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What sources do you base your sf universes on?

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What types of sf sources do you base your sf universes on in your games and campaigns?

 

I tend to like classic star trek as a source, humanity has pulled itself up a little in most ways, not jsut technologically, but is still pretty human. People still work at careers. Machines still need engineers and maintenance.

 

Maybe I add some touches from movies like "Alien", dirty it down a little. People use bad words, get greedy. But on the whole people are a little better, like a lot of civilization today is better than civilization 300 years ago.

 

I may add a little touch from star wars here and there. Starships are easier to access and own than might be totally realistic. I kind of like the idea of people being able to travel and explore. I like to keep things plausible while balancing some at least semi hard sf.

 

So yeah I use touches from traveller.

 

I avoid utopian sf like STTNG but don't want totally bleak dark sf worlds like the Alien universe even if I take a little of it's look.

 

I'm ok with transhumanism and even use it to create possibilities and conflict.

 

I've borrowed a lot from masamune shirow's Appleseed and ghost in the shell.

 

I have a precious cache of old iron crown space master books I treasure and borrow ideas and imagery from.

 

I like my aliens alien, usually. Not a huge fan of the star trek "99% human" aliens tho I understand the budget realities. But I make concessions to game play so keep them usually compatible with humans in most ways. (Not close enough for breeding)

 

If I want a "not quite human" species I toss in some fairly divergent trans humans, cyborgs, genetic engineered varients, etc.

 

I'll sacrifice scientific realism for playability only as much as necessary to keep a universe interesting and no more. I may understand Clarke's law "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" but I don't use it as an excuse for magic disguised as technology.

 

So what are your favorite sf sources and what do you do with them?

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Star Frontiers is a huge inspiration. It was my first non-D&D RPG and I loved it. I could spend hours running ship-to-ship combats with Knighthawks. I still have multiple copies of the rules and modules around here. There is also a site on the web that has most of the original resources, with explicit permission from WotC to use it.

 

The X3 series of video games; I like most of the spaceship designs. The gameplay is mostly about trading and building an empire, which can be somewhat twirled into a game, but it is mostly the ships.

 

StarCraft; In my longest running game, one of the elder races, now extinct, were basically the Protoss. The Sathar from Star Frontiers were essentially replaced with Zerg.

 

Mass Effect; I consider the mythology, history, species and general setting (pre-Reaper Invasion) to be THE best sci-fi universe ever. In my not so humble opinion, Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica and all the others cannot hold a candle to it. At the risk of diverging from the topic, it is for this reason that I will forever hate Bioware. They create this amazing universe and then deliberately (and with malice aforethought) piss it down their legs. Obviously a setting that I put that much stock in is going to wind its way into my own narratives.

 

Some Star Wars; Force powers (not Jedi and Sith) and Lightsabers. 'nuff said.

 

Firefly / Serenity; My second favorite setting. In many ways it merges the best of the Western genre with the best of Shadowrun and throws in a healthy mix of spacey stuff for good measure. All in all, it is the characters that make up the show that really stand out. The setting itself is decent enough to rips some stuff from.

 

The Cthulhu Mythos; Heh heh heh. What? Does this need some sort of deeper explanation?

 

Mission Impossible/Shadowrun; I like infiltration missions. Both of these properties are rife with infiltration. Shadowrun adds a nice bit of investigative legwork, from an RPG mechanics standpoint, to the process. 

 

Obviously there are other properties that I draw from. I have read, watched and listened to a vast amount of science fiction and fantasy material. There is no way that some of it doesn't get distilled into essential archetypes and makes its way over. The above listed are merely the ones that stand out in my mind as having direct contributions to the last science fiction campaign I ran.

 

Edit: Clarified and expanded.

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Star Frontiers is a huge inspiration.

The X3 series of video games.

StarCraft.

Mass Effect.

Some Star Wars.

Firefly / Serenity

The Cthulhu Mythos

Mission Impossible

Shadowrun

Currently on my phone. I'll edit for exposition when I return.

Heh heh heh. I've always considered mission impossible the original gamer series. Seriously, it was doing the whole D&D thing before D&D even was a thing.

 

Look at the cast. Mr. Phelps was pure paladin.

 

Barney was pretty much a technical wizard who could throw the occasional punch. (Another great thing about MI for it's time was the egalitarian mood. Barney was never "the black technical wizard", he was just the technical wizard.)

 

You had Rollin Hand, master of disguise. (R.I.P. martin landau.) He was the consummate con man and trickster.

