Summary of How to Create a Sci-Fi and Horror Setting

The process of creating a setting for One Shot RPG started by defining goals and ended with a fully developed elevator pitch. In between, the unique sci-fi and horror roleplaying game setting started to take shape.

Elevator Pitch

One Shot RPG takes place in our solar system, but something’s not right. Venus and Mars aren’t the same planets we know and are home to alien life. Pluto’s in a different location and is actually a portal to another world. Horrific creatures are pouring out from the not-planet, using the asteroid belt as cover. A military alliance has formed between the civilizations, their goal is to stop the alien threat and to get their hands on Pluto’s warp technology. Rumors abound that there’s a new substance—scum—that twists and corrupts good people, turning them into monsters. Monsters not unlike the ones invading. Players take the role of characters who have decided to deal with this new terrestrial threat, branding them traitors. After all, if word got out that the military’s campaign is harming the very people they’re sworn to protect, they wouldn’t be able to justify getting their hands on the very technology they seek.

The first attempt at creating a setting for One Shot RPG was thrown out. It failed to provide players with small scale problems to overcome, and required too much lore and jargon for new customers to learn. The main cause of these problems was giving players the ability to warp around the galaxy, which didn’t incentivize staying in a small play area. By examining these shortcomings, a new elevator pitch for a sci-fi and horror one shot setting was developed, then refined into its current form.

The new elevator pitch was tested against the requirements that were laid out for a successful RPG setting. It succeeds in providing players clear goals—taking down scummed—and morally gray choices—how they accomplish that. Being based in our solar system allows new customers to be able to pick up and play the product without having to learn how the world works. New characters can be introduced into the setting over time and the story can be expanded upon. Characters can come from a wide array of backgrounds and the cast can be diverse.

Adding Horror to the Setting

While the solar system is being invaded by an army of Lovecraftian monstrosities, players will be tackling problems that are more personal. The world is secretly being covered in scum, a substance that can’t be observed or proven. Scum twists people’s good intentions, turning them into monsters with powerful new abilities. Players play as a group of characters who fight scummed individuals. Doing so has labeled them as traitors, heretics, and insane by those who don’t believe that the substance is real.

The methods in which players deal with scummed individuals fall outside the categories of good and evil. Players could empathize with the monster, seeing their mission and methods as necessary, and leave them to their own devices. Instead, they may choose to put the individual down, a cruel option considering that scummed are people who believe they are doing the right thing. Finally players could try to cure the scummed, an option that has enough drawbacks to prevent it from being an easy decision. Players choose what’s right based on the situation and their own sense of morality, instead of being given an easy option.

Adding Detail

One Shot RPG takes place in our future, with spaceships, moon colonies, advanced weapons, and an expanded Internet. What it didn’t have was warp technology—until the true nature of Pluto was revealed, that is. The ability to expand across the galaxy is almost in the military’s grasp, but they’ll have to get through the army of cosmic horrors first.

The planets Venus and Mars may have the same name as the planets we know, but they are anything but. They are home to intelligent species of aliens, and new flora and fauna. Both planets offer new worlds for the players to explore and the narrative to flesh out. Earth has also gone through a makeover, with the countries merging into six powerful corporations. Voting power is the same as purchasing power, politicians are executives, and non-profits answer to shareholders. There’s even a fourth race, origins unknown, that seem to be connected with the overall struggle for warp technology.

Starting With Goals

The development of the setting started with setting goals and identifying needs. First personal goals were outlined. These goals were based on what makes me happy and what I would consider success. They are designed to be completed, which means that I’ll always know what needs to be done.

Next, justifications for creating new tabletop RPG supplements were defined. The average age of a hobby gamer is going up. Along with wisdom, age comes with family and time commitments that make meeting consistently as a group difficult. By focusing on short, accessible, one shot adventures, the products reduce group friction, free up time for the game master, and keep players coming back for more. With this in mind, a community of role players can form around One Shot RPG.

Moving On

Now that the narrative has been designed, the cast of playable characters can start to be planned out.