As everyone knows, I’ve been roleplaying for a very, very, very long time, but I’m also a writer and generally a creative person. Whereas lots of GMs will create a multitude of game worlds to play in, even within a single game system, I’ve never been that way. Although I’ve GM’d a lot of different games in a lot of different genres, when it comes to science fiction, at least for the past 30 years or so, I’ve maintained a single game world and it has grown into a very detailed and immense place which has overflowed into my writing and my general consciousness.
It started as a world based on the anthropomorphic RPG Other Suns, which came out in 1983. It was back when I was running in that crowd, I knew the creator, I knew tons of people who played it and while a lot of the people I played with, especially the group that would eventually come to define the game universe, were entirely disinterested in furries, the idea that there were a bunch of aliens based loosely on Earth animals was something they could handle. However, Other Suns didn’t have humans in it and that’s something that just wouldn’t do for the majority of my players so I set about expanding and modifying the game for my particular gaming group.
I initially drafted the Terran Empire alongside the entirely furry L’Doran Hegemony, as a somewhat smaller and less technologically advanced group, but considering the OS rules said the Altani and other aliens had been starfaring races for thousands of years before man, I figured that was only fair. Science fiction is chock full of stories of mankind learning from more advanced alien species and therefore, I’d take that path as well. However, as time went on and the universe continued to expand, the role played by humans, especially since my players were often loathe to play anything else, grew exponentially. I continually created new species and even “borrowed” a few, such as the races from TSR’s space RPG “Star Frontiers“, many of whom were creatively re-imagined as a minor empire within my own universe. Today though, they have evolved to such a degree that they are really not identifiable from the original source material.
We played in this universe almost weekly for close to 15 years. Whereas the original Other Suns detailed perhaps a thousand years of game history, stopping perhaps a few hundred years in our future (I don’t have the game books in front of me so I could be wrong), my own group extended the timeline several thousand years into the future, far, far beyond anything imagined in the original game. In fact, there’s really very little connecting the original source material to what the game ended up becoming, with the exception of the L’Doran Hegemony, which still exists, and the original races found in Other Suns. Otherwise, it’s an entirely new game and an entirely new universe from top to bottom, including the entire mechanics.
But even after I stopped playing the game, due to the group breaking up and a general lack of time, the universe that we created was still interesting. I had detailed hundreds of species, all with unique histories, political systems, languages and technologies. I had maps, massive and detailed maps, that hung on the back of my door in 2.5’x7′ sections that, if laid out as they were intended, would probably have covered an area 17.5’x42′ and thousands of stars and tens of thousands of worlds. I think at the end, I had nearly 20 major stellar empires, detailed trade routes, you name it.
Of course, most people have never seen any of it. When I got the crazy idea to do some serious writing, my first idea was to adapt that universe from gaming to literary purposes. How I would handle it was odd, I admit, even my agent said so, but I was going to write wholly independent stories in a single universe, building upon what had come before without directly referencing it to give people an understanding of the larger universe. I might write a war story, and in fact, I wrote a 1800-page trilogy detailing the last great war and it’s catastrophic final battle. Then I might write a story that takes place 200 years later, in an entirely different part of the universe with entirely different characters and species. However, if you read the first story, you’d have a better understanding of how one group thinks or the political system of another group or how space travel functions. These things build up over time, the longer a reader continues to read, the better grasp they have and they may pick up things in earlier stories they didn’t even know to think about before. I thought it was a great idea, my agent agreed, but it turns out that I’m just not the kind of guy who wants to put up with big publishers. That’s largely a story for another article, but I want to write. I don’t want to advertise. I don’t want to sit in bookstores and read to people. I don’t want to go to conventions and make appearances in front of crowds. I don’t care about fame. I just want to write and the modern day big publisher world doesn’t really permit that.
But hey, I may re-write some of these books someday and put them out as e-books on Amazon. You never know.
In any case, I want to take some time and talk about the universe we created. It’s far too expansive to go into a lot of detail but I think it’s a fun place to hang around and think about, I hope you agree too.
Next: I take a look at the changes the human body has gone through in the next several thousand years. Stay tuned!