R. Talsorian Games’ Teenagers from Outerspace: An Interview with J Gray and Kienna Shaw

On Facebook, I shared a post about anime RPGs, which garnered a remark from J Gray of R. Talsorian Games mentioning their RPG, Teenagers from Outerspace. That led to this interview with Kienna Shaw and J discussing their plans for a special TFOS event at Gen Con 2020.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Thanks for talking with me. R. Talsorian Games is an Event Partner at Gen Con and the company is taking Teenagers from Outerspace (TFOS) for a live event, correct?
: We are! This will be our first sponsored live show and we’re excited to be showing off what has to be one of the best Teenagers from Outer Space campaigns ever run to the world. It should be both humorous and heartwarming. We don’t have a confirmed time and location from Gen Con yet, but when the events go live, people will be able to find it by the event title, “A Very TFOS Graduation”, or by looking for the system. We’ll also announce it via social media and our blog when we have the information.

EGG: For those that don’t know TFOS, what is this RPG about?
: Teenagers from Outer Space is actually one of our oldest games, first published in 1987, and one of, if not the first (non-mech based) anime-inspired RPGs. It also is one of the early comedy RPGs, a distinction it shares with Paranoia (1984) and Toon (1984). In fact, Toon’s designer, Greg Costikyan, worked on TFOS’s third edition! Teenagers from Outer Space takes inspiration from the harem genre of manga and anime, in which a random assortment of unusual characters show up for no real reason to make life weird for the protagonist. In TFOS, a whole bunch of aliens show up to go to high school on Earth and make life weird for all the human students there. Why are the aliens there? It doesn’t matter! Think 80s teen movies mixed with Ranma ½ or Urusei Yatsura and you’ve got the idea.

EGG: For the live session, who is lined up to play?
: We’ve got a great group of practiced Actual Play streamers who really put their hearts and souls and costumes into the game. Kienna Shaw (@KiennaS) is the GM. Lindy (@laughlovelindy) plays Correlia, a tentacle-haired alien who never takes off her mirror shades and has a pet lobster named Leonardo daPinchy. Greg (@GrimJack21502) plays C.C., the coolest kid on campus. So cool, in fact, he literally has ice powers and his own personal soundtrack of classic rock. Emma (@EmmaWrote) plays John Smith, a legally distinct lord of time who keeps a temporal travel shop in the school’s janitor closet. Travis (@ProducerTrav) plays Derek, a warrior clone refugee from a 50s B-movie who is learning the answer to the question “what is love”? I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the entire campaign, fifteen episodes deep as of writing this, is available to watch at LaughLoveLindy’s YouTube channel. You can also download their character sheets at our website.

EGG: Why is Kienna Shaw (@KiennaS) the right GM to run this game?
: Running TFOS is a lot like playing pinball. You ping the ball into play, watch it bounce around, and once and a while you press the flipper buttons to frantically try to keep the game going. Kienna gets that on an instinctual level. She throws out the scenario. She adjudicates the rolls when they happen but she spends most of each episode laughing or staring in amused disbelief because she knows the best thing to do in a comedy RPG is to just let the players run with it. She leaps when needed but mostly she plays the “straight man” to their comedy stylings. Not many GMs have her patience or sense of timing.

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EGG: Cyberpunk is going to a new level with the upcoming 2077 video game and the Witcher RPG has to have seen a boost from the TV series. What makes this the right time to shine a spotlight on TFOS at Gen Con?
: Dark Future! Dark Fantasy! We love our grim and gritty but there comes a time when you need to wash off the acid fog and the blood and the guts and just have an absurd good time. That’s what TFOS is for us. A break from the dystopia and a chance to get our comedy on. We hadn’t planned on a special TFOS event at Gen Con, beyond running a few games, but Kienna and their players have been running this amazing campaign once a month for over a year now and we just couldn’t resist putting them on a stage to show off to the world. Not nearly enough people are watching their beautiful, wholesome, funny as heck game.

EGG: In February, you have a live play of The Witcher RPG, correct? [Author’s Note: This interview was conducted on February 19, 2020.]
: There are multiple Actual Plays of the Witcher TRPG going on right now, on a variety of channels. On February 23, at 10am EST, WanderingDM is hosting a charity livestream play of the game to benefit Special Effect. Special Effect helps people with disabilities play video games and works to research using games as therapy. This is our second charity game. The first happened last November and featured Matt Mercer of Special Effect as Jaskier/Dandelion and Doug Cockle, the video game voice of Geralt, as Geralt of Rivia. We were also joined by professional opera singer Kelli Butler as Triss Merigold, and WanderingDM as Zoltan the Dwarf. Cody Pondsmith, the line developer for the Witcher TRPG ran the game. This time, WanderingDM is running the game and we’ll have Kelli Butler and Doug Cockle returning. Also joining us will be Johnny Chiodini from Dicebreaker, and B Dave Walters from L.A. By Night. We’re pretty darn excited. You can watch the first game, which features most of the cast members singing at some point, on YouTube and the second game will be uploaded to the same channel.

