Nostalgia: The Nomad Fleet Dev Diary – Episode 4
In our second Dev Diary episode, I explained why I joined the Nostalgia project. Now, finally, it’s time to talk about something more concrete.
The Nomad Fleet is the middle setting of a wider saga that starts on Earth and extends across the Universe, taking mankind towards an unknown fate on a distant world. This first game will cover what happens to humanity during its journey through the starry void. First things first: Nostalgia’s Universe is a cold, hostile, barren womb that has birthed nothing except mankind. In our saga, the Universe is mute and deaf: there are no aliens to encounter nor ancient ruins of past civilizations to discover. There’s only us. Kind of.
Perhaps that doesn’t sound like the best premise for a space opera, huh? Let’s dig deeper.
The so-called Nomad Fleet is a formation of eight giant starships – the “Arks” – whose origin is shrouded in mystery. Sent by an unknown entity, their brooding carved faces appear in Earth’s orbit just in time to rescue a small percentage of Earth’s population. Every Ark loads millions of refugees who are leaving a dying (but not yet dead) planet in hopes of a better tomorrow. Those who made it on board didn’t even know where the Arks were heading, but the choice was between boarding and certain death so they boarded the Arks, travelling towards the unknown, struggling to survive for millennia, and eventually losing all memory of their Earthly ancestors.
Yes, I’ve seen and enjoyed Battlestar Galactica, so I know the Fleet-thing sounds familiar. But give me some credit, will ya?
Imagine these Arks as huge “towers” floating through infinite emptiness. Each tower is comprised of “Levels” piled on top of each other. Each Level hosts a large amount of people – from thousands to millions, depending on its size and purpose. Most Levels have a specific function in the Ark’s ecosystem: there are greenhouse and breeding Levels for food production, mining Levels for materials, industrial Levels for production, and of course urban Levels that function as cities.
Unfortunately, as you probably already know, humans are terrible at coexisting peacefully, especially when they’re trapped in one place for a long time. And the Fleet’s journey is very long.
Eons passed and things started going horribly wrong for reasons you don’t need to know yet. Everything changed on the Arks: all the Levels were sealed and isolated, and no one was allowed to travel between. A group of oligarchs known as The Fulcrum began destroying the whole system, as politicians are wont to do.
I can hear you asking: “How the frak did this happen? Can a few really overtake millions?
Of course they can.
The Arks weren’t initially intended for Earthlings, so most Levels had to be rearranged for human habitation. During this time, some super-advanced native technologies allowed for the discovery and activation of an unlimited power source called Aura, an energy that literally flows through the Arks like air (we’ll talk extensively about Aura in a future Dev Diary episode).
The only way to harvest Aura is through collectors, whose functioning is at the Fulcrum’s complete discretion. And with control of the Aura supply, the Fulcrum blackmailed every other Level and extorted goods, services, and, eventually, complete submission.
This arrangement lasted a long time, and every Level, isolated from the others, evolved independently. Each developed its own unique habits and customs, creating distinctive cultures and following diverse paths: some Levels remained mostly unchanged while others mutated drastically. Some remained disciplined and technologically advanced; others collapsed into anarchy, chaos, or even worse, a slow death caused by starvation and/or lack of resources.
Then The Event occurred, triggered by a mysterious entity, and everything changed again.
The Fulcrum’s oppression ended and the passages between levels were reopened.
The Nomad Fleet begins a few years after The Event.
The period of forced isolation imposed by the Fulcrum (along with other things we’ll reveal later) has affected the inhabitants of all Levels in the weirdest ways, so you’ll have a broad range of “worlds” at your disposal. For example, while wandering an Ark you’ll find modern civilizations and primitive tribes; you’ll also discover a Level managed by an eco-terrorist AI; a sect of “Worshippers of the Stone” devoted to their lethal pickaxes; an abandoned region haunted by ghosts; and a Level where an enlightened council of synthetic beings kills humans and turns their souls into fuel.
While the possibilities are virtually infinite, I’m doing my best to make all of this plausible and coherent within the big picture we have for Nostalgia.
My primary goal is to give to every GM a world rich with options and potential, and every player a playground of countless choices, while trying to avoid the “fantasy approach”. The Nomad Fleet will remain firmly anchored in sci-fi, meaning that the world has its own rules, and its own logical evolution (though strange races, weird technologies, and supernatural powers do exist).
The Arks’ multi-level architecture is the hallmark of The Nomad Fleet’s setting, and the party’s experience will be heavily impacted by it. In a “classic world” you have to travel far to encounter new territories or different cultures, but in The Nomad Fleet’s vertical setting you can reach a new “world” in no time. You just ascend a tower connecting two levels, or use an improvised elevator, air balloon, or whatever you can find.
Of course, you could ignore the upper levels and descend into the lower ones using a cableway or other means. You can also try to reach an Ark’s “peak”, where the Fulcrum headquarters used to be, or travel to an Ark’s “base”, demarcated by its carved stone face. The choice is yours, but whichever way you decide, the journey will be astonishing!