Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Confederation Chronicles: An SF Campaign Premise -- Part 02

In our original campaign, there were several major players in the galaxy (a different one from the Milky Way), with the Confederation as the 'good guy' star nation, the Alliance as the 'bad guy' star nation, and the remnants of the recently shattered Second Vegan Empire acting as the 'collapsing star nation rife with intrigue, politics, and sources of recently liberated resources and technology'.

There was a horde of sentient machines on the other side of a wormhole that acted as the bogeyman for the campaign (its invasion was the one that shattered the empire by destroying the Second Vegan Homeworld), and was one of the few things that the Star Nations would, at that point in time, cooperate with one another one eradicating.

But what really mattered in the old campaign was the core premise: that of a civilian-led star nation served by one of the finest -- not necessarily largest or most powerful -- military organization in the galaxy.

And this was the core of the campaign premise: most of the PCs are members of military / quasi-military organization.


Since everyone was new to the setting, the military structure allowed for briefings, being sent on missions, meeting sentients from races or cultures different from the norm, and provided a fertile breeding ground for rumors from the campaigns that the veteran NPCs had been on.

There's a ready rationale for a team with members shifting in and out -- being reassigned, being dropped and finding yourself in a different group, ad hoc teams thrown together due to special circumstances, etc. Also, there's a very large potential pool, lots of equipment that can be assigned for one mission then taken away right after, etc.


Well, you can put a definite crimp in player agency. Even a quasi-military agency assumes that you take orders from a chain of command, gentle sentient, or you end up in the brig or kicked out (if you're lucky). A small band of profit-oriented adventurers, or a wild bunch of explorers probably wouldn't prosper in the closely monitored and reviewed military arm of the Confederation -- a star nation that's had its bad run-ins with military coup attempts in the past.

The Twist: Returning To Old Frontier

To soften the downside, we can take a page from shows like Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5, which seasoned their military tension with interstellar politics and intrigue, encounters with strange aliens and technologies, and occasionally dealt with having to source necessities for survival and protection from new providers when their original ones were cut off.

Yes, I'm advocating coming up with a setup where there's a traveling military outpost. This is something like a spike drive -- or something more powerful, heh heh -- capable space station (Babylon 5) with its own fleet of military and supply vessels (Battlestar Galactica) with a mandate to expand the borders of their star nation, or perhaps to return to the Terran Mandate worlds as part of an expedition to reignite the flame of the old worlds.

Instead of seeking out new life and new civilizations, they go back to the old one to find out what happened and perhaps to make us of ancient technologies that have yet to be re-unlocked for use in the newer era of Stars Without Number.

Additional Inspiration

Given the mix of possible stories, I'd throw in comic books like Alien Legion and maybe even the cyber-police manga Appleseed. On the Anime track, definitely Ghost in the Shell, with a bit of the powered-armor and mechs thrown in like AT Votoms, and the military elements of the Macross series and Gundam series (without the super-robot elements that creep in from time to time).

But only things that would add to the depth of the core premise; two many elements might confuse the core campaign. Of course, if an element were particularly awesome, I might bend the guidelines a bit.

"I got a little somethin' for ya, Borg Cube thingie. Say hello to my little -- Wave Motion Gun!"

Up next: fleshing out the premise a bit more with the goodies from Stars Without Number.


  1. I've never really had any of the problems of hierarchies or things like that that people worry about with military sci-fi. I played a Star Trek game for some time where one of the players was the captain and the rest weren't and it worked out okay.

  2. Ah, well -- sometimes it's an issue. Star Trek is arguable more quasi-military than true military, though it depends on how the game is run, I supposed.

    In our old campaigns, the amoral power gamers did sometimes forget the chain of command and codes of conduct and did bad stuff. Fortunately, the court martial hearings taught them lessons that they remembered when playing their next characters.

  3. I'm looking forward to reading more of this series! :D

    "Instead of seeking out new life
    and new civilizations, they go back to the old one to find out what happened and perhaps to make us of ancient technologies that have yet to be re-unlocked"

    Very much the situation with Urutsk. It just came in handy to have a Peripheral world when the Starshock destroyed the galactic core. ;)

  4. +Timeshadows, cool! I'll get back to it as soon as I finish my series on Mystara gods.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.