Unlike some of my fellow writers here in Stargazer’s World I haven’t tried my hand at designing an RPG for some years now. I must admit that meeting so many great and creative people in this community has gotten my creative juices flowing and I may just try my hand at game design in the near future. One thing I do a lot of is world building. You may consider me a compulsive home brewer. I’m constantly taking notes, making maps, and creating. Sadly many of these campaigns never see the light of day.
Total disclosure here dear reader… I am sometimes reluctant to use the blog as a sounding board for a campaign idea because I think many of you will simply not be interested in me airing my campaign notes. I seems a little too self-serving, but I’ve decided to take a chance.
These are the initial notes for a sci-fi campaign idea I’ve been working on. It’s really the first of two parts. The rest of the notes are not polished enough to share right now, but I’d love to get an initial reaction. What do you think? Does it sound interesting or too clichéd? Would you like to read part two or should I scrap the idea and start again?
So far this is just a system-less idea for a campaign. If there is an interest I may compile this and put it out as a PDF document. I’d be remiss to not point you to an EXCELLENT sci-fi setting by Michael, Ad Astra. Make sure you check it out!
Here is my (so far) nameless sci-fi setting. Any feedback is appreciated!
“Everybody expected the war to be short. When the conflict dragged on and millions of people started dying the mood certainly changed. Lines were drawn and thus began the long war of attrition. No one was prepared for it. You have to understand, this was the first truly interstellar war, there had been regional conflicts, but this was the first large scale conflict where the great capital ships and their devastating weapons were put to use. Where millions of soldiers would fight over pieces of rock located in key hyperspace routes, fighters would clash while skimming the atmosphere of densely populated planets and their wreckage rained death on the population. In the end when the Union declared victory, they might have created new stellar nations and boasted of change and reform, but few of us fell victorious. When soldiers returned, citizens were suspicious of them, those that had homes to return to… Governments failed to live up to their promises. Some of us just left it all behind and travelled here, to the fringes of Union space, some seek adventure, others riches… Me? Well I just want to forget.”
Ricardo Wuhall, Veteran of the Great Galactic War
When mankind left earth the transition was difficult. After colonizing the solar system and beginning a program to explore nearby stars with massive generation ships we made first contact. Or more accurately they made contact with us.
A damaged Cerdiallian ship limped into the Sol system on non-FTL power. The encounter was auspicious, the Cerdiallians were Humanoid enough so that their technology and Human first contact protocols bridged the gap, and rudimentary communication was established. After repairs were made and means for future contact established, the Cerdiallians left. Soon after Kerdans in pursuit of the Cerdiallians secretly entered the solar system and upon detecting the presence of Cerdiallian technology assumed the Humans were allied to them and attacked, unexpectedly drawing Humankind into their border skirmish.
Kerdans destroyed the generation ship space docks in Neptune and attacked the gas mines of Uranus. Despite heavy losses the Humans destroyed the Kerdan flagship and crippled the escorts. As they attempted to escape ships from all the governments in the solar system gathered and defeated the Kerdans.
The captured aliens and their technology offered a unique opportunity to any government in the solar system that possessed it. The secrets of FTL travel were now in Human hands. In an attempt to avoid conflict over the spoils a commission was created to study the technology and share any discovery and intelligence with all parties. Thus was created the Trans-planetary Commission on Galactic Technology or TCGT. The TCGT would take on greater responsibilities as the technology was soon used for the creation of defenses against Kerdan retaliation.
When a coalition of Humans and Cerdiallians defeated the Kerdans, Humanity entered the greater galactic stage. Three other races were soon contacted, but all seemed to the Humans have no ambitions beyond their home worlds and a few colonies. Besides the Kerdans and the Cerdiallians few other intelligent species had expanded beyond nearby stars and mostly out of necessity for natural resources. On the other hand Humanity saw great opportunities as the galaxy opened up before them and soon began a race to colonize any newly discovered life sustaining planet.
Coordinating communications became a major endeavor undertaken by the TCTG. While ships now had FTL capabilities, there was no way to communicate across the vast distances of space beyond the messages the ships could carry. The TCTG eventually took over administration of the Sol system’s resources as the former governments began to carve out their holdings in the stars. Other groups began colonization efforts as well, ambitious entrepreneurs, fringe political and religious groups, as well as many corporations.
