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View Full Version : DM Help Advice on a sci-fi setting



Rjaye
2016-05-24, 05:30 PM
Hey guys, first things first, long time reader of oots but haven't really come to the forum's before. I've done so now because I know none of my players come here and I was looking for some advice. I'm a long time seasoned dm, run a fair few games that I consider to have successes, but largely in the fantasy and modern days genres. So i'm wanting to expand out into sci-fi and since i'm not currently running it gives me some time to write. Now I've had two ideas that I'm sounding out and I'm looking for feedback from you good folk on the ideas.

My first was to do a game based in the mass effect universe. It's a setting I love (like so many of us do), there is literally no shortage of what you can do in it and it is full of good ideas. I mean you could literally set an entire chapter of the game on the citadel and something I'd be tempted to do. Given the plot potential I'd find it hard not to have the players 'in' or at least working with c-sec.

My other idea was to go with starship troopers. It would be very possible to do a game where for a period of time the characters are in active service on a campaign, but then also roleplay out their R&R. Throw in some military intrigue, black ops, mercs and war profiteers and I feel there's more of a game there than most would think.

My gut says there's more to be done with mass effect, especially if it's a game I want to last a long time. However I tend to dislike settings with a lot of races, I don't know why but I find it can be hard to get across to players the cultural mix they are in.

Anyway, what are your guys thoughts?

Straybow
2016-05-24, 11:05 PM
Most scifi settings are unconsciously defined by the mode of travel. Since the point of scifi is usually to have multiple worlds and travel around. It's a huge amount of work to design multiple worlds, unless you whitewash worlds as monocultures (this one is kinda like China, that one like Germany, the one over there is like Somalia...).

Second is the multicultural angle of having new races to deal with. In a future Earth-based game (perhaps expansion into nearby star systems without encountering races) you have to evolve colonial cultures from Earth cultures. New races let you impose weird stuff without having to explain where this warrior culture came from or that xenophobic culture, etc.

Berenger
2016-05-25, 01:08 AM
My gut says there's more to be done with mass effect, especially if it's a game I want to last a long time. However I tend to dislike settings with a lot of races...

If there are any alien species left, your Shepard wasn't RENEGADE! enough... :smallamused:

Lorsa
2016-05-25, 01:46 AM
Most scifi settings are unconsciously defined by the mode of travel. Since the point of scifi is usually to have multiple worlds and travel around. It's a huge amount of work to design multiple worlds, unless you whitewash worlds as monocultures (this one is kinda like China, that one like Germany, the one over there is like Somalia...).

I'm sorry, but how is having worlds as monocultures whitewashing? Unless for some reason people on all your worlds are also white?

Mutazoia
2016-05-25, 02:45 AM
I'm sorry, but how is having worlds as monocultures whitewashing? Unless for some reason people on all your worlds are also white?

Well, if you look at how many different cultures we have on Earth, you should get an idea of what he's talking about...

Trying to come up with several diverse cultures for each new planet your players visit is a short cut to a nervous breakdown, or at least what writers call Diarrhea of the pen (when you write way too much info that isn't actually really relevant), especially when you consider that your players will probably not encounter more than one or two cultures per planet. Such as landing on a world that is in the middle of a global war.

Coming up with a single culture for each planet means a lot less work for the GM, even if it does force you into the "one world government/community" pigeon hole.

Now, back to the OP: You can always take the Firefly approach and just say no alien cultures at all. Each world, be it a shining hub of civilization, or a grungy frontier colony would have normal human culture/customs for the most part.

Plus, this get's you out of the problem of having to design new races (if you are not using a set system) or at least stating up a custom race in an existing system, which can be pretty tricky to balance out.

The next question (or probably the first, actually) should be what kind of Sci-Fi you are aiming for? Do you want Space Opera, where FTL travel and communications are hand-waved, or are you looking for more hard science. Few games go the pure hard science route, as it tends to make inter-stellar travel more of pain in the glutes, if it's possible at all. Mass Effect would be Space Opera, where Starship Troopers would be closer to the hard science end of the spectrum. (Heinlein was always a fan of a more realistic (ish) science approach in his books for the most part.)

Lorsa
2016-05-25, 02:49 AM
Well, if you look at how many different cultures we have on Earth, you should get an idea of what he's talking about...

Trying to come up with several diverse cultures for each new planet your players visit is a short cut to a nervous breakdown, or at least what writers call Diarrhea of the pen (when you write way too much info that isn't actually really relevant), especially when you consider that your players will probably not encounter more than one or two cultures per planet. Such as landing on a world that is in the middle of a global war.

