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Brainstorming a “Kitchen Sink“ Sci-Fi campaign

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I probably will include religions, though I don’t know how crucial they will be. I remember an oldie in which a priest exorcised a planet...right before it was bombarded to oblivion by the military. And another that had a cultish theocracy as a major force on the intergalactic stage.

And while I don’t want to go full-on Stargate with it, aliens posing as gods might be common enough that it’s a major crime...
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
For what I want religion to do it doesn't need to be 'magical' at all. I fijdd it useful for the story space and narrative possibilities it opwna up. That said, going the other way there is also cool.
 

Mallus

Hero
And while I don’t want to go full-on Stargate with it, aliens posing as gods might be common enough that it’s a major crime...
How about an organization devoted to exposing aliens who use advanced technology to pose as deities in order to exploit less-advanced cultures? You could call them... hmmm... Mythbusters.

Admittedly, I rank TNG's "Devil's Due" higher than most Star Trek fans.
 

Nobby-W

Far more clumsy and random than a blaster
I probably will include religions, though I don’t know how crucial they will be. I remember an oldie in which a priest exorcised a planet...right before it was bombarded to oblivion by the military. And another that had a cultish theocracy as a major force on the intergalactic stage.

And while I don’t want to go full-on Stargate with it, aliens posing as gods might be common enough that it’s a major crime...
They can make background fluff or be the subject of an adventure - maybe the party could go explore an old monastery. You could use religious organisations as factions, antagonists or patrons. If you had a Jedi or Bene Gesserit style order they could be affiliated with some religion. You could do Dan Brown style conspiracies, secret societies and other such shenanigans.

You could make the whole 'verse theocratic, but IMO this has already been done to death with WH40K.

What might be interesting is having a theocracy that you have to interact with (maybe something like Gilead from A Handmaid's Tale). Imagine a party of smugglers, traders or pirates operating on the fringes of a theocratic empire. They might also be privateers or spies working for some other nearby polity.

You could have Aliens with weird religions. One set of aliens I did had a parasitoid larval stage - much like the xenomorphs or District 9's prawns. By and large they were smart enough to avoid sentient hosts, but some lunatic fringe cults spun their propensity to pick up parasitic DNA fragments from the host into a dogma about sentient hosts providing the best DNA. Suddenly there are mysterious raids on outlying colonies.

The aliens brought a far right party into power (with a slogan that roughly translates to 'Restore Katamar to its former glory'), that is turning a blind eye to these cults, as adherents of the doctrine are starting to represent a significant chunk of their political support base. Fun and games ensue.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
...without going full-on RIFTS.

I was struck by the campaign design bug while participating in the Star Wars “Mind share” thread. I don’t want to play in or run any of the major Sci-Fi settings out there, but participating in something that echoes them could be fun.

So, for instance, while I might not want to mess around with the Clone Wars, Jedi Vs Sith, and so forth, I totally want some form of lightsaber or monofilament swords in the game. Stargates might exist, but not necessarily any of the aliens posing as gods. Other lost megastructures and tech from prior stelkar empires might pop up as well, be they from Bab5, Defiance or Larry Niven’s Known Universe.

Yes, there would be some form of sentient machines, possibly even malevolent. But a biotechnologicslly proficient race like Steven Donaldson’s Amnion might get the nod instead of the Borg of Star Trek.

What kind of elements do you think would be good to yoink from Sci-Fi movies, TV shows, comics or stories & novels?
"Dead" civilization like the end of Charles Stross' Accelerando
Everyone has uploaded themselves to the net, and then taken all the physical components of the entire solar system and turned it into a lattice surrounding the star powering said net.

Mixture of supernatural and far future science, a la Peter Hamilton's Reality Dysfunction

Sentient ships, a la Iain Banks Culture, or Anne Leckie's Ancillary
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I think I’m going to crib some notes from David Brin.

In his Uplift novels, humans, dolphins and a couple other species are starting to become a part of the greater galactic civilization. I’m thinking dolphins- evolving in wide-open 3D spaces- would make great starship pilots. Maybe even the core of sentient ships.

Additionally, his Postman novel (poorly adapted into a movie) has a lone man using a ruse of delivering the mail in an official capacity as the catalyst of actually bringing back civilization. Couple a dynamic like that with the aftermath of a big galactic war, and you have stories to tell. See also the Defiance TV show.

Said war could have had Bab5-like dynamics.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Oh, Postman in a post-empire galaxy after there's an apocalypse. And the players find a ship that turns out to be a postal message ship (ansibles (ftl communication) has not been invented). And they are trying to just scrap and find deals like in Traveller, but every planet or station they get to, everyone is hungry for news about the rest of the galaxy, and more importantly personal communications to them individually. And they ask the PCs to take their messages onwards; and the PCs become the "Postal Service" in the post apocalypse. Cool idea @Dannyalcatraz !
 

