Roleplaying is back on the agenda. Not Buffy this time, but a unisystem space opera game. A new playing time as well - Sunday evenings. Which has a kind of subtle irony for me, because life has moved full circle and I am back gaming at the time that I did ten years ago, before hellish demanding jobs and children forced change after change after change.
Interesting birth to this game. I placed the idea for a game at the feet of the players and they returned a decision of D&D3e and our old campaign world. I shrugged and tried to put some ideas together but it became readily apparent that I was not enthused about this at all. It then struck me, hammer blow-esque, that maybe my GMing had drifted a little too far down the consensus-storytelling path and that I had been, in some way, emasculated within the role of GM. When I was younger, there was no great debate over the 'internal character logic' of the group or the placement of story hooks. The GM would present a game, the players would make characters and it was the responsibility of the GM to craft something wonderous with those characters.
So thats what we're going to do. We'll stick with a system that is easily adaptable and that we sort of accept suits our play style best. We will cobble together the new rules as required. We will have a setting and we will make characters and then we will away into the depths of space.
Oh but if it were that easy.
In any of my games, I need the bedrock of facts that underpin the world. Buffy had them provided. Crescent Sea (our 3e shared world) had it's internal mythology, pantheon and a map with which we could work. P&P will have to have something, but deciding on that something is another matter altogether.
For many years, my yearning has been to develop a militaristic game along the lines of the Honor Harrington books by David Weber. However, whilst I am rather passionate about this style of writing (and it's historical contemparies in Horatio Hornblower and Sharpe) I doubt that my group shares that same passion. I do like the idea of the 'Navy' - be it the good guys, the bad guys or the bumbling ciphers, being all 'Yes Sir, Prime Missile Tubes, Stand down Mr!" olde worlde tradition. That has to stay.
I'm also not a huge fan of aliens. And in fantasy games, I'm not a great fan of 'other races' like elves and dwarves. I think that they provide the wonder of the setting rather than the norm. I also like to think that there can be enough diversity within humanity and the way that it is presented to account for a lack of aliens.
However, that does provide a problem. To do that, you need to have different representations of humanity and that takes you down some rather sticky paths. The prevailing methods of differentation tend to be race, religion, social ethos and politics. A decision needs to be made therefore which is fundamental to the development of the game. Earth or no Earth.
If you have Earth you can grow the divisions quite easily, but they are tied to their relevance to the here and now. If one of the your galactic 'players' is a massive Muslim state in space, then you are automatically linked to the actions of todays politik. If I represent 'Her Majesty's Navy' I may as well dress them up in the uniform of the Royal Manticoran Navy and be done with it. And God forbid that I should delve into the nomenclature of these alternate powers - Republic (done), Federation (done), Alliance (done), Empire (done) - hand me a thesaurus, I want to get off!!!
So my first draft had the following:
The Golden Caliphate: A straight up oppulatent 'arabian' empire based on strong ties with merchant houses and a monopoly of the hyperspace beacons that make FTL travel possible (thank you Mr Herbert). Non-aggressive in space, ruthless in the media.
The Magellan Confederacy: Or 'The Confed' for short. Rapidly growing space power with a voracious appetite for new members (whether they like it or not) to consolidate power and fuel it's ship-building program. Yes, it has echoes of the People's Republic of Haven but without the OTT revolutionary France trappings. These guys are essentially the initial 'bad guys' although I am tempted with a mid-campaign bait-and-switch to keep things interesting. Certainly, at the start of the game these will be the people causing all of the problems for the PCs.
The XXXX Empire: So well defined, it doesn't even have a name! I wanted the idea of an Immortal Empress - a shadowy power who lived seemingly forever on HomeWorld and dictated her powers fortunes throughout the Galaxy. God, when I read it like that it sounds so lame and passe - and images of Miranda Richardson will not stop popping into my head. These are the British at their colonial best, I suppose, if an analogy was to be drawn.
Well, thats the first draft in my mind. It will change as my idea-bouncing-board-man is yet to return his verdict. It just feels very mundane and normal - not the stuff of fantastic adventure! Maybe I need to put my history books down and watch Star Wars again!