I love the classic “industrial” world. Crowded cities, polluted atmosphere, mass production, and serious wealth disparity. It’s pretty much insta-dystopia. Subsector creation rules make them pretty rare, but I think they’re a great starting place for a sandbox campaign.
Xiangong is just about in the center of the subsector, nestled into a modest J1 main comprising at least 19 worlds. From here, an enterprising tramp freighter could reach the trade caverns on Izanami, the endless oceans of Yemoja, the perilous jungles of Bandua, the metal-rich asteroids of Lofoten, and many more intriguing destinations.
Of course, considering the population of Xiangong, you could probably run a whole campaign without ever leaving the atmosphere. The thought of that makes me a little sad, but you could. A planet with billions of people on it has more than enough greedy schemers to keep the characters busy. And for characters who don’t muster out without a ship of their own, this would be the best place to gain access.
It’s also most likely where the characters are originally from, which is a bit different from the approach to the LBBs. Characters in the great grandpappy edition from 1977 are assumed to be newcomers to the region. Here, you’ll have history. You’ll have connections, and baggage. Heck, you might even have a medical condition because of that crappy polluted air. What was your SOC stat again?
I’ve always liked asteroids, and I wanted a scrappy asteroid region in this subsector. But belts can be pretty spread out, and I wanted something just a bit more manageable. So I decided on trojans, and here we are with Lofoten.
Lofoten is the name of the asteroid archipelago drifting about at the L4 point of a massive gas giant called Mimir. It’s a region about 1.5 AU long by 1 AU wide, with a total mass equivalent to something like 1% of Earth’s moon. The largest body is approximately 150 km in diameter, and there are several thousand with diameters of at least 2 km. It would take a free trader about 3 days to travel from one end to the other.
It’s a dangerous region to travel in if you don’t have up-to-date charts. Lots of dust and particles that can beat up a ship. In some cases it might be like getting hit with sandcaster pebbles.
Since libration makes the various rocks drift around in relation to one another, I thought it might be appropriate to give the locals a nomadic feel. Something like the belters from The Expanse crossed with the Dothraki from Game of Thrones. Post-fall, it’s a lot of worn-down mining and freight ships cobbled together into fleets, trading with the occasional tramp that finds its way out from Xiangong. They probably have a few dedicated runs of their own into the more populated systems to get essentials that they can’t easily produce.
Adventurers who travel here can trade for cheap ore and other mined stuff. Occasionally they might be able to score some local narcotics — all that time cooped up in little ships, you bet they have drugs. A lot of goods will sell well here, as they’re a small population without much industry of their own.
As for trouble to get into, assume it’s a society that’s too small to war amongst itself, but there are rituals and traditions in place to settle grievances. A PC who says the wrong thing might find his or herself in a rusted out cargo bay in a knife fight. I also think an important rule for CE and its ancestors is that power corrupts, and it’s a rare person of influence who isn’t some combination of greedy and depraved. The PCs always make ideal pawns for their schemes. And don’t forget the outcasts, pirate-like groups who have abandoned traditions and prey upon whomever they like.
My first new project is a subsector setting for the Cepheus Engine sci-fi game system, which I’m tentatively calling Xiangong, after one of the worlds.
I recently read a series of articles about the sources and inspiration for CE’s 1977 ancestor game, in particular a bit about how The Man Who Would Be King is an ideal example of an adventure for the game. A couple scoundrels with guns head to a backwater country with a scheme of getting rich. Put that next to the stories in the Dumarest Saga, and you have a rough, dangerous, largely amoral setting that sounds a lot more like Conan’s Hyperboria than the Third Imperium. Like sword and sorcery, but in this case, sword and spaceship!
Instead of ships filling the skies and million-ton dreadnoughts, I want isolated worlds, small ships, corrupt magistrates, petty and scheming nobles. I want a setting where the characters can mess up the status quo, set things on fire, start a war, win a war, get rich or die trying.
So here’s Xiangong subsector as a response to that. Once a province of the Federation, now it’s an isolated cluster of worlds struggling to get by.
- Xiangong, a polluted factory planet, where life is cheap and the wealthy live in shimmering spires that tower over the toxic clouds. Side with the uprising, or get paid to infiltrate and suppress them.
- Lofoten, clans of nomads fighting over the resources of an asteroid belt. Get into a knife fight and take over one of the clans!
- Rhiannon, a deadly world where nearly everything can kill you, but the lure of mysterious alien artifacts brings a constant flow of fortune seekers. Hire a team and see how far you get.
- Boudica, where the terraforming machinery has been disrupted and the environment is slowly failing, while petty warlords fight over the scraps. Play them against each other like Yojimbo, or become a warlord yourself!
… and many more!
Most of the worlds will be fairly low tech, so an enterprising individual can show up and get into all kinds of trouble.
My vision right now is to focus on a cluster that’s J-3 from Xiangong, and give each of those worlds a writeup with locations, factions, patrons, trade info, and rumors/encounters. Stuff that a GM can use to run a sandbox.
Expect updates as I go.