Space and Time


I’ve often thought about creating a non-FTL space setting. The speed of light is the law. Traveling across the gulfs of space between the stars can take years to millennia.

For example, the PC’s can save a fledgling space colony, travel around the galaxy in hypersleep, to return centuries later to find the colony they saved is now a metropolis. Will the PC’s be remembered? How will their decisions have echoed across that time to shape the society?

Can the theme of deep space and eons of time work for a campaign? How could it be run?


It could be fun, for sure. Can I join?


I think this would be a really interesting way to run a sandbox/open table type game where every so often the players could retire characters and a large amount of time skips. For example.

You saved the colony from the impending asteroid. The whole solar system applauds you. There probably won’t be another adventure like this in your lifetime. What do you do? Stay here and retire? Join a colony ship in deep stasis? Become an AI and live forever?

Some players might retire their characters. Some might try to figure out a way for them to keep existing. The DM rolls some dice to determine what happens in a LONG period of downtime (Decades, even centuries perhaps). Maybe the players have decedents? Maybe they get to pass down knowledge or useful heirlooms.

There is a roguelike video game with something like this mechanic (I wish I could remember what it is called, sorry). I would play in this game for sure.


I was thinking of something similar in some way in the form of a West Marches campaign, but concentrating on the travel period of said ships - in the skeleton crews that maintain it functioning, that deal with the hardships of their journey to ensure the whole may survive, even if the individuals might fail.


Anything can be a setting, The Expanse is a good current modern setting at relativistic speeds.

“Bobiverse” using AI replicants is another. But if stasis is the only thing taking characters forward in time…while it can be fun and attractive, it is difficult to encompass.

If 2020 has proven anything…time is odd, change can happen quickly and unpredictability.

However, most GMs and even more players will have trouble conceiving of centuries of change in an industrialized society. So much would be different…yet many things would be the same. If we add light years of distance for Comunication, the variances in human thought become very drastic.

British empire history shows how dictates made in reaction to 60+ day old information can be devastatingly wrong. As well as how loyal societies can drift drastically over time in different and unexpected ways.

To encompass that on a larger scale, not sure the mental load of the setting would be worth it…but it is really fun to think about!


The player wants to play a hero, how to be a hero in an adventure that spans centuries. That every time he plays his character his actions will have an impact on the future. Like saving the life of the inventor of an important artificial intelligence. In another situation, he will help settlers to settle on a planet. His character intervenes in a war by changing his behavior in the face of an enemy.
This hero character can move from one century to another either because he is having a clone, or his spirit is in a computer, or because he is embodied in a new body. Otherwise, he is playing one of his descendants who has inherited his abilities.
I would write a 1000-year timeline divided by 10 major events. with maybe 100 events that have less impact on the future. For each of the events, he would have two possibilities. Example: either the planet explodes or not. The consequences which ensue will determine the sequence of events. Why take its events into account? because I want to give the player characters the opportunity to travel through time to come back to an event in order to change the situation.


You do this and still could let the player experience the effects of his actions by using time dilation due to space travel at relativistic speeds. See “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman, where a campaign short in subjective time results in the characters returning decades or hundreds of years in the future, and things aren’t exactly as they left them


But in this concept … you have to keep a lot of texts about what the player does with their hero. Write down all the events not just those created by its hero.
When his character is in the future and you have everything to tell him what’s going on. But will you allow him to go back in time to change his actions or the like?
A player had spoken of a concept of persistence of events in the sense that even if he kills a dictator, another would replace him and so that such an event will still occur. In the sense that even if you intervene in the past the event will still occur.
So you could write a sequence of events that will be unchanged. Like the destruction of a planet because despite the hero’s efforts it will happen even if he succeeded in canceling the cause. Because he will have another situation which will cause this planet to be destroyed. The hero can change events close to him but not what would be global. The alien invasion will occur but he will be able to save relatives or make resistance but not cancel this invasion.


The PCs are bicentennial men. Ahem, persons. Ahem…’droids. Whether they are some Weyland Yutani product gone amiss, or Howard Waldrop ’s Heirs of the Perisphere,, if you are going to have that kind of time spans for travel, and there will come no soft rains, heh, then make the PCs just live longer.
ETA: If not as some kind of bot, then as Heinlein-flavored Methuselah’s Children, sans the macho sexual politics. Or Scalzi- style uploaded consciousnesses fighting an “Old Man’s War.” The point being, there’s lots of ways to get around it besides cryosleep.


Came in late to say this. Forever War is a great template for asymmetric time experiences. Another might be the character of Phan Nuwen from “A Deepness in the Sky” by Vernor Vinge.


Another really interesting sci fi setting I think would make a really cool RPG backdrop is Vernon Vinge’s “A Fire Upon The Deep”. Basically, the FTL ability is directly proportional to how fast computers and AI can run, and that in turn is dependent upon how close one is to the the plane of the galactic ecliptic. The further one is from the ecliptic, the faster computers can run, the more powerful the AIs, and the faster beyond light speed ships can travel. Close to the ecliptic is considered “the unthinking depths”, and FTL and AI is not possible at all. So, entire species and civilizations rise and fall in the depths never knowing there is a galactic civilization just beyond their reach, and conversely beyond the reach of the rest of the galaxy. And not all AIs are friendly… and some are ancient, created by long-dead civilizations, and are downright malignant.


This is an interesting topic. I’m currently hosting another scifi rpg campaign where time dilation (if I use correct term) due the FTL traveling is a thing. Essentially, its expected that once heroes pop between worlds, whole centuries might pass before they arrive from point A to B.

I played safe on this one by focusing the campaign on single system only but question is still relevant.

In my opinion its going to be a matter of the tone of the game. If you want players to be larger than life heroes, their duties, victories and hardships will most likely be remembered even after periods of time. @Franc made good point with timelines so using something of that sort could work well in this kind of campaign.

On the flip side then, you could make the whole point of being how insignificant people and their actions are. Saved whole colony? That was 100 years ago, nobody remembers that. Except that one old lady who is grandchild of one of the colonists. Small glimmer from duty well done to players to cherish on.


Another option is that the stories get corrupted over time, and someone else gets credit for what the heroes did. Or the heroes are remembered for having done SO MUCH MORE than what they actually did.

And then, of course, if the heroes try to introduce themselves as the heroes from the stories, would anyone even believe them?

Lots of fun role play opportunities in these themes for a party that wants to explore them!


I had a campaign of harder science fiction Warhammer 40k. Basically, FTL and The Warp was not a thing, and the fastest travel possible was 50%(?) the speed of light with a long, long build up via sling shot maneuvers. The gist of it being: humanity sent probes, robots and AI to the nearest habitable star system (which I think, at the time, was Gliese 667 and 22 light years away). That’s a 45-ish year lag time.

The AI was set to terraform and build the habitation nodes for humanity. Humans travel to colonize Gliese. AI, obviously, had different plans and sent BACK an invasion fleet during the lag time. Meet the Necrons. Mars was being colonized by Earth, and due to lighter gravity, the colonies were treated with augmentations. Meet the Orks. The only “outside” threat I was entertaining were the Tyranids. Actually, honest to goodness, space faring aliens that came from outside the galaxy. The humans that arrive at Gliese are now stuck as a space faring civilization since their resources on planet are owned by the Necrons, and getting back to Earth will take 45 years. Meet the Eldar…


That is good point. And given the nature of humanity, I think its even more likely to stories getting blown out of portions over the long periods of time rather than them being forgotten completely. :thinking: But yeah that would make even more interesting in-table events. xD