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My Space Campaign


JarrethSynn

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Currently, I've been working hard on a campaign that takes place in space and on alien planets. My players have a variety of tastes of what they like in a space game running the gambit from Star Wars, Star Trek, Mass Effect, Robotech, and Firefly. So with that being said, I am dilligently trying to add a bit from all without jamming it to death making it seem convoluted.

I've given the thought to ship to ship combat common in Star Trek, the vast amount of alien races and mysticism of Star Wars, mecha from Robotech, cyberware and genetic enhancements of Mass Effect, and the gritier low-tech fringe worlds of Firefly.

So far certain elements can be explained and fitted while others give me trouble. Any thoughts?

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Trying to fit low-tech gritty into a world of genetically-enhanced, cyber-linked mech jockeys who are supported by massive orbital fleets is going to be challenging. I guess the easiest way to manage it is if the players start as the low-tech Fringe, looking in on the flash kit of the "empire" and dreaming of the day it is theirs, which if they survive long enough it will be. Taking the high-tech boys and dropping them onto a dustball planet is going to get old quickly.

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I dunno. Even in Traveller, the Imperium is not uniformly high tech and shiny. You've got plenty of worlds where the local culture is at Three Musketeers level even if the central government did just build a space port there, and technology (especially weaponry) may be restricted depending on what planet you're on. You could even have wealthy high-tech worlds and poorer low-tech ones in the same solar system or subsector, practically neighbors.

Also, all those fancy electronics may fail once you haul them to Planet Dustbowl. One way to help PCs to appreciate the vastness and variety of a single world (as opposed to the Planet of the Week syndrome) is to take their fancy toys away from them. They land confidently with their expensive, state-of-the-art vehicles and gear. And then discover the fuel leak or cracked di-lithium crystal. Or they get shot up by bandits or members of a dissident political faction. Or they touchdown on a bed of quicksand. Suddenly that casual 20-minute jaunt from their remote mining or medical station to the capital city has become an epic journey of weeks or months. Sure, they've got their shiny guns and well-stocked emergency kit. But supplies, energy packs, and ammunition eventually run out, especially if they encounter accidents, adverse weather or terrain, or hostile natives or beasts along the way. Now they're desperately hunting for water and food, carefully considering each shot, which may be their last. The PCs will be miserable but your players will enjoy the challenge as long as they have hope that their characters can eventually win their way through.

But you're right, some of your inspirational choices fit better together than others. Star Wars and Firefly assume a lived-in, weathered, sometimes grungy universe where folks scrape to make a living and may compromise their principles to do so. Sure you've got ships that reach the stars, but they can easily be second-hand jobs held together by chewing gum and bailing wire. In Star Trek and Robotech, everything is shiny and new, and the main characters are above the daily struggles of ordinary working stiffs; they may fight to survive the rigors of space, but they don't have to sweat about paying the light bill. In the same way, Star Trek and Robotech assume a rational, post-Enlightenment society where man has dispensed with the need for God, faith, or the supernatural. The denizens of Star Wars and Firefly, however, need to cling to some sort of religious belief, even if it is rather vague, in order to maintain hope and sanity. Since you can't have it both ways (unless your campaign deals with some sort of cultural/religious conflict), you as GM will have to choose which elements you want to include in your ultimate concoction. Don't feel overwhelmed, though. You don't have to figure it out and dump it on the players up front. Just start your story and reveal little bits about galactic society as you go along.

Although I understand your concern about including too many disparate elements, it's a BIG universe. Just as the same city can have glittering towers and fancy malls as well as slums and crime-ridden housing projects, so your fictional galaxy can have pockets of wealth or poverty, belief or unbelief, fancy gadgets and homemade tools, human societies and crazy bug-eyed critters. Again, you don't have to figure it out all in advance. Just drop stuff in as the PCs explore the setting.

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Most has already been said.

What I would like to add is that a "bottom up" approach to the design of your setting may work

better than a "top down" approach. Start small, with only those elements you want to include

that do fit together well and keep the setting consistent and free of contradictions.

Then expand the setting from there, adding other elements over time, when and where they

can be introduced without creating implausibilities or other problems. This way the setting will

be growing in a more organic way, and you can avoid many of the difficulties that are part of

an attempt to create the "big picture" in one go, especially if the various elements of that big

picture are as diverse as you intend them to be.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Don't be afraid to make your setting your own. While you may want to include proud star fleets, animal-headed non-humans, or cocky robot jockeys you don't want to simply dump Wookies and Veritech fighters aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. That's too obvious, and if your players really wanted to run a Star Wars campaign they'd tell you so. Pick a theme or central conceit for your game that you can hang the other stuff on as needed.

Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga novels are a good example of this. Sure, it's got grand starship fleets, powered armor, and bizarre genetically engineered aliens. But the central theme running through all the books is "Imperial Russian political intrigue in space." Barrayar is a colonial world recovering from nuclear disaster whose Russian-descended inhabitants have reverted to traditional monarchy. So while the main characters are tackling enemy empires or space gangsters, they always must be on the lookout for assassins sent by rival factions back home, and they always have to consider what the consequences of their actions will be on the Barrayarian political and social scene. One wrong move, one moment's inattention, and their own side could take them out.

Or consider Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat stories and novels. The central theme is "a hero in spite of himself." Slippery Jim diGriz exists in a Star Trek-ish Galactic Empire so disgustingly orderly and perfect that the authorities can't handle the space tyrants and would-be conquerors that arise from time to time. They have to blackmail the galaxy's greatest criminal to tackle the bad guys for them. And by comparison, he looks good even though he's inevitably running his own scam on the side while trying to take down the Big Bad. Again, we've got robots and space battleships and fancy gadgets - but the focus is on the antihero sneaking into places he shouldn't be and trying to con everyone.

Edited by seneschal
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The Galaxy is a BIG area of stars that is hundreds of thousands of light years across - even at the speed of light it would take four chronological Earth years to reach our nearest neighbour. This distance is a barrier that can be used to allow for disparate forms of government and technology.

How fast do your ships travel? Are they FTL and if so how many times the speed of light can they travel? Four times light is unbelievably fast in physics terms (it would require more energy than the universe contains to accelerate an object to this speed) yet it would still take one real year to make that journey to Proxima Centauri. Like I said - distance is a barrier. How can an interstellar navy maintain order when it would take years to send a strike force to quell an uprising in the 'Boondock' sector? You detect a signal from intelligent life in a star system 60 light years away and decide to pay a visit - how do you cope with this travel time without going mad?

Look at the availability of and application of technology here on Earth - extrapolate and magnify this by thousands of times to account for all the possibilities on worlds beyond count. In Africa there are satellite phones and high speed broadband connections, yet people still live in mud huts and walk miles every day to find clean water. The universe should be full of high-tech utopias and barbaric doomed back wood worlds (like Earth).

Interestingly, Star-Trek is a communist utopia - did you know that? It always amused me that a nation which is rabidly anti-commie produced such a show and no one seemed to notice.

No Gods - No Masters

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Interestingly, Star-Trek is a communist utopia - did you know that? It always amused me that a nation which is rabidly anti-commie produced such a show and no one seemed to notice.

I blame it on our educational system. ;D

In contrast, Classic Traveller is about as rampantly Capitalist as you can get, where (nearly) every adventure decision hinges on whether the PCs' actions will earn them enough gas money to make it to the next planet.

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Thanks to everyone who responded. I have now alot of things to digest and prepare. I like the fact of building from bottom up and branching out. And I do plan, with alot of advice given, to have core worlds be more high tech and the "backwoods" worlds low tech. Alot of solid advice. Thanks everyone.

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So I go to thinking about what everyone has said. I've decided to do something like this. As I stated before there wil be planets of both high and low technology depending on where they are and how they were colonized. Starships will be the same way. People who have the credits can afford the best and newest equipment while others will have to scrape by on used models and jury rigging. Mechs, will be more on a security level. One man or self-automated units that can be used for patrolling, but not like the mecha of robotech or the like. Cyberware and genetic enhancements will run rampant and again, quality goes to whoever can pay.

As for the mysticism part that interest some of my players, I don't intend to introduce something like the force that is this religious belief or thing. Instead, I'd explain as evolution. The more and more people geneticaly altered, the more likelk their offspring may have those abilities naturally or have their offspring be born with genetic defects or negative mutations. With that being said...some backworld colonies can see it as a religious or mystical thing, but in truth it is just science. Thoughts?

Edited by JarrethSynn
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The Uncanny X-Men ... in spaaaaaace! Or perhaps Psi World? Traveller covered this sort of thing with psionics and a shadowy organization who could train you in your talents, if (as always) you had the cash. But it wasn't the sort of thing you'd want to announce at the family reunion. And the Big Gold Book already includes a Psionics section for you.

Even if you ditch "The Force," that doesn't preclude your including religious belief in your campaign unless you just want to. Game designers tend to ignore the topic to avoid offending potential customers but since this is your personal campaign you don't have to worry about that. Faith needn't be limited to so-called backwards worlds, either. The United States arguably is one of the most advanced societies on earth and 80 percent of the populace say they believe in God. That religious belief equals ignorance is an 18th century prejudice that wiggled its way into Star Trek The Next Generation (Captain Kirk in TOS certainly made periodic references to God). After all, the real world's major religions have survived the Renaissance, the Industrial and Scientific revolutions, the discovery, colonization and settlement of the New World and landing on the Moon. Why should they magically disappear once Man heads toward the stars?

