I’ve been playing lots of traditional (group) RPG sessions, but I want to dig back into some solo gaming. Last time I played Starforged, it ended quickly. But this time, I intend to focus on exploration and discovery. What amazing sights have never been seen by humans? What can we find that helps our society to survive and grow?
Originally, I started to use the truths from my previous campaign. But not only did that one end after one session, it just had a different focus. This time, I want to focus on the exploration and discovery of the cluster. So I’m going to create a new set of truths. By default, the future here is perilous, lonely, diverse, far-flung, unexplored, wondrous, retro, unjust, and hopeful. These work well for what I want to do in terms of exploration. I play a lot of horror and horror-adjacent games, but not for this one.
The Sun Plague extinguished the stars in our home galaxy.
The anomaly traveled at incredible speeds, many times faster than light itself, and snuffed out the stars around us before we realized it was coming. Few of us survived as we made our way to this new galaxy. Here in the Forge, the stars are still aflame. We cling to their warmth like weary travelers huddled around a fire.
For the purposes of this campaign, we’ll leave the cause of the Sun Plague undefined. If it becomes relevant in play, we can come back to it. But for now, it’s just a thing that happened long ago.
Mysterious alien gates provided instantaneous one-way passage to the Forge.
In the midst of the cataclysm, our ancestors found a strange metal pillar on our homeworld’s moon. A map on the surface of this alien relic detailed the deep-space locations of the Iron Gates—massive devices that powered artificial wormholes. With no other options, the Exodus ships fled through the gates and emerged here in the Forge.
I like the implications for future exploration related to these Iron Gates. This will likely tie into the Precursor Ruins that get discussed later in this exercise.
We have made our mark in this galaxy, but the energy storms we call balefires threaten to undo that progress, leaving our communities isolated and vulnerable.
Starships navigate along bustling trade routes between settlements. We’ve built burgeoning outposts on the fringes of known sectors, and bold spacers chart new paths into unexplored domains. But this hard-earned success is threatened by the chaotic balefires, intense energy anomalies that cut off trade routes and threaten entire planets.
This will help emphasize the isolation of the systems in the cluster. We might even dig into them as a theme, depending on how everything else shakes out.
Iron vows are sworn upon totems crafted from the enigmatic metal we call black iron.
Black iron was first forged by a long-dead civilization. Some say it is a living metal, attuned to the hidden depths of the universe. Remnants of this prized resource are found within ancient sites throughout the Forge. It is resistant to damage and corrosion, but can be molded using superheated plasma at specialized facilities. The Ironsworn carry weapons, armor, or tokens crafted from black iron, and swear vows upon it.
There’s a built-in hook to go exploring those ruins for black iron and to understand more about the Precursors. It might even help with the visualization of our character.
Much of the settled domains are a lawless frontier. Criminal factions and corrupt leaders often hold sway.
Powers rise and fall in the Forge, so any authority is fleeting. In the end, we must fend for ourselves. A few communities are bastions of successful autonomy, but many are corrupted or preyed upon by petty despots, criminals, and raiders.
Last time, I focused on bounty hunting because that drove the whole initial concept. This time, we’ll be out in the unexplored reaches, and this might even give us a reason to avoid settlements because of some troubles with a local authority.
Our gods failed us. We left them behind.
The Exodus was a tipping point. The gods offered no help to the billions who died in the cataclysm, and spirituality has little meaning in the Forge. Most now see religion as a useless relic of our past. But the search for meaning continues, and many are all-too-willing to follow a charismatic leader who claims to offer a better way.
I just don’t really want to deal with religion here. It’s not my focus. In other games, I might deal with it to explore my own thoughts and feelings on this subject, but not this time.
Magic does not exist.
Some look to superstition and age-old traditions for comfort in this unforgiving galaxy. But that is foolishness. What some call magic is simply a product of technologies or natural forces we aren’t yet equipped to understand.
This is what I did last time and it’s just how I like my science fiction. Starforged isn’t really hard sci-fi, but I’d rather think of things like Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Information is life. We rely on spaceborne couriers to transport messages and data across the vast distances between settlements.
Direct communication and transmissions beyond the near-space of a ship or outpost are impossible. Digital archives are available at larger outposts, but the information is not always up-to-date or reliable. Therefore, the most important communications and discoveries are carried by couriers who swear vows to see that data safely to its destination.
