thinking aloud – a minor addendum for myself
still riffing on my current answer to this question which is: a good scifi RPG is one that helps you create the kind of scifi you want to recreate
for me, most of the time that means small ship, frontier scifi
so decide the setting you want first and then see which rpg best suits the setting
“Frontier space” Requirements
as much variety of story possibilities as possible within a reasonably compact area of space that the party can reach – not just repetitive exploration of alien worlds most of which wouldn’t have any life
beyond that compact area should be unexplored space to enhance the frontier mystery feel – which means you need a reason a scout ship can’t have explored 100s light years in every direction
my solution to those requirements is to have ship maintenance requirements that favor small ships and only a gradually increasing range as maintenance infrastructure is built allowing ships to explore further leading to a geography of an inner ring of 2×2 Traveller sub-sectors with the home world in the center, a middle 4×4 ring and an outer 6×6 ring where the home world has been colonizing long enough for
– the home system to be widely colonized with lots of shipping of all kinds
– the inner ring to contain a number of medium sized colonies (populations in the 100,000s) with a moderate amount of small ship trade and passenger traffic
– the middle ring to contain newer colonies still being developed with limited amounts of trade traffic and moderate amounts of colonial service traffic
– outer ring mostly only scout service
this allows for
– political intrigue, crime, trade type stories on the home world and in the inner ring
– colony creation and survival stories in the middle ring
– planetary exploration and survey in the outer ring
– research colony stories anywhere
– alien fauna and flora stories anywhere
- some Cthulhu thrown in here and there
one downside to this type of setting where a home world is starting out on the process of colonization is it’s relatively low tech. one way to fix that is to add a lost alien civilization so any tech you want in the game from any of the Traveller books (or elsewhere) can be added in that way. high tech scifi tropes like Dyson spheres can also be added this way so your home world doesn’t have to be a super high tech society – which i personally find hard to imagine – but you can still have the players find things like dyson spheres on their travels.
- Alien ruins including super high tech elements
so far so good
the only problem i had with this setting till now is the amount of backstory i’d potentially want for the home world: races, geography, history, evolution etc and how space exploration would be complicated if there were multiple large nations.
one option is to use earth, another is to make a ton of stuff up but a simpler 3rd option is to make the home world an ex-colony itself.
so i’m going to posit a previous home world that started colonies in the same way as the new one is doing and along the way they found an alien artifact which they took home and it blew their solar system up (or something like that) leaving their small colonies to fend for themselves and the new home world is one of those ex colonies at the far edge of the previous civ’s exploration.
then say although the new home world had all the knowledge of the original they only had a small population at the time (say 200,000 or so) and thus needed 3-4 centuries to build up their numbers and productive capacity to the point where they can build starships again.
so the new home world might be a whole planet but the core is maybe an area the size of France around the original starport with a similar sized population (50-60 million) – which i think works well as the backdrop for a small ship Traveller universe.
it also adds another category of story on the planets back in the direction of the original home world: abandoned research stations, extinct colonies, surviving colonies, surviving primitive colonies etc. also if the new home world is say around TL10 while the original civ was say TL12 in some areas those old colonies may have some high tech loot.
just a small change but it works for me