Response to my scattered, disorganized notes on RPOpen was overwhelmingly favorable, to my great and pleasant surprise, so here may I present a more organized view of Federal Space, my alternate-universe Star Trek project. This is one of those personal pet projects that's perpetually under construction, so please make free use of that "Discussion" link up at the top of each page—new ideas and spins are always welcome, and just because I don't use 'em doesn't mean someone else can't. Enjoy. — Shadowjack
- 2 March 2009 - Managed to catch up to the discussion thread as of a couple of days ago! I suck, obviously. :p Adding extracts to the wiki, by category. There are really some excellent ideas in there, many of which I may eventually adopt wholesale. Highlights: Good ideas for the Borg, the "Klingons", and the Orions; thoughts on genetic engineering, space combat, FTL communications. A lot of irrelevent discussion on replicator society—since I don't have TNG replicators—but it's nonetheless interesting because those issues informed my choices. A couple of entertaining and inspiring alternates which I won't use but may steal from, one of which I really liked and pasted up below. A bunch of suggestions for further reading. Some useful nitpicking of the transporter tech. And, damn you all, a consistent justification for cloaking devices, which I wasn't going to use! The layout is still messy, but hopefully the talk segments are integrated well enough to follow.
- 24 Feb 2009 - Added the rest to the Peoples page. Next on the to-do list: Incorporate suggestions and idea seeds from the discussion thread.
- 23 Feb 2009 - Art. Art page added, with all of my images so far, including two new story fragments, "Hostage Situation" and "Machine Shop."
- 23 Feb 2009 - Technology. Tech page added. Next on the to-do list: Better examination of the main nations. Also, more pictures, more funny! (Eventually to do: general clean up and formatting to make everything easier on the eye.)
- 19 Feb 2009 - First upload. Introduction page and the Quick & Dirty History. Next on the to-do list: the technology overview.
Federal Space is a decidedly non-canonical spin on the familiar Star Trek universe, refracted through a lens of harder science and more consistent worldbuilding. One-liner descriptions:
- Star Trek: Stand Alone Complex.
- Star Trek run using GURPS, as a TL10 Conservative Hard SF setting, rather than a TL12 Superscience Safe-Tech setting.
- Star Trek run using Traveller. "Iron Man" Traveller.
- Pacifist Star Fleet Battles.
- Star Trek with hats.
Why bother? Because Trek is a wonderful set-up for sci-fi gaming, and the general setting elements are familiar to most of us, but the way the setting has evolved makes it difficult to run "straight." In a TV show, the protagonists don't abuse the technology or society because of genre convention, but if you approach things from the perspective of a gamer or an SF fan, you need more internal consistency. Essentially, this setting jettisons the old technobabble and back-history, as well as the older tropes like single-biome, single-culture planets, and then takes the old names and visual elements as inspiration for a new setting that resembles Trek strongly, but runs differently under the hood.
It also gives me a chance to jettison some of the infuriating parochialism that has crept into Trek over the years, and re-open possibilities of social commentary that Trek-as-written had closed off. My taste in escapism is not to have a setting where social problems no longer exist, but to have a story where they do exist, but people can successfully fix them—whilst, and at the same time, playing around with spaceships that go whooosh.
While this is a more serious take on the concepts, I've been careful to avoid making this GRIMDARK TREK (like the oft-seen meme of an authoritarian, Stalinist Federation, complete with Ministry of Truth putting out propaganda shows), and also to avoid losing the sense of playfulness. Damn it, I like the red shirts, and green-skinned alien babes, and all that silliness.
What kind of stories do I envision telling with this? My first thought is a combination of procedural investigations and social SF—explore the odd corners of the setting assumptions.
Table of Contents
For ease of reading and modification, I'm splitting things up. Here's the start of a table of contents, and I'll add more depth as we move along.
- FederalSpace:Technology — The first thing anybody ever asks about. What can we do with those marvellous toys?
- FederalSpace:Peoples — The second question: Who are these people and what makes them tick?
