Lonesome Robot Press is pleased to announce Empyrean, a pen & paper science fiction role-playing game set in posthumanity’s distant future. Inspired by influences as diverse as Cowboy Bebop; the original Traveller RPG; and the writings of Vernor Vinge, Peter Hamilton, Bruce Sterling, and Alastair Reynolds, Empyrean uses a richly developed Milky Way galaxy as backdrop for the meeting and clash of humanity and numerous alien races. Players can choose to portray characters from one of humanity’s many cultures and subspecies, AGIs, or aliens designed to be culturally distinct yet playable.
Although the possibilities for an Empyrean campaign are nearly limitless, the default campaign casts the player characters as the crew of an FTL (faster-than-light) ship. The rules and setting material focus on the challenges and opportunities for such characters, whether they choose to seek hire as mercenaries, ply the galactic trade lanes as merchants, or pursue more obscure goals. An elegant system of rules for modeling the technology levels and available resources in various star systems helps to determine the challenges and potential rewards of the missions upon which characters embark.
Player character roles are designed to encourage a cohesive “adventuring party” style of play, with some or all of the following possibly present within a PC group:
- Starship command crew: commanders, navigators, and helms
- Groundside ops personnel: drop ship pilots, groundpounders, infiltrators, and even bounty hunters
- Spacing professions: salvage crew, fighter pilots, and fleet ops specialists
- Social & sciences professions: biologists, linguists, astrophysicists, infobrokers, and trade negotiators
- Sentient starships whