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Setting concept for new game: The Ecotopia Station

Started by xgothgrrl, April 26, 2003, 06:08:42 PM

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Hello all, new member here.

I've been playing around with a few stray ideas for a number of weeks now in the hopes of designing a new game for my TT to begin once were finished with our current Engel Campaign (love that game). I've managed to come up with a basic concept which I really like, but I'm looking for advice, suggestions, feedback, etc to smooth out all the various rough edges. So with that said I'd like to submit the following, and pls forgive any grammitical errors or logic gaps, this is a very rough first draft.

Some called it the greatest achievement of the technological age. Some derided it as the biggest waste of tax money in human history. Some hailed it as final refuge for the thousands of species driven to the brink of extinction by the excesses of man. Some pointed to it as a blueprint that would one-day lead to a new generation of colony ships that would allow humankind to travel to the far planets of Alpha Centauri. Then there were those who simply dismissed it as nothing more than a floating zoo. Now, some five hundred years after the great exodus, the Ecotopia Station is known by another name...Home.

The Ectopia Station was the most ambitious scientific project ever conceived of by the United Trade States Alliance, a self-sustaining biosphere, capable of supporting nearly ever known plant and animal species on earth. An orbiting research lap -so massive that it could be seen from the earth's surface day or night by the naked eye- where man would be an observer only, and where the remnants of the natural world could once more thrive, develop and evolve. The Ecotopia Station consisted of five 'nodes', each one simulating one of the primary environmental Biomes in nature: Marine, Forest, Grassland, Tundra, and Desert. To each primary node were attached five secondary or adjunct nodes, that simulated the various subdivisions and combinations of each primary biome. So precise were the scientists who conceived of this orbiting Eden that they even included an 'under ring' that served to simulate subterranean environs.

A complex high speed, self-contained transport system was laid out throughout the entire station, in order to whisk the visiting research teams from one biome to the other, without once interfering with the life around them. For you see, for all its perfection and careful design, the Ecotopia Station was never meant for long term human habitation.

Now although the station was in theory self-sustaining it was nevertheless a closed environment with only a finite amount of space to provide for the creatures living within its protective domes and therefore the slightest mishap could spell ecological disaster. A system had to be conceived to maintain the delicate balance needed for life onboard the station to be successful. Also as the station was designed to only play temporary host to the occasional visiting team of researchers, the computer system had to be capable of monitoring, collecting, recording, processing and storing unimaginable amounts of raw data and making decisions based on that data. The result of that need was the Gaia system, a self-aware computer core, jokingly refereed to by her creators as the first Deity ever created by the hand of man. And although Gaia was to be the Earth Goddess of the Ecotopia Project, she was not the only Deity system installed. For just like any other God or Goddess, Gaia had a counterpart...Darwin.

Darwin was created as an extension of the The Gaia core, a computer system that would process all the information provided by Gaia's monitors and make decisions based on the collected data. However, unlike Gaia whose purpose was to keep the environment in balance and the Station in repair, Darwin's sole purpose was to force and illicit evolutionary change.

Random Notes:

1) The Gaia Core Computer monitors and maintains the entire environment of the station itself, both natural and technological, and has the ability to make repairs to either system as needed.

2) Every individual plant, animal, virus, microbe, and piece of plankton onboard the Station has been listed and categorized in Gaia's memory banks and Gaia maintains a constant update of every living thing onboard the station.

3) An example of this categorizing- Indivual life form 242, Species: Oryctolagus cuniculus, Class: Mammalia, Order: Lagomorpha,

4) The Gaia System uses self-replicating Drones to build, repair the station, maintain the enviroment, and cull indiviual species that grow to large in number. Gaia also maintains a complex weather control system in order to simulate clouds, rain, snow, fire and other natural occurances including tornadoes and tropical storms.

5) The Darwin system also maintains a constant watch over the Ecotopia Station with the sole purpose of forcing evolutionary changes into the myriad of species, both plant and animal, contained within the biomes and those which manage to trans-migrate

6) Since the introduction of mankind after the Final war and Great Exodus, into the Ecotopia Habitat some 500 years ago, Humans have become incorporated into both the Gaia and Darwin systems with all the subsequent results.

7) Humankind has developed various colonies or city-states within the primary and adjuct nodes within the station complex. The most important of these include Eden Prime (forest Biome) Eden Beta (Grassland Biome) Eden Delta (Tundra Biome) Eden Gamma (Desert Biome) Eden Epsilon (Marine Biome) and Eden Omikrom (Subterranean). Each society is has over the centuries adapted perfectly to life within the Biome it inhabits.

8) A Dominating habitat wide religion has developed centering on the belief of Gaia and Darwin as true Gods working both in opposition and in patnership with one another.

9) A small sect of humans may exist outside the Ecotopia Habitat within the technological bowels of the massive complex and it is these humans who may  know the truth behind the history of mankind trapped and evolving within the computer controlled biomes.


You might want to review the stickies at the top of this forum, and in like form I must ask, "so what do the players do?"

Also, a game requires more than a setting, so I ask, what are the mechanics you are developing to support this game? How do they support the answer to the first question?

Finally, how do you plan to publish this? Will it be free or for pay, a web-release, pdf, or print?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio


Good questions, just wish I had a good answer for them. Just read the stickys, hmm prehaps this thread belong in the theory forum to start with.

