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[Interest On] Homebrew Sci-Fi Universe RPG

MalfaelMalfael Registered User regular
edited October 2009 in Critical Failures
POST NOT COMPLETE. Updates will be coming tomorrow and Thursday...


Hi folks!

Over the last three years or so I've been involved in the development of a very detailed, very complex and - we hope - very believable science fiction universe. What I want to do now, however, is to have a bit of fun with it. I've used PBP/PBEM games before to more realistically (i.e. multiple perspectives) simulate certain events in this universe, in constructing its history. It's been a while since I've run an honest-to-goodness RPG, though, so I'd like to take this opportunity to see if there is any interest on the part of community members here in taking part.

So, without further ado, allow me to explain the mechanics of this thing...

The FAQ Section

What is it?

Hard Shadows is a PBP RPG set in a homebrew universe.

What is the scope of the game?

A single adventure potentially extended into a campaign if the interest and quality is there.

What system does it use?

An exceedingly simple, yet (I hope) very flexible and appropriate set of homebrew rules will be used to run this game. Details of these rules are available further down below.

How is it played?

This is a PBP game, and is therefore played by participating in a game thread on the Critical Failures board.

How many players are needed?

Between three and six.

What do players need?

1) A working knowledge of the simple rules set and a basic understanding of the fictional universe this takes place in.

2) The commitment to post at least once every two-three days, substantively. That is to say, more than a paragraph.

When will the game begin?

27-28th of October.

The Universe

Hard Shadows is set in the year 2390. The human sphere, such as it is, has undergone great upheavals over the last four centuries. States, nations and peoples have risen and fallen during this time; great wars have been fought; terrible calamities have befallen us; prosperity and calamity in equal measure has been the lot of the human race - yet, despite the millstone of history and entropy grinding us down, we toil on, and we adapt... and we continue. With a wry wink one could deduce that the lesson of history is simple: the more things change, the more they stay the same. The following is a basic summary of the 'present':

Basic Timeline

The universe of 'Hard Shadows' has, at its core, a detailed timeline now approaching 50,000 words. Obviously, I can't reproduce the entire 'Fluff Bible' on this medium. However, here is a very basic timeline that should give players an idea of how this particular universe came to be:

2009-2010 - Iraqi War ends.

2010-2012 - Worsening global economic crisis.

2012-2014 - Escalating economic tensions lead to short border conflict between Russia and China. US intercedes.

2014-2016 - Second Chinese Civil War.

2020 - Third Gulf War.

2010-2025 - Rise of the European Union superstate.

~2030-2040 - US bedeviled by endemic crises. California and Arizona secede following brutal insurgency.

2020-2050 - The slow collapse of India into a host of smaller states. Third Chinese Civil War, increasing Russo-Vietnamese involvement.

2035-2055 - US scientists hypothesize element native to stars. Ion drive opens up system for exploitation. Major powers began reaching out into space.

2060-2065 - Fold drive prototype created by US scientists. Allows rapid interstellar travel by 'homing in' on star stuff. Use of fold drive and refusal to share tech. leads to Transatlantic War between the EU/Russia and the United States. Technology spreads thereafter.

2065-2080 - Slow interstellar colonization begins. Mars population reaches tens of thousands. Terraformation begins. Major players: United States, European Union, Russian Federation, UN Administrative Framework. Golden age of development and prosperity for the great powers.

2050-2090 - UN takes on custodian/administrative role across much of the globe. China/India/Indonesia/Pakistan all come under its aegis. Takes on trappings of state. Rise of the Universalist Church.

2090 - Second Transatlantic War over discovery of first habitable planet between EU and the US.

2090-2100 - UNAFRA defeats Russian proxy forces in Central Asia in a major clash of arms that leaves many tens of thousands dead. Takes much of Central Asia. Massive colonization efforts continue.

2106 - UNAFRA renamed 'Global Republic'

2110-2116 - Global Republic wars against the Triple Alliance (RF/EU/US) and is defeated. Broken up into constituent states.

2120-2130 - Dominance of Universalist Church established across Europe and much of US/Russia. Exodus of Russian genetically modified 'supersoldiers' (called 'Annanites', after the first genetic contributor to program) to newly established colony of Fidelis continues.

2127 - Autonomous 'Republic of Mars' is born.

2130-2140 - Rise of the Second Republic as Beijing/New Delhi unite. Mars is almost fully terraformed. Massive rearmament.

2150 - Colonial population: 30 million.

2140-2155 - Second Republic mistreats colonies and through rebellion the Athenian Coalition secedes.

2155-2157 - Conflagration on Earth (the 'Last War') between US/EU/RF and SR. Employment of strategic nuclear weapons. Billions dead within ten months.