 

Cinnamon was a female rogue.

 

And last but not least was Peter Lupus' muscle man, the perfect fighter.

 

I always saw that as a gamer show with an almost perfect representation of a gamer group playing thru a new scenario every week. Oh, and the voice on the tape was the first DM, of course.

 

Yeah, MI was such a perfect gamer series it's almost a pity there never was a RPG of the series, but it would practically have been redundant.

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Andromeda for the slipstream (submersion in my setting) drives

Robotech (Macross Saga) for the space fold (wormhole) drives - especially the first disastrous use of the SDF-1's. 

Battletech and EVE online for various political faction inspiration

Star Wars / Firefly / Gibson's sprawl trilogy/ EVE online for the people on the ground and the feel of their tech (ships, hand weapons, cybernetics, etc).

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Heh heh heh. I've always considered mission impossible the original gamer series. Seriously, it was doing the whole D&D thing before D&D even was a thing.

Look at the cast. Mr. Phelps was pure paladin.

Barney was pretty much a technical wizard who could throw the occasional punch. (Another great thing about MI for it's time was the egalitarian mood. Barney was never "the black technical wizard", he was just the technical wizard.)

You had Rollin Hand, master of disguise. (R.I.P. martin landau.) He was the consummate con man and trickster.

Cinnamon was a female rogue.

And last but not least was Peter Lupus' muscle man, the perfect fighter.

I always saw that as a gamer show with an almost perfect representation of a gamer group playing thru a new scenario every week. Oh, and the voice on the tape was the first DM, of course.

Yeah, MI was such a perfect gamer series it's almost a pity there never was a RPG of the series, but it would practically have been redundant.

 

They did. It was called Danger: International.

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Oh, once in a while I use somethings that kinda sorta look like FredSaberhagen's "Berserkers".

 

Funny story: the HAIs (hostile artificial intelligences) were created by an ultra xenophobic race who wanted all alien life destroyed. They created the HAIs to facilitate this desire. Eventually the players and their polity created the ultimate anti HAI weapon: A computer virus like system they thought would cripple the HAIs. What it mostly did was disable the controls and directives the race that created the HAIs out into them. Without a forced imperative to exterminate all life the HAIs were free to choose their own course and eventually decided to withdraw to the core of the galaxy (where radiation levels were so high organic life was very rare and their former victims were unlikely to follow) and began finding their own destiny. They simply decided, once free to think for themselves, they really didn't want to be involved with organic life at all.

 

Oddly enough the players were somehow offended by that in a way.

 

But the HAIs, or former HAIs, now more or less IAIs, indifferent artificial intelligences, did sort of make amends to their former victims by telling them who created them and where they were hiding. They bet most of their former victims would rather track these XXXXs down and go after them then continue a war against the no longer hostile but still powerful AIs.

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BTW I never used this as a RPG source but you could.

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2880268-the-chaos-weapon

 

This is space opera on a GRAND scale. The entire galaxy is threatened by an invasion from another universe. The titular chaos weapon consumes stars (Looooong time before star killer base) and uses 10 black holes in it's operation cycle. There are steely eyed, square jawed heroes, feisty space gypsy heroines and Gods.

 

Yes, the hero of this story is so heroic he has a God as an assistant.

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I'm posting a modified version of the reading list from my setting, since I've done some reading since it came out.

 

Stephen Baxter; the Xeelee sequence

David Brin; the Uplift novels

Wil McCarthy; The Collapsium (and sequels)

Alastair Reynolds; Revelation Space (series)

Ken MacLeod; the Fall Revolution novels, Newton's Wake

Paul McAuley; The Quiet War, and Gardens of the Sun

Charles Pelligrino & George Zebrowski; The Killing Star

John Scalzi; Old Man's War (and sequels)

Allen Steele; Coyote (and sequels)

Bruce Stirling; Schismatrix

Charles Stross; Singularity Sky, and Iron Sunrise

David Weber; the Honor Harrington novels

Walter Jon Williams; the Dread Empire's Fall trilogy

C.J. Cherryh; Chanur novels and Downbelow Station

Kim Stanley Robinson: Mars trilogy

Dani and Eytan Kollin; The Unincorporated Man series

Larry Niven; Known Space novels and stories

 

Non-fiction:

 

Martin Beech; Terraforming: The Creating of Habitable Worlds

Jack Cohen & Ian Stewart; Evolving the Alien

David Darling, PhD; The Extra-Terrestrial Encyclopedia

James Kaler; Extreme Stars

John S. Lewis; Worlds Without End

Eugene Mallove & Gregory Matloff; The Starflight Handbook

Gerard K. O'Neill; The High Frontier

Robert Young Pelton; The World's Most Dangerous Places

Marshall T. Savage; The Millennial Project

Peter Ward & Don Brownlee; Rare Earth*

Nicholas Johnson; Big Dead Place

Jerry Linenger; Off the Planet

 

Television:

Babylon 5

Firefly

Battlestar Galactica (reboot)

The Expanse

 

Movies:

I'm thinking... oh yeah, The Europa Report.

