(Apologies if this is longer than most entries, but I’m adapting this from notes for a short story collection I am creating. I don’t have a particular RPG system in mind, as I usually play fantasy games like DND or Pathfinder, so if anyone is into Scifi RPGs, I’m all ears. Also go easy on my MS Paint art.)
Concept: When the crew of the military research station, Ulysses, first awoke from their six-month hibernation in deep space, they expected to be enroute to one of humanity’s many interstellar colonies. Instead, they awoke to find themselves in the grasp of a supermassive black hole.
While the crew’s journey lasted less than a year from their frame of reference, roughly 50,000 years have passed on Earth due to time dilation. Now the crew must survive in this strange time period and discover what caused their change of course, and more importantly, what happened to the rest of humanity. ÆON’S RIFT is a mystery survival RPG with elements of both contemporary weird fiction and military science fiction. The players must survive in a galaxy where humanity has fractured beyond recognition, and forge a future for all mankind.
Setting/History: As the crew escapes the pull of the super massive black hole, they discover a universe vastly different from the one they knew six months ago. Any attempt to contact Earth is met with silence. The crew soon discovers that several of humanity’s colonies have seemingly collapsed. A mixture of genetic engineering and natural adaptation has resulted in several instances of speciation among humanity’s isolated colonies. As the players explore this changed universe, they will encounter new mutated species of humans, some familiar, and others monstrous. Players will also encounter an array of strange, complex alien life. Below are just a few examples of locations that players can explore.
(Note: Information about the various planets and species that inhabit them are meant to be revealed over time as the players explore them in game. Research can be conducted, and should be encouraged, so as to give players insight on the lore).
The Ulysses is a military class deep space exploration vessel with a crew of 230 military personnel and research scientists. Built from the hollowed interior of a small asteroid, the ship uses centrifugal force for artificial gravity and has a self-sustaining nuclear fusion reactor that allows for long term deep space travel. The ship is also equipped with an Alcubierre Warp Drive allowing it to travel hundreds of par secs in relatively little time.
The ship is well armed for both space combat and small reconnaissance missions. A synthesizer on board allows the crew to reconstruct advanced technology from schematics that might be found on derelict space craft or colonies. Advanced AI are also used by the crew for system maintenance, navigation, and research. A Cypher AI, for instance, can be used by the crew to translate new languages as long as it is given enough time and material.
Before being put in orbit around the supermassive black hole, the ship and its crew had two primary functions. Its main purpose was to transport researchers and equipment to distant planets, while its second purpose was to maintain authority over humanity’s sprawling interstellar empire.
CANNON 178c (THALASSA)
Thalassa is a Super earth with roughly 3 time the mass of Earth. Like Earth, it orbits a Main Sequence G-Type Star in the system’s Habitable Zone. With similar orbital characteristics and only a slightly faster rotational period, Thalassa was considered an ideal candidate for colonization in the later period of the Age of Interstellar Exploration. The planet’s mean atmospheric pressure is slightly greater than Earth’s, and thanks in part to early terraforming efforts, its atmospheric composition is capable of supporting human life. Unlike Earth, water covers 93 percent of the planet’s surface, while the rest of the planet consists of large islands with a relatively flat topography.
*Homo Amphibius- When the crew first encounters the descendants of Thalassa's colonizers, they find that fifty thousand years of isolation on Thalassa, coupled with the use of genetic engineering by early colonizers, has led to rather extreme evolutionary divergences from Homo Sapiens. To live in an environment with greater atmospheric pressure, and gravity roughly 3x stronger than on Earth, Homo Amphibius has adapted to be squat with strong muscles and high bone density. Due to the discomfort of living in a high g environment, Homo Amphibious spends much of its time in water where buoyancy helps counteract the strain on its body. As a result, webbed hands and feet have been naturally selected to aid in movement. It is believed that early genetic engineering provided an increase in lung capacity that helps Homo Amphibious stay buoyant in water, as well as a more efficient circulatory system needed to counteract the effects of long-term habitation in high g. As a result, Homo Amphibious has demonstrated an ability to stay submerged in water for great periods of time.
