Spectrum - In Space

My story game group has been talking for a while about wanting to play some kind of hard sci-fi space travel campaign. We looked at a lot of AW space hacks, but decided to use my Spectrum system. But before we started building characters for Spectrum, we played 2 sessions of Microscope to create our future timeline.

Before Play: Microscope

I've been excited to use Microscope to create a setting for Spectrum. It would be great for creating setting for any game really, but especially for Spectrum, which lets you travel to any point in the timeline and change history. The default future timeline in Spectrum has rapid technological advancement, ending with the nanobots destroying the universe in the year 4000, and my players wanted a longer future timeline to play in.

So we played 2 sessions of Microscope, and got 38,000 years of future history. Terran expansion, warring corporations, a Martian revolution, a war for AI independence, the destruction of Earth, contact with 3 alien races (warlike Myconids, peaceful Arocknids, and manipulative parasitic Dravidians), the development of 4 distinct AI cultures, which eventually collaborate to create huge Dyson-sphere worlds populated with artificial life, a golden age of galactic peace, an invasion by extra-galactic intelligent electro-magnetic cloud entities, and finally the nanobots destroying the universe. We're all excited to play time-travelers in this setting.

Then I converted this future timeline into the Spectrum Tech Levels, found some good maps of our galaxy, and created a random time-and-space jump table. The default spectrum Tech Levels just include "space flight" and "hyperdrive", so I wrote some extra detail about the relative speeds of spaceships at different Tech Levels. All of this extra material is so far just in the form of notes, good enough for me to GM with, but I would like to clean it up and make it available as a free sourcebook for Spectrum.

1st Episode

We created Spectrum characters and played our first session. The characters are:
Edgar - human from 1930s America, charismatic time-bandit.
Pria - human from 2600s Mars, anarchist inventor.
Ooloo - shape-shifting artificial life-form from beyond time and space.

The players all chose a system of rare and inaccessible star-gates as their characters' time-travel Method, although each of them accesses these gates in their own unique way.

In the 1st Episode, Edgar was Yellow (moderately experienced) , Pria was Blue (more experienced), and Ooloo was Red (less experienced). Since Ooloo would be the weakest character for this Episode, I wanted to put the focus on him, and asked where and when he was, and what kind of trouble he was in.

Ooloo's player said he has traveled to the Sipsi star system, in the year 2627, in hopes of meeting the AI who eventually created him, but he arrived too early, and is floating in empty space, years before the AI colony ship reaches this system and builds their artifical world. Pria and Edgar needed to come to his rescue.

Pria bends time to have a small transport shuttle (taking on time debt), and she and Edgar arrive the Sipsi system, rescue Ooloo from floating in space. Ooloo can't speak, but Pria builds a translator device to speak to it, and it eventually manages to communicate with the others by shape-shifting. They all have to wait years for the AI ship to arrive, so Edgar makes a masterpiece painting to give the AI as a gift.

When the AI ship arrives, it is suspicious of the 2 humans and the shape-shifter. The AI is impressed with Edgar's painting, and he manages to convince it not to attack them, but the AI still wants to keep them all here to study them. Pria time-jumps herself, Edgar and the ship away, leaving a happy Ooloo with the confused AI.

Pria and Edgar arrive on Mars in 5399, in the final days of the AI war of independence. Pria had to make the jump without a star-gate, so they and their ship are damaged by the rough jump. Edgar forges a registration ID for the ship, and they dock it at Basin City, currently under control of the Lunar Queen corporate military. Pria finds an earlier instance of their ship, and Edgar tricks the military guards into letting him commandeer it. As a huge AI ship begins it's assault on the city, Edgar and Pria find the Martian star-gate on display in a public park, and escape with their two ships (actually both instances of the same ship). They still have to get Edgar's ship back to Pria when she bent time for it, to resolve her time debt before it creates a Paradox.


  • 2nd Episode

    Ooloo is Violet (very experienced and powerful).
    Pria is Dark (has never experienced time-travel).
    Edgar's player is unfortunately absent.

