You'd imagine that running two fantasy campaigns, using the same rules system, would be enough to keep a GM focused on writing and creating stories for his players. If you're like me, however, you'd be wrong.
Alongside the really enjoyable experience of running a Pathfinder campaign in Golarion for the school group and a Mykovnia campaign for the Friday Roleplay group, I've been dreaming of New Haven... but in a new way.
In all my past blog posts about SF you've heard me talk a lot about the heady days of Traveller and wanting to recapture some of that spirit... but tweaked to fit my own tastes and style. Whilst this has been a great starting point for me, providing a really exciting basis for my speculations and creative juices to flow, it has also acted as a kind of limiting bubble.
When you are creating within an existing setting not of your own design you have a wonderful framework which effectively scaffolds your creative writing. The basic assumptions of the setting underpin your thinking and you have locations, characters and story hooks laid out for you to either pick up or ignore, at your discretion. This is all good stuff, especially for the aspirant Gamesmaster who has limited time. In my own gaming right now the Golarion setting for Pathfinder, combined with the 'Rise of the Runelords' adventures, provides some 80% of what I need to run those newbie players through some great gaming.
Scaffolding, however, can also prove to be pretty ugly when it's not taken down. Whilst the metaphor I'm employing is crude, please bear with me. Imagine the house is built but the builders don't remove the scaffold. The new owners will feel that the structure of steel tubes is blocking the view to the lovely architecture of the house. This is somehow similar to how I feel when I dig back into creating stories based in the Official Traveller Universe.
Traveller provides a lovely setting... but one which comes with too much scaffolding in so many places. It's why I don't like to set games in the Spinward Marches and immediately feel drawn to the Solomani Rim. But then I run into so much pregenerated detail on the macro-scale and precious little on the micro-scale... and where I need the details feels empty. It's a bit like expecting a fully furnished house and finding that it's not even been basically decorated. Over the past few weeks as I have been envisioning the detail of New Haven, a totally new detail for that setting, I felt that the macro-stuff was getting in the way of the interesting ideas I was writing.
Graduation came yesterday. Whilst thinking over some questions relating to the story I'd like to tell first I realised that the scaffolding was blocking my view... and it is time to remove the scaffold.
Serene Dawn began as a name for a starship in Traveller. It's recently morphed into the name for my campaign on the Rim. Yesteday it became the name of my own SF setting. When I realised that this was really what I wanted to do, serenity fell upon my mind.
Serene Dawn is also absorbing some of the ideas that have been bubbling around my head for many, many years. One example is the tone and feeling of fear and conspiracy which informed the concept of Dark Reich, my alternative World War II setting. Another is the sense of grand adventure that games such as Alternity and Traveller have fueled for years.
Right now things are embryonic but they are unfolding, evolving. New Haven has become the starting point in the creation of a galaxy-spanning fiction which, at the heart, is all about my vision of the future. Science and technology fused with human concerns about identity, power, order and liberty. Belief and experience meeting with the challenges of a galaxy which refuses to be tamed and conquered.
I've got no immediate plans to play. I'm starting by writing. I'm starting small and seeing where the story takes me... and to whom.
Drawing on inspiration that surrounds me in the form of countless past SF games, settings, ideas and thoughts the plan is to simply piece together the picture that is already in my mind's eye. It's a future inspired by Imperial SF but blended with Psi-Fi and the conspiracy tales from the likes of 'X-Files' and 'Space: Above and Beyond'. You'll probably find pieces of 'Hammer's Slammers' too, as I fold the military tropes into the story. Who knows... you might even find an alien or two.
If you want to know more... well, watch this space. I'll not be able to keep it to myself.
A new dawn is rising...