2160-2170 - Colonies take on role as successor states. Republic of Mars, Athenian Coalition, Terranovan Confederation and burgeoning Fidelite state (read: Annanite).

2160-2180 - Earth slowly recovers from nuclear holocaust as colonies continue to develop. Civil conflict rife on the homeworld.

2150-2190 - Rise of the Martian-led 'League of Worlds'.

2190-2200 - Directorate of the Earth Sphere emerges from ashes of Earth as strongest planetary power.

2200-2215 - Development continues. DES rearming.

2200-2230 - Universalism becomes primary faith of the Human Sphere (Earth aside).

2237 - DES wars against Successor States and is defeated. Status quo peace.

2240-2250 - Re-armament. Religious upheaval. Rise of Fidelis.

2254-2255 - Athenian Civil War. DES intervention. League of Worlds/Terranovan counter-intervention. Battle for Earth. Successor States victorious, DES dismantled, Earth occupied.

2260-2285 - Massive violence on Earth between Universalists and Christians, then Christians and Muslims/Hindus. Labeled 'The Uprising'.

2291 - Christian Republic established on non-Universalist territories (read: non-Colonial protectorate territory). Vicious sectarian/religious violence continues. Millions of Muslims are killed, many more subjugated by Christian forces. Most of the Middle-East, South America and Central Asia in Christian hands.

2300 - Population of 'young worlds' reaches 580 million across more than a hundred worlds.

2305-2320 - League expansionism and Fidelite excesses against unmodified humans lead to War of 2317. League attacks Fidelites, but is badly defeated. Embarrassing status quo peace.

2320-2340 - Alliance of Independents (Terranovan Confederation/Athenian Coalition/Fidelis) is the response to League expansionism. Proxy colonial warfare endemic. More religious violence.

2345-2355 - Increasing Fidelite exceptionalism/racism. Increasing tensions between major alliance systems.

2350-2370 - Universalist Church goes through civil war across many planets. New Universalist Church and True Believers Church established.

2373 - War of 2373: League attacks Fidelis, AoI sides with Fidelis, Christian Republic joins in on side of the Independents. League is defeated again, though losses are massive all around.

2373-2378 - Fidelites fight a vicious civil war.

2380-2385 - Re-development/re-armament.

2385-2390 - Alpha Centauri secedes from League of Worlds. Fringe Commonwealth established. Fidelis back on track. Terranovan Confederation/Athenian Coalition/League of Worlds are all major players...

The Powers of the Day

Athenian Coalition

Originally established as a collection of Earth-loyalist mining colonies, the Athenian Coalition is now an industrial and resource powerhouse. Named after the highly developed central world of Athena, the Coalition prides itself on a troubled history full of lessons learned. Though wracked by civil war in the past, the Athenians are a prideful yet practical people whose sense of loyalty to kith and kin is generally unquestioned. There is some resentment over their junior status in the Alliance of Independents, but the Athenians are not ones to begrudge success. Hard work, tenacity and ambition have catapulted the Coalition to its greatest height yet.

The Terranovan Confederation

Terranova! Aka 'Eden'. Aka the first habitable world found by human explorers! The tumultuous development of this EU/US colony into the premier cosmopolitan power of the Human Sphere has been well documented. As successful in peace as it has been in war, the Terranovan Confederation is an industrial giant, building everything from ships to microchips to toothbrushes. Fiercely independent, the Terranovans jealously guard their glittering prize from would-be usurpers, be they outright foes or former allies (in the case of the Leaguers). Principled, arrogant, enterprising - these terms and many besides serve well to describe a varied and an interesting people capable of great feats.

The League of Worlds

The League of Worlds is the superpower of the Human Sphere. And they know it. Originally a financial institution led by the burgeoning Martian republic, the League eventually became a state in and of itself. Victory in war gave it pride... and ambition. Defeats in 2317 and 2373 managed to increase both. The League is comprised by many worlds, many peoples and one structure. It is bloated, inefficient and often corrupt - but it is the financial center of the human universe. Absolutely loaded with human potential, the League will likely make another play for hegemony down the line.

The Fidelites

The Fidelites are ancestors of the now-fabled Annanites. Genetically modified superhumans, the Fidelites have turned to an exceptionalist form of Universalism for spiritual guidance. This 'Church of Holy Fidelis' now tells them that they are the sole inheritors of the mantle of human leadership. That theirs is the greatest worth. That none are their equals. And they are fervent believers, for the most part. Fidelis can thus be labeled a deeply 'racist' state. It has institutionalized both genetic modification and eugenics (not to mention cloning) to such a degree that natural births have become minority. 'Norms' are persecuted, punished and brutally repressed. Yet, for all that, Fidelite tenacity and prowess in all endeavors is undeniable.

