equally bananas, and in such a good way.

(Artwork by Alex Pardee, image from io9)

Here’s the core of the Astralnauts concept as a campaign pitch, excerpted from the team’s origin story:

In 2116, NASA revealed that spirits and ghosts don’t ONLY exist in the usual organisms like plants and animals. Unforeseen by any theorists or astronomers, NASA made a shocking discovery after retrofitting their telescopes with similar lenses that ghosters have used for years. Through the eyes of the Earth’s most power telescope, they saw the angry spirit of the entire dead planet of Bewmer, and it was rapidly moving toward Earth, clearly threatening its existence. If this planet-sized-ghost wasn’t stopped, Earth could be destroyed. Military forces from almost every country united and called for volunteer ghosters to travel into space, where they would work together to destroy the spirit of the dead planet, Bewmer.

In October 2117, a small army of nearly 3000 ghosters from across the globe was deployed to the dead planet of Bewmer. Almost immediately upon their arrival, all communications were lost.

A fucking ghost planet!? Stick a fork in it, because that’s a campaign setting in its own right.

Ain’t afraid of no toons

But the other half of the concept is “tooning,” which at first sounded less intriguing to me from a gaming standpoint:

“Tooning” was the process of adding a specially–mixed gas to the ectoplasm of the ghost, which, when combined, shrunk and crystalized the ghost’s essence, freezing it in a pocket-sized enamel form that looked like a small cartoon pendant. In other words, “tooning” a ghost trapped it inside it’s own personal tomb. This “crystalized” representation of a spiritual form meant that physical evidence could then be provided whenever someone captured and exterminated a ghost.

That takes advantage of Matt Richie’s artwork, which involves producing stuff you can hold, in a cartoony style:

(Artwork by Matt Richie)

And I figured that was that, right? I mean, these are two artists with a cool idea and a desire to collaborate in a way that uniquely leverages their individual art styles, not two dudes setting out to design a game setting. Buuuuuuut:

Balek Parker utilized his new technology to create and patent “Toon Guns”. These toon guns simultaneously sprayed the gas on to the ghost while vacuuming its essence into an attached container where the crystallization took place.

And boom, right back to gaming.

I mean, a party of PCs zipping around the galaxy, tooning weird-ass alien ghosts with gas guns — where do I sign up? Because that’s a game I’d love to play.

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