Friday, March 14, 2014

Solar Empires: Thoughts about the setting....

A pirate technician from the "Bloodborn" pirate band.
So if you have been following my blog and my sci-fi campaign "The Station 42 War" you might be slightly familiar with our home brew science fiction setting "Solar Empires".  Solar Empires is set in our own solar system a little over 1000 years in the futures.  The current year is 3033 to be precise.  For a very basic outline of the setting you can check the outline page here:

We, well my wife and I and our friends, have been playing in this setting and developing it slowly for around three years now.  Actually a bit longer than that.  The project kind of grew out of our Station 42 terrain project and it has kind of taken on a life of it's own.  We wanted to develop a sci-fi setting we could use for both role playing games as well as table top miniature battle games.  While there are many sci-fi settings out there to choose from we decided to invent our own partly because we are old school gamers and that is what we do and partly because other settings had some issues that made it difficult to adapt to our miniature gaming style.

One of the biggest thing we wanted to avoid in our settings was aliens.  It's not that we don't like alien stories but each new alien race you add to a setting changes things quite a lot.  Then there is the factor of finding alien miniatures.  Most alien race miniatures out there are proprietary to their specific settings and the few that aren't are usually from limited lines.  One of the things we don't like about typical fantasy settings is the need to have; elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, humans, orcs, ect.... in large numbers to be able to have enough variety to run games in those settings.  Aliens have the same problems and more.  So we decided to stick with just humans because that way we could use just about any human miniatures for our games.

Another thing we wanted to do was keep things local so we choose to limit the setting to our own Solar System.  It is actually quite a big space after all and almost all existing galactic or universal settings based on our own history start out with the idea that man colonized the solar system first.  We just decided to keep things at that stage.  We haven't completely ruled out faster than light travel and exploration of the galaxy in the future but we felt there were plenty of options provided right here in our home system.  Not to mention a lot of the development work has been done for us.  We know where Mars is for instance.  It's the next rock out from the sun.  

The most similar setting to Solar Empires is the Battletech setting.  It's kind of like taking that setting and shrinking it down to a more manageable scale.  I love the Battletech setting but as a miniature gamer it is difficult to adapt.  Sure I have a bunch of mechs and 6mm terrain and all that and I can play all the Classic Battletech I want but I like to use 28mm minis for roleplaying and up to company sized miniature battles.  28mm Battletech mechs just aren't a very practical option.  You can find a few out there.  You can scratch build them or kitbash them but it is a major challenge and they are such an important element to the setting you really need them around to make for convincing encounters.  Solar Empires has mechs too but they can be any mecha model or adapted toy we can get our hands on.

Another influential setting is the Cowboy Be Bop setting.  It is a setting based on our own solar system with humans as the only real inhabitants of the setting.  It has Terra formed planets and multiple factions.  It is not a very well developed setting however and it is not as plausible.  There are a lot of weird cartoonish things about the setting that don't seem quite as hard sci-fi as we would like.  Still we are borrowing a lot of basic ideas from the setting.

The third most influential setting for Solar Empires is the Firefly "Verse".  I've run games in the Firefly setting.  I like the gritty pioneer feel of the setting.  The general outlook on humanity.  It is a solid setting but like Cowboy Be Bop it isn't really all that fleshed out.  There are really only two factions so while it works well as a roleplaying setting it isn't ideal for a larger scale war game setting.

Our plans are to get the setting a little more established soon.  We've really been working for the past few years on the outline and what is in our heads.  There is a lot of background information we need to get sorted out and written down so hopefully you will see some of that information posted.  I have a timeline for my Hell Knights mercenary company for instance but I haven't published it yet because I want to get a few more pictures taken for it.  We also have some other background stuff we are working on.  Some artwork and some photo illustration projects like the pirate pic above which is from an shoot I did for this setting.

We really want to turn this into a fully realized setting and perhaps get some more people to explore it.   One day we may even do something commercial with it but for now we are just using it as an open creative outlet so if you have any thought or comments about the setting we would love to hear them.


mattblackgod said...

It's a good setting you have. Like you, I also am not a fan of Aliens in my setting, although there are Genetically Engineered Life Forms (GELFs). Firefly is a great setting.

The Joshia Trenchard novels by Jon Fletcher have a similar setting, set mostly in Solar System. There is some great ideas in it. No aliens.

I am happy to chime in my tuppence if you need ideas.

Sabotage! said...

I have to say, I've been following your progress on Solar Empires for quite some time, and it really is impressive how much you have accomplished with it. What originally drew me in was the "Station 42" terrain project, and how creative you are with common odds and ends that I would only see two possible fates for: Trash or Recycling.

I really love the direction you are taking Solar Empires, it's nice to see a more hard sci-fi setting that is more small scaled and manageable (as you noted, universes such as the Battletech one are so large and have so much going on they can be hard to come to grips with, as much as I love reading fluff, I feel I'd have to read 1000s of pages across hundreds of sources to really have a solid understanding of Battletech politics, factions, character motivations, etc.). I also really like what was done with Cowboy Bebop and Firefly and feel there is a lot of good inspiration in those series. I've lately been reading a series of books called "The Expanse" by James S.A. Corey, and I feel those might be something to look into. They are relatively hard sci-fi (some of the "sciency" parts of things are a bit lacking), but other than a protomolecule of alien origin its all humans spread across out solar system. I feel the books do a really good job touching on the different cultures of the different societies (Earth, Mars, the Asteroid belt, etc.).

I have struggled a bit on coming up with a more hard sci-fi setting that really struck all the right keys myself (personally I am aiming a bit more towards Blade-Runner/ Alien type of influences), so I can really appreciate all your effort (which I have to say, has been far more than mine). Keep up the great work!