Coming up with a single culture for each planet means a lot less work for the GM, even if it does force you into the "one world government/community" pigeon hole.

Yes, I understand what he is talking about, and the reasons why you'd want to do such a thing.

However, I don't understand why having one planet be like China is whitewashing. Shouldn't it be asiawashing if anything?

Mutazoia
2016-05-25, 02:58 AM
However, I don't understand why having one planet be like China is whitewashing. Shouldn't it be asiawashing if anything?

Well he didn't say "Caucasian washing", so "Asianwashing" wouldn't be a problem. And to forestall this from devolving any further into what could easily become very offensive for some people, I will simply say "and now back to your regularly scheduled Original Topic already in progress."

Alent
2016-05-25, 03:05 AM
Yes, I understand what he is talking about, and the reasons why you'd want to do such a thing.

However, I don't understand why having one planet be like China is whitewashing. Shouldn't it be asiawashing if anything?

You might be reading too far into it, it seems to me like he's using the older version of "whitewashing" which was "to paint everything a single uniform color" rather than the racial statement it's become.

That said, planets would have a uniform culture for the parts that matter. You'd have a uniform "equatorial spaceport town" where like all port towns there's a little bit of every culture sliced up into districts, all in one town, every planet you go to. The variation comes in when you leave the space port, which as DM you'd be perfectly fine saying "If you're exploring this planet, I need to prepare", or, rolling a dice to see what culture is dominant away from port. (Building a huge map of what nations dominate the various industries then going by a planet's primary industry is a good way to determine this.)

If you have aliens, they kinda melt into the port towns, and their culture takes over the overall planet.

HammeredWharf
2016-05-25, 05:24 AM
I don't know about Starship Troopers, but Mass Effect is a very well-documented setting, so I don't think you'd have any issues running a game in it, provided you can find a suitable system. It would have to work with both sci-fi contraptions and "magic". There's a fan-made conversion of Savage Worlds (http://savageheroes.com/conversions/SME.pdf) out there, or you could play Star Wars: Saga and replace all mentions of the Force with biotics. Or you could use GURPS.

It's hard to say anything specific without a specific question, but if I were doing a ME campaign, I would only use the Citadel as a minor pit stop and wouldn't directly involve anything from the games' storyline, such as the Reapers. There's plenty of interesting places in the ME universe and you only get to visit a handful of them in the games. Citadel, on the other hand, is overused and has some baggage from the poor writing of the later ME games. Like, is there someone out there who wouldn't go all murderhobo on the Council?

Rjaye
2016-05-25, 10:12 AM
Thanks for the replies thus far.

I will admit, my question was a tad general. Just to clarify, I'm not worried about system, I will confess to been a fate addict which can just about run anything (and I seem to recall that mass effect has already been unofficially done).

If I was to refine my question, it would more be about the starship troopers idea. Mass effect is a setting that is ready to go and play, there's no questioning the feasibility. So more my question is what people think about the idea of starship troopers. Is there enough of a setting there? and within that setting is there enough scope to get a good game out of it. My optimistic side says yes, that while military focused there is a game there to be run. One with a scheming military intelligence and the general unpleasantness brought about by war. My more cynical side screams at me that the game is too narrow and that while it might be good for a short run game it doesn't have the legs to be something grander in scale.

Octopusapult
2016-05-25, 10:33 AM
Hey guys, first things first, long time reader of oots but haven't really come to the forum's before. I've done so now because I know none of my players come here and I was looking for some advice. I'm a long time seasoned dm, run a fair few games that I consider to have successes, but largely in the fantasy and modern days genres. So i'm wanting to expand out into sci-fi and since i'm not currently running it gives me some time to write. Now I've had two ideas that I'm sounding out and I'm looking for feedback from you good folk on the ideas.

My first was to do a game based in the mass effect universe. It's a setting I love (like so many of us do), there is literally no shortage of what you can do in it and it is full of good ideas. I mean you could literally set an entire chapter of the game on the citadel and something I'd be tempted to do. Given the plot potential I'd find it hard not to have the players 'in' or at least working with c-sec.

My other idea was to go with starship troopers. It would be very possible to do a game where for a period of time the characters are in active service on a campaign, but then also roleplay out their R&R. Throw in some military intrigue, black ops, mercs and war profiteers and I feel there's more of a game there than most would think.

My gut says there's more to be done with mass effect, especially if it's a game I want to last a long time. However I tend to dislike settings with a lot of races, I don't know why but I find it can be hard to get across to players the cultural mix they are in.

Anyway, what are your guys thoughts?

If you're running Dark Heresy, you might want to go with Starship Troopers. 'Nids are pretty similar to the bugs in the movie.

