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Old 01-18-2022, 12:53 AM   #1
FF_Ninja
 
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Default [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the stars?

So, I'm working on some fundamentals for a space exploration setting and I'd like to see if anyone has some ideas. Or, an idea in particular.

So, the PCs are crew on Earth's first FTL spacecraft that's fitted for long-term exploration. I want to create a credible threat to Earth's future part-way through their endeavor that will encourage them to seek out potential allies. Eventually, I envision mimicking Enterprise, which portrayed the birth of the Federation, but I'd prefer such things to occur organically.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to work this in? What might cause Earth to go, "Huh, maybe our survival in this cold, dark universe depends on making friends, sharing ideas, and signing papers?"
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Old 01-18-2022, 01:33 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the st

Do you intend humanity to be trying to bring together all the bickering aliens to face the crisis (which, frankly, has been done to death)? Or do you prefer humanity trying to make itself useful to one of the factions in the League of Planets before someone hands us off to the Space Nazis to guarantee peace in our time.
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Old 01-18-2022, 02:03 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the st

The obvious thing to do, when going to the stars and finding oneself not alone, is to try to arrange scientific and technological exchanges with the newly encountered aliens. They surely know some useful things humanity hasn't yet discovered, and humanity may well know some things they haven't stumbled upon yet, so both parties will be able to see the worth of such exchanges. This will create relationships and paths of communication that can deepen when the Big Threat Capable of Destroying Both Civilizations inevitably arrives.


Anyway, seeking out alliances is basically what humanity does, even when faced with the unfamiliar- look at the histories of conquests and colonization, and you'll see that, even when there was fundamental hostility between two peoples, factions of them were always able to band together across the divide for at least short-term gain. Even if the Government of United Earth (or even the Governments of Nations on Disunited Earth) are against contact, there are plenty of groups of humans who will be eager to seek out alien help, and this too will create the potential for greater interaction down the line.
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Old 01-18-2022, 04:20 AM   #4
dcarson
 
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Default Re: [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the st

A throughly wrecked planet to get across just how bad things can get might help.
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Old 01-18-2022, 04:58 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the st

Money. Trade would seem to have driven all sorts of things in the past and I see no reason for it to stop.
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Old 01-18-2022, 05:13 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the st

Two stealable plots that leap to mind immediately are Baxter's "Calculating God" and Brin's Uplift series.

The thesis of the former is that a sapient species in isolation opts for either nuclear annihilation or digital-mind-emulation solipsism almost as soon as they have access to those technologies, without exception. Sapients need an Other to interact with in order to continue growing and developing, and at a certain level of technology your own species and its creations stop counting as Other for this process. Find aliens or die off quickly, the numerous formerly-inhabited worlds of the galaxy are clear. Perhaps a bit high minded and philosophical for a Star Trek pastiche, but it always struck me as interesting. I'd have humanity respond to a broadcast message from Sirius, and when they get there it's uninhabited but that message is spelled out somehow. Sirius is a good place for such a beacon because we're fairly confident life couldn't have evolved there, so a message from Sirius automatically says "we travel the stars".

In Uplift, galactic society is cutthroat and nasty. Humanity caught a very lucky break that its first contact was with the Tymbrymi, famous for their odd sense of humor (which works out to be the GURPS disadvantage of Sadism, paired with Empathy). The Tymbrymi concluded quickly that it would be funnier to introduce humanity to the galaxy than to wipe humanity out themselves. Hijinks ensue.
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Old 01-18-2022, 06:37 AM   #7
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the st

Well, the two obvious motivations are enemies (because not all of the strange new civilizations are friendly) and emergencies, either caused by our own folly ("We've found FTL just in time because Earth is becoming unihabitable) or just some random space born stuff ("The wave front from that nova has crapped out every electronic device in the Solar System!").

