Alternity Design Blog #14: Protostar Peek, Kickstarter Running

alternitylogowhiteonblackToday we’re going to take a closer look at the Protostar setting for our upcoming Alternity Science Fiction Roleplaying Game, now live on KickstaterProtostar serves as a sample sci-fi setting in the Alternity Core Rulebook—it’s a medium-future, hard-SF setting in which humanity has spread throughout the Solar System and is beginning to explore and colonize the nearby stars. Interested in planetary surveys, vicious corporate competition, power politics, and alien mysteries? You’ll like Protostar. Not interested? No problem, it’s not hardwired into the rulebook—you’ll have plenty of material for building your own setting. Read on!

The Protostar Mission Guide

The Mission Guide sourcebook is where we really dig into the Protostar setting. Think of the Mission Guide as the first season of a television series; each adventure in the book is one episode. Some episodes are tied together by a common storyline or a featured adversary. Others are one-offs: interesting challenges, diversions, mysteries, or opportunities for you to engage with before resolving them and moving on to the next episode. The real common thread of the series is the starring cast—the characters your players create to explore this future. Protostar is their story first and foremost.

An episodic format is also *perfect* for a campaign that focuses heavily on exploring new planets and undertaking secret missions. Once you visit a planet and solve its mystery or make the big discovery waiting for you there, it’s time to move on to the next planet. Likewise, after you infiltrate the restricted asteroid lab or intercept the corporate data courier, you’re ready for the next challenge.

7 Things to Know About Protostar

The universe of the Protostar setting exists several centuries in our own future. Humanity is just beginning to explore the nearby stars, but it’s an age of rivalry and competition. With that in mind, here are a few things to provide a quick overview of what Protostar is all about.

We’ve Settled the Solar System

TCockpit_finalhe combination of fusion power and the EM drive gave us the Solar System early in the 22nd century. Millions of people live on (or in) the Moon, Mars, the Jovian moons, and the larger asteroids. Ships can manage several G’s of acceleration and keep it up for weeks on end, making travel between the planets fast and cheap. Powers such as the Helios League, the Republic of Mars, the Free City of Vesta, the Ring Alliance, and various Earth-based megacorps all race to stake their claims to the most useful unclaimed territory.

We don’t have antigravity and it takes you just as much time to slow down as you spent speeding up. A typical interplanetary voyage consists of several days of 1G acceleration to turnaround, a “flip ship” maneuver in zero-G, and then a deceleration leg for a zero-speed arrival at the destination. You can get from the Earth to Saturn in ten days . . . or half that time if you’re willing to put up with high-G acceleration.

The Triton Anomaly

Colonization of the Solar System was manageable with human technology. Reaching the stars required something extraordinary, though. Eighty years ago, scientists discovered an anomaly on Neptune’s moon Triton: a vast alien structure buried in the icy crust. The structure anchors one end of a wormhole with thousands of possible destinations—some nearby stars, others quite distant indeed. No one knows who built the structure, and only a small fraction of the wormhole destinations have been explored.

The wormhole’s destination is set by a complex “transponder code” signal. For decades now everybody with the means to do so—scientific expeditions, would-be colonizers, corporations seeking valuable resources, and military missions from the rival powers of the Solar System—has been frantically researching new codes to find new destinations. Many codes were quickly discovered and have already been cracked, leading to well-known destinations. But newer codes are increasingly rare and require immense super-computing efforts. A code solution that leads somewhere *new* is potentially worth billions.

Somebody Owns You

Well, probably not you literally, but they own your expensive ship (or your Gate license) and they have ideas about what you should or shouldn’t be doing with it. From the day you set out, you’re entangled in a web of international intrigue, corporate competition, and hidden agendas. Are you looking to climb the corporate ladder by being the most efficient problem-solver they’ve got? Are you a true explorer, dedicated to the mission of solving the mysteries of the galaxy while avoiding the politics? Or are you an opportunist just biding your time, waiting for your big break to come along?

Now and then, pilots wind up with free and clear title to their ships, or manage to escape from government or corporate oversight and go rogue. Some free pilots take work as elite contractors or mercenaries, some scratch out a living as tramp traders or smugglers, and a few set their sights on careers as pirates or raiders. It might sound like a great life, but remember: Someone else wants what you’ve got, and they’re ready to kill you for it.

We’re Alone . . .

We haven’t run into any other starfaring civilizations like us—yet. So far we seem to have the starways to ourselves. But even in the comparatively small corner of the galaxy we think of as “ours” there are many lifeforms known to be intelligent or dangerous inhabiting various planets, and probably several times as many we just don’t know about yet.

. . . And We’re Not Alone

While intelligent species such as the Kwll or the Skiarth pose troubling questions for humans interested in their planets, we’ve also found evidence of starfaring civilizations that may not be around anymore. The ruins of the H’naal have been found in a dozen different planetary systems; while none appear to be less than a million years old, we don’t know for sure where the H’naal came from or why they aren’t around anymore . . . and that means we can’t be really sure that they’re extinct.

There are also persistent rumors of “dark ships” spying out human activity and a handful of inexplicable starship disappearances that might point to the action of some unknown starfaring species. But the authorities insist that any such rumors are nothing more than “barroom spacer’s tales.”

A Time of Danger and Opportunity

Character_ExplorerShip or no ship, Gate license or no Gate license, this is a time for heroes like you: Bold
explorers, steely-eyed mercenaries, defiant outlaws, dedicated investigators, elite secret agents, and more. Try your luck as a wildcat asteroid miner. Take a contract to protect the people of a fledgling settlement from the corporate goons trying to seize the territory beneath their feet. Hire out your services as a professional infiltrator after a priceless Gate code hidden in someone’s server. Track down outlaws hiding in lawless outer-system outposts or inner-system orbital tenements. Or get yourself a ship and a Gate license, and roll the dice with an untried Gate code leading to a destination no one ever’s seen before . . . or come back from. The future is wide open, if you’ve got nerves of steel and icewater in your veins.

The Protostar Nexus

Recently, a new Gate code led to an incredible discovery: a fantastic complex of multiple alien structures like the Triton Anomaly in a protostar system located within the Orion Nebula. Normally a discovery of this sort would have been kept absolutely secret by the organization that funded the expedition, but in this case someone in the know deliberately published the code. Everybody knows how to reach the Protostar Nexus—the next great land rush is on.

Early indications suggest that each one of the structures in the protostar complex has its own wormhole nexus, leading to tens of thousands of new destinations. Why some alien race would have wanted to construct anything in a still-forming star system—or whether the structures somehow influence the protostar and guide its development—are questions that remain unanswered.

Right now, the Protostar is the biggest story in human space. Is this where we meet the Gate builders? Is this where we encounter other starfaring species exploring their own corners of the wormhole network? Or is this the prize that triggers the first interstellar war? Who knows what secrets might lie hidden within? Discover the mysteries of Protostar, for the Alternity Science Fiction Roleplaying Game!