    I start by explaining that Pria is a normal human Shade (non-time-traveler) still living in linear time. This means she doesn't know about time travel, can't use red cards, and can't time-jump, although she can still Bend time by having her future self come back to help her out. I ask Pria's player where and when all the weirdness started, and what the her current problem is.

    Pria is in the Martian outback in 2639 (100 years after the Martian revolution, when Mars is cut off from the rest of the corporate-controlled Sol system). She's working on tightbeam communications with Earth when Jimmy, a local gangster, sabotages her rover's CO2 scrubbers as his latest scheme to coerce her into using her lab to cook up stim-sticks for his gang.

    Then I explain to Ooloo's player that Ooloo is now very powerful and experienced, and has had many time travel adventures fighting the nanobots. Ooloo knows it will soon shift to Light, and ascend the time stream completely, but it still hasn't resolved the time debt for having its "sheen" (an artificial second skin that allows it to survive in space) back when it appeared in Sips system at Red. Ooloo wants to resolve this time debt before it becomes Paradox, and needs to help save Dark Pria, so Pria can be there to save Red Ooloo.

    Ooloo appears to Pria in the form of a raven, and warns her about the sabotage to her environment system. Pria manages to repair the damage, but not before she is badly hurt by the poisoned air. Jimmy and his crew arrive in a heavy industrial rover. Ooloo attacks them, revealing mysterious shape-changing powers, and is wounded. The gangsters are about to crack open Pria's rover, when Ooloo changes into a Martian sheriff and scares them off. Ooloo tells Pria to meet it at the Hub Station workshop in 30 hours, and flies off.

    Ooloo spends a few months searching Mars for the 3 scattered pieces of the star-gate Pria will need to make her first time-jump. It fails to find the pieces, so decides to time jump back to 1500, and take another 400 years to search. Oooloo finds the scattered pieces of the Martian star-gate, and plants them inside a rich vein of minerals for the human miners to find. Ooloo develops a Quirk, "mischievous vandal", from spending so long on one task. It creates the "face" on Mars' surface, and creates a labyrinthe of fake "alien" ruins around the star-gate pieces, including coded instructions for how to use them.

    Back in 2639, Pria heads to Hub Station, and spends a few days working on their water treatment infrastructure, and recovering from her CO2 sickness. Jimmy and his crew cut the power to the station, and corner Pria in the service tunnels. Pria fights them off, and repairs the electrical system. Ooloo appears in the darkened tunnels as a cloud of mist, grabs Jimmy and his crew, and time-jumps them into Mars' orbit, where they die instantly. Ooloo's "sheen" allows it to survive in space, but it is trapped in Mars' orbit, unable to fly back to the surface, and unable to time-jump without access to a power source or a star-gate.

    Out in space, Ooloo notices a Lunar Queen corporate military fleet hiding on the dark side of Mars' moon, Phobos. This looks like an invasion force, but Ooloo knows that corporate forces did not re-take Mars for hundreds of years, so this is an opportunity for the time travelers to correct history by stopping the impending invasion. After months trapped in Mars' orbit, Ooloo develops another Quirk, "space sleepiness", and is finally forced to "Light Out", calling on its future, Light self to come back and save it. Ooloo is saved, but suffers direct Paradox.

    Back at Hub Station, Pria keeps working on the water system and treating her sickness, wondering what ever happened to Jimmy. In 2640, excited miners bring in three "alien artifacts" that they dug up from a labyrinthe of ruins. Pria investigates the ruins, deciphers Ooloo's instructions, and activates the star-gate, triggering her own leap from Dark to Red. Ooloo successfully saved Pria from Jimmy, and prepared Pria for time-travel without ever directly revealing or explaining itself.

    Ooloo's Paradox causes it to lose its Light episode. Ooloo will not ascend beyond time and space, but will eventually die, unless it can erase its Paradox with a Synchronicity (perhaps by preventing the corporate invasion of Mars). Ooloo's player decides to add an Orange episode in place of its lost Light episode.

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