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zslane

What is your favorite sci-fi RPG setting?

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So what is your favorite sci-fi RPG setting that isn't an adaptation from pre-existing material?

 

"My own" is a perfectly valid answer, BTW, and if it is please describe your setting!

 

I ask this largely because I have yet to stumble onto a sci-fi RPG setting that really captures my imagination and makes me desperate to play in that universe. I figure that may be because I'm not familiar with all that many, so I'd like to hear from others about their favorites.

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I'm glad you included "My own" as an acceptable answer, because that's the one I must give. ?

 

It's set about 400 years in the future. Humanity has colonized other star systems, but all are within 25 light-years of Earth. FTL exists, in three modes, but the only mode that allows moving large quantities of people and goods is relatively slow. Aliens exist, but only a few are near enough for humans to interact with them. The World Governance Board, a parlliament of megacorporations, dominates human space, but its grip is slipping. It just doesn't have the resource base it once had, since the devastation of Earth in the last great war. Colony worlds are going their own ways, sometimes clashing with each other.

 

Oh yes, the great war. The Cladist Wars. Genetic engineering enabled various utopian groups to create offshoot races of humanity, collectively referred to as cladists. This did not go over well with baseline humanity, eventually resulting in war. The cladists lost, but in the last war they deflected a Kuiper Belt Object to slam into the Earth, killing 95% of the population through immediate impact effects and starvation afterward. Earth is a post-holocaust world. The cladists were nearly exterminated in retribution, but humanity is still recovering from the war's damage and is deeply traumatized.

 

I postulated several worlds to follow different SF subgenres. The only one I managed to run a campaign in, however, was Sard, the Planetary Romance world. Not quite Barsoom-like. More like Darkover, say. Swords and blasters, psionics for magic, but Sardians can visit the wider universe and people from outside can easily visit Sard.

 

After my own setting (working title of Star Horizon), my favorite is... the setting created by some of my friends. It started as Traveller, but over 40 years of play it's diverged wildly.

 

The "Terran Empire" setting for Star Hero bores me. Too stable, too derivative of Star Trek and Traveller.

 

The "Alien Wars" prequel setting is more interesting, because it's a society in crisis -- both the onslaught of the Xenovores, and the social tensions that will lead in time to the Terran Empire.

 

After that, the only non-media-derived SF setting I'm personally familiar with is the "Big Ideas, Grand Vision" setting created by Anders Sandberg. I first encountered Mr. Sandberg on a White Wolf forum, where he contributed homerew for mage: The Ascension. BIGV explores various transhumanist ideas that interest him, as well as other social speculations. The chief weakness of the setting, IMO, is that it didn't give much notion of what PCs would do in it. You can probably find it with a Google search and judge for yourself, though. It supplied many ideas I incorporated into Star Horizon.

 

I too would be interested in hearing about really exciting SF settings, for I too have not seen many.

 

DS

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Right now I'd say Eclipse Phase. I like the combination of transhumanism and Lovecraft-esque horror, and I also enjoy the fact that the default theme for adventures is stomping down threats to humanity as a whole.

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I detailed how I would handle mine, here:

The thing about mine, is that I do A LOT of reading, and have for decades. As such, opposite of one of the above posters, I like my SF crunchy, and full of well thought out tech and gadgets. Though too much math bores and frightens me, I prefer it to “Space Fantasy” and Planetary Romance. Thing have to be plausible and messy, so that leaves out the Socialist Utopia of Starfleet, or the “hand waviness” of Star Wars. I gravitate towards military SF, and some of the merchant captain fiction, but as s math-o-phobe Things can’t devolve into Accountancy Hero (after character creation XD). The style of play would be “modern” adventure with things projected 150-250 years in the future. 

 

All in all, plausible, messy without being dystopian, and conflict driven. 

 

 

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I have similar tastes as you, Scott, though I'm not as fond of "merchant captain fiction" as you are (which is one of the reasons I could never quite warm up to Traveller). If I were to summarize what I would and wouldn't like in a sci-fi RPG campaign it would be:

 

What I like:

  • Space opera rubber science
    • FTL and the ansible
    • Massive starships and weapons systems, including planet killers
    • Super-tech gear, including powered armor and mecha
  • Psionics
  • Artificial Sentience
  • Alien races, some of which aren't even remotely humanoid
  • High adventure with a serious tone and a military focus

What I don't care for:

  • Post-apocalyptic or dystopian settings
  • Magic/spellcasting
  • All Grimdark All The Time
  • Low-level, gritty "losers in space" or "fugitives from society" campaigns
  • Transhumanism (i.e., cybernetics and genetic enhancement)

I guess in retrospect I like the essential feel of original Star Wars (the first two films in particular), but with a good dose of Starship Troopers and BattleTech, and a dash of Warhammer 40k thrown in.

