I’ve been watching the Sy-Fy TV Series “The Expanse” recently, and found it very interesting. Doing some cursor research reveals that the original author was writing the setting as an MMO which never made it out of the “pitch” stage, then translated it to a play-by-post forum RPG, and it is now a book series, and an ambitious TV series.
For those of you who haven’t come across the books or TV show yet, the basic plot is that mankind has expanded into the solar system, establishing a Martian colony and a series of smaller colonies in the asteroid belt and orbiting some of the outer planets. The Earth and Mars are the established super-powers of the solar system, with Earth ruled by the UN, and having a sizeable, well supported, but slightly technically inferior navy, and Mars having a smaller, but better equipped and trained navy. While I wouldn’t call the situation between them a “cold war”, they are at very least tense rivals. Meanwhile, the “belters” are the third leg in the precariously balanced solar system. The Belt is nominally controlled by Earth and Mars, or at least by corporations based on one of the “inner planets”, but there is a rising power in the model of the PLO, or the IRA: One part terrorist network, one part organized crime syndicate, one part legitimate government, the Outer Planets Alliance or OPA works to establish economic independence for the Belters.
In other words, the setting isn’t much new. It clearly draws a lot from Larry Niven’s solar system politics, blended a bit with the politicial tensions of Peter Hamilton’s “Night’s Dawn” universe, and Frederick Pohl’s “Hechee” series. That isn’t to say that it’s boring, but just that there’s a lot of themes to echo, and the authors do a good job of pulling the good bits from a lot of different places. This makes it a great place to game in, because the players don’t have to have read the specific source material of The Expanse novels, they just have to have read at least a few of the big, well known sci-fi series of the last 50 years.
Now originally, I wanted this post to be about how I would adapt White Star Traveller, The Space Hack, Bulldogs (Fate) or Stars Without Number to run this setting but I’ve kind of hit a wall. None of those are exactly appropriate for running this universe. All of them make various assumptions (FTL travel, psionic or magical powers, specific styles of galactic government, etc) so any modification ends up being a bit more than just toss some names on existing classes, and call it good.
So instead, over the next few weeks, I’m going to do a series on how I’d adapt specific aspects of several different game systems in order to make an “Expanse” roleplaying game.