This is a site for discussing roleplaying games. Have fun doing so, but there is one major rule: do not discuss political issues that aren't directly and uniquely related to the subject of the thread and about gaming. While this site is dedicated to free speech, the following will not be tolerated: devolving a thread into unrelated political discussion, sockpuppeting (using multiple and/or bogus accounts), disrupting topics without contributing to them, and posting images that could get someone fired in the workplace (an external link is OK, but clearly mark it as Not Safe For Work, or NSFW). If you receive a warning, please take it seriously and either move on to another topic or steer the discussion back to its original RPG-related theme.
The message boards have been upgraded. Please log in to your existing account by clicking here. It will ask twice, so that it can properly update your password and login information. If it has trouble recognizing your password, click the 'Forgot your password?' link to reset it with a new password sent to your email address on file.

Author Topic: Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?  (Read 591 times)

Marchand

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • M
  • Posts: 153
    • View Profile
Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?
« on: April 05, 2020, 08:19:22 am »
I've been re-reading River of Heaven, D101 Games' vaguely Revelation Space-y setting with a slightly simplified D100 system. Before that I read some of the books for Transhuman Space for GURPS. There's Eclipse Phase as well.

The games I am talking about are slightly harder SF (although I'm trying not to start the "what is Hard SF" debate), based on themes in 90s/00s SF literature rather than the 50s/60s/70s SF behind Classic Traveller; no or very limited FTL, no artificial gravity, no anthropomorphic animal aliens or ridge-forehead aliens, maybe AI and transhumanism.

The author of RoH earlier wrote Cthulhu Rising, CoC in a 23rd century vaguely Aliens-like setting. In that or Eclipse Phase you have got a Call of Cthulhu type default campaign setting of going up against big mysterious bad guys and their minions.

Has anyone run an interesting or successful campaign without the extinction-level-threat-of-the-week fallback? Or bughunt of the week?

River of Heaven has a cold war going on between factions, but they all seem fairly unpleasant so it's hard to get motivated to take sides. The setting kind of leaves me cold for that reason.
"If the English surrender, it'll be a long war!"
- Scottish soldier on the beach at Dunkirk

BronzeDragon

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 136
    • View Profile
Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2020, 11:55:26 am »
Not trying to say it's hard sci-fi, but Firefly seems to fit most of your criteria and is an extremely interesting and engaging setting to boot.

The conflict between a "civilized" core of planets and outward settled moons and planetoids that are far more precarious is an interesting one. Add in the situation with the recent civil war with the smaller browncoat faction being bested by the centralizing power of the alliance and you have enough to run a campaign on, methinks.

P.S.: Stardrive from the Alternity RPG could also work, with a few changes. Remove the alien races, enforce essentially no/very limited communication and no traffic between the core planets and the outer rim and you've got a decently complex environment, with different corporations vying for control of the colonies and a budding conflict between the colonies and the core (accentuated by the limited communication/travel).
« Last Edit: April 05, 2020, 11:58:02 am by BronzeDragon »
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
"It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens." - Boris Grushenko

VisionStorm

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1117
    • View Profile
Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2020, 03:01:22 pm »
I've never really played any near-future or "hard sci-fi" games other than Cyberpunk, which is my go-to genre for near-future sci-fi. If I was gonna go space age near-future "hard" sci-fi I'd probably take inspiration from The Expanse, for reasons and tropes similar to what Bronze Dragon mentioned. Though, Firefly works as well, but I always got a more light hearted "Western in Space" feel from Firefly, than proper near-future hard sci-fi. Common space age near future tropes (all found in The Expanse) include:
  • Terraforming of Mars
  • Inner Solar System colonies
  • Conflict between old Earth governments and space colonies/factions
  • Spacers or "belter" humans (people who grew up in the asteroid belt) with lower bone density who never adapted to higher gravity planets like Earth (even Martians have this problem to a lesser extent).
  • Asteroid mining operations.
  • Asteroid spaceports and space stations.
  • Air and water scarcity in space, including the importance of greenhouses for not just food, but oxygen production as well.


Other stuff for consideration I don't remember being featured on The Expanse includes biotechnology and genetic engineering. This could include stuff like:
  • Bio weapon viruses getting out into the public and collapsing the world economies on the ensuing fallout (hint, hint :p )
  • Designer viruses capable of targeting specific people or populations.
  • Massive, authoritarian changes to social structures, legal rights and norms in an effort to ward against bio-threats.
  • Genetically engineered super soldiers.
  • Using genetic engineering to adapt humans to alien environments (low or higher gravity adaptations, breathe different atmospheres, etc.)
  • Genetically engineered mutants as character "races".
  • Conflict between unaltered and genetically engineered humans.
  • Prejudice against genetically engineered humans/mutants.
  • Genetically engineered mutants being treated as the property of biotech corporations and/or second class citizens.
  • Escaped genetically engineered animals as "monsters".

JeremyR

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1684
    • View Profile
Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2020, 03:18:43 pm »
A lot of the Sci-Fi in the 1950s and 1960s was actually pretty "hard", being set in the solar system.  For all the slobbering The Expanse gets, it's basically a regurgitation of 1950s hard sci-fi.  Galaxy magazine carried a lot of this sort and most issues are available at the Internet Archive and a lot were made into radio episodes of X Minus (also available there)

The original Buck Rogers RPG from TSR was actually pretty much this (and is surprisingly good as well, using the d100% skill system with the AD&D level system)
http://osrnews.blogspot.com/ All the news about OSR products I can scrape up, including a weekly roundup of new OSR stuff at RPGNow

jeff37923

  • Knight of Common Sense
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 16954
    • View Profile
Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2020, 06:12:00 pm »
As a general reference work for you, I highly recommend the Atomic Rockets website. Chock full of some of the best material you could ever want about the science in science fiction space travel.