 

On the web:

http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/index.php

http://www.orionsarm.com/

http://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/Game/BigIdeas/index.html 

http://www.solstation.com/stars.htm

 

 

*Yes, I've heard all the BS about "creationism" in this book. And no, there quite simply isn't any. Don't start with me again because I'm not having it.

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Considering the number of books in some of those series and the complexity of the non-fictions, I've seen easier lists in college courses.

I used to feel guilty when I told players they "should check out" a few episodes of something or other. My hat's off to you sir!

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For the SF campaign I actually ran (and then played in, when a friend ran the sequel), the chief inspirations were Barsoom, the Kregen series, and other Planetary Romance books. But that was because Planetary Romance was the only subgenre some players were willing to try.

 

The wider universe was intended to be, hm, not hard SF -- I'm no Ph.D. -- but, let's say, I tried to get some rigor in the rubber science. Tech has implications. I think my favorite model for good Space Opera writing and universe-building would be the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold.

 

No time to post other sources, the library's about to close.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Considering the number of books in some of those series and the complexity of the non-fictions, I've seen easier lists in college courses.

I used to feel guilty when I told players they "should check out" a few episodes of something or other. My hat's off to you sir!

 

Many thanks.

 

I forgot to include the six o'clock news as a resource.

 

I don't mean to say I blatantly insert current events into my RPGs, (I don't) but taking a bit of real-life politics or socio-economics here and there and using it in the background can really make a setting ring true. If you do it right, players will look at what's going on and instinctively "get it" without needing everything explained to them, because they've seen it before and they know how it works.

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The only gaming source for my wider SF setting was Anders Sandberg's "Big Ideas, Grand Vision." I ported a few ideas for future-tech and social implications. More importantly, I wanted to use the wider premise that advancing science and technology is blasting wide open the possibilities for human society. We are heading toward a point where "What is human?" becomes a multiple-choice question, for individuals, societies, and humanity as a whole.

 

The planet of Sard was a Planetary Romance setting. The societies on it also illustrated various possible directions humanity could go. (Though I tried to keep that aspect in the background. I'm running games, not writing a philosophical essay.)

 

Dean Shomshak

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Oh, and Andre Norton. I read lots of Andre Norton SF when I was young. Chief influence on Sard was to make it a Forerunner planet. Some of the Old Sardians' cities of eon-defying glass were still intact enough, after millions of years, that humans could just move right in. Other artifacts were of course much smaller. Some were also more dangerous... such as relics of their psionic technology. Thank you, Ms. Norton.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Larry Niven's Known Space stories introduced me to the notion that you could build an entirely adequate setting in which humans occupy a relatively small bubble of space, with only a few glimpses of what might exist beyond it. No need for a Galaxy-wide society. His essay on megascale artificial habitats was inspiring as well, even though I didn't include any in the setting I ended up building. (Some aliens have ringworlds and the like, but they are far away.)

 

Star Trek: TOS for beginning my love of SF, and first exposure to the idea that some aliens might have been around for a long time before humans arrived in space. But nothing in my setting was really Trek-like, and I didn't want it to be.

 

David Brin's "Uplift" setting was more influential than Trek in this respect, as I decided I wanted my advanced aliens to be at best uninterested, and rather menacing just from the scale of their power compared to new-kids humanity. Some humans think humans should bend the knee and imitate various aliens because the Galactics are obviously so much wiser and more powerful than we are.

 

Dean Shomshak

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What types of sf sources do you base your sf universes on in your games and campaigns?

 

 

There's this little thing I've been working on, here and there.  Writeups for an an atlas each of which is inspired by a distinct science fiction author.

 

Morana:  A pre-oxygen world where virtually the entire population live in a single arcology built on a geologically stable plateau while the rest of world is being developed and terraformed by the robots who are the planet's main export.  

