Wednesday, February 8, 2017

To Vesper Skies: The Setting

As I work more on the sci fi game I eventually will run, I've been building up the setting and how it will work.

The Basics

So the game will start on a dying Earth. Humanity made it to the stars, but were only able to extensively colonize Luna and the L4 and 5 points of orbit, with only outposts on Mars. Digital consciousness uploading has become a thing and humans are slowly making the jump to transhumanity. Things were looking great for the United Nations of Earth. Until humanity broke the moon. A terrible mining incident on Luna went horribly wrong and it shattered the moon. The falling rocks devastated the Earth and destroyed all of the lunar colonies. Now the Earth is covered in a permanent cloud of moon dust that blocks the sun. The world is cold, the ocean has swallowed most of the large cities, and humanity is dying. A global last ditch effort using all of their remaining resources has been put into a wormhole generator and ark ship that will get humanity to a habitable planet found in the New Earth Sky Survey on the other side of the galaxy. This is a one way trip for the millions of humans uploaded to the ark. Your mission is to make it to the Cape Atlanta Space Center, launch to the Tevat in the asteroid belt, traverse the wormhole, and colonize onto NESS 89-03, ensuring the future of humanity.

The Trip

The players will spend a couple of sessions (no more than four) getting to the new planet. They'll have to deal with those that would sabotage the mission or usurp it for their own agenda. Once they make it to the planet NESS 89-03 from the wormhole, they'll be focused on that planet and possibly the other celestial bodies in their newly claimed system. There is no FTL drive (yet) nor aliens (yet), but there are plenty of ruins of such in the area for the players to explore while they continue to grow their colony. Eventually, there will be discoveries that will lead to the invention of the warp drive and open up the entire sector to the players.

The New Earth Sky Survey & the Tevat

This ship was the result of the great superpowers of Earth uniting their resources and scientists to ensure that humanity will live on once the Earth finally succumbs to its unending Ice Age. This initiative was met with resistance, as there were many people that objected to shipping the last of Earth's resources to an unknown system and abandoning Earth and the billions of people suffering on the planet. A minority of politicians and scientists felt the Earth could still be saved, but support for the Tevat ultimately prevailed.

The Tevat is several hundreds of meters long. It has some of the last remaining resources available on it and hundreds of millions of people uploaded onto the memory archives of the ship. These people were uploaded for a variety of reasons, all depending on the country they came from. Some had skills that would be useful out in the unknown. Others had medical reasons (universal donor). And some were simply picked via a lottery. It has starship fabrication facilities and a colonization protocol to send compilers and pre-fabricated shuttle-houses that will be the starting homes for the first to land on NESS 89-03. The Tevat also has a great deal of weaponry to protect it and the colony from any intelligence that would attack it. The ship is run by Noah, the braked AI that controls all of the systems. Its mission is to protect humanity and ensure that the colonies survive and thrive on the new world.

NESS 89-03 and its Neighbors 

This is the third planet in the 89th system analyzed by the New Earth Sky Survey. This is where scientists have found conclusive evidence of plant life and an atmosphere that may be conductive to human colonization. The planet hasn't been given a proper name, but rather one reminiscent of the Kepler and TrES surveys. I'm letting the players name the planet that they will be colonizing on. The planet is similar to Earth to be familiar to the players, but just different enough to feel alien and foreign to them. Days are a little short, and the year is only 81 days. The atmosphere is breathable chemically, but fungal spores permeate the air like a gray-green fog. These are poisonous and will make life difficult for the colonists. There is a great variety of fauna and flora for the players to encounter, and for the most part, it's Earth analogous.

What's interesting are two main anomalies. The first are several ruined sites that are distinctly Earth like. There are humans on this planet somehow, and what's more, they are a bit more technologically advanced than the players. This will be the main overarching mystery as the players expand and explore.

The second will come a bit later, as the players find out that they are not alone on this world. There are native insectoid creatures that call the planet their home. They are in their Stone Age and capable of tool usage and tribal government structures. Encountering a technologically inferior species will have some interesting adventures and scenarios for the players to contend with.

There are other planets for the players to explore in their spaceship (hell yeah, level 1 spaceship). The two preceding orbits have a hot jovian gas giant closest to the star, followed by a hot, barren rocky world. After NESS 89-03 lies a large asteroid belt with two dwarf planets, two cold jovians, one cold neptunian, and a small ice ball planet at the edge of the system. Despite not having habitable life (or at least, life as we know it), there will be plenty of adventures and anomalies for the players to explore and deal with, especially if they wish to expand their reach to these planets. Alien ruins, hostile exoplanets, irradiated moons... That's the interesting and challenging thing about this campaign, is that the players can go to any planet and attempt to colonize it or mine it for resources.

The Sector

Once FTL is discovered by the players' efforts, they will be able to traverse the sector and explore beyond their simple world. Here is where the discovery of aliens will appear, with the players suddenly thrust into the conflicts, grudges, and history of several alien species. For a while, I want to play up the Fermi Paradox and make it seem like there were aliens, but they all died. So meeting a fellow spacefaring sophont will be a BIG deal to the players and ultimately shape the future of their colony.

Discovering FTL will also reveal something terrible about the universe; the Great Filter exists. Unbeknownst to humanity and all of the alien species in this sector, the galaxy is owned by an advanced, borderline Type III extra terrestrial intelligence. These ETIs use the Milky Way to exploit the resources (stars, black holes, planets, people) that keep their civilization running. No one has ever seen an ETI or even know of their homeworld, but we see signs of them in the galaxy via their megastructures. Dyson spheres, Matrioshka brains, stellar engines, Penrose extractors... these are scattered about the galaxy.

While the ETI have no interest in meeting the players or other aliens, they do want to stay the apex civilization and protect their megastructures from the locals. So seeded across the galaxy are highly advanced self replicating nanomachines. These are programmed to attack any ship capable of FTL travel, locate the homeworld, and assimilate the civilization before they can become too powerful. However, millions of years of being out in the galaxy have caused the nanomachines to malfunction somewhat. While they still attack FTL ships, they do so blindly, without hunting down the homeworld. The aliens call it the Gray Beast, since it is a large gray goo in space. They are still a dangerous encounter to the players, so players will have to be careful.

At some point, as the years go by, I do plan on advancing the technology in their setting. Interstellar ansibles, wormhole travel, megastructures... all things the players can have access to eventually.

Adventures and Mysteries

- On the day of the launch, the facilities are under attack by a mob of people being left behind. This is a distraction for the Earth Reclamation Front, a terrorist organization against the New Earth Initiative and abandoning humanity to its doom. They wish to kill the NEI operatives and spread the resources from the Tevat to the people.
- Surveying NESS 89-03 has shown that there are some starship remnants on the planet. When those are explored, it's revealed that these are from Earth and are considerably advanced. What technologies can they get from this and more importantly, how did Earthlings come here before the Tevat?
- The players awake from their hibernation after exiting the wormhole, only to find that a previously planned insurrection is underway to take over the colony and unite it under a faction. Noah the AI is actively trying to stop them, but because of his Third Law protocols, he cannot harm them. Will the players stop them, or join them?
- After discovering FTL, the players have their first encounter with the Gray Beast. It will take some investigating to realize that it only appears occasionally when one travels at superluminal speeds. Will the players find their weakness?