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One 'nice' thing about the Force being a psuedo-religion is that it took training (and indoctrination) to develop the powers; whereas 'wild' talent would probably (human nature being what it is) cause them to give into darker/baser instincts. At the same time, it would also encourage 'govt' and 'criminal' types a LOT of incentive to recruit them...willingly or not. Hey, I'm just using my pragmatic life-experience here when it comes to 'talented' people...who's to say human nature in the future would resemble the past!

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With that being said...some backworld colonies can see it as a religious or mystical thing, but in truth it is just science. Thoughts?

You could take a look at how psionics and religion are treated in the Babylon 5 universe, in my

view this approach is far more interesting and plausible as the ones used in Star Trek and Star

Wars: Different people of different societies hold different views, there is no monolithic picture,

only as much diversity as we have here in our world.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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While I like the "it looks like magic but it's really science" approach to mysticism and have used it with great success in pseudo-fantasy games, it may be more difficult to pull off in an SF setting. This is because people do know about science and technology, so even if it's far in advance of their understanding they'll tend to view it as science, just incredibly advanced. It would still work for primitive backwaters, though.

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Just like the British Empire was Communist? Star Trek is Horatio Hornblower set in space

In Star Trek the background 'universe' that humans live in is a cashless society where everything is made by 'Replicators' and they have one world administration. This would mean they have a planned ecconomy and people only work because they want to. Sounds like a communist utopia to me.

No Gods - No Masters

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In Star Trek the background 'universe' that humans live in is a cashless society where everything is made by 'Replicators' and they have one world administration. This would mean they have a planned ecconomy and people only work because they want to. Sounds like a communist utopia to me.

This makes an interesting contrast with the conflict between the "Yangs" and the "Kohms" in the TOS episode "The Omega Glory" - Wikipedia Link.

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That religious belief equals ignorance is an 18th century prejudice that wiggled its way into Star Trek The Next Generation (Captain Kirk in TOS certainly made periodic references to God).

And which episodes were these? I can't remember any prejudice against religion in ST:TNG. In fact religions always appeared to be based on alien entities residing in the Trekiverse and were thus given some credibility.

http://www.basicrps.com/core/BRP_quick_start.pdf A sense of humour and an imagination go a long way in roleplaying. ;)
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I can't remember any prejudice against religion in ST:TNG.

Prejudice is probably too hard a word, the authors usually simply ignored the subject, for ex-

ample by omitting any kind of chaplain on naval ships. Social science was obviously represen-

ted by the counsellor, but organized religion was just as obviously absent.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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You may restrict mecha somehow if you want a low-tech far west gritty world; think of robotech/mospeada, where the mechas spend a lot of resources, and need a lot of (expensive) maintenance.

Perhaps mechas are military equipment only? PC's could face troubles if they are known to (illegally) have them!

The mechas can still be used for climatic scenes, but the characters can't afford to use them whenever they like (unless of course they are in the military or whatever faction and then you can use or not the equipment depending on the mission(s) or assignment they are currently on).

"It seems I'm destined not to move ahead in time faster than my usual rate of one second per second"

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And which episodes were these? I can't remember any prejudice against religion in ST:TNG. In fact religions always appeared to be based on alien entities residing in the Trekiverse and were thus given some credibility.

and

Prejudice is probably too hard a word, the authors usually simply ignored the subject, for example by omitting any kind of chaplain on naval ships. Social science was obviously represented by the counsellor, but organized religion was just as obviously absent.

---

It was a little more aggressive than that. Remember, in TOS the Enterprise had a politically correct utilitarian chapel devoid of religious symbols or a chaplain but Captain Kirk made occasional favorable references to the Judeo-Christian God and the Bible (he was an Iowa farm boy, after all). Religion rarely popped up in episodes except where ignorant alien natives worshiped ancient computers but faith was largely ignored as rust said. However, the Captain performed marriages and it was assumed that the crew (except for the main characters, of course) largely adhered to family values that wouldn't ruffle the feathers of an East Texas Baptist pastor.