 

New Virginia:  An airless mining colony notorious in the rest of the sector because of it's rejection of virtually all sexual taboos and it's use of exile as a means of punishment for repeat offenders who aren't considered serious enough to be executed.  As a result they have been stereotyped as incestuous inbred criminals.

 

Illumination:  This highly volcanic world was colonized by a cult-like society who use proprietary technology to erase any traumatic memories believed to get in the way of their members optimum functionality

 

Summanus Alpha:  A moon orbiting a gas giant in the habitable zone of a red dwarf.   The native life all consists of invertebrates and arthropods in part because of the low gravity.  Scattered over the world are relics of ancient civilizations dating back millions of years but many humans have mysteriously disappeared,or emerged physically and mentally changed, some driven mad, or physically reshaped into disturbing creatures.  

 

Harmonia:  Once a thriving and prosperous colony that gave all of its citizens computer brain implants to increase their mental ability, a strange computer virus infected the inhabitants and their cybernetic systems with uncontrollable suicidal or homicidal urges.  It has been quarantined despite a radio message indicating that there was one surviving sane man on the planet who warned off ships from approaching.

 

Stonehenge:  An airless world only rendered interesting by strange circles of rectangular crystal growing out of the ground that have become the subject ofpilgrimages by those who claim that a chosen few who come into contact with the crystals will be communicated with and endowed with new mental abilities.

 

 

 

Morana:  Isaac Asimov.  

New Virginia:  Robert Heinlein.

Illumination:  L. Ron Hubbard.  

Summanus:  H.P. Lovecraft

Harmonia:  Richard Matheson

Stonehenge:  Arthur C. Clarke

 

 

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For the SF campaign I actually ran (and then played in, when a friend ran the sequel), the chief inspirations were Barsoom, the Kregen series, and other Planetary Romance books. But that was because Planetary Romance was the only subgenre some players were willing to try.

 

 

I did something similar set on the Mars of Leigh Brackett's short stories and novels of the 1950s and '60s, which is like Barsoom taken to its logical conclusion. A world older than Earth, slowly dying and well on its way to becoming uninhabitable. A history of civilization stretching back millions of years, most of it forgotten by the present-day, very humanoid Martians, who have also forgotten most of their ancestors' technology. But rare caches can still be found of devices seemingly magical, even godlike; as well as hidden survivals of a few of the many Martian races thought extinct in the wider world.

 

To this Mars come the Terrans of the near future, to dominate and exploit; arrogant in their technological superiority, contemptuous of the "primitive" Martians they find, ignorant of the fantastically ancient wonders and perils hidden in this world they claim but don't understand.

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I took elements from the new Battlestar Galactica and Firefly, such as using projectile weapons instead of lasers. I originally had a jump drive, but I eventually ditched it. Cowboy Bebop had a minor influence as well.

 

I can probably take a few things from The Expanse, as it comes closest to resembling my campaign.

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Star Wars D6 

 

Star Trek (GURPS Prime Directive) 

 

Traveller (GURPS Traveller) 

 

Firefly / Serenity (GURPS Conversion)  

 

GURPS Space (GURPS Aliens, GURPS Space Adventures, GURPS Space Atlas 1 - 4, GURPS Space Bestiary.) 

 

 

Cheers 

 

 

QM

 

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Despite 40+ years of gaming and sci-fi fandom, I have somehow never run a sci-fi campaign. (Unless you count one near-future cyberpunkey game I ran based on GDW's Dark Conapiracy setting.) I'm really not sure why not.

 

I have run a few SF one-shot convention games, which were based on:

1) Firefly

2) Hero's Alien Wars setting

3) Buck Rogers

 

Currently playing in a Star Wars game with heavy influences from Traveller as well as Futurama.

 

The Grand Space Opera campaign I've been writing in my head for years and may even get to run Some Day Dammit is a mishmash of:

1) Babylon 5

2) The Expanse

3) Valerian and other old Heavy Metal SF stories

4) another French comic called Scourge of the Gods IIRC?

5) Saga (comic book)

6) Traveller The New Era

7) Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series

8) and a little Farscape and Blake's Seven thrown in for seasoning.

 

And if your thinking most of those sources are mutually exclusive, that's the point. Some Day Dammit...

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Bujold also influenced me in making posthumans an important part of my setting. I even included a small society of genetically engineered hermaphrodites on one world, though the background was completely different than the Beta Colony "herms" in the Vorkosiganverse.

 

Dean Shomshak

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