The most successful non-corporate space nations emerged from the remnants of old solar system nations. The Eire-Indo-Nippon or EIN Triumvirate established the largest presence in near-Sol life sustaining systems, followed closely by the Free Holdings of Alpha Centaury a governing body created after the dissolution of the American Alliance following the Brasilia Talks.
Smaller local governments and settlements often confined to a single planet or system dotted the star maps. These groups often had little contact with neighboring systems, comprised of trailblazers, scientists and isolationists, places where great social experiments were set in motion, religious groups sought the freedom to create communities governed solely by their beliefs and forbidden experiments were carried out.
The third major player in this galactic drama, large corporations, often referred to as mega-corps of hyper-corps, had the most success in these endeavors. Conglomerates, with business interests in many and varied markets settled their own systems, no longer under the regulations and governance of national or stellar governments.
As this expansion into the stars was taking place, the average Human faced increasing hardships and many failed to reap the rewards of this great adventure. The disparity between the very wealthy and the working class grew larger every year. Corporate systems became increasingly rich and powerful, often recruiting the citizens of other stellar nations into their workforce for extremely low wages. Despite this fact, the masses that saw few options swelled the ranks of the corporate workforce. These entities in turn, without any oversight of regulation, exploited their workers.
The Euro-Pacific, or Eu-Pac, Corporation was perhaps the worst of all. Forerunners in terra-forming efforts based on arche-technological reverse enginnering, Eu-Pac Corp exposed their workers to hostile working conditions, many forced to work in dangerous ecosystems. Accidents in terra-forming operations were common, and Eu-Pac Corp executives saw the loss of life as an acceptable risk of doing business, after all there were more workers where the deceased came from.
The revolt against the Eu-Pac Corp was the first spark in a larger conflict to come. After a quarter of a million workers perished as part of a terra-forming disaster, a fledgling workers union, fiercely prosecuted in corporate systems, abandoned their peaceful intentions and regrouped as a revolutionary group. The Rukta Workers Consortium eventually united diverse unions and groups and managed, through sabotage, revolt and outright conflict, to defeat the Eu-Pac Corp and established itself as a new stellar nation. The Rukta Workers Consortium began a fierce anti-corporate campaign that gained many sympathizers among other stellar nations.
Other corporations, fearing a similar revolt among their workers reacted. While a few took the route of improving worker’s conditions and greater freedoms, the vast majority cracked down on dissidents, expanded their own private armies and armed their fleets. Conflicts came to a head when various corporate governments declared that all their workers solely under the corporation’s jurisdiction, even those citizens of other stellar nations, and claimed all control over their movements and actions. Other stellar nations soon accused the corporations of slavery and abusing their power and responded in kind by raising large armies and directing their resources to the creation of ships and weapons of war.
Thus began the Great Galactic War… (End of Part 1)
Sounds pretty cool! It's a little clichéd, but your description makes it seem fresh enough. Where do the players fit?
Looks like it has potential to be a nice setting. Avoiding the kitchen sink approach to world building's a big plus. If it was my setting I'd try and find something really unique to include as it sounds a bit generic at the moment. Still I'd like to see how it develops.
I too like this setting overall. I agree with the two previous posters re: the generic feeling, yet there were several details that I really liked. One example being how humanity gained FTL tech, which I thought was a neat twist. I think that you need to expand the role that the Cerdallians are having on the development of human society and tech. Your corp. vs. workers scenario is well written, but is an idea that was heavily used in sci-fi setting of the 80s and esp. the 90s. Perhaps a different angle with more of an interstellar and multi-species feel to it would better suit your setting. As written, there is currently a disconnect between the opening section and the closing section of your writeup – almost as if two previous settings were smashed together. Still, with a bit more spit and polish I think there's a great setting in here.
It is very generic but that isn't the problem. I would attack this from a different angle.
What will the PCs be doing?
Is what the PCs are doing be fun?
Is there variety for the players?
How much shaping of the galaxy will the PCs be doing?
A setting as described reads as a lovely story with traditional Space Opera element but it is what the PCs do that makes it different. For example, I read one actual play (can't find it now, rats) set in the ever-so-familiar Star Wars universe where the PCs were drunkard/junky failed JEDIs who believed they could right the wrongs of the galaxy. It wasn't a recognisable SW campaign.
I like how your future is somewhat consistent with history:
– there are still wars, both petty and significant
– gaining FTL is like discovering America — everyone heads to the new world(s) to make their fortune, escape persecution, get a new start, etc.
