I’ve been giving more thought to what I’m going to run after Southern Reaches gets to a stopping point. By “stopping point” I’m thinking somewhere between levels 12 and 15. I haven’t set a fixed point yet, but it will be somewhere in that area, which means next summer at the earliest.
I’m of two minds as to which way to go. I have two general options in mind: 1) retire the current PCs, scroll time forward 10-20 years (possibly more), update and revise the map of the area, and restart with new PCs; or 2) Try a sandbox science fiction game, probably using Traveller (the current Mongoose Publishing version). In this posting, I’m going to discuss the Traveller option.
I’ve been (slowly) reading through the rule book for Traveller as I’ve had some time to do so and I’m liking what I see. The rules are fairly light, which should help getting my gaming group to accept them. Not that they care for rules-light over rules-heavy (most of them actually prefer the HERO System), it’s just requires less time investment to learn the rules. I like the skill system, which assumes that if you have the skill at all, you are automatically successful at normal skill use, unless under pressure or things are dangerous. So with Pilot-0 (lowest level of the Pilot skill), a character can fly a starship from one system to another and land without needing to roll any dice. Now if the starport is under attack or you have to dodge through an asteroid field while being chased by hostile craft, then the dice are needed. I like skills and my characters usually have tons of them, so I appreciate an elegant set of skill rules and Traveller has them.
The only thing I’m uncertain of about the Traveller rules is adding alien races. The standard milieu for Traveller is the Third Imperium and I don’t plan on using that at all. I want to add D&D races as the aliens, mostly as a form of short-hand for alien cultures. I like the idea of techie kobolds, high gravity world dwarves, and low gravity world elves (although I might jettison elves – haven’t decided yet). With Traveller being humano-centric almost to exclusivity, this means some additional work on my part to get more alien races, especially if I want them available for player access at the start of the campaign. Speaking of which…
The idea behind the campaign is exploring 2-3 generations (maybe more – I haven’t decided that yet either) after interstellar society collapsed due to a big, messy war. One of the final stages would have been attacks on knowledge in the form of incredibly virulent and semi-sentient computer viruses that trashed both general knowledge and engineering archives. Coupled with devastating planetary bombardments targeting manufacturing capacity and highly destructive space battles between ships and planets became isolated from each other with limited ability to rebuild. Worlds that were not self-sufficient experienced drastic drops in populations from famine, plague, or the failure of life support systems in hostile environments. Many self-sufficient worlds had to deal with political anarchy as communication and power systems crashed and failed.
Not all data/knowledge was lost. Isolated systems that were kept isolated were immune to the virus attacks and copies of information on removable storage media were safe. Once infected systems were isolated and purged, knowledge could be pooled again, but what was left was spotty and often incomplete, particularly in the area of starship construction and systems. Surviving engineers and scientists piece together what they can and start experimenting to rediscover the missing information while society is rebuilt on a planetary scale.
Time passed and nothing was heard from the dark. There was no word on which worlds might or might not have survived the war.
The players represent a small group from a world that once manufactured (and stored) luxury starships as its primary trade. This means that when their world was able to recover, there were many dead starships available, both on the planet and “parked” (or abandoned) in the system. Laws were in place that allowed anyone who could secure a ship, purge its databanks, and get it running again could claim the ship as their own. The player characters are a group that did so, but at great cost. Armed with an old copy of a star map, a (mostly) functional ship, and a heavy debt load, the characters are ready to set out and (hopefully) find their fortunes.
That's my basic idea for a Traveller campaign. It contains the exploratory aspect I like from a West Marches-style campaign and uses a game system that supports this style of play without having to create a bunch of rules sub-systems.