Otherwise, I'd do Mass Effect. If only because I know the game better than I know the Starship Troopers movies, and also because the Mass Effect codex can be found online pretty easily.

Knaight
2016-05-25, 10:57 AM
Either of the settings listed will work just fine, as will any number of others.

Mutazoia
2016-05-25, 11:02 AM
Thanks for the replies thus far.

I will admit, my question was a tad general. Just to clarify, I'm not worried about system, I will confess to been a fate addict which can just about run anything (and I seem to recall that mass effect has already been unofficially done).

If I was to refine my question, it would more be about the starship troopers idea. Mass effect is a setting that is ready to go and play, there's no questioning the feasibility. So more my question is what people think about the idea of starship troopers. Is there enough of a setting there? and within that setting is there enough scope to get a good game out of it. My optimistic side says yes, that while military focused there is a game there to be run. One with a scheming military intelligence and the general unpleasantness brought about by war. My more cynical side screams at me that the game is too narrow and that while it might be good for a short run game it doesn't have the legs to be something grander in scale.

Well, first question is: Are you using the Starship Troopers universe of the movies, or the book? There's a difference.

You could do a military campaign okay...your campaign would mostly be Humans vs. Bugs, and there is plenty of source material you can crib from for adventure ideas, such as actual events from WWI and WW2, Vietnam and Korea...the old TV show Space: Above and Beyond did this quite a lot, and it was a decent show.

You would probably want to make your PC's a special forces team, like a version of the Navy Seals, and give them a lot of behind the lines/covert style missions, such as tracking down/capturing Brain Bugs, mounting rescue missions and the like. You'll probably have to invent a few human foes as well, to keep things from getting samey.

Mark Hall
2016-05-25, 12:21 PM
My first was to do a game based in the mass effect universe. It's a setting I love (like so many of us do), there is literally no shortage of what you can do in it and it is full of good ideas. I mean you could literally set an entire chapter of the game on the citadel and something I'd be tempted to do. Given the plot potential I'd find it hard not to have the players 'in' or at least working with c-sec.

My other idea was to go with starship troopers. It would be very possible to do a game where for a period of time the characters are in active service on a campaign, but then also roleplay out their R&R. Throw in some military intrigue, black ops, mercs and war profiteers and I feel there's more of a game there than most would think.

You know, you can pretty closely combined the two worlds... take away references to Humans and Earth and you can run a mid-Rachni Wars game of Mass Effect that looks a lot like Starship Troopers.

Oh, and have I mentioned my Mass Effect conversion to Savage Worlds? (http://rpgcrank.blogspot.com/p/savage-worlds-mass-effect.html)

Octopusapult
2016-05-25, 12:45 PM
You know, you can pretty closely combined the two worlds... take away references to Humans and Earth and you can run a mid-Rachni Wars game of Mass Effect that looks a lot like Starship Troopers.

Oh, and have I mentioned my Mass Effect conversion to Savage Worlds? (http://rpgcrank.blogspot.com/p/savage-worlds-mass-effect.html)

That's genius actually, I forgot about the Rachni. XD

Rjaye
2016-05-25, 02:44 PM
That does actually give me an idea to do the Rachni, but not without humans, just do a return of the Rachni.

Screw the games for making the Rachni (and equally the geth) sympathetic causes and have them as an all pervasive threat once more.

Mark Hall
2016-05-25, 06:43 PM
That does actually give me an idea to do the Rachni, but not without humans, just do a return of the Rachni.

Screw the games for making the Rachni (and equally the geth) sympathetic causes and have them as an all pervasive threat once more.

Or have Shepherd not make friends with the Rachni. Or a new queen that isn't mentioned in the canon... if one can be lost in space, so can two.

Honest Tiefling
2016-05-25, 06:53 PM
Is there any particular reason you don't want to do worldbuilding? If not, I'm going to advise you to pull a Starcraft. Just rip out the bits you like, file off the serial numbers, and toss in more stuff ripped out from other settings you like. Taaadaaaaa!

Through how would you feel about genetically engineered humans taking on the role of other races? Gives that exotic feel, but they're still human, just a human with a small hat.

Mutazoia
2016-05-25, 11:20 PM
Is there any particular reason you don't want to do worldbuilding? If not, I'm going to advise you to pull a Starcraft. Just rip out the bits you like, file off the serial numbers, and toss in more stuff ripped out from other settings you like. Taaadaaaaa!

Through how would you feel about genetically engineered humans taking on the role of other races? Gives that exotic feel, but they're still human, just a human with a small hat.

