The question is, why? Well, some of this is serendipity. Mik is very active with the Minions of the Monster Master, of course, and they had been kicking around ideas for a Kickstarter project. I piped in and said that I had a idea, and we went for it.
I'm sure that if you've played RPGs for as long as I have then you have probably messed around with making your own RPG system before. Most indie systems or homebrews that I see out there are usually designed around a setting. Makes sense, right? The creators are trying to tell a story through their RPG and their setting and system is how they do it. But what got me really excited about this idea wasn't just the fact that we had a killer setting. But the fact that this was the first time I had sat down and designed a system in order to actually solve a few long-standing quandaries of mine.
Solving Long Standing Problems through an RPG
I love military science fiction. And one of the key elements of military sci-fi is the human drama of not just protecting your own life, but the life of the people around you. Your comrades and the people under your command are counting on you. These narrative elements help make a story epic, because you are not just dealing with a single character, but a cast of characters. And that cast of characters are dealing with the highest stakes possible. Their own survival.
However, most table top RPG systems out there focus on a single character, controlled by a single player, not a commander of soldiers. (Notable exceptions not withstanding.)
So, there you have it. I set out to design a system that solves these two dilemmas. One - can you design a system where a character is a military commander? Where you are in control of not just a single character, but a unit of troops? And, two - can you design a system that has the same feel of a classic, military-style fiction game?
Well, we think we have.
Now. Where to Set It?
While I was working on solving these particular dilemmas, I was also thinking about where to set my game. Far-flung future? Transhuman space? Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I thought about using a game setting that I knew had real teeth: the World of Alpha Wolf Pack.
I had created the Alpha Wolf Pack setting for a series of mini-campaigns we did about 10 years ago with the Minions of the Monster Master. The core idea behind it was that it was a setting where the player characters were colonial space-marines, fighting on space-stations and other planets. To make it distinctive, however, I made the setting one that was in the gritty near-future instead of a space opera set in the far-future. I wanted it to have understandable, speculative science.
I had the conflicts take place mainly in our own solar system. The idea was that, in order to be epic and amazing, you don't have to go to some far-flung alien world. That which is epic and extraordinary is right in our own cosmic backyard. Imagine a battle on a moon of Saturn, with Saturn and her rings filling up your horizon. Imagine a battle aboard a station floating over Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a storm the size of three Earths. Imagine a conflict on Mars as a massive dust storm approaches, threatening to wipe you and your opponent off of its surface.
However, to incorporate some more of the frontier spirit and bring in more fantastical elements, we eventually opened up the campaign to other star systems. In the setting, as it currently sits, humanity has reached Barnard's Star and Alpha Centauri. But that's it. The idea behind this is to make the uncovering of two whole solar systems a big deal, because it really would be. We still don't know all of the ins and outs of our own planet Earth and we've lived on it for tens of thousands of years. Just finding a single new and alien world would provide us with multiple lifetimes of questions, opportunities for exploration, and new insights. Finally, it also gives the setting that frontier feel. It's a setting where we are taking our first tentative steps into a larger universe.
Next up, I'll talk about the men and women of Alpha Wolf Pack. Sign up now! Service brings honor to you and peace to our universe! Service guarantees citizenship!