Fading Suns Designer Diary – November 2017

Return to the 51st Century!

When the stars at night were…, well, not big or bright. Fading, in fact.

Fading Suns is a far-future space opera setting that first appeared in the mid-’90s in the form of a tabletop roleplaying-game line and the computer strategy game Emperor of the Fading Suns.

It depicts a future where humanity’s rise and fall across the stars led to a neo-feudal society of nobles, priests, merchant guilds, and finally, an emperor ruling over all. It is a cosmos where weird, barely understood high-tech clashes with the superstitions and miraculous powers of religion. Our protagonists — the player characters — are pilgrims in this far-future passion play, this spiritual sojourn amid the stars. In the shadow of the incomprehensible and monumental technology left behind by an elder race, every action — every thought, every sin — can have stellar significance.

Ulisses is bringing back this critically-heralded sci-fi game for new and old gamers. Now we can finally pick up the story again and see just where the sinful stars will lead us.

A Bit of History

In Fading Suns, humanity spread out among other worlds and built a republic unlike any in history, unrivaled in its technological sophistication and social equality. And then they f***ed it all up.

It didn’t help that scientists had discovered a stellar phenomenon whereby the solar bodies in many observable systems had begun to dim. The best minds of the Second Republic had only begun to study this curious cosmological anomaly when their worlds crumbled into anarchy and revolt.

Humankind had not, despite the prognostications of rational scientists, given up religion when its children emigrated to other worlds. Their explorations of new lands only intensified the religious impulse, leading to the creation of many new religions and cults, some of them dedicated to the mysterious, missing aliens who had left behind the jumpgates that allowed for travel between solar systems.

These spiritual movements coalesced under the Second Republic into a popular and widespread universal church institution. When the stars began to dim, to fade, spiritual panic set in.

In the ashes of the tumult and fall of the vast republic, humankind reorganized itself into neo-feudal worlds, ruled by wealthy families who had exalted themselves into noble status, backed by the church, which now policed the invention and use of high-technology, lest the many sins it had brought down upon humanity be revisited. The maintenance of the technology necessary to ply the star systems was held by a league of guilds, forming the third leg of the triad that now ruled society across the Known Worlds.

Who Goes There?

Who are our protagonists, our pilgrims, our player characters? They are noble knights, pious priests, cunning merchants and guilders, courageous aliens, secret psychics, miraculous theurgists, reviled mutants, and more.

Known Worlders are a contentious lot, vying for supremacy at all levels of society. While some compete for power through physical combat — noble duels or battlefield valor — most conflict is in the arena of intrigue and games of one-upmanship. Social combat.

The new Fading Suns core rules will provide a means of resolving social and mental contests. A priest’s admonitions can have as great an effect — more, perhaps — as a punch to the nose. (Nobody can be killed by hearing an insult or imperious command, but they can be enraged, cowed, or inspired by one.)

What’s Next?

We hope you’ll follow this Fading Suns dev diary as we continue work on the core book and plan the first series of sourcebook releases. Each month we’ll reveal more of what we’re up to and how the book is shaping up.

In the next post, we’ll reveal some of the new rules systems (familiar to old FS players, but with a very different dynamic), as well as the advancing “metaplot,” the ongoing backstories of the movers and shakers in the Known Worlds.

The original Fading Suns website, way back at the tail end of the ’90s, used to feature news and gossip from the Town Criers Guild. We’ve managed to find an internet tube that streams their reports from 5017 — 3000 years in the future, during the time of Emperor Alexius’ reign. You can download some choice bits on DriveThruRPG for your edification.

Enjoy! And see you next month!

-Bill Bridges, Product Line Manager