EGG: One more Witcher question, how is the TV series impacting the visibility of the RPG?
: I think everything Witcher, from the books to the video game series to our RPG have been catapulted back into the spotlight thanks to the Netflix series. We might be burning offerings to Henry Cavill in thanks during the upcoming equinox.

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EGG: Lets switch from J to the GM, Kienna Shaw. Kienna, thanks for talking with me. You run a Teenagers From Outerspace stream, what made that a project you wanted to GM?
: I got to play a game of Teenagers from Outer Space at UnCon in 2018 (a local convention to me), and I was immediately hooked on how fun and how easy the game was to pick up and play for both GMs and players. A few months later, I made a tweet about wanting to run TFOS, and my friend, Lindy, messaged me asking if I wanted to run it on her channel, LaughLoveLindy. We quickly put together a group of our friends, and what started off as just a streamed one-shot quickly turned into a mini-series, and then a long-running campaign… we were just having too much fun to stop!

EGG: At Gen Con, you’re doing a live TFOS event, correct? How did that come about?
: Yes! I’m very excited for the live TFOS show. The wonderful folks at R. Talsorian Games have been supporting us pretty much from day one, from shouting us out to hanging out in Twitch chat to sponsoring some awesome giveaways during the stream. After the entire crew met in-person for the first time alongside J. Gray (from R. Talsorian) at PAX Unplugged, we started tossing around the idea of a live show. With my highly interactive audience format (I often take suggestions from the audience for NPC names, plot complications, and random items), a live show felt like a natural way to celebrate the awesomeness that is this game and series.

EGG: Let’s talk about something really important to gaming, the TTRPG Safety Toolkit. What is it?
: The TTRPG Safety Toolkit is a compilation of safety and support tools that players and GMs can use in their games. My co-creator, Lauren Bryant-Monk, and I wanted to make a centralized resource that helped explain what safety and support tools are, showcase the wide variety of tools and discussion out there, and help people find and use the right tools for their table and needs. It’s a living resource, constantly being added to as conversations around safety and support in TTRPGs shift, and all available to access and use for free.

EGG: I’m excited to see this product! How’s the response been to it?
: It’s been fantastic! The TTRPG Safety Toolkit has been around since May 2019, and in that time we’ve seen the toolkit be used and credited in published games and conventions, translated into different languages, discussed at panels, and shared far and wide across the online TTRPG sphere. Many folks have reached out to us, commenting on how the toolkit has helped them in their games, or opened up the world of safety in gaming for them. We’ve received some negative and sometimes toxic pushback from people who are resistant to the idea of needing safety at the table, but the overwhelming positivity and ensuing constructive discussions surrounding the toolkit has been more than enough to show it’s doing good in the world.

EGG: What can we do to foster more safety in gaming?
: One of the things I personally emphasize is that safety and support tools are just the beginning, and their usage has to be founded on the principle of care. That is, we have to create a culture in gaming where we care for the other people at the table that we play with as individuals with complex emotions and needs above the story or game or whatever else is happening at the table. When we care for people by respecting their boundaries, implementing tools and accommodations, encouraging open communication, and otherwise treating them as people we care about, we create safer spaces that encourage better game experiences and stories.

EGG: What other games do you run online? What other projects are you working on?
: I’m not running any other games at the moment, but I am the co-producer of Salty Sweet Games, a Twitch channel with TTRPG shows such as The Witcher: Crimson and Ash and Masks of Nyarlathotep. As for other projects, I design and write games, both self-published and for TTRPG publishers, and I do general advocacy and TTRPG community work around audience interactions in streaming, diversity and inclusion, safety and support, and much more.

EGG: Thank you for taking with me. Where can fans learn more about your work?
: Thank you for having me! You can find me on Twitter at @KiennaS, which is the best way to find out what I’m doing on the internet as I announce everything that I do there. You can also find my self-published games at kiennas.itch.io and on the DMs Guild, and you can support me on Patreon to get WIPs and other content.

Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program. This program provides advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG.

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry

I have fond memories of playing Teenagers from Outerspace when I was just a regular Teenager from Earth (which is, from my current perspective of years, more than a little bit like an alien life form anyway). It was fun and goofy.


That's my dog, Walter
TFOS was one of the first games I played regularly as a pre-teen. I remember the game being really open as far as character creation, though that may be just how that guy was running it. I was very happy that my character was a Samurai Pizza Cat, as that was the only anime other than Voltron and Tank Police I had ever seen.

It's also good fun played as Undergraduates from Outer Space (i.e., college freshmen). That was the only game in which I've ever got away with nuking a city. It was only Solihull, in the 1980s when it was much worse than it is today, so nobody really minded,


Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
TFOS was one of the first games I played regularly as a pre-teen. I remember the game being really open as far as character creation, though that may be just how that guy was running it. I was very happy that my character was a Samurai Pizza Cat, as that was the only anime other than Voltron and Tank Police I had ever seen.

I remember that show. It was... weird.

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