Expanding Horizons

Expanding Horizons

August 30, 2018 Off By Chase

What started as a pitch for a massively multiplayer RPG turned into a tabletop game, then a novel series, then a television series, then a cancelled-but-renewed-by-Amazon television series, and now a tabletop game again. The Expanse Roleplaying Game Kickstarter asked for $30,000, funded in about an hour, and met all its stretch goals, ending its campaign at just over $400,000.

The Expanse is a science fiction series by James S.A. Corey, the nom de plume of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Franck developed what would become The Expanse as a pitch for a Chinese MMORPG, but when the project failed to get out of the planning phase Franck continued to develop the idea as a tabletop game. Franck ran a game of it for fantasy author George R.R. Martin and Abraham, who pitched the expansive setting as a potential novel series. Abraham wrote the prologue and first chapter of the story, and after Franck determined he’d done it wrong they collaborated on the rest of the novel.

Resting Leviathans

The story takes place two hundred years in the future, where humanity has pushed out to colonize the solar system. Mars and Luna sport human populations, as do Ceres, Ganymede, Eros, and a number of asteroids and stations throughout the solar system. While other stars are still beyond humanity’s reach, the space around Sol is open thanks to the Epstein drive, which allows spacecraft to travel under constant thrust during their voyage.

Solomon Epstein discovered this firsthand. His corpse was ejected from the solar system at some fraction of C.

Transports, cruisers, water haulers, pleasure craft, all flit between their destinations within the system in a matter of hours or days. The people inside those craft experience the artificial gravity of constant acceleration, strapping into cushioned gimbles called crash couches during hard burns. Those that don’t secure themselves can end up as stains on the inside of the hull. Some still do, especially when point defense cannons are involved. Electromagnetically propelled tungsten tends to have that effect.

Mars bartered its independence from Earth by licensing use of the Epstein drive, and now maintains that independence with a smaller but technologically superior navy compared to that of the United Nations. Those “up the well” answer to neither while chafing under their dependence on both. Belters, people raised the microgravity of the asteroid belt, have developed their own cultural and linguistic pastiche of the worlds that came before while eking out blue collar lives among the frontier. Their tall, lanky bodies can’t survive even Earth normal gravity for long, and the gravity of the Earth-Mars Coalition pulls them down and keeps them underappreciated and underrepresented. The Outer Planets Alliance seeks to give a voice to Belter concerns and end this exploitation, but the inner systems view the OPA as a terrorist organization of loosely aligned anarchist cells.

The Mercy of the Churn

Any one of a dozen different vectors could throw everything out of alignment. A wayward heiress gone missing. A hardboiled detective sent to find her on Ceres Station. A water hauler responding to a distress beacon. An idealistic XO doing what he thinks is right.

A necromorphic protomolecule.

Whatever the spark, the system will burn.

Fans and newcomers alike can expect to bring this experience to their tables later this year.

Featured image art: Leviathan Wakes by Piotr Cieśliński