Friday, January 16, 2009

Solar Trader 2776

Solar Traders 2776 (NUGGET Campaign Setting)
"History teaches us that man learns nothing from history."
-George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

The year is 2776, and Earth is an industrialized wasteland. Greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants, mixed with the nano and biological terrors unleashed during the equatorial wars of the 2240’s, has made much of earth into a no-mans land. Vast deserts, ruined cities, stinking bogs and a poisoned ecology cover most of the land, haunted by savage bands of short-lived wild men. Domed cities in the far north and south hemispheres are all that remains of Earth cities, where corporations supply all the necessities and jobs of mankind. The moon now hosts the seats of industry and government from their domed and buried cities, dotted with industrial yards, refineries, and ship docks, as well as a Manhattan-like prestige of cultural diversity and trend setting in its underground cities.
The solar system has a U.N. like government, though it is actually ruled by “compires” or corporate empires (think mafia/feudal families) that wage trade wars with each other as they pursue their own clandestine agendas. Mars is now the great frontier of the solar system, with growing boomtowns catering to the extensive terraforming procedures underway, though any real headway is a way off as yet. Asteroid mining and vast hydroponics facilities dot the asteroid belt, but still the yawning gulf of the interplanetary deep is in need of crossing.
Great freight vessels ply the night sea with cargoes for colonies, corporations, and the outer observatories past the belt and towards the sun. These vast ships are all that connects the far colonies to civilization and certain death, as they are rarely self-sufficient.

The people of the dystopic future are both overcrowded and painfully isolated. Within the domed arcologies of the civilized worlds mankind lives in cramped, close quarters, with an over abundance of mindless and mind-numbing entertainments. Few of the masses in the lower tiers of society have any real hope to rise beyond their meager means, with most feeling fortunate for back-breaking, and/or soul numbing labor in service to corporate masters. Corporations own everything, and the only things that are illegal, are those things that aren’t paid for. Think Blade Runner, Robocop 1 &2, Alien vs Predator (comic), and Alien (1,3,4).
In response to an input glutted society, many people have turned to a small town mentality, as well as one more focused on superstition than science. Cults, Secret Societies, Gangs, Assorted Deviants and Xenophobes are quite common. Folk doctors and self taught street surgeons are consulted far more often than corporate doctors. The vast corporate powers mostly ignore these groups as long as they show up to work on time and pay their bills.

Recommended Reading for GMs and Players
All of the following books help reflect the oppressive and all-too likely result of our present cultural and ecological indescretions. All are sobering and intriguing reads that can go a long way to capturing the feel of the world in 2776.
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Clade by Mark Budz
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Story Concept #1: The characters will be serving as crew on the Independent space trader Herculaneum (or Herk to the crew). The crew takes turns in cryo during the four-month journey between Mars and Europa. The setting is gritty, dirty, and dystopic. People join merchant corps to get away from the crushing poverty and corruption of the civilized world; all for pay that is deposited in banks back home (and that they have to dip into to get supplies beyond the utter basics).
Story Concept #2: The huge wasteland that is the earth still has a lot to offer to right minded folks (the PC’s). The characters are corporate privateers searching for lost research data from before The Collapse tucked away in the deserts of Earth. Their ship is not designed for extensive atmospheric flight, so they will have to set out in a Land Crawler. There isn’t supposed to be much life locally, but there are local rumors…
Enemies: Savage Tribesmen (cannibals), Horrific sandstorms (howling like the mournful wailing of damned souls), Ships Captain (on the take), Mutant Undead Creepy Things (MUCT), Independent Spaceman’s Union (ISU).

Game System
For Space Trader, I will be using a variation on the NUGGET system available for free from Silver Branch Games. NUGGET is a fairly simple game system that is easy to learn and adapt to individual games and settings.

Beyond unconfirmed reports of alien sightings, there are no intelligent aliens in Solar Trader 2776. Microbes and other "simple" lifeforms have been discovered on many planets, but nothing that can make for player characters. Mutated or otherwise altered humans are a possibility though.

Example skills
Here are some suggestions for common skills to help you along.
Arts (specify - e.g. a musical instrument, Painting)
Athletics (lifting, jumping, throwing, etc)
Computer (specify -e.g. Hardware, Software, A.I. interaction)
Drive/Pilot (specify - e.g. Car, Motorbike, Boat, Shuttle)
Engineering family: Mechanics, Electronics, Construction
Fighting (specify - e.g. Unarmed, Sword, Knife, Gun)
Firearms (specify - e.g. Handguns, Rifles, Machine Guns, Ray Guns)
Language (specify - each is a separate skill, level 1 is .tourist. proficiency)
Natural History
Physical Science family: Biology, Chemistry, Geophysics, Physics
Social Science family: History, Law, Psychology, Sociology

Sample Careers
Most people in Solar Trader will be Technicians and assorted Laborers, with Pilots, Scientists, Security Personel, Businessmen and Beaurocrats. Psychics also exist (see below).

Psychics and Psychic Skills
Psychic powers are a reality in 2776, with its practitioners being seen as mutants, magicians and sometimes as evolved humankind. Use of psychic powers require that the characters starting career is “Psychic” and that he or she spend skill points in one or more psychic skills. Known psychic skills are Clairvoyance, Telepathy and Telekinesis, but others are rumored to exist.
Using psychic skills requires a Brains + Psychic skill roll for using a power and Will for the effect when applicable. Use of psychic skills cost a Hurt unless a success is spent to be good enough to avoid it.

Wild Technology
Technology in 2776 is quite advanced. Spaceships, simulated gravity, and all manner of wonderous gadgets are out there, most of which are VERY expensive and require extensive training to use. Weapons such as firearms are not normally used in space, as an errant shot can puncture a hull (and kill everyone), replaced with assorted stun weaponry and melee weapons such as clubs and knives where needed. If firearms are needed or desired, make energy/ray weaponry be of the sort that disrupts living things such as radiation or sound weapons, and keep projectile weapons illegal.
Game Masters are encouraged to have most technology be so everyday that is sounds almost hum-drum. Manking in 2776 lives alongside wonders of science and nature, but hardly notices over the background roar of the drudgery of survival.


Robots come in all shapes and sizes, from small maintenance bots, to security and accouting types. Robots in-general are very expensive, far more expensive than human laborers, with most owners more willing to risk the safety of human employees over the mechanized help. All are fairly intelligent, and strong but lack imagination or much self motivation. Most will obey their programming and/or last commands to the letter.

JANUS (Maintenance Robot)
The JANUS is a simple maintenance droid that is used for everything from ship repair to heavy waste disposal.
Brawn 4, Agility 2, Brains 2, Will 0
Skills: Computer (all) 3, Engineering (all) 1
Special: Immune to mental attack, poison and disease.
Combat: Initiative 4, Physical Resistence 6.

LUG (Security Robot)
The LUG is a standard security robot, used to defend important installations and cargo.
Brawn 8, Agility 2, Brains 1, Will 0
Skills: Computer (all) 2, Fighting (all) 3, Firearms (ray guns) 2.
Special: Immune to mental attack, poison and disease.
Combat: Initiative 6, Physical Resistence 10. Stun Pistol (4 dice damage).

Note: I really like the NUGGET system, not least of which because it is free. As for the setting, I adore gritty Dystopic setting where a storyteller/GM can underline the futility of mans greed. In Solar Trader 2776, mankind has achieved a civilization across multiple planets, but most folks are unhappy, living in squallor under Corporate Empires. The more things change, the more they stay the same...
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