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3 hours ago, zslane said:

I have similar tastes as you, Scott, though I'm not as fond of "merchant captain fiction" as you are (which is one of the reasons I could never quite warm up to Traveller). 

What I don't care for:

  • Post-apocalyptic or dystopian settings
  • Magic/spellcasting
  • All Grimdark All The Time
  • Low-level, gritty "losers in space" or "fugitives from society" campaigns
  • Transhumanism (i.e., cybernetics and genetic enhancement)

I guess in retrospect I like the essential feel of original Star Wars (the first two films in particular), but with a good dose of Starship Troopers and BattleTech, and a dash of Warhammer 40k thrown in.

Gee, you don't like me?  *sniff*  After a recent medical issue, I became a very low level cyborg, with a couple of implants.

 

Actually with an article I read online about the cloning of organs from the donor's original tissue, coming within 5 years, I think that organ replacement will become Routine, soon after that.  e are a long way from Limb regeneration and replacement, but Maybe by the end of this Century.  Our defense department and DARPA are researching "Reversible" Military enhancements, so that we don't have "killer cyborgs" wandering the streets after their discharge, though  other nations, with less ethical governments are looking at enhancements that aren't necessarily reversible.  Genetic editing already happens with CRISPR, for removing genes responsible for hereditary illnesses. again the ethically challenged may look at opportunities, once they can edit a person's genome like a word processor document.  Designer babies?  definitely. Designer underclass? ooOOooh.

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Cybernetics and genetic manipulation that solve common maladies and afflictions can quietly reside in the margins of the background setting, and that's fine. What I don't care for are cybernetics and genetic enhancement that are used to justify adding superpowers to a character, or are central to ongoing campaign plotlines.

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11 hours ago, zslane said:

 

What I don't care for:

  • Post-apocalyptic or dystopian settings
  • Magic/spellcasting
  • All Grimdark All The Time
  • Low-level, gritty "losers in space" or "fugitives from society" campaigns
  • Transhumanism (i.e., cybernetics and genetic enhancement)

 

It's truly astounding how much we have in common with regard to our sci-fi preffences. 

 

5 hours ago, archer said:

Ringworld

 

Something about having an area much larger than all the worlds of Known Space combined within reach of ground vehicles has always caught my imagination.

 

If that's your thing, then you should give Starrigger a go.  It makes traveling the universe by car incredibly exciting, and almost mundane at the same time.  Not particularly fascinating or ground-breaking or even particularly significant in story or concept, but _so_ much fun: a run-of-the-mill adventure with well-known archetypes against one of the most fantastically unique backgrounds, and in spite of (or perhaps specifically for the subtle humor of doing it), neither is anything more than highlights for a fun yet reassuringly comfortable and not-too-complex adventure story. Been in love with those books as long as I've been in love with Champions. 

 

53 minutes ago, Scott Ruggels said:

this was the Humans are Great! post on Tumblr and Imgur.

 

 

Thanks again, Scott.  When I get to it, I'll sniff around over there and see what pops up.  It's oddly nice to see I wasn't unique in thinking there were stories to be told with such an idea.  I mean, every sci-fi story with aliens features that one insanely power super-race.  Why shouldn't it be us every once in a while? 

 

20 minutes ago, zslane said:

Ah, if only all humans were actually as reputed among the interplanetary alliance.

 

We really are.  In small, personal groups--groups where we really can know and interact meaningfully with each other, we are truly something else. We are loving, supportive, creative, powerful beings who will struggle daily and forever to move heaven and earth for our loved ones. 

 

It's when we gain the anonymity of much larger groups--when we feel the frustrations of not being heard--that we start to become total dicks and look for someone else upon whom we can pile our vented anger. 

 

Great.  Now I've gone and made myself sad. :(

 

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Well, humans can also have a reputation for being venal, cowardly, selfish, and cruel. It just isn't possible to paint the entire species with a single brush, whether it be bright and positive, or dark and negative.

 

But I also think the diversity within our own species can serve as a valuable guide for creating alien species such that they don't end up monomorphic, monocultural, and monolinguistic. (Better still, don't even make them humanoid at all, like the heptapods in Arrival.)

