Sunday, 19 March 2017

New Frontiers

I'm going to see if I can get into a routine of posting on Sundays to talk about what I've been working on for the past week. On top of my current freelancing jobs, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about Ark Frontier.

Ark Frontier will be a setting and campaign supplement for PowerFrame. I want to play to the system's strengths, so in short, it's a technofantasy hexcrawl inspired by JRPGs such as Final FantasyWild Arms, and Star Ocean, and also by an obscure old anime called Genesis Surviver Gaiarth.

The Premise

Civilisation on [WORLD] is on the brink of being wiped out by monsters in an event called the Phantom Storm, when a generation ship from Earth — the Ark in the title — lands. While the humans can't save the world, they are able to use their advanced technology to fight back the Phantoms long enough to get a sizeable number of refugees on board. Thankfully the Ark was designed to turn into a self-sustaining arcology city on arrival, and so tens of thousands of people are able to weather out the Storm.

Eighteen years later...

Although many thought it would never end, the Phantom Storm has finally abated. Phantoms still roam a land that is now unrecognisable, but they are no longer a constant threat. Refugees from the Ark — some of whom have never seen the sky of their home-world — emerge to explore and reclaim this new frontier.

Fusion Culture

One thing I wanted to do was come up with a frontier exploration setting that didn't either re-cast native people as "savages" to be wiped out (orcs, inscrutable aliens), or erase them altogether. Instead, the uninvited colonists from Earth (who were perhaps fleeing some desperate calamity of their own) opened their arms to the local peoples; recognising the value in saving a civilisation on the brink of extinction (and one that could help them understand the nature of their new world), and uniting in the face of overwhelming adversity.

That's not to say there aren't tensions within the new culture that has been forged in the heart of the Ark. Traditionalists hold onto their old ways, while the youth of three species have grown up together and look to the future. There are feelings of resentment, but also gratitude and reliance.

On top of the humans and two native species (that I haven't completely figured out, so I'll talk about them later), the events since the landing have split people into several demographic groups.

Natives lived through the Phantom Storm and boarded the Ark as refugees. Some are grateful to the humans for coming to their aid, while others resent the interlopers coming uninvited. These are the last survivors of the old civilisation, and keep its traditions alive as best they can.

Landers are humans who crewed the Ark when it arrived. Most of them are part of a "generation crew" contingent who stayed awake for the hundred-year voyage, but a few were woken from cryosleep shortly after arrival. Most were happy to help the Natives (whether out of humanitarian ideals or pragmatic considerations), but some have grown to resent their presence and their drain on resources as the years wore on.

Arkborn are children who were born on the Ark once the doors were closed against the Phantom Storm. The very oldest of this generation may be those carried onboard as infants, too young to remember a life outside. This group is the most culturally united, with members of all three species mingling freely. Many chafe against traditions, and want to explore the outside world.

Sleepers are humans who have only recently been awoken from cryosleep. Due to the influx of refugees, the Ark could not support all the humans being awoken, and so thousands have remained in stasis until the colony could begin expanding. They still remember Earth, and many now suffer from culture shock as they are dropped into the new society that formed while they were sleeping.

While the focus will be on exploration and trying to figure out the mystery behind the Phantoms, I'm hoping that a well-thought-out culture and differing points of view will create dramatic tension and provide opportunities for intelligent antagonists.

That's all for this week! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or ideas regarding Ark Frontier.

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