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Mindjammer RPG: Transhuman Sci-Fi Adventure in the Second Age of Space

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Newton

Several years ago, I published my first ever roleplaying game supplement, a 200-page softback for the Starblazer Adventures RPG, using the Fate 3rd edition rules. Black Gate‘s very own Howard Andrew Jones reviewed it here, and a few short months later we were delighted when it won a Judges Spotlight Award at the ENnies in GenCon. We decided to produce a second edition…

… And here it is! A lot has happened in the meantime, not least the release of a brand new edition of Fate, the Fate Core System, from Evil Hat Productions, which won Best RPG in the Golden Geek Awards only last week. The publication of an elegant and sophisticated new edition of Fate meant that I had a golden opportunity to update Mindjammer and publish it as a full roleplaying game, taking full advantages of the Fate Core System‘s cutting edge innovations. Last month, we launched Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game for pre-orders, providing customers with an immediate download of a “Thoughtcast Edition” pre-release PDF of the game, and this week we’re going to print and updating the PDF to the final production version.

So what’s Mindjammer? Put simply, it’s a game and a setting. As a game, it’s been called the “lovechild of Traveller and Eclipse Phase” – a full-featured science-fiction roleplaying game for the 21st century, featuring all the elements of “modern” science-fiction: transhumanism, hyperadvanced technologies, culture conflicts, rules for organisations, worlds, star systems, ecosystems, and alien life forms all drawing on the latest discoveries in xenoscience and astrophysics, wrapped up in an expansive and action-packed game which lets you play in any modern science-fiction genre.

If you’ve ever wanted to play games like Iain Banks’s Culture, Dan Simmons’s Hyperion, Peter Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, Stephen Baxter, Jaine Fenn, and more, then Mindjammer may be for you. You can also use it to play in your homebrew SF setting or any published SF setting. It’s a complete standalone RPG in its own right.

But Mindjammer is also a setting. My first novel in that setting, also called Mindjammer, was talked about by John O’Neill on the Black Gate website in 2012 (see here). It takes place in a vast interstellar civilisation called “The New Commonality of Humankind” – a nascent transhuman polity which has recently discovered the secrets of faster-than-light travel and is expanding to the stars.

Mindjammer takes place in the far future – the 17th millenium by our reckoning. For 10,000 years, the first Commonality expanded from Old Earth using slower-than-light generation and stasis ships, in a great diaspora which seeded thousands of extra-solar colonies. Separated by enormous distances and communication times sometimes extending to millennia, the Commonality lost contact with most of these colonies, many of which diverged through genetic manipulation and rapid evolution to become almost different species. A few “phoned home” and the Commonality managed to create a small slower-than-light interstellar civilisation in the star systems close to Old Earth – but the vast majority of the colony expeditions fell silent, lost in the depths of space.

In the millennia which followed, the Commonality grew introverted, stagnant, and began to fade, a civilisation in crisis and decline. Then, two centuries ago, the secrets of faster-than-light travel were discovered (under very mysterious circumstances) and suddenly humankind was able to travel out to the stars in search of those lost colonies established millenia before.

What they found astounded them. The galaxy was alive! Thousands of worlds, settled by humankind and its descendants. Some had preserved technology and a knowledge of their origins; others had fallen into savagery, struggled to rise, and even fallen again. Reformed as the New Commonality of Humankind, Old Earth announced an Expansionary Era, a Second Age of Space, and immediately set about reintegrating these lost colonies into its burgeoning civilisation. Some welcomed the Commonality with open arms, but just as many saw them as invaders from the stars, even an alien species, and resisted violently. Within years, the frontier of Commonality expansion rippled with violence and the conflict of countless cultures. In many cases, the Commonality found itself exposed to hostile and dangerous memes and cultural ideologies, and formed the Security and Cultural Integrity Instrumentality – better known as SCI Force – to protect the Commonality culture. Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game provides rules for statting and playing cultures and for integrating culture conflicts, meme warfare, memetic combat, and culture agents into your game.

One of the greatest gifts the Commonality brings to the stars is the Mindscape. Essentially a far future version of the Internet, it’s a vast interstellar data storage and communications medium to which all Commonality citizens are connected via neural implant. Using the power of thought alone, they can control devices, communicate with one another, and upload thoughts and memories to the Mindscape. And download memories too – and not just their own memories, but the memories of other people. Even the dead. Remembering things that happened to other people…

Mindjammer proposes that human beings are not just the sum total of their memories. When synthetic beings – called eidolons – are created, eidolon engineers use thanograms – the collected thoughtcast exomemories of a dead person – as the basis for the new being. The newborn eidolon isn’t in any sense a continuation of the dead person whose memories it shares, but rather views that source almost as a parent, or even with more mystical overtones. In Mindjammer, you can play characters who are sentient starships, imbued with the memories of dead fighter pilots and war heroes.

Mindjammer is a deep setting, but also one where you can feel at home quickly – any of the thought experiments you come across in modern 21st century science-fiction can be found here somewhere and you can play exactly the kind of SF you want. Military scifi? Check. Interstellar trading? No problem. Culture agents engaging in special culture ops and black missions on the perilous frontier? Transcendent intelligences pushing the boundaries of what it means to be human? Absolutely!

Mindjammer is a 496-page hardback book and a complete standalone RPG – you don’t need anything else to play. It’s published by Mindjammer Press and available for pre-order right now; preorder customers receive immediate access to the Thoughtcast Edition pre-release PDF, upgrading to the final PDF in roughly a week’s time. The hardback ships at the end of March and is distributed by Modiphius Entertainment (Achtung! Cthulhu, Mutant Chronicles); it’s due to appear in hobby stores and your FLGS in May.

You can find out more about Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game at the Mindjammer website. A 40+ page free preview PDF is available right now at DriveThruRPG / RPGNow and you can preorder the game and get the Thoughtcast Edition right away at the Modiphius Entertainment webstore.

Charge your blaster, thoughtcast your orders to the starship sentience, and fire up the planing engines. Come and defend the light of humanity’s greatest civilisation as it spreads to the stars!

2 Comments »

  1. Looks like a really interesting, creative setting! Thought of doing something more hard science/near-future?

    Comment by Tyr - March 5, 2014 10:31 pm

  2. Thanks very much, Tyr! I think the near-future space is pretty well-covered at the moment. As for hard-science – well, Mindjammer is already based on extrapolations of current scientific understanding. Although a lot of the tech and the setting is extremely advanced, nothing in it is totally fanciful or breaks the laws of physics per se; I made a *great effort* and did a huge pile of research to make the scientific side of things make sense as much as I could. You can play the game as action-packed space opera, but equally you can also draw on the harder science stuff in your game if you want.

    Comment by Sarah Newton - March 7, 2014 4:16 am


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