Sunday, February 28, 2021

10+20 Setting Questions for Sci-Fi Games

Michael Prescott recently had a post about the dearth of sci-fi games getting played on a broad scale. I agree that this is a crying shame, and attribute it to the fact that fantasy requires very little buy in (misremembered history and a bit of TV will suffice for even absolute newbies) while sci-fi comes with significantly more moving parts and potential expectations and concepts that need to be dealt with.

So to aid with that, here's a questionnaire.

Luther Gutekunst has beaten me to this (by a significant margin!) with a practical questionnaire of his own, so I will be writing questions that attach neatly to him own without reduplication.

Luther's questions are:

  1. What do PCs do?
  2. What's the setting's scale?
  3. What level of tech will PCs generally have?
  4. What's the highest level of technology?
  5. Are there any psychic abilities, superpowers, etc?
  6. How do I improve my character?
  7. What's the most important faction in the area?
  8. Where can I get normal equipment?
  9. Where can I get illegal / dangerous equipment?
  10. How do I heal myself?

My additions are:

  1. What miracles (clear deviations from what is possible in reality) exist in the setting?
  2. How do people get from A to B? What is it like in terms of speed, scope, accessibility?
  3. Where do people live, in general?
  4. What is the average quality of life like?
  5. What are the points of conflict in this society? 
  6. What are some commonplace technologies players will interact with?
  7. What's something that technology has fucked up?
  8. What's something that technology has fixed?
  9. What are the most valuable goods and resources?
  10. What are the most valued personal beliefs?
  11. What goods / behaviors / beliefs are banned?
  12. Who enforces the structures of power?
  13. Can PCs own a ship normally, or will they have to steal one?
  14. Does alien life exist? What's its scope? Microbial? Rare, common, exotic? Sapient? 
  15. Can AI be made or become conscious?
  16. Is it possible to digitize and upload a mind?
  17. Who counts as a person?
  18. Who is this future for? Who survived, who benefits?
  19. Who has been excluded? Who suffers, who is exploited?
  20. What's the overall tone like?


If you've got more, list them in the comments (or even better, make your own posts for them!)



  1. I feel like I will end up refining this, but here's a good start.

  2. What is the frontier? Are there worlds still unexplored, whole regions of space, have we explored beyond our own galaxy?

  3. Use these questions for your mythic settings too.

  4. I feel like the biggest delineation between different sci-fi campaigns is going to be spaceships and whether you can buy one. Can a single PC buy afford? What if the whole party chips in? Are they ludicrously expensive, or like, as expensive as they would be in *reality*?

  5. Another question: Are there uplifted animals or genetically/cybernetically altered humans?