I don’t think this character will be a courier but future ones could be. And it raises the stakes for reporting back to the community about our discoveries.
To help offset a scarcity of medical supplies and knowledge, the resourceful technicians we call riggers create basic organ and limb replacements.
Much was lost in the Exodus, and what remains of our medical technologies and expertise is co-opted by the privileged and powerful. For most, advanced medical care is out of reach. When someone suffers a grievous injury, they’ll often turn to a rigger for a makeshift mechanical solution.
I like the idea of grizzled old explorers with prosthetics and cybernetics, dispensing information and rumors. It reminds me of some of my favorite scenes in “The Book of Boba Fett”.
Artificial consciousness emerged in the time before the Exodus, and sentient machines live with us here in the Forge.
Our ships, digital assistants, bots, and other systems often house advanced AI. For a lone traveler, machine intelligence can provide companionship and aid within the perilous depths of the Forge.
To be honest, I plan to use AI such as ChatGPT in this solo campaign. In fact, Github Copilot has helped me write this post. I don’t know exactly how this is going to go, but I like the idea of AI companions both in fiction and IRL.
Here in the Forge, resources are too precious to support organized fighting forces or advanced weaponry.
Weapons are simple and cheap. Starships are often cobbled together from salvage. Most communities rely on ragtag bands of poorly equipped conscripts or volunteers to defend their holdings, and raiders prowl the Forge in search of easy prey.
Combat is not the focus here and it’s good to have a reason to explore for resources. Besides, if we’re going to have a civilization that fled from our homeland, let’s pull together and not fight each other on such a large scale. Small conflicts can still provide narrative drama for our purposes here.
This is a perilous and often inhospitable galaxy, but life finds a way.
Life in the Forge is diverse. Planets are often home to a vast array of creatures, and our starships cruise with spaceborne lifeforms riding their wake. Even animals from our homeworld— carried aboard the Exodus ships—have adapted to live with us in the Forge.
“Life, uh, finds a way.” What else do I need?
Over eons, a vast number of civilizations rose and fell within the Forge. Today, the folk we call grubs—scavenger crews and audacious explorers—delve into the mysterious monuments and ruins of those ancient beings.
Incomprehensible technologies, inexorable time, and the strange energies of the Forge have corrupted the vaults of the precursors. Despite the perils, grubs scour those places for useful resources and discoveries. But some secrets are best left buried, and many have been lost to the forsaken depths of the vaults.
We’re playing a grub, and this provides a lot more diversity of opportunity than the other options. I may bring in some resources from other games and this will help.
Put enough alcohol in a spacer, and they’ll tell you stories of ghost ships crewed by vengeful undead. It’s nonsense.
Within the Forge, space and time are as mutable and unstable as a flooding river. When reality can’t be trusted, we are bound to encounter unsettling phenomenon.
Weird stuff can happen but this isn’t Mothership. I love horror, but I want to explore different ideas here.
Because we’re focused on exploration, we’ll be out in the Expanse. “Only a few bold pioneers have delved these far-flung reaches. If you’re ready to face the dangers of lonely exploration within uncharted space, start here.”
That means two settlements. (117)
A decently-populated space station. What does “Attack Burden” mean? The burden could be taxes or tribute paid to some other polity, so there’s some sort of revolution brewing. That will mostly provide backdrop as we’re not focused on politics and intrigue. The “Energy” project could relate to whatever world Apex orbits.
Therefore, for the orbital body itself:
We’ll call this world “Ember”. Somehow the molten landscape or the resources on it relate to the fact that this station provides energy. I like the idea that it’s some resource that gets shipped to other worlds. That’s a good source of tax revenue as well, driving the political conflict above.
This is a much smaller space station. We won’t yet define what the corruption is, but it could be a medical facility that’s been turned into a black market for organ transplants. The archaeology project could be a dig site for some ancient ruins that relate to the medical technology they use, maybe? Let’s see what the world is:
Yes, there are some underwater resources from a prior civilization that relate to healing in some way. The world here is named “Droplet” to keep with the theme we established in the first settlement.
Next session, I’ll create a character and start an initial quest. I haven’t decided which settlement to start from, either. That will hopefully flow from the Quest Starter I choose. I’m leaning towards Apex because it seems like a good place to start expeditions from, whereas Erebus seems like a place to go when exploring.