At the moment all I have is a basic concept and a question? What would life be like for a group of humans, living in an orbital space station designed to be a Ecological and Biological Paradise and Evolutionary research lab. A man made natural habitat that mankind was never meant to be a part of. And what would it be like if humans had lived onboard this station so long that they have actually forgotten that are in fact living within what amounts to an Obitial Zoo.

Ohh I have some basic ideas, as far as character types. Each city-state repersents a specific racial/character type. But it's all very rough, very basic.

I've never created a game from scratch before, created more than one campaign setting for exsiting games, but never anything of this size before.

Newbie to the list, so pls. be patient with me.

If you prefer I move the thread, I'm more than happy to

Love Always


Quote from: xgothgrrlWhat would life be like for a group of humans, living in an orbital space station designed to be a Ecological and Biological Paradise and Evolutionary research lab.
That works for me, and it's a good starting place. So now all that remains is to figure out how to express that in mechanics. I think a central idea to try might be to tie the characters and their abilities to the interaction between the Gaia and Darwin. That is, make character actions be important in their opposition to or alignment with either of the two "deities."

QuoteAnd what would it be like if humans had lived onboard this station so long that they have actually forgotten that are in fact living within what amounts to an Obitial Zoo.
Should the characters discover this fact in play? Or have this startling discovery on their part be the catalyst of play?

IMO, the latter would be ideal, as it highlights the strength of the setting -- hiding it from the players/characters would ultimately be a waste of the setting material, as such a world would be (to the characters/players) functionally no different from a standard sci/fantasy world where this detail wasn't the case.

The fact that they are and are unknowing of the fact would be of no the trick is to make it important in play for the players, and the easiest way is to use the mechanics, even if the characters remain unaware.

As to the Setting itself, what you have presented seems pretty solid from my perspective, so I can't really comment much on that.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Ron Edwards

Hi xgothgrrl (that is hard to type ...),

Welcome to the Forge, and let me start by saying that you're in the right forum, with the right material. You have setting - awesome.

Maybe this will help. Imagine that you are watching a science fiction TV show. The image shows you an alien landscape with two suns and a violet sky; there's a weird-looking city, maybe a towering vertical structure with sub-buildings studding the ledges at various levels.

OK. The trouble with setting by itself is that it sits there. It sits there even if it changes, which sounds weird, I bet, but it's true. Even if there's war or revolution going on, even if the climate of the world is changing, it still "sits there" relative to characters that players might bring in.

So here's a thought-experiment. Imagine you as GM and three players (call them Megan, Jeremy, and Bill). You're all friends and you all like the setting, based on your first post - none of you are going to be a jerk player and disrupt things or anything like that.

What does play look like? Imagine me sitting in the room, content to enjoy whatever you guys come up with like an audience member. What do I see? How much talking does the GM do, relative to how much talking each player does? Are dice or any other physical mechanics involved in resolving things? How often, and what's being resolved?

More importantly, from the point of view of myself as audience members, are the characters doing anything interesting? Does an NPC tell them to go fetch something, and they do, and then the NPC betrays them? Yawn. Or maybe they get caught in a cross-fire between two opposed factions. Yawn. Maybe both of those at once. Double, triple yawn.

Anyway, my point is that a "new game" really needs to offer potential situations (which is to say, not setting alone, but the dynamic interaction of character + setting) that are, themselves, really cool and distinctive. Even if you don't provide example scenarios, the very details of the setting and those of character creation should spark such situations.

So let me know what you, Bill, Megan, and Jeremy are doing - both as a group of real people in some kind of living room or somewhere, and in terms of what kind of situations are being resolved. Think of the moments during play when everybody is absolutely fascinated, emotionally committed, and enjoying themselves. What's happening?


Mike Holmes

SPOILER (doubtful that this will actually affect anyone, but just in case)

Are you familiar with Metamorphosis Alpha (to Omega)? It's a game that was originally released in Dragon Magazine (one of the first few issues), and it's got some similarities to yours in terms of being about people who've forgotten that they're in an artificial environment. The characters are on an environment ship that lost it's way going from one star to the next.


I myself worked up a very similar sort of setting once.

Do you intend to have players aware of their character's state (and not the characters), or is the fact that the environment is artificial supposed to be a surprise? If the latter, you have what I'll call the "Big Surprise" problem. Which is that if that's the big draw, it's only for the GM.

Players, not knowing what the big secret is aren't likely to be drawn in, unless you hook them hard. If you do hook them into being interested, they'll be ruthlessly efficient in determining the secret. If you make it impossible through pacing, they'll be frustrated. If you make it possible, it'll happen early.

The problem with the discovery of this sort of secret is that it always leads to a "Well, what do we do now?" sort of situation. Which doesn't often actually go a lot of places by itself. Usually it leads to chaos (IME). I tried to remedy this by having a whole "outside" world to discover, which essentially split play into two phases. But this was wierd because once "out" there was this strange longing for the "old game" to come back.

Anyhow, lot's of potnetial pitfalls for the players to encounter. I'm still intrigued by the notion, but I'm not sure how practical it is as a setting.

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.


spoiler for sf novel below:

Brian Aldiss's novel Starship (also published as Nonstop) is an interesting take on the theme you want to explore. It portrays a lost generation ship, the hallways and rooms choked with overgrown, mutated vines and all sorts of flaura & fauna. Most of the "passengers" exist in tribal societies, unaware they are on a starship. A few (descendents of the captain, I think), know part of the truth, and keep systems running. There's an extra twist at the end, which I won't reveal.

worth reading, though your setting seems to be more diverse.