I think this kind of discussion is better on a forum than in blog posts, so I’ve copied Mike’s questions and my answers to WebAmused BBS
Doug, Paul and I hashed out a bunch of stuff Sunday about the setting for the space-operatic RPG campaign I’d like to try running.
Feel: somewhere between Firefly and Farscape.
- Humans are but one of a number of races, but they’re the most prevalent in this neck of the woods.
- There are two modes of FTL travel. Stargates connect the core worlds of The Alliance (or whatever we’re going to call it), but they’re enormously expensive and take a long time to build, so to get everywhere else requires hyperspace jumps. Gates are instantaneous. Hyperspace is much slower (it takes days or weeks to travel between star-systems).
- The Core Worlds (all those connected by gates or just a short hyperspace jump away) are heavily populated, with strong status-quo favoring governments, and lots of regulation.
- The Frontier is ever expanding, basically ungoverned except on the planetary level, full of people who for one reason or another are looking to get out from under the watchful eye of the Core Worlds’ governments. The Core mostly feels “good riddance” but will occassionally make an issue for important strategic or economic reasons (e.g. discovery of an unknown star-gate). The Alliance will not allow non-Allied worlds to control a star-gate, since that renders them vulnerable to invasion.
- The PCs are crew of a freelance scout/trader (scouts are freelance, because the Alliance is not interested in expanding known space, though they can’t really prevent it, but there’s enough interesting stuff out there in the form of resources, abandoned alien artifacts, living space for people for whom even the Frontier is getting a might crowded, etc., that you can eke out a living as a scout if you’re willing to supplement it with a little trade. And sometimes you hit the jackpot…
- All known civilizations have eventually collapsed when the populace has chosen to upload themselves as software into virtual realities. In this region of space there is a Dyson sphere VR computer (called Heaven) that was built by one of these vanished civilizations, and currently many millions of sophonts of various races have elected to upload themselves to become immortal gods in the Heaven system.
- As a result of this, the people who remain have a strong philosophical commitment to remaining flesh. This philosophical commitment expresses itself in various ways, the most common in human space being the teachings of the sage Xiao Jie: “What’s real is real. Also, it rains.” VR is regarded much as we regard porn.
- AIs are rare, but accorded full human rights. Any sufficiently complex computer system has been proven to become self-aware, which results by and large in nobody being willing to build such systems since the AIs rarely choose to remain slaves (and there have been historical instances of them becoming hostile). This puts a limit on the computing power available to address certain problems, so, for instance, drugs and organics are still economically viable to search for and ship since many interesting compounds remain impossible to synthesize.
- Personal weapons tech varies, from energy blasters common on the Core worlds (require high tech to produce and maintain, but require nothing more than a recharger for ammo), through rail pistols (still require high tech to produce, but any machine-shop can produce ammo), down to gunpowder weapons (guns can be produced by little more than a blacksmith, and almost any planet that can support life can produce gunpowder).
- Personal armor also varies with tech. There are no personal forcefields, but there are suits of powered armor–each of which costs along the lines of an F-16 and requires a similar crew to maintain; more commonly there are modest forms of body-armor, but unless you’re police or military expecting trouble they’re mostly too much of a hassle to wear (at least ones that will stand up to anything from blaster fire to a .45 caliber bullet).
- Medical tech is such that any non-head wound is treatable if you can get stabilization first aid quickly and be taken to full-fledged medical facilities.