*Against All Odds: As a consequence of early terraforming efforts, Thalassa has relatively low biodiversity. Colonizers were likely more concerned with maintaining ecosystems for organisms capable of efficiently scrubbing Thalassa’s oceans and atmosphere of carbon dioxide, and it is unlikely that they were able to engineer more complex ecosystems before their eventual societal collapse. Homo Amphibious’ diet is very limited as a result of this, and this can be demonstrated by the orange coloration of the species’ skin- a result of carotenosis from eating copious amounts of genetically modified red kelp. Despite this, Homo Amphibius does appear to have some animal domestication, such as giant genetically engineered Cephalopods which seem to be used as a combination of both food and defense. Infant mortality was likely very high in early generations leading to low genetic diversity and expressive deformities. Overtime, populations would have eventually stabilized leaving only the strongest of their species as heirs to the planet.
Tribal Society- While it isn’t known what led to the societal regression on Thalassa, researchers on Ulysses speculate that isolation from the rest of humanity and a lack of resources likely resulted in infighting and the formation of smaller, cellular groups. Technology has also significantly declined to a manner similar to the early Bronze era on Earth. Researchers theorize that this might be due to the limitations on labor imposed by high gravity, as well as information loss due to high mortality rates and shorter life spans. Some groups of Homo Amphibious appear to scavenge the remnants of derelict space craft for metal tool crafting, though high radiation levels make this risky.
More research is needed to properly understand the culture of these people, but early reports suggest that many of the tribes exhibit what appear to be shamanistic religious practices. Many aspects of their lives, from recreation, to large (likely spiritual) gatherings revolve around their time in water. Ritualistic drownings have been observed in some tribes, while frequent instances of cannibalism are also present.
SAGAN 378c (ASTRAEUS):
Astraeus is a planet in the outer edge of the habitable zone of an old Main Sequence M-type Red Dwarf. Because of its close orbit to its parent star, Astraeus and its star are tidally locked, with one side of the planet in perpetual daylight and the other in perpetual night. From orbit, Astraeus resembles a giant eye with its 'pupil' constantly fixed on its star. Surprisingly, Astraeus does have a protective, yet weak magnetosphere capable of sustaining an atmosphere. This helps regulate heat throughout the planet, allowing for more tolerable conditions to support extremely niche life forms.
Astraeus is a world of extremes. The “day side” of Astraeus is a scorched wasteland which stretches for hundreds of miles. Everything in this desert appears frozen in time. This nearly desolate land is devoid of wind, and its shadows are eternally still. Surrounding this desert is a powerful storm cell created from water which rapidly evaporates as it’s carried into the day side. Large pools of water akin to seas form here providing one of the few areas where life thrives. Beyond the storm lies the “terminator zone”, a band of constant twilight that encircles the planet. The terminator zone is mercilessly thrashed by alternating scorching and freezing winds that exchange between both faces of the planet. The far side of Astraeus is massive collection of glaciers that tower hundreds of feet over the terminator zone like a giant wall of ice. It is a realm of endless night completely devoid of life.
*Life Below and Above- Despite these extreme conditions, complex life has evolved on Astraeus. Life near the the day side has evolved to be incredibly stationary, preferring to conserve water and energy in the motionless shadows of the desert. Some organisms camouflage themselves to avoid detection while they hibernate. These creatures often act as ambush predators, preying on creatures unfortunate enough to step foot in their shadows. Other creatures prefer to dwell underground where its cooler, laying traps for those who wander between the shadows.
Life in the terminator zone is predominantly aerial. These creatures migrate on the harsh winds in search of food or a cool place to plant their offspring. Some of these creatures prefer to strike quickly from above like silent missiles in the wind. Others prefer to disperse like spore clouds, drifting aimlessly until they find a host to burrow into and produce more ‘spores’.
*Homo Nocturnus- Despite these extreme conditions, Astraeus was one of many planets to be colonized in the early period of the Age of Interstellar Exploration due to the presence of complex life. Researchers took extreme care to prevent potential contamination by creating a large, enclosed habitat near the cold side of the terminator zone where life is sparse. Overtime, this research center grew into a veritable city known as Midnight, isolated from the rest of the world in cold darkness.
Like many early colonies, Midnight was self-sufficient. Self-replicating and self-repairing machines controlled every aspect of the colony, allowing researchers to spend the majority their time studying the creatures that inhabit Astraeus. When the crew of Ulysses arrive fifty thousand years later, they are surprised to find these machines still in operation. Its inhabitants, however, are nowhere to be seen.
