So, I've been hankering for a very specific sort of game for a very long time, and finally got around to writing down some information. Now that Ares is out, I actually think that (with some tweaks) the kind of play that Ares promotes might be a good fit for what I want from the game. It's not something that I'd ever expect to have a broad appeal: it's SF, but not hard SF with reams and reams of specialized equipment, but rather a focus on colonization and discovery, with some light sim elements (in that building the colony is a tentpole of the gameplay, and the colony has stats which can be impacted by events, which in turn impact other events, and it is entirely possible for the colony to fail and pretty much everyone to die...although that's not LIKELY. But it is possible) and some creative elements (in that players will have a hand in creating flora and fauna as it's discovered) and some survival elements (diseases are a thing, requiring food supplies is a thing, environmental hazards are a thing, etc.).
So, after writing far too much on it, I thought why not toss some of it out and see what other people think. It's definitely a niche project, but feedback is appreciated. I'll start with just the premise and 'who the characters are' and 'what do they do' broad strokes, but I can elaborate on most anything if people are interested.
All characters are crew and cargo of the colony ship Excelsior, which was bound for an officially chartered planet on the edge of explored space. Instead, after an unknown disaster in transit, the ship’s automated systems have crash-landed the vessel on an entirely unknown planet, outside of the known systems. Excelsior, once grounded, was never meant to take off again, and as the planet proves not immediately inimical to human life, the ship initiates colonization protocols, and its crew and cargo awaken.
What Do Characters Do?
There are three ‘core’ aspects of play on Excelsior, which will be facilitated and supported by staff:
Survival: The planet that the Excelsior has landed on is entirely unprepared for human colonization, and none of the scouting logs and readings in the ship’s databanks are relevant to it. Discovering and surviving the dangers is a key aspect of game play - there will be environmental hazards, predators, diseases, and unknown factors to discover, survive, and overcome. This aspect of play encourages and primarily engages scientific and exploration based characters.
Civilization Building: Each colonist and crew member was issued a specific plot of land with specific resources and rights - none of which are valid anymore. The agreed upon Charter for the creation of a probationary colonial government could, arguably, also no longer be valid. Determining how to set up the new government, how to honor (or not honor) the land grants, and other social and organizational issues is an ongoing source of conflict and negotiation, especially between factions who had originally planned to be separated from each other, but now must rely on others for survival in an unregimented environment. This aspect of play encourages and primarily engages diplomatic and social based characters.
Mysteries: The planet and vessel offer mysteries based in the past, and uncovered in the present. One of the biggest questions to resolve in the beginning is - how did the Excelsior get so badly off-course, and then choose to crash land on a planet that happened to be habitable by humanity? Was it truly an accident? And if it wasn’t, what was the purpose and - more importantly - are the perpetrators still in the colony and planning further disruptions? However, as the world is explored, further mysteries are uncovered with ruins and signs of ancient alien civilizations, as well as technology of unknown purpose and operation. This aspect of play encourages and primarily engages investigative and intellectual based characters.
Who Are The Characters?
Human: There are no playable alien races in Excelsior. Humanity has come in contact with a few alien species, but the level of integration is minimal.
Factions: The original colony plan had several organizational charters, as well as numerous independent settlers. The organizational charters provide starting factions, although it is expected that characters can create new ones or dissolve old ones as the game progresses.
Excelsior Crew: Excelsior’s crew were originally meant to serve as an immediate provisional government, and have been trained to work together, as well as having a hierarchy headed by the Captain, then the Executive Officer, three Division Heads (Engineering, Astrogation, and Internal Systems), and a Colonial Manager.
Solip Schism Services: Employees and executives of a megacorp who were chartered a significant amount of land and mineral resource rights in EUX-065’s southern continent. SSS specializes in resource extraction, processing, and shipment.
Xenoecology Unlimited: Researchers and administrators associated with a system-spanning nonprofit organization charged with attempting to catalog and preserve examples of all known life. Since every new planet is teeming with undiscovered flora and fauna, it is accepted that the fieldwork is a life appointment.
Interstellar Protectors: Members of a private security firm who were contracted by the colony to provide law enforcement and protection for the first five years of the colony, until native systems could be developed and filled. IP has a policing division and a quasi-military division.
The Navidison Initiative: A colonist collective who agreed in their organizational charter to abide by the teachings of Ophelia Navidison, a psychologist and theologian who preached genetic integration between human and environment; most members of TNI have genetic enhancements meant to aid them in adaptation with their chosen homeworld. This is not their chosen homeworld.
Independents: In addition to the orgs, there are thousands of colonists who gathered the money to pay for their own charter, and who may come from a wide variety of backgrounds, skills, and affiliations.
Colonists: All characters are colonists from the Excelsior. There are no natives or native humans on the planet, nor will there be any additional drops or contact with the wider civilization of humanity in the initial stages (and possibly not ever). New characters may either be freshly unthawed from the colony banks, or they can have been in the background and ‘emerge’ as main characters, but no non-Excelsior origins are accepted.