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7 minutes ago, zslane said:

But I also think the diversity within our own species can serve as a valuable guide for creating alien species such that they don't end up monomorphic, monocultural, and monolinguistic. 

 

 

I agree with this wholeheartedly, and tend to do that very thing, typically.

 

What astounds me is the number of people who bash that when they see it in action:  

 

Oh, no.  That's not aliens.  That's re-colored rubber-nose humans.  They are acting like humans.  Why aren't the all concerned about _this_ or _that_ or focusing on some alienness like _thing  Y_ or _concept B_.  You want aliens to feel like aliens.  To act like aliens....

 

It's funny, because it's usually GMs who pride themselves on special science knowledge (I, too, have an internet in my pocket) and superior intellect (actually, this particular one is one particular guy in the 'boro) because he was twice published in some science magazine (never mind that it was in a "letters to the editor" type thing).

 

But when you point out to most of these folks (and especially that last folk) that there is not one single thing: not one concept, not one theory, not one aspect of study, of politics, or religion, of sports (still trying to find what that doesn't fall under "religion"), or any other noun in the dictionary upon which every human encountered will be focused, period.  That the only "Great mystery" is why a tiny subset of every human culture pretends they are part of a "great mystery" (fortunately, most are over that shortly after high school)--

 

that the very idea of mysterious, unified in conduct aliens is, based on the admittedly-limited observable evidence we have, is the single least likely thing to be found anywhere in the universe, and I find pretending it's the norm to be insulting to everyone involved in the game.

 

Or book.

 

Or movie.

 

 

 

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42 minutes ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

 

that the very idea of mysterious, unified in conduct aliens is, based on the admittedly-limited observable evidence we have, is the single least likely thing to be found anywhere in the universe, and I find pretending it's the norm to be insulting to everyone involved in the game.

 

Or book.

 

Or movie.

 

"The Good Orc", eh?

 

Okay, you have a point, and there are certain cultural and biological limits, what on a broad scale, will still characterize the species.  Also a lot of the characterization is formed by the first individuals you meet. Iraqi kids m,ust think American  Military bleeds Skittles and school supplies.  But then the military selects for certain "types", so you would not see a large chunk of society represented, but the baseline "American" generally would still possess a few of many common tropes.

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Here is the player intro for my own Star Hero setting, an amalgam of published and original material:

 

AD 2,203. Earth's population is 100 billion. The solar system has been colonized, but not terraformed. The planets and asteroid belt are members of a loose alliance called the Terran Union.

 

Over the past 100 years, unmanned sublight probes were sent nearby stars which revealed several worlds which were hospitable to life. Massive colony ships were launched to these systems.

 

And then, Dr. Nels Bergenholm invented the hyperdrive.

 

Communication has been lost with the Santa Maria, the colossal sublight colony ship en route to Barnard's Star. On the last voice transmission, only screams of terror were heard.

 

Your ship, the IPM Windfall Prophet, an 800-ton Gazelle-class Close Escort, has been retrofitted with the new Bergenholm Hyperdrive. Your assignment is to intercept the Santa Maria and find out what happened.

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On October 20, 2018 at 2:02 PM, Doc Shadow said:

This setting took elements from Terran Empire, a dash of Perry Rhodan for some ancient history, and my own original material.

 

DELETED

 

You know what. Never mind. It's pretty clear nobody was interested.

 

 

That's harsh, Doc.

 

I can't speak for everyone else, but I love other people's ideas.  It's rather fun to see what people have done-- and better, made work!-- that you yourself might not have thought of.

 

On the subject of deletions, though--

 

wasn't this thread longer? I see Scott replying to comments I know I made, but don't see.  Same with some other folks....

 

Weird....

 

 

EDIT:

 

Nevermind; the comments I'm looking for were in a different thread.

 

Sorry for my bonehead moment there, y'all.

 

 

Edited by Duke Bushido

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  My favorite setting is one I made called the Commonwealth. I based it about 200 years from now, Humans have intersystem travel, but not FTL. Psionics are there, but not supers level, with harsh social restrictions from PSICORE( Babalon 5). Military style government and power armor( Starship troopers). There are Genetically engineered people of a number of types, all second class with heavy social penalties. Cybernetics are not common, but if earned through "service" are not viewed unkindly. There are also AI with robotic bodies, androids or just as programs...all are supposed to have the laws of robotics installed in them, after the AI wars, which ended 30 years ago. Limiting tech was a critical tool in storytelling, space travel might still involve  being cryro frozen, Bullets were still better then most lazers, though gryojets worked better in space.  Storys revolved around questions like "What is it really mean to be human" or " What happens if a psyic goes bad" or "What happens when you met the Killer cat people". Hard science when possible, zero magic.