The crew soon discovers that to conserve power for critical life support systems and machine assembly, the AI in control of Midnight made the decision to forcibly divert power away from its light sources, as it considered light to be non-crucial for sustained living. As such, its inhabitants, dubbed Homo Nocturnus, have spent countless generations in the dimly lit confines of Midnight. The lack of sun light has resulted in pale, sickly skin along with large dark eyes which helps Homo Nocturnus see in the darkness of the facility. Due to reduced gravity on Astraeus, Homo Nocturnus are tall with long spindly limbs and softened footsteps. When the crew first encounters Homo Nocturnus, they discover that the inhabitants have all become violent and feral. The crew must discover what happened to the colony that led to these changes while surviving on one of the most extreme planets to harbor human life.
HUYGENS 282c III (LIBER):
Liber is an exomoon in orbit around Huygens 282c, a gas giant located on the outer edge of the habitable zone of a young relatively active G-type star. Liber has roughly the same mass as Earth with only a slightly larger radius. It has a much denser atmosphere than Earth and a composition akin to the late Carboniferous Period on Earth, with an excess of greenhouse gases and an abundance of oxygen. As a result, the global climate is generally hot with high humidity and strong winds. Combustion is also likely more
prevalent on Liber due to the increase in oxygen.
Liber’s sky is dominated by the massive gas giant it orbits, with an apparent size 20x larger than our moon on Earth. Occasionally, other moons can be seen in transit, while strong, dazzling auroras are constantly present at the gas giants poles.
*Second Contact- It is unsurprising that due to its super habitability, Liber developed complex life much in the same way as Earth. As with nearly all life discovered in our galaxy during the Age of Interstellar Exploration, life on Liber is carbon based. However, the organisms on Liber have a biochemistry built on molecules with the opposite chirality from that used on Earth. While this prevents any risk of viral infections for humans, this also means that life on Liber holds no nutritional value for humans, and in many cases are toxic to ingest. Likely as a result of the abundance of oxygen and greater competition amongst species, many organisms on Liber have evolved to be quite large with a high number of what we would consider to be megafauna roaming its surface, and several more who soar effortlessly on its high winds.
One species in particular has demonstrated sentience and has developed extremely advanced technology. Their society rivals humanity prior to the Age of Interstellar Exploration as they have begun to colonize their solar system. This species, dubbed Liberius Exovita (or Liberians) by the Ulysses' researchers, are of similar size and build to Asiatic Elephants, with multiple limbs for increased stability and four long retractable tendrils near its “mouth” which it apparently uses to interact with its environment. Several Liberian colonies have been spotted on Liber’s sister moons as well as large space stations scattered throughout the solar system.
Depending on the progression of events in the players’ campaign, this might be the first contact with an alien intelligence for the crew of the Ulysses, as ‘highly intelligent’ life on exoplanets had yet to be discovered in their time. However, this would not be the first contact in the greater history of humankind.
*Homo Servorum: In addition to the Liberians, another species, undoubtedly belonging to the Homo genus, has been observed in this solar system. This species closely resembles Homo Sapiens Sapiens with some noticeable differences. Due to the increased atmospheric pressure and resulting excess air drag, they have developed increased muscle mass in order to maneuver in their new environment and stronger hearts to overcome differences in blood pressure. They have also developed rough, hairless, heat resistant skin and an extra set of eyelids in response to the heat and frequent dust storms of their new planet. An incidental consequence of the increased pressure is the developed highly acute hearing as sound travels further and faster on Liber.
It is believed that Homo Servorum are descendants of humans from either a generational ship or a failing nearby colony. A lack of resources and loss of contact with humanity likely led them to this solar system where they first made contact with the Liberians. Homo Servorum has been observed to live in enclosed, cellular habitats, with air recycling systems and quarantine measures to reduce contact with toxin producing microorganisms. When observed outside these habitats Homo Servorum are always spotted with what appear to be rebreathers; likely deployed to prevent hyperoxia. An added benefit is that this likely makes populations more manageable for the Liberians as they have been seen monitoring these habitats closely. It seems as though all food production is controlled by the Liberians and since there are no alternative food sources on Liber, Homo Servorum appears to be entirely dependent on their benefactors for survival.