- FederalSpace:PlotFodder — Ideas for storylines, characters, side worlds, etc.
- FederalSpace:Images — I do a lot of visual thinking for this, so here are sketchbook scans, plus a few cleaner images, or inspiration from other sources.
Besides the awesome thread in RPOpen, my inspiration has included:
- All six Trek series and the movies I've seen (up to VIII), though particularly aspects of TOS and TAS, bits from TNG and DS9, and a bunch of Wrath of Khan.
- Forbidden Planet, which I consider to be one of the top three Trek movies, despite being made by different people before Trek ever aired.
- A bunch of 1950s through 1970s literary SF, most notably Ursula LeGuin's social SF (Left Hand of Darkness shows how complicated just a single world can be), and Keith Laumer's hilarious Retief stories. Also, trying to add much more recent hard SF, but I'm way behind on my reading list.
- Matt Howarth's Keif Llama comics, for wonderful weird aliens and troubles with interspecies bureaucracy.
- The Traveller RPGs, the Star Fleet Universe, and GURPS Transhuman Space.
- Lots of anime space opera, for those big serious space battles and cynical space politics, and a dash of the lighter stuff (like Dirty Pair) for that sense of a future you'd enjoy visiting.
- Masamune Shirow's manga Appleseed' for its arcologies, bioroids, and musings on the human quests for utopia via technology and social engineering. (Combined with gunbattles, and that hint of inter-phenotype dalliance.)
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, for its serious (but not unhumorous) presentation of a consistent SF universe.
- Dashes and bits of other sci-fi, including Aliens (baseball caps) and Cowboy Bebop (multilingual signage) and the Lensman stories (the original mad starship engineers!) and A Miracle of Science ("Mars thinks you're cute!").
- And some of my uniform designs are cheerfully ripped from Star Wars, bringing two fandoms into head-on collision. Oh, and I always liked Brian Daley's ground-level take on that universe.
My future reading list includes the Trek-related works of John Ford and Diane Duane, neither of whom I have read, but both I am told have the knack of applying consistency and good writing to the Trek universe. (I've avoided even trying to read Trek novels after bad experiences with the Star Wars Expanded Universe… hopefully this'll go better.)
Recommendations from the Gallery
David Rhode: I am forever in love with John Ford's Final Reflection novel, which tells a tale about the first Federation/Klingon ambassadorial contact, from the Klingon side. In addition to giving the Klingons a culture with more depth than a pack of scrotum-headed hollywood viking samurai, it depicts an early Federation with a few warts. I recommend snagging a copy of that if you haven't read it, or possibly killing someone who has it and taking it.
Pilgrim: Suggested the novel Accelerando.
Meriss: Read The Wounded Sky definately, nonhumanoid species and weird math is fun. While you don't need to leave our universe to find your inner strength it doesn't hurt.
Pawns and Symbols is a must read, its one of the few TOS books where Kilingon's have an actual culture :eek: Which you may want to steal outright.
My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way. Both are excellent peeks at Romulan/Rihannsu culture and language. Yah, there's an actual Romulan language, deal with it :D
Also alot of what you got going on is intriguingly similar to EVEOnline's backstory. Weird coincedence? Or something more sinister? [Shadowjack: Sinister coincidence! I've never played the game, though I've drooled over the screenshots. If only they had a screensaver.]
Punkey: Actually, while I'm going on about NCIS, the TV show of the same name isn't a bad example of the kind of action that I'm thinking about. Lots of international intrigue, spies, foiling terrorist plots (if Al-Qaeda was half as competent in reality as they are in this show, we'd have lost the War on Terror years ago), and other kinds of action mixed in with some really solid investigative and procedural stuff (they're pretty decent about forensics as far as TV shows go and they're very careful about things like warrants and evidence chain of custody). The hostage scenario that's up at the wiki is more along the lines of Flashpoint, which is another great source of inspiration for more SWAT team oriented stuff. If you have to watch just a few episodes, the finale of season 2 (Twilight) and the first two episodes of season 3 (Kill Ari Parts 1 and 2) are a great primer into the kind of action NCIS works in. The team on the show is very scrupulous when it comes to following the law when it comes to most criminal investigations, but they also have a history of bending/breaking the rules when they have to or when they're doing more espionage-related work.