– without oversight, some entities abuse the people they have power over. And naturally, this eventually leads to revolution(s).
I like that communication is limited in order to allow for isolation. This also adds an interesting strategic consideration to war.
I like that humanity is still arrogant enough to think of the war as this great galaxy wide all-encompassing thing, when it is primarily a human issue that doesn't really involve other races.
I think some of the colonists would take advantage of less technologically advanced indigenous locals (again, think of American colonization). At the most basic level, this could be an aspect of the corporations' slavery practices.
I would like humanity's relationship with other species/cultures to be a little more fuzzy. As a species we aren't really unified yet, nor do I think we ever will be. Most of your setting bears this out, but the relationships with alien species/governments make it seem like there's initially a system-wide coalition that gets along REALLY well. Which government (or other group) makes contact with the Cerdallians? Does anyone interfere? Why does all of humanity think they're such great guys? Maybe there should be a significant faction that sides with the Kerdans. Maybe when the Kerdans attack one government, another sees it as a golden opportunity to hit an adversary while he's down. This could be a great opportunity to put humans on both sides of the conflict. You could still give FTL and other tech. to everyone — the Kerdans and Cerdallians might both see an advantage in equipping their allies. The Cerdallian coalition could still win, and the rest of your setting could remain largely unchanged, but you would also have the extra tension between those who sided with the Cerdallians and those who sided with the Kerdans.
It seems like FTL tech. ought to be fought over a bit more — nobody in power is going to just hand that kind of military advantage out to everyone, and even if the controlling party was willing to, somebody else would try to steal it and keep it for themselves. Rather than just handing FTL out, I think it would make more sense for the design to be stolen/leaked.
I'm curious to see what you do with the GGW in part 2. I see a few of possibilities:
1) The GGW is current; the players will be soldiers, gun runners, mercs., or just people trying to survive (or maybe commanders who never go out on the field of battle — all the role-playing happens in a war room and the commanders spend the lives of their soldiers the way mages spend mana/spells. If you focussed on the drama of the commanders making decisions (not just the tactical/strategic outcomes), that could be interesting…). This is my favorite, but it doesn't look like you're going this route. 🙁
2) The GGW is recent history. The galaxy is still unstable (inflation, unrest, distrust, etc.). The players could be anything. This seems to be where you're going.
3) The GGW occurred a generation or more ago. The galaxy has stabilized and the war is just a detail in the way people think about things. Again, the players could be anything. I like this option the least.
A big question for me is how much of this will just be back-story and how much will be relevant to play.
I realize that this is a first-pass alpha kind of thing, but the writing could be cleaned up a bit. Errors in grammar and other (often minor) foibles obliterate immersion for me. I've got to give you props for actually getting it written and putting it out there though.
First of all let me say THANKS to everybody for their feedback. This was exactly what I was looking for. I’ll be back and address some of your questions/suggestions in more detail later. Real life has kept me occupied today. Promise to be back soon. Thanks!
Keep en coming…
What Rob Lang said above.
The backdrop is neat, but what will truly move this is what the PCs do, affect, shape. Make them too little in the scheme of things and it's not important or fun; make them too big and it's Risk In SPAAACE!!! Find the happy medium of acceptable anonymity + enough clout to shape the future and you'll be right on your way.
Steve S: One important thing to consider regarding Humanity having a factional response to the two alien groups is whether or not the aliens think and act the same way as do Humans. We can't tell from the overview if the Cerdallians have a unified cultural perspective, but the narrative does suggest that the Kerdans do since they immediately assume and ALL humanity is allied with their enemies and immediately treat all of Humanity as enemies, even going so far as to treat them as being in the same league as the Cerdallians despite Humans not having the military tech or the degree of expansion (at the time) as the Cerdallians.
While not conclusive, this does suggest that the Kerdans at least don't recognize the possibility of there being multiple groups within a species. Thus they may not be willing or able to deal with a pro-Kerdan Human faction once they've categorized humanity as "enemy equal to Cerdallian".
If the Cerdallians also think in terms of "one species = one unified perspective" then the presence of factional behavior within Humanity would greatly confuse them. Their allies are suddenly not acting like their allies, now they allies again, now they aren't, are, aren't, now they're fighting themselves?!? This might help explain why the alien cultural, political, technological and military presence is greatly lessened later on – the Cerdallians are avoiding those "crazy split personality" Humans! LOL!
Whether or not any of these dynamics were intentional by Sunglar, they are interesting to consider.