It is currently unknown if this is true for all members of Homo Servorum, but it has been noted that some members appear to worship and revere the Liberians. Many members of Homo Servorum have also been seen as laborers, working as miners and engineers on Liber’s sister moons. Contact would need to be made to determine if this is a mutual relationship or the result of forced slavery.
Finishing the Mission- The Ulysses crew was originally sent on a supply run to Thalassa before being inexplicably placed in orbit around the black hole. Its sister ship, the Ithaca, was also enroute to Thalassa, but there appears to be no signs of contact in the ship's communication log to indicate that they made it to their destination. Players must travel to Thalassa to search for clues on the whereabouts of the Ithaca crew. When they arrive, they discover an abandoned colony ship, the Palamedes, which might point to the Ithaca’s location. This mission will force players to explore a two part ‘dungeon’; one half of the colony ghost ship, Palamedes, which floats preserved in orbit dangerously close to Thalassa’s atmosphere, and the other half, which has crashed on the planets surface and is now inhabited by the ‘fishmen’ known as Homo Amphibius. The crew will have to evade the ships dormant defenses in microgravity, and either entreat with or battle numerous tribes on the surface. (This would be followed up with a sequel storyline as the crew follows the Ithaca’s trail).
Night and Day- in desperate need of supplies and repair, the crew travels to Atraeus in hopes of finding salvageable wreckage in the former colony. When they arrive they find the colony, known as Midnight, perfectly preserved and maintained by self-replicating machines. But dangers lurk in the shadows of Midnight as the crew must not only contend with the machines in charge of the colony, but the feral descendants of its colonists. This mission will also see the players travel to other smaller facilities in the planets extreme biomes as they seek access to the main colony. Along the way, they must survive against extreme climates, dangerous ambush predators and killer AI.
The Servants of Liber: following strange radio signals emitting from a nearby star system, the crew discovers Liber, home to an intelligent space faring species, as well as their vassals, the human variant species Homo Servorum. The crew must uncover the history between these two species as they make difficult decisions that will determine the fate of the entire star system.
This mission will challenge players on both diplomacy, as well as space combat and stealth reconnaissance.
Returning Home: The crew must discover the fate of Earth and the rest of human civilization by traveling to our home solar system. The crew will encounter strange alien constructs unlike any they have seen and will explore the awe-inspiring mega structures that now dominate our solar system. The players will be placed in very challenging scenarios as they enter the desolate ruins of mankind’s once mighty empire in search of clues that will shed light on humanity’s fate. This will be a high level questline filled with 'mega-dungeons' that will test experienced players.
Player Character Examples
Genetic engineering and mechanical enhancements were common during the Age of Interstellar Exploration. As such, there is a diverse population of enhanced humans aboard the Ulysses. Cosmetic body modification are also prominent, allowing humans to take on whatever appearance or characteristics they desire. Players also choose their role on the ship and are given exosuits which can be optimized by each player. Below are a few examples of player characters.
Lieutenant Commander James Reyes [He/Him] Age 43- Chief Security Officer of [Ship]- Born in the Slums of Los Angeles. Reyes joined the United Nations Aeronautical Defense Force in order to escape the harsh conditions on Earth. Compared to the rest of the crew Reyes is only lightly augmented preferring a more ‘natural’ aesthetic, with short-cropped hair and several scars from his time in service. Reyes saw combat in the Battle of Ceres before electing to join the UNDAF interstellar division. He is haunted by his time in service and suffers from survivor guilt. Reyes had a partner on Thalassa and is determined find what out what happened to them.
Race: Variant Human
Subclass: Drop Shock Trooper
Ability score proficiency: Dexterity, Charisma
Traits: Adrenaline Control, Charismatic Leader, Advanced Kinetic Weapon Proficiency, Small Ordinance Proficiency, Multi-shot
Exosuit upgrades: Medium Class- Short Range Boosters, Adaptive Anti-ballistic Layers, Enhanced Strength, Mag-boots.
Equipment: ECT powered Automatic Smart Rifle, Shoulder Mounted Laser guided Missiles, Smart Pistol.