ART!

Adventurer
I would definitely include this if I was setting up a sci-fi game: FTL travel as Thing That Will Drive You Mad. You need drugs or to be comatose to not risk losing your marbles - but some people can stay awake without this risk, or without as much risk.

Naturally, things go pear-shaped now and then, and the not(?)-insane person has to wake up some comatose/drugged people to deal with A Situation.
 

MarkB

Legend
I would definitely include this if I was setting up a sci-fi game: FTL travel as Thing That Will Drive You Mad. You need drugs or to be comatose to not risk losing your marbles - but some people can stay awake without this risk, or without as much risk.
I really liked the way it was done in Larry Niven's Know Space series - FTL space is known as the Blind Spot because it's so visually incomprehensible that the human brain edits it out of the picture. If you look at a window while in FTL, it's like the edges of the window pinch together. If you stare too long, it feels like that spot of nothingness is growing, the surrounding walls slowly creeping together to be swallowed into nothingness. In one short story a pilot has to go to FTL in a ship whose outer hull got disintegrated, and when he makes the mistake of looking up from the controls he literally forgets the very concept of eyesight.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
How about an organization devoted to exposing aliens who use advanced technology to pose as deities in order to exploit less-advanced cultures? You could call them... hmmm... Mythbusters.

Admittedly, I rank TNG's "Devil's Due" higher than most Star Trek fans.
Stellaris had a variety of ethics in the game and you can select the government type. You can have up to 3 or be fanatic about one of them.

It's kinda useful when you map sci fi or real life civilizations to them.

They are

Militarist
Pacifist
Xenophobe
Xenophile
Materials
Spiritualist
Authoritarian
Egalitarian

You can kind of use the system for fluff for your space factions. Using some examples.

Daleks. Fanatic Xenophobe, Militaristic
Federation (Trek) Xenophile/Fanatic Egalitarian
Nazi Germany militarist/xenophope/authoritarian

There's also hiveminds, robot empires etc so you can build your own Tyranids, Borg, Skynet etc.

Had a thought to make a Stellaris RPG using a tweaked D6 or a revised d20 Star Wars Saga RPG using 5E mechanics but with microfeats.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I would definitely include this if I was setting up a sci-fi game: FTL travel as Thing That Will Drive You Mad. You need drugs or to be comatose to not risk losing your marbles - but some people can stay awake without this risk, or without as much risk.

Naturally, things go pear-shaped now and then, and the not(?)-insane person has to wake up some comatose/drugged people to deal with A Situation.
I was thinking similar thought, inspired by that and Stephen Donaldson’s Gap novels- hyperspace jumps could make you go nuts,

Which brought me back to the cetacean pilots- perhaps they’re resistant or immune to that psychosis because they evolved in wide open 3D environments. And who knows, perhaps an analog of the spice comes into play as well...
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I’m thinking the jump gates will be extraplanetary only, so you won’t be able to go directly from planet to planet. That means any race using them must already have some kind of spacefaring capability.

In addition, instead of the way such gates are often depicted, they will not be big rings in open space. Instead, they will be embedded in the cores of large asteroids, hollowed out like immense beads. The gatemakers rationale is protection of the gates from both natural forces AND attack by hostile beings.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I’m thinking the jump gates will be extraplanetary only, so you won’t be able to go directly from planet to planet. That means any race using them must already have some kind of spacefaring capability.

In addition, instead of the way such gates are often depicted, they will not be big rings in open space. Instead, they will be embedded in the cores of large asteroids, hollowed out like immense beads. The gatemakers rationale is protection of the gates from both natural forces AND attack by hostile beings.
Interstellar rail gun;).

Here's a character sheet from fan made Star wars D6. Not hard to file the serial numbers off.

IMG_20200915_152907.jpg


How do you build the gates though? By that do you need one at the other end?

If so it needs to be a pre existing system or they need some way to travel there to build it.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Borrowing from Stargate lore, the gatebuilders launched a fleet of robotic building ships to set points. The first gate was then connected to the more distant ones. Repeat for thousands of years.

Such a plan requires thinking and planning in deep time, societal stability, and cooperation. Probably a long lifespan as well. Because of that, it may be that the gate builders were the first mechanical species to exist in the galaxy. It may be that they’re still around, unknown to the other species, still building gates. Those gates may even be fully sentient members of that species themselves, gathering data on those who pass through them...
 

MarkB

Legend
I’m thinking the jump gates will be extraplanetary only, so you won’t be able to go directly from planet to planet. That means any race using them must already have some kind of spacefaring capability.

