“All drama is conflict” according to an old saying. That’s why combat features so prominently in gaming situations – it’s easy to have something feel dramatic when the player’s getting shot at. However, the drama and combat should grow organically from the setting and story, rather than just happening when things get dull. To that end, I want to flesh out the sources of conflict within my embryonic sci-fi RPG which still doesn’t have a title.
Life on the frontier is rough. Given that the Jovian moons have people living in domes or underground, it’s even more rough. The colonies there were established not only to stem the growing population of the human race but also to mine Jupiter for hydrogen. Rather than simply ferrying it back to Earth, though, there are some Jovian colonists who believe they should be bartering the fuel for food and other niceties rather than just relying on the good faith of the Terran worlds – Earth & Mars. The colonists on Luna, by contrast, think the Jovians should suck it up & deal with it. The Ceres colony is somewhat indifferent to the conflict, as it has the smallest standing population and is little more than a way station between the inner worlds and the moons of Jupiter. This also lends it to being something of a “wretched hive of scum & villainy”. Anyway, some skirmishes have already been fought when armed transports from Jupiter refused to yield to Terran escorts or disable their weapons, since the Jovian colonies are not permitted to have active capital-grade weapons anywhere past Ceres. This flies in the face of the fact that the Jovians have already established a provisional government and military. The rules and regulations are chafing against the colonists’ sense of independence and all-out war seems inevitable.
On both sides of the debate are corporations. Some have been on Earth for a very long time, and some have been established recently to represent and promote the interest of the colonies. The corporation sponsoring the mining of hydrogen from Jupiter and the union of workers who undertake this dangerous task are both pushing for independence and leveraging their product for profit rather than being seen as another arm of Earth’s expanding territory. The manufacture of weapons on both sides is highly profitable, and a war would only cause production to rise to unprecedented levels. It’s possible that some involved in corporate espionage would seek ways to get the war started. On the other hand, corporations on both sides are likely interested in establishing peace, to foster good business relationships and expand the possibilities for everybody to profit without loss of life. I’m certain that there are some business owners out there who actually believe that life is worth preserving, provided that in the course of becoming business owners they haven’t lost their souls.
Beyond Jupiter and its moons is the next logical step in human expansion. Saturn’s atmosphere is also stocked with hydrogen, it has a plethora of moons and seeing the rings up close might be a draw for tourists. But who will stake a claim first, Earth or the Jovians? Has somebody staked a claim already? Even if the current tension between the home world and the colonies gets resolved without bloodshed, there’s every possibility that the mad rush to claim Saturn’s resources could lead to yet another conflict.
So what am I missing? Is this enough potential drama to draw people in? What else needs to be considered? Where should the project go from here?
December 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm
I’ll note that sometimes, good conflict *does* come out of — “Holy crap, I have to stop this from being dull!” — but I see what you’re getting at.
I don’t have time for much thoughtful conflict in specific to your setting, but as my old writing professor used to say, some of the best conflict comes out of *transgression* — look for sources of personal or even political transgression, and you might find meat for the bones.