TNG took things a step further. Now we have French martinet Picard as a captain who makes occasional favorable references to Man's supposed perfection via evolution, a holodeck instead of a chapel, and a touchy-feely secular Counselor as part of the official bridge crew whose job description encompasses many of the duties that absent TOS chaplain should have been performing. When Picard is mistaken by ignorant alien natives for a god he is outraged and anguished, not only because he doesn't want to deceive the locals but because the very notion of deity is childish, superstitious nonsense. Mankind has evolved beyond such things and he doesn't want to infect the aliens' culture with religion. Likewise, when Lt. Riker is temporarily given Christ-like power to heal and raise the dead by Q he ultimately chooses not to use it to restore colonists (including children) killed and maimed by an accident. Instead, he relinquishes the ability and apologizes to Picard for nearly succumbing to immaturity. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise-D we have exactly two people we know are married: Chief O'Brien, whose marriage is troubled, and Dr. Crusher, whose husband is dead and who sleeps around despite the tender presence of her tweener son. In fact, everyone sleeps around. Troi ultimately turns down Riker's marriage proposal; likewise Worf's proposal to his girlfriend (with whom he has had an out-of-wedlock son) is rejected. Career and jollies trump marital commitment. Man has evolved beyond such things ... except for, you know, typical human foibles such as lust, pride, fornication, murder, lying, etc.

While all this is going on, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (featuring the TOS cast) postulates that the whole biblical Garden of Eden/Judeo-Christian God thing is a hoax perpetrated by an imprisoned alien evil entity who wants to use the faithful to enable it to escape.

It is only in Deep Space Nine that faith finally gets a little respect. Not that humans have rediscovered God, mind you. But the Bajorans, whose planet is strategically close to the wormhole the DS9 crew seeks to protect, practice a vaguely Eastern Star Wars-ish mysticism and Federation personnel are loath to offend them.

Moral: Organized religion is bunk but primitive shamanism is tolerable as long as it feels good and doesn't place any demands on your behavior.

Now, I'm saying all this as someone who, ahem, religiously watched all the Star Trek shows and movies up until the fiasco that was Enterprise. I like Star Trek. My point is that science fiction doesn't have to ignore or be hostile to faith, even organized religion. Humans are predisposed to worship and have done so through the entirely of recorded history. The idea that mankind will suddenly somehow "grow out of it" is dated and a bit silly at this point. So, if Man does make it to the stars, travel through time, colonize the ocean floor, survive a global holocaust chances are pretty good he'll take his religions with him. And there's nothing wrong with your science fiction role-playing campaign reflecting that, if you want it to.

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When Picard is mistaken by ignorant alien natives for a god he is outraged and anguished, not only because he doesn't want to deceive the locals but because the very notion of deity is childish, superstitious nonsense.

While I agree that this must seem rather anti-religious from a Christian or similar point of view,

I would like to point out that there are a number of religions which would share Picard's view.

Just think of Buddhism, where the question whether gods do exist or not is considered by most

scholars as irrelevant and distracting from the truly important questions.

Riker's refusal to accept potentially corrupting semi-divine powers would also be in line with the

teachings of a number of religions, and marriage and sexual behaviour is also not an important

theme for many of the world's religions, which often only deal with such subjects when priests,

monks and nuns are concerned (if at all - just think of the ideas some of the Tantric religions

have about sex, they would make the Pope faint).

So, from my non-Christian point of view I do not see a general prejudice against all religion, on-

ly a tendency to ignore religion - and especially the teachings of the Christian variety and similar

ones - unless it can be used for a specific plotline of a specific episode.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Point taken, but it would carry more weight if Picard were from a Mongolian Buddhist background instead of a French post-Christian one. Since the character repeatedly espouses his view of the Darwinian evolutionary exaltation of humanity, it doesn't exactly sound as if he's touting ancient Taoist philosophy. ;) I propose that Star Trek's Federation is indeed a very religious society with the established faith being that conservative Christian bugaboo, secular humanism. =O

Contrast the role of faith in Star Trek to that in Star Wars. In Trek, things supernatural always turn out to be ancient technology, shamming aliens, or mind tricks. And religious belief doesn't have any effect on folks' daily lives. In Star Wars, both Han Solo and the officer in charge of the Death Star start out scoffing at the Force but by the end of the saga its reality has been established beyond doubt. Far from faith being an inconsequential private matter, his growing religious convictions (and resulting supernatural powers) enable Luke Skywalker to destroy the Death Star, rescue his pals from Jabba the Hutt, and ultimately persuade his corrupted father to relinquish evil. Now, the Force more closely resembles Taoism or Buddhism than any sort of theistic faith but (in addition to its practical uses in the films) it has a major role in shaping society: in the Old Republic, the Evil Empire, and in the shiny new world the victorious heroes will presumably build after the Emperor's defeat. A character might stubbornly insist that it was all coincidence and bunk, but he'd still have to deal with the beliefs of the New Republic's rulers and the authority granted to the new corps of Jedi that Skywalker will undoubtedly begin training.

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