I’m continuing my thoughts on Sci Fi setting ‘dials’. Here is a brain dump of version technologies that you should probably consider for any Sci Fi setting. At the end I give my opinion on which technologies I typically use or avoid.
- FTL Drives —Are there faster-than-light drives? How do they work? (My favorite is Classic Traveller-style Jump drives. Ships are rated with FTL drives Jump 1 to Jump 3. You have 8×10 hex subsector maps, each hex is a parsec wide, and each Jump rating lets you jump 1 hex. So a Jump 3 ship can go 3 hexes on the map. Jumps take about 2 weeks regardless of distance.)
- Slower-than-Light Drives — What do they call that? Impulse, fusion drive, planetary drive, etc.
- Cloaking Devices — Yeah or nay? I’d say avoid them.
- Tractor Beams — Yeah or nay?
- Artificial Gravity — All but the hardest Sci Fi has this; otherwise miniature combat is going to be really weird!
- Force Fields — They have them in Star Wars but they are rarely mentioned. In Star Trek they are a key trop in starship combat (‘Shields at 13%!’).
- Teleportation — Any teleportation devices? If you use a Star Trek style ‘beam’ technology you’ll need specific rules or else bad guys will put an A-Bomb on your bridge.
- Levitation Technology — Is there something like repulsorlift technology like you have in Star Wars that lets vehicles hover over the ground?
Combat and Recovery
- Guns — Are slug throwers (like Battlestar Galactica) or energy weapons the norm?
- Healing — Bacta tanks, autodocs, etc.
- Combat Armor — Allowed? How powerful, is this Starship Troopers?
- Stasis Technology — Any way to freeze or put folks into stasis?
- AI’s — Cool but may make knowledge checks OP if the computer knows everything in the universe and can give you the best plan to attack your enemy.
- Computer Hacking — Is computer hacking and diving into cyberspace a thing?
- Internet — Is there a datanet / data grid like the internet? If so, how does it work? Planetary? Galactic?
- Cloning and genetic engineering — What does the setting have if any? Is it legal?
- Cybernetics — Any implants allowed?
- Nanotechnology — Most settings don’t have it; need to think through impacts if you add this.
- Transhumanism — Any folks with hands for feet, extra limbs, and weird stuff?
- Aging — Is there a Niven-style boosterspice type drug to slow aging?
- Holography — Most settings have a bit of this.
- FTL Communications — Is communications age-of-sail style, where you can’t communicate faster than ship travel speed? Or is it like Star Trek and Star Wars where you can real-time video chat through ‘subspace’? The latter looks good in the movies but also let’s you call for help and I think is more troublesome than helpful for RPG games.
- PC Races — PCs as Humans-only, or other creatures? Can humans be robots?
- Languages — Is there some sort of universal translator if/when you have an alien first contact? What is the common language called?
- Royalty — Is there an aristocracy, with space barons and feudalism? If you want to save the space princess, you’ll want this.
- Psionics — Do folks have it? Is it rare? Illegal?
My Preferred ‘Setting Dials’
Most settings I like (in terms of RPG settings) have these dial setting:
- FTL — Jump drive technology like Classic Traveller.
- Communication — Communication is Age of Sail; no subspace faster than FTL jumps.
- No AI’s on Ships — Otherwise too easy for PCs.
- Internet is planetary — Otherwise too easy for PCs.
- No nanotechnology — Keep it lower tech.
- No transhumanism — Too weird for my tastes.
- No teleportation — Too weird or OP.
- No psionics for PCs — Only for NPCs.
- No cyberspace — You can hack computers Star Wars style, but you’re not doing a Tron style immersion into cyberspace.