Shadowjack: Oddly enough, the thing which kicked all this off was browsing through some old Trek materials, and discovering the different timelines. I'd forgotten that in the old show, they had several different versions from episode to episode of just which organization Enterprise worked for, before finally settling on "Star Fleet" for "the Federation." They even employed some different timescales—some of the materials implied it was the 28th century, rather than the 23rd or 24th. I read that, went, "Hey, that's different!" And started thinking…
Snichmalu: Here is my ideas. It is the 28-29th Century. Earth is the center of an Empire roughly 500 light years across. The empire is run by a caste system with super-bright, long lived people at the head of major corporations. Earth is a museum outside the vast city states, most country borders exist on a map in reality. Then there are the Warrior caste made up of sociopaths supermen. Then the technocrats/middle class and the poor. Most genetic engineering is done to improve health but radical changes are prohibited. Life is good, as long as you stay in line. Rebels and trouble makers are routinely deported to the frontier. Earth is not alone since humanity has had FTL (stutterwarp, whatever) since the 24th century. To rimward we have the Alliance made of various ideologies from democratic anarchy to infosocialism to transhuman and so on. Mostly they agree that individual rights are sacred but a common foreign policy and defense are needed to secure trade defend against earth. The Alliance Navy and Marines are small but well trained and well equipped since they sometimes act as peacekeepers between member conflicts. They also are backed up by a collection of Planetary Guard and System Fleets of various member planets of size and quality.
To Earth Spinward we have the Federation. In the 2040's a new ideology called infosocialism was developed in which the state owned all intellectual property and grants licenses to manufacture items and sell them in certain areas. Example: you develop a better Wonder Widget, the state grants you the license to manufacture and sell the Widget in the country and when you die, the idea becomes the state's. The Federation is composed of some of the first colonies to break away from domination by earth and having to pay user fees for accessing ideas every time. It is more like the TNG Federation. Social programs are available and many people have access to basic goods and services. No one is really hungry or homeless. But if you want better goods and a lifestyle you still have to work at it. Starfleet is large since all citizens have to perform community service and many volunteer to serve in military service.
To Anti-Spinward we have the Clans. During the Infosocialist Rebellion, Earth's military was ordered to retake the planets at all costs. Facing vicious resistance along with needless casualties and collateral damage many military units rebelled and left the Empire. Grouped around Armies and Divisions they migrated away from Earth. Overtime those armies and division became clans as soldiers married and had children. Stressing service before self in order to become a full fledged member of a clan one must serve in the military of their Clan. The Clans compete against each other for new minerals, trade routes, settlements and bragging rites but bid against each other on who can win with the least amount of units. Clan militaries are better trained and more experienced than many elite units. Then you have the various splinters. One or two planet states, collections of orbitals, planetoid states, religious and techno cults. Ideologies of every stripe. They exist in the remote areas of all the states and beyond.
Many have asked why doesn't the Empire with all it's wealth and might conquer all the states. The answer is that to mass enough force to conquer one the Empire would need to pull forces from the other borders. The same goes for the other states. So we have constant border friction, pocket empires and deals being made.
That is where you come in. You are the elite of the states. You have full backing to investigate and bring justice to those who abuse the system. You are troubleshooters sent to fix the problem quickly and with minimal mess. In the Empire you are called the Watchmen. In the Federation you are the Regulators. In the Alliance you are the Feds and the Clans know you as the Inspectors.
Shadowjack: Interesting! Feels like a much bigger, star-spanning setting—kind of a Star Wars-y / Classic Traveller pulp attitude toward the whole thing.
The Intellectual Property angle is one I think I may swipe. And I like the names for the troubleshooter groups! (Though I may switch 'em around a little… :D)