Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Trek to the Stars: a begining

In my last post I put forth the skeleton of a game system that I thought was interesting. I want to manipulate this system and build something lasting out of it. In order for me to do that, I must build(or use) a setting to place within that system. While some designers can work on a system in a vacuum, I am just not wired that way. For me, I need fiction to give the mechanical system emotional meaning.

Keeping that in mind I need to start building a setting for the system. Possibly I should also come up with a title for the project. My first urge is to do a science fiction setting. I really love science fiction, no big surprise if you have watched the games I have run. I love engineering and science and I try and keep up on new technologies and new ideas for technologies. So I kind of decided on science fiction, but what type?

I asked around a bit and got back an answer of cyberpunk in a colonized Sol system. I dug parts of that, so I decided to use bits of it. I have already done my take on cyberpunk with the game Jadepunk. So I decided to go another way. I would do a solar system space game with some cyberpunk and some not. I find that what helps me design a game is to get down a list of influences and things I would like to see in the game, so here goes:


  • Star Trek: I am and have always been a fan of Star Trek. Next Generation was my first connection with science fiction and throughout my teenage years it was one of the few science fiction shows that showed me an optimistic future.
  • Dune: I love the high action mixed with high politics. I love the setting details and how the environment effects everything within. The book is just fun.
  • Farscape: I love this show, it is the best version of Buck Rogers ever filmed. Folks who are accidentally both awesome and helpless. It was never afraid to take risks and they let the story go where it needed to. Overall, one of the best science fiction shows of the last fifty years.
  • Transhuman Space: The setting that got me to buy GURPS, it even got me to play GURPS, and GURPS is not the kind of game I really enjoy. This setting was so deep and interesting and also so connected to the GURPS mechanics that it made everything come together into a mighty fine game.
  • Ben Bova's Grand Tour series: I really love these books, despite that they can sometimes get a bit preachy(Venus I am looking at you). The science is fun, the characters are interesting and much of the conflict is the conflict of personalities. 
With those influences lets see what I can come up with for a setting pitch. Each planet, dwarf planet, and asteroid of appropriate size has been colonized to some extent. Many of them have been terraformed and support there own offshoots of humanity. I am a fan of hard(ish) science fiction, but I am also a fan of the softer science fictions, so I want soft science fiction(it is easier to be loose with physics from a setting design standpoint) with a heavy dose of hard science fiction on the top. Basically I would expect to go with hard sci-fi except for a few areas of wonky tech that breaks the rules, but only in specific and controllable ways. Mostly where I will be making science soft is in the area of human augmentation, travel times between planets, and perhaps artificial gravity(perhaps, I am on the fence on how I want to do this). I want to avoid casual FTL(or FTL in general), though again I need some way to get from the earth to Pluto in less than a year. I love solar sails but they are slightly too slow for that. Maybe I will go with solar sails and then some sort of shunt that does short distance FTL, like a wormhole network that can only really work within a system, for reasons.

I already have some plans for the various planets. Mercury is a mining colony buried in the polar regions and orbiting in space stations. Venus is filled with cities in the clouds, aerostats of immense size launching genetically engineered plants and bacteria into the cloud layer while showering the planet with ice(for the hydrogen). Mars has an awesome space elevator. the asteroid belt has a bunch of tiny nations that are all seeking to control various economic interests. Jupiter and Saturn are a hive of activity, skimming He3 for fusion reactors and such. The further outreaches of the system are filled with nomads and hermits, people who wish to be left alone and explorers seeking new opportunities. I see a lot of political maneuvering and many small wars and conflicts. Its like the old west, where there is civilization, "back home," and there is the frontier where anything is possible, but the danger is greater.

I see humanity having multiple nations, worldviews, religions, and all that. I also see the future as introducing new ways of interacting with the world. Humanity will have three branches now: Baselines, Cyborgs, and Genetically Modified Humans(need a better name for each of these). Basically these would be three differing ways of looking at and dealing with problems. Baselines would look at a problem gather the right tools and then work at modifying the situation to suit there needs. Cyborgs would just alter their bodies to overcome the problem(sort of brute force through resleeving or modular design). Genetically modified humans would alter themselves and the environment through genetic engineering(basically they adapt to their environment). This all needs some deeper thought, for sure, but that is the basic idea.

 Humans will also have a few AIs and some uplifted species. True AIs will be rare as in my mind they would need both the correct hardware and software, and then they would need to be lucky. Sometimes the creation of AI doesn't work right, either there are serious emotional issues or the program self destruct as it nears sapience. I want there to be AIs, but I want them to be rare and special, and I want then to have limits like any being has. As for uplifts, I would love to come up with something really cool here, something that hasn't been done before but also something that makes sense. I am leaning toward Squid, Sea lions, Crows/pigeons, Raccoon, or parrots. I would love to hear any thoughts on which I should use, or if I should use them at all.

Alright so that sums up the bare bones of the setting. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Specifically any areas of the setting that seem off or inconsistent. Also any areas that you are super exited about. Let me know what you think.