The Christian Republic

Victims of Universalist persecution turned persecutors of the Muslim and the Hindu, the Christian Republic is home to hundreds of millions on Earth. Born in blood, it is the product of genocide, ethnic cleansing and multitude other crimes against humanity. It is a representation of that which is worst in us, and of the atrocities we are capable of. The teeming Christian masses, however, also represent that which makes us human. Hardworking and driven, the Christians have exhibited incredible perseverance in the face of catastrophe. Though underdeveloped by Colonial standards, the Republic is advancing by leaps and bounds through ever-increasing bilateral trade with the AoI.

The Fringe Commonwealth

Newly established economic collective. Total population: 28 million.

Technology in the 24th Century

The technological story of the 24th century is something akin to its counterpart of the 21st. The highest end of human technology is the stuff of magic, but it is concentrated on just a few select worlds. Earth, the traditional dystopia, is known for its highly advanced Universalist population, which is separated by a political line in the sand from a people (Christians/Muslims/Hindus etc) barely out of the 21st century. Nothing necessitates wealth like high-end technology. Technological diffusion is slow and uneven across the Young Worlds. Marvels such as the Lagrange Point Heritage Project (a massive complex of Earth Nearspace stations housing millions) sit alongside the shanty towns of Parrador on Fidelis. For the haves, the 24th century is a dreamlike domain of rampant genetic modification, widely employed nano-technology and extreme consumer freedom. For the have nots, a nice view of gleaming towers in the distance is thoughtfully provided.

Those caught in between the extremes have access to plethora goods and services and generally experience little want.

Interstellar Travel - Traveling between star systems is made possible by starship-borne generators folding space according to the principles of string theory and Solarium resonance. This element - unique to stars - allows for points of reference to be established when a vessel Folds. It is the means by which the Fold transverse is navigated. Generator gates (known as OZGs) are also used to Fold vessels that aren't equipped with a generator (usually merchantmen, couriers, transport vessels etc).

Intrasystem Travel - A variety of propulsion technologies are available for intrasystem travel. From ancient ionic/efficient fission drives to the newest fusion drivers. Cost is a serious consideration, and generally only the military can afford systematic use of fusion drivers, for example.

Communication - Before ansible communication entered widespread use between 2380 and 2390, interstellar communication was often very impractical. Messages would arrive no sooner than the courier drone that carried them could fold to its destination. Headline news in one system would reach another weeks later. Wars were uniformly haphazard affairs, wherein the combatants gambled with destiny every time they folded, knowing that invasion fleets could pass each other by en route, hit their respective targets and begin the voyage home without having any idea of what had happened outside of their target system... Ansible communicators have, as previously mentioned, revolutionized communication in the 24th century. Now, it is possible to communicate across interstellar distances with only minor delays.

Intrasystem communication is laser based.

Nano-tech - Nanites are used for everything from treating wounds, to building ships. The scope of their usefulness is limited only by the available energy and the cost of their application. Nano-weapons are specifically forbidden by common assent. Any usage would lead to massive retaliation from all parties.

Genetic Modification - Most couples in the 24th century routinely screen their potential children for negative predispositions. Many can also afford certain genetic enhancements, such as increased athleticism. However, cost is, once again, the prohibitive factor. Weeks of embryonic genetic treatments can cost up to an annual salary. There is a general societal bias against heavy modification across most of the Human Sphere. The lone exception is Fidelis, where Genmodding and Biomodding are incredibly common - or, rather, they're institutionalized. Natural birth is virtually prohibited on Fidelite planets.

Bio-Modification - Rather than genetically modifying an embryo, it is also now possible to biologically modify many aspects of human physiology. Mostly used to repair existing 'faults'. For example, tissue regeneration. A limb can be replaced in a matter of months. The same limitations apply here as apply to gen-modding.

Tech-Modification - Many humans are implanted with a variety of devices. From bio-rhythm stabilizers, to chip trackers, to dermal receivers etc. Even basic functionality can be substituted with technology. However, there are very, very few 'cyborgs'. Very few physicians will install un-necessary tech components without a very good reason, or ample compensation.

Weapons - Needle guns, variable munition 'smart' guns, Personal Combat Vehicles (aka Walkers, aka exoskeletal combat suits) etc. etc. There are many, many ways to kill your fellow man in the 24th century. Ship borne weapons include hunter killer drones, hyper velocity missiles, particle cannons and kinetics, amongst others.

Malfael on
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