Sunday, 21 December 2014

Alpha Terminus Part 2: Setting Design Guidelines

In a previous article I spoke about how back story can be used to create internal consistency and can be reflected in the the rules that you use to war game. While those principles can be used to create more-interesting fiction, they can also affect other parts of the war gaming hobby including your choice of models and rule sets. Here are a couple of ways that I am using those principles in the design of Alpha Terminus:

No Mono-Cultures

It's always bothered me that unlike Humans entire alien races are often depicted as having the exact same values, practices, and government. Humans aren't all Americans, after all, and aliens generally shouldn't be depicted as mono-cultures. That isn't to say that there can't be any monolithic cultures but they should be the exception and there should always be a reason for the species to have developed in that manner.

From a war gaming perspective avoiding mono-cultures in your back story makes it easier to relate various 15mm alien miniatures to one another. For example models from the Sons of Thunder (Rebel Minis), Gitungi (Micropanzer) and Thrainite (Khurasan Miniatures) miniature lines all have a similar form factor. In your fluff they could easily reflect three different cultures stemming from a single alien race.
  •  The Mon'grhal are a former slave race who were bio-engineered to be hyper-adaptable to nearly any environment. Given a few weeks in a new environment Mon'ghral biology will change to tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions. They've only recently broken away from their former masters and have no home system of their own. Luckily their ability to adapt isn't restricted to environmental conditions. Mon'grhal enclaves have formed all over the known worlds; when these settlements are near those of other races the Mon'grhal quickly assimilate to the culture of their neighbors. Now the Mon'grhal are one of the most culturally diverse peoples in the galactic community.
  • The Khazalid were once as diverse a people as the Humans of Earth, but that all changed when a world war broke out on their home world of Khaz. The Khazalid Imperium, and their Iron Legions, rose from the ashes of Khaz and begun to suppress those that opposed Imperial rule. Generations later the Khazalid appear to be mono-cultural but that isn't really the case. While the majority of the Khazalid now follow the "traditional" clan structure of the Imperium, cultural practices outlawed as divisive by the government have moved under ground, or are practiced by Khazalid who have re-settled outside of Imperium space.
  • The Lyscorcid are a true-monoculture, if they can be said to even have a culture. The insectoid aliens form hives made up mono-taskers. Every drone fulfills a specific purpose and never deviates from it's task. They have no families, social organizations, or cultural practices as other races would define them. Still, the hives often seem to move with purpose towards specific goals which indicates that an intelligence is organizing them.

Technological Limitations

Certain technologies make war gaming boring: why fight a pitched battle when an orbiting ship can just drop a nuke down on the opposing army? It's ok to impose some artificial limitations on technology in your setting in order to facilitate better, more interesting game play. The key to limiting technology in this way is to build the reasons for it into your fluff.
  • No warp drives. While space faring vessels in Alpha Terminus can travel very, very fast there is no engine that can propel them at faster than light speeds. Instead most travel between solar systems is done via 'Terminus Gates' that create stable wormholes between two gates. Ships can travel to other solar systems using conventional sub-light drives, but those journeys take many years. A side effect of having to rely on Terminus Gates for travel is that all races have limitations on how big their ships can be (which if awfully convenient for any space ship war gaming I might do using the setting).
  • Trans-human immortality is a lie...sort of. Time eventually brings death to everyone, and nearly everyone is afraid of it. One way of avoiding old age in some science fiction is to transfer a sentient consciousness to a computer or installing it in a new body. Most species in Alpha Terminus have developed the technology necessary to transfer consciousness but the process is flawed. Every time the mind of a sentient creature is transferred from its original body to any other storage medium the ability to feel emotion is dampened and all empathy for other sentients is lost. Immortality is a reality but all immortals are, in effect, sociopaths.
  • Nukes are too dangerous to use. Space faring cultures have developed weapons capable of destruction on a scale that is unimaginable but they rarely employe them. The Alpha Terminus system and the systems with direct gate connections are the most sought after pieces of real estate in the galaxy. The gate technology in those systems reacts violently to weapons fire over a certain magnitude; the reaction is so violent that entire fleets, and the ground forces that they support, can be wiped away in single stroke (more on this in the next article). Consequently most ships aren't equipped with WMD systems. When such weapons are required they are usually fitted to ships via external weapon racks.


  1. Like what I am reading so far. But rule number 3 might need a little more work. If I couldn't use nukes, I would just slam an asteroids into a ground target. Or gas or and biological weapons on an alien population center.
    So maybe there is some kind of Alien U.N. or Geneva convention that will be used against predatory species. Might be a source of some galactic conflicts. Enforcing the charter on species or cultures that knowlying violate that charter.

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    2. I'll explain more in a later article. Sufficed to day that the Terminus Gates themselves are what reacts to the use of such weapons, and they only do so in the Terminus System. They are more ancient that any race in the know worlds by orders of magnitude. No one really controls them or understands how they work; ships merely uses them for travel (which requires nothing more than flying through them). From a metagame perspective they are a dues ex machina that allows for campaign play without having to worry about the 'nuclear' option. They are a necessary contrivance to accomplish my goal for the setting.

    3. I am just tossing out a few other things to chew over. But I enjoy what you have posted so far. And I like your explanations for ship sizing and the like. Looking forward to seeing what else you make.