Dr. Lyra Song [They/Them] Age 36- Chief Science Officer of [Ship]- Due to an Accident as a young adult, Dr. song possesses a fully artificial body. Their skin is silvery, and they have black eyes with glowing irises. . Dr.Song was raised in the flotilla cities of Venus before pursuing a career in biology. They are often cold to other people, but will eventually warm up to those who aid in their research. Dr. Song is motivated to learn the fate of humankind as we know it.
Race: Synthetic Human
Ability score proficiency: Intelligence, Charisma
Traits: Advanced first aid, Adroit analysis, Thermal Vision, Radiation and toxin resistance, Energy Weapons Proficiency
Exosuit Upgrades: Light Class- Enhance acrobatics, Grappler launcher, Mag-boots.
Equipment- Analysis drones, Plasma Caster, Portable Active Denial System
Lieutenant Yin Zhu [She/Her] Age 28- Born in the asteroid belt of Sol, Yin is quite tall due to being raised in microgravity. Despite this, Yin maintains muscle mass and bone density through intense training and considerable genetic/mechanical enhancements. She is 6’7 and has several cosmetic enhancements, such as dyed red skin, subdermal “horn Implants” and full body tattoos. This gives her a rather intimidating appearance, despite her usual calm and friendly demeanor aboard the ship. Yin is motivated to help others, including the various human species encountered on the crew’s expeditions. She is also more than capable(and often eager) to fight if it means protecting those she cares about.
Race: Synthetic/Mutant Hybrid
Class: Heavy Support
Ability Score proficiency: Strength, Constitution
Traits: Enhanced healing factor, Enhanced Gravity Adaptation, Thermal Vision, Radiation and Toxin Resistance, Heavy Ordinance Proficiency, Simple Kinetic Weapon Proficiency
Exosuit- Heavy Class: Superior Enhanced Strength, Additional Equipment Slots, Deployable Personal Shields,
Equipment: Deployable Coilgun, Guided Munition Grenade Launcher, Wrist Mounted Incendiary Canon, Shoulder Mounted Laser Guided Missiles
NPCs- Below are a few examples of the 230 crew members aboard the Ulysses. Players will speak to the GM ahead of time and establish their roles on the ship, potentially replacing NPCs. For instance, with GM approval, players can elect one of the party to be Captain, replacing or repurposing the NPC for a different role. The cast on the ship is meant be very fluid so as to allow the GM to come up with ship based storylines and player dynamics on the fly.
Captain Alvarez- [He/Him] 63- A highly decorated soldier in the UNADF, Alvarez has commanded the crew of the Ulysses for 13 years. While he is a firm leader, he is quick to give autonomy to the players when it comes to reconnaissance. He is also willing to listen to the crew’s input on mission priorities and acts more as a mediator on the ship.
STARFORGE III- The Navigational AI of the ship. Starforge is a simple AI and lacks general autonomy, and will listen follow crew commands to the best of its ability. Inexplicably, Starforge’s navigational logs were wiped prior to being placed in the orbit of the black hole. Can the crew trust it, or should they take caution?
Dr. Larian- Chief Medical Officer- [They/Them] 43: another “mostly human” member of the ship, Dr Larian has a rather bleak out look on the current affairs of the ship. As many on the crew have lost loved ones, Larian had a family on Mars prior to their mission. While they work hard to keep the crew alive, they struggle to handle the grief of losing their loved ones.
Chief Engineer O’Malley- [He/Him]- a heavily modified mutant hybrid, O’Malley has always been rough and tumble, but ever since the crew awoke from stasis, he has had frequent violent out bursts. O’Malley handles fabrication on the ship, but players should tread carefully as he has become very unpredictable and unhinged. The players will find out that he is not the only crew member suffering from psychological distress, condtions caused by isolation and grief can manifest themselves in many ways aboard the ship.
@Wessels95 This looks really cool. I especially like the subspecies and glimpse of lore behind them. A dystopian galaxy like this sounds like a candy store of weird, but fascinating stories.
I’d be really interested in seeing some of the art.
@Saint-Scipio Thanks! I have a few other race/setting ideas that i thought of adding, but i was worried the post would be too long. Unfortunately, i'm not the best artist, but im going to see if i can rope in a friend or commission art.