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I'm working on a setting right now, fairly hard but with a few rubbery elements. Time is 2252, and Earth is anything but a united world. Many of the nations in existence at the beginning of the 21st century still do, but the majority are parts of "Conglomerate States" or Congloms, specifically:

 

North American Union

Third African Union

European Entente

Oceania

Argentine-Chile Pact

Brazilian Alliance

Unification of Medina

Indian and South Asian Hegemony

 

plus a number of independents, including Russia and China. Humanity has expanded out and colonised most of Sol system, and one of the three slowboat colonisation arks has reached the inhabitable world around Alpha Centauri (Libertas). However, 50 years ago a combination of Medinan and Indian research teams successfully broke the light barrier, enabling humanity to reach the stars...slowly. The FTL drive allows only a speed of roughly 1LY per day.

I'm looking to create a situation more analogous to the tall ships era, when local commanders and local situation produced local solutions, without necessarily much input from the high command.

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I would like to play something in The Culture universe. Working now in a personal adaptation to direct a number of adventures, but yet not sure if I will use Hero rules for it. Looking for a mix of very advanced tech and more realism in what players can do.

I dislike the psionics, by the way.

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On 10/20/2018 at 10:17 AM, zslane said:

I have similar tastes as you, Scott, though I'm not as fond of "merchant captain fiction" as you are (which is one of the reasons I could never quite warm up to Traveller). If I were to summarize what I would and wouldn't like in a sci-fi RPG campaign it would be:

 

What I like:

  • Space opera rubber science
    • FTL and the ansible
    • Massive starships and weapons systems, including planet killers
    • Super-tech gear, including powered armor and mecha
  • Psionics
  • Artificial Sentience
  • Alien races, some of which aren't even remotely humanoid
  • High adventure with a serious tone and a military focus

What I don't care for:

  • Post-apocalyptic or dystopian settings
  • Magic/spellcasting
  • All Grimdark All The Time
  • Low-level, gritty "losers in space" or "fugitives from society" campaigns
  • Transhumanism (i.e., cybernetics and genetic enhancement)

I guess in retrospect I like the essential feel of original Star Wars (the first two films in particular), but with a good dose of Starship Troopers and BattleTech, and a dash of Warhammer 40k thrown in.

We have a lot of the same tastes in scifi.  Though I really never liked the Warhammer 40k universe.  It is the epitome of grimdark all the time and what I really try to avoid in a scfi campaign.  It is neck in neck with the other campaign killing spawn character.  You know the "I am a dark lone wolf demonic killing ethicless machine that has suddenly become a good guy" type character. 

 

Well back on subject.  I loved early Traveller until they went all Imperium.  When the known universe was tiny and unknown, we had a great time with exploration based campaigns.  And smaller military conflicts and brushwars where a small ship and crew could actually make a difference.  Games where everyone is zipping around in Deathstars and destroying entire systems makes a really really boring RPG.

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Also I do like running shorter Horror games, some of which have scifi elements.  I don't consider the movie  Alien as scifi.  It is Horror with some scifi setting elements.  Same woth fantasy on this.

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I'm partial to my own campaign, which is a near-future and mostly hard science setting. Mankind is spreading round the solar system (up to Saturn at the start of the campaign), but nations still war with one another. Politics is similar to the Cold War (West vs. East). Most extraterrestrial colonies belong to a single country or to a group of allied countries. Space militaries are based on the Air Force rather than the Navy; this decision caused a few debates on other forums. Railguns and missiles are used for weaponry.

 

I based my campaign on Firefly and the Battlestar Galactica reboot, with a bit of Cowboy Bebop. However, The Expanse seems to be the closest to my setting. I went with a "no aliens, no laser weapons, no sentient robots" feel. I originally allowed FTL using an Alcubierre Drive, but I dropped it eventually.

 

My campaign saw limited play, mainly space battles. I used the Starmada and Full Thrust games to simulate the battles. I had a couple of roleplaying sessions with my friends, but I didn't use the HERO system, since they tended to be one-shot adventures. I used GURPS Lite for one game and Classic Traveller for the other.

 

I posted my campaign here over a decade(!) ago, but it didn't survive the recent purge. :( Feel free to PM me if you'd like more info.

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