Well, if you want to be VERY lazy about world building, you could always just get your mitts on the Star Wars D6 splats "Planets of the Galaxy" and just use those and do a little conversion....or run the whole thing with the generic D6 rules and no conversion necessary...then you could use the two Galaxy Guides for extra races as well....

D6holocron.com

Rjaye
2016-05-26, 10:07 AM
Is there any particular reason you don't want to do worldbuilding?

I'm not against world building, did I come off as not wanting to? My ideas are primarily with these two settings just because I want to do something with them, not for any distaste of writing my own material.

Honest Tiefling
2016-05-26, 12:05 PM
I'm not against world building, did I come off as not wanting to? My ideas are primarily with these two settings just because I want to do something with them, not for any distaste of writing my own material.

Then Frakenstein those settings. Sounds like there are ideas you want from Mass Effect, but without the aliens. I think that's a pretty valid starting point, since it changes things up. (Also, I personally loathe the Asari, but that's just my opinion.) Add in some concepts from Starship Troopers (Or even vice versa) and you've done a time honored tradition of filing off the serial numbers.

CharonsHelper
2016-05-26, 12:56 PM
Is there any particular reason you don't want to do worldbuilding? If not, I'm going to advise you to pull a Starcraft. Just rip out the bits you like, file off the serial numbers, and toss in more stuff ripped out from other settings you like. Taaadaaaaa!

I don't think that StarCraft even pulled from multiple settings; it was mostly just their take on Warhammer 40k except with humans being run by corporations instead of creepy religious zealots.

Same thing with Warcraft for that matter. It was pretty blatantly Warhammer Fantasy (combining Chaos & Orcs) until Warcraft III, at which point the whole shamanism stuff actually took it in their own direction. (The first Warcraft was almost a Warhammer licensed game - http://kotaku.com/5929161/how-warcraft-was-almost-a-warhammer-game-and-how-that-saved-wow)

Honest Tiefling
2016-05-26, 12:58 PM
I don't think that StarCraft even pulled from multiple settings; it was mostly just their take on Warhammer 40k except with humans being run by corporations instead of creepy religious zealots.

Meant it more as a filing off the serial numbers, such as the Eldar getting renamed as such.

CharonsHelper
2016-05-26, 01:34 PM
Meant it more as a filing off the serial numbers, such as the Eldar getting renamed as such.

It does make me wonder how Blizzard would react to an equally blatant borrowing of their IP for a commercial venture.

Alent
2016-05-26, 02:33 PM
It does make me wonder how Blizzard would react to an equally blatant borrowing of their IP for a commercial venture.

If DotA is any indication, they'll wait ten years then release their own clone of your clone. :smallamused:

neonagash
2016-05-28, 11:40 AM
Thanks for the replies thus far.

I will admit, my question was a tad general. Just to clarify, I'm not worried about system, I will confess to been a fate addict which can just about run anything (and I seem to recall that mass effect has already been unofficially done).

If I was to refine my question, it would more be about the starship troopers idea. Mass effect is a setting that is ready to go and play, there's no questioning the feasibility. So more my question is what people think about the idea of starship troopers. Is there enough of a setting there? and within that setting is there enough scope to get a good game out of it. My optimistic side says yes, that while military focused there is a game there to be run. One with a scheming military intelligence and the general unpleasantness brought about by war. My more cynical side screams at me that the game is too narrow and that while it might be good for a short run game it doesn't have the legs to be something grander in scale.

If you can find the starship troopers books there was actually a pretty vast and detailed universe there. They are pretty different than the movie though (never saw the sequals).

Ive run a lot of military campaigns, it can absolutely be done. The pcs have to be something that believably does small unit stuff often though.

Warhammer 40k has a series, gaunts ghosts, that does this extremely well.

Basically its about a division whose planet was destroyed while they were first deploying after training and so only about half ever made it off planet.

They are stealth specialists from a forest world so they do things like pathfinding ahead of invasions and stealth infiltration a lot. But still take part in a lot of traditional warfare ops too.

My favorite campaign i ever did this way involved a merc company. Players all made 2 or 3 characters that did different things for the company so players switched characters around inbetween adventures. Kept things fresh and slowed the pace of level advancement quite a bit.

Florian
2016-05-28, 12:17 PM
Anyway, what are your guys thoughts?

For use with Fate Core? Then I think both settings are rather so-so. Considering things like the milestone mechanics, compelling and swapping aspects and stunts, Id rather go with something like Eclipse Phase or Takeshi Covacs/Altered Carbon where its actually fun to mesh setting with in-game mechanics.

Rjaye
2016-05-28, 12:22 PM
Thanks for the advice guys, you've given me some thoughts to go away with.