In addition, instead of the way such gates are often depicted, they will not be big rings in open space. Instead, they will be embedded in the cores of large asteroids, hollowed out like immense beads. The gatemakers rationale is protection of the gates from both natural forces AND attack by hostile beings.
The way Mass Effect does it is that there is FTL travel, but it's not massively much F than L, so it's practical for travel within a local star cluster, but not for traversing the galaxy. For longer range travel there is a network of Mass Relays around the galaxy, and travel between one Mass Relay and any of its nearest neighbours is instantaneous. They're spread out enough that you could traverse the galaxy in no more than half a dozen jumps.

The Mass Relays are precursor technology, and modern species won't know about one until they find it and activate it, adding it to the network. The result is that the star systems surrounding each Mass Relay are like an oasis, with large swathes of the galaxy left currently unexplored because it takes a long time to get anywhere too far from a Mass Relay using conventional FTL. As a result there's still a heavy element of frontiers and exploration in the galaxy as people push back the borders using newer, faster FTL technology, or send out expeditions in search of lost Mass Relays, and you never know when some formerly-unknown spacefaring civilisation may suddenly manage to activate their local relay and join the galactic community, for good or ill.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Back to the wandering “paladins”.

There’s lots of material to draw from: SW’s Jedi, Dune’s Bene Gesserit, DC Comics’ Manhunters and Green Lanterns, Bab5’s Rangers & techno mages...

I‘m probably going to do a lot of cherry picking, but- because I want them to be a player option- they won’t be so über as to be able to dominate the game. They’re powerful, but they’re not superheroes or gods.

In all likelihood, they’re going to be more like Sci-Fi special forces the the more mystic sources. They’ll have martial training and advanced tech, but any seemingly supernatural ability will either be racial/innate (and thus, not available to all members of the organization) or just hyper tech, not a result of the organization’s training.

One little non-Sci-fi element I definitely plan on including is to nod to the Pilgrim Adepts of MZB’s Lythande. The “paladins” will have a blue star symbol as their ”badge/ID/emblem” and their organizational name will be chosen from the names of a Class O star. Said star may even be their base of operations.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
The way Mass Effect does it is that there is FTL travel, but it's not massively much F than L, so it's practical for travel within a local star cluster, but not for traversing the galaxy. For longer range travel there is a network of Mass Relays around the galaxy, and travel between one Mass Relay and any of its nearest neighbours is instantaneous. They're spread out enough that you could traverse the galaxy in no more than half a dozen jumps.

The Mass Relays are precursor technology, and modern species won't know about one until they find it and activate it, adding it to the network. The result is that the star systems surrounding each Mass Relay are like an oasis, with large swathes of the galaxy left currently unexplored because it takes a long time to get anywhere too far from a Mass Relay using conventional FTL. As a result there's still a heavy element of frontiers and exploration in the galaxy as people push back the borders using newer, faster FTL technology, or send out expeditions in search of lost Mass Relays, and you never know when some formerly-unknown spacefaring civilisation may suddenly manage to activate their local relay and join the galactic community, for good or ill.
That’s kind of what I was thinking. The biggest ships can do short hops, but are mainly confined to sublight speeds. Ships under a certain size can’t go FTL at all without using the gates.

So gates are critically important for anything beyond regional travel, and as such, are carefully guarded. Losing access to your closest gate means being cut off for goodness knows how long.
 

MarkB

Legend
Back to the wandering “paladins”.

There’s lots of material to draw from: SW’s Jedi, Dune’s Bene Gesserit, DC Comics’ Manhunters and Green Lanterns, Bab5’s Rangers & techno mages...

I‘m probably going to do a lot of cherry picking, but- because I want them to be a player option- they won’t be so über as to be able to dominate the game. They’re powerful, but they’re not superheroes or gods.

In all likelihood, they’re going to be more like Sci-Fi special forces the the more mystic sources. They’ll have martial training and advanced tech, but any seemingly supernatural ability will either be racial/innate (and thus, not available to all members of the organization) or just hyper tech, not a result of the organization’s training.

One little non-Sci-fi element I definitely plan on including is to nod to the Pilgrim Adepts of MZB’s Lythande. The “paladins” will have a blue star symbol as their ”badge/ID/emblem” and their organizational name will be chosen from the names of a Class O star. Said star may even be their base of operations.
As special forces, their main 'power' may simply be that they have the authority to act independently on behalf of whatever galactic 'government' is in place, giving them leeway with local law enforcement regarding their actions, and the ability to requisition local support if needed. Somewhere between a Wild West sheriff and a modern FBI agent.
 

Dioltach

Adventurer
Have you ever read Harry Harrison's short story "The Repairman"? It might give some flavour for the practical issues involved in maintaining interstellar travel.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
As special forces, their main 'power' may simply be that they have the authority to act independently on behalf of whatever galactic 'government' is in place, giving them leeway with local law enforcement regarding their actions, and the ability to requisition local support if needed. Somewhere between a Wild West sheriff and a modern FBI agent.
And as such, their police powers may vary from black ops with carte blanche to simple unsanctuoned bounty-hunter/vigilante action, depending on where they are.
 

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