There's also Greed as a motivation and Curiosity. And maybe we want to exploit our species Unique Selling Point. ("Only humans have good enough taste buds to have evolved the concept of professional chefs!")
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Old 01-18-2022, 07:02 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the st

Would be interesting to see how Earth shapes up against other FTL capable civilisations - do we get to be Mejii era Japan or more like the Portuguese making landfall in Imperial China (British traders landing in Mughal India might be even more ... interesting...). Might we hope for peer-to-peer encounters or might we end up like the outrigger Polynesians running into the modern world? Some of these make humanity a player, or even a potential power, in others, we look more like lunch.
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Old 01-18-2022, 07:31 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the st

Something that will depopulate Earth without intervention, and the humans need ideas from others - because their own aren't working.

There's plenty of options, here. Something that attacks our crops, like the Blight from Interstellar, is a good one - you need to recruit top-tier xenobiologists from various alien species, while preventing opportunistic factions from pouncing on Earth's weakness (and also convince others that, no, you aren't carrying a plague that will wipe out all their crops*).

A highly-communicable, rapidly-mutating virus (optionally, a bioweapon, for a "We've done this to ourselves" bit - or, as a bit of a twist, an alien power that sees Earth as a threat created and deployed it) would work as well, and honestly be rather similar in how the characters approach things as the Blight scenario, above. Particularly for something Star Trek inspired, the risk of it jumping to alien species should absolutely be present. You can take inspiration from recent events, here.

An out-of-control Von Neumann swarm, like the Faro Plague from Horizon: Zero Dawn (optionally, space-capable instead of purely terrestrial, but then it's an existential crises for everyone, not just Earth), could be interesting. Again, this is something that can potentially spread to your would-be allies, making them hesitant, but can more readily result in combat encounters if that's your thing. One thing I liked about H:ZD's implementation of the idea was that the primary threat from the swarm wasn't actually its combat capabilities (although those were formidable), but rather the fact that it was ravaging the environment with its rapid reproduction - IIRC, by the time Faro revealed he'd lost control of one of the swarms, the damage was so bad the biosphere had hit a point of no return and was doomed to collapse, even if all the machines stopped functioning immediately. Something like this could also be used - but the aliens might have a solution to stop the collapse (or at least, there's hope those xenobiologists will be able to come up with something).

In all three scenarios, you can tease hints at what's coming from news reports and the like back on Earth, before it becomes an all-out emergency.

*Note here that there may be a moratorium on people leaving Earth, for fear of the Blight spreading to the crops other colonies are dependent upon. The same would happen in the virus scenario, and maybe even the Von Neumann one. So you can't take the Interstellar approach and evacuate the planet.
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Old 01-18-2022, 01:38 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Plot] What would cause a newly FTL-capable Earth to seek out allies among the st

Quote:
Originally Posted by FF_Ninja View Post

(SNIP)

Does anyone have any ideas on how to work this in? What might cause Earth to go, "Huh, maybe our survival in this cold, dark universe depends on making friends, sharing ideas, and signing papers?"
A lot of this depends on the type of campaign you and your players want, right? Figure that out, and then build the setting to suit.

Military sci-fi with lots of violence? Usable, uninhabited planets are rare, but alien species with FTL are not. Everybody fights for colony worlds, and you get a setting that eventually resembles, Old Man's War.

Dark Forest predators? Again, alien races are reasonably numerous, but a few are much more dangerous than most. Those dangerous aliens have little interest in the hassle of invasion and conquest, and most just consider other species pests, vermin, food or interesting sporting challenges. The crew needs to find out more information about -- and possibly allies against -- these killers, and they earn their pay if they can find the hidden home-world(s) of the assailants.

Berserkers. They're big, powerful self-replicating murder-machines created as doomsday weapons in ages past. Nobody can stand against them, alone. Read Saberhagen for more details.

Resistance. The Empire is big, powerful and willing to colonize any planet that hasn't yet developed FTL. However, those that do develop the technology, autonomously, threaten a status quo that has existed for millennia. Fortunately, the Empire hasn't heard about the upstarts from Sol. Yet.

The thing to remember is that RPGs require drama, and drama thrives on conflict. A fight against a blight can be okay for one (short) story arc, but real drama requires active, challenging antagonists.
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