(As an aside, Cepheus Engine is OGL Traveller and may be dialed in quite hard for Sci-Fi. The Orbital and Orbital 2100 settings which are for Mongoose Traveller 1e and Cepheus Engine respectively. To really get the Hard Science feel, I'd suggest getting the Spacecraft Design Guide for Cepheus Engine which will allow you to design spacecraft with chemical rockets, solid rockets, NERVA drives, and realistic fusion rockets that do not use grav plating but spin habitats to avoid the effects of prolonged lack of gravity (the Vehicle Design Guide for Cepheus Engine is also not too shabby). The only drawback that I can think of is the lack of some of the wackier but plausible spacecraft drive types, like Robert Zubrin's Nuclear Saltwater Rocket. )

Marchand

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • M
  • Posts: 153
    • View Profile
Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2020, 12:14:12 pm »
Tensions between genetically engineered people and normals or whatever might make a touching episode of Next Generation, but actual players might struggle to rustle up a shit, I fear.

So actual gameable ideas:
Dungeon crawl in space (asteroid base has gone silent; weird caves discovered on Triton; etc.)
Keep tramp freighter flying (Traveller but without jump drives). Pirates, dodgy cargoes etc.
Cyberpunk in space: heist of the week
Bug hunt
Existential Threat of the Week

...any more?
"If the English surrender, it'll be a long war!"
- Scottish soldier on the beach at Dunkirk

Nobby-W

  • Order of the Red Tabard
  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 23
    • View Profile
Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2020, 04:45:01 pm »
Pulpy space opera is a bit more flexible but many sci-fi tropes could be done in a hard sci-fi context.  If we take a look at the Classic Traveller A and DA modules we could see some adaptations like:

A1: The Kinunir could be adapted to boarding a ship with a mad AI computer.
A2: Research Station Gamma could be adapted, but you might need a human patron substituted for Chiree
A4: Leviathan Probably not directly adaptable but you could certainly do some sort of space exploration campaign.
A7: Broadsword - if you like military sci-fi you could run a cruiser with some marines on it (see also Aliens)
A8: Prison Planet - escape from a prison in an inhospitable location.
A11: Murder on Arcturus Station - a murder mystery on a remote outpost.
DA2: Across The Bright Face - ATV chase across a vacuum world
DA3: Death station - Investigate the space station, what went wrong?
DA4: Marooned - trekking across an alien wilderness.
DA5: Horde - If you're OK with alien critters in your 'verse.

Several of the JTAS adventures come to mind - Rescue on Ruie, Salvage on Sharmun, The Werewolf Disease, Loggerheads for example.

Hard sci-fi doesn't have to be completely dystopian or grimdark, either.  Your part could be involved with a more-or-less benign polity or NGO, perhaps some sort of merchant's guild (think something like the Merchanter's alliance).  You could have a culture of belter analogues that you can hide amongst.  Maybe you have a home port in some neutral location.  You could have something like the Falkenberg-verse Co-dominium or UN (per the Expanse) where the navy or organisation has some political clout of its own and an agenda bearing a degree of professionalism and political acumen in its own right.  Holden wouldn't have gotten far without the UN's or OPA's patronage.

There can be beacons of light in your setting.

The other leaf you could take from the Expanse's playbook is that maybe your party aren't complete nobodies.  Holden et. al. were in a unique situation of having a modern warship, facilities where it could be maintained and patronage from various friends in high places who had the clout (and incentive) to keep it that way.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2020, 04:48:03 pm by Nobby-W »
My imaginary component makes me complex.  This also means I'm allowed to eat quiche.

RPGPundit

  • Administrator - The Final Boss of Internet Shitlords
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 46662
    • View Profile
    • http://therpgpundit.blogspot.com
Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2020, 08:56:04 am »
Have you watched The Expanse?
LION & DRAGON: Medieval-Authentic OSR Roleplaying is available now! You only THINK you've played 'medieval fantasy' until you play L&D.


My Blog:  http://therpgpundit.blogspot.com/
The most famous uruguayan gaming blog on the planet!

NEW!
Check out my short OSR supplements series; The RPGPundit Presents!


Dark Albion: The Rose War! The OSR fantasy setting of the history that inspired Shakespeare and Martin alike.
Also available in Variant Cover form!
Also, now with the CULTS OF CHAOS cult-generation sourcebook

ARROWS OF INDRA
Arrows of Indra: The Old-School Epic Indian RPG!
NOW AVAILABLE: AoI in print form

LORDS OF OLYMPUS
The new Diceless RPG of multiversal power, adventure and intrigue, now available.

Marchand

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • M
  • Posts: 153
    • View Profile
Campaign tropes for near-future/"hard SF" settings?
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2020, 10:12:15 am »
Quote from: RPGPundit;1126594
Have you watched The Expanse?

Watched the first season I think, but the acting and scripts were painful.
"If the English surrender, it'll be a long war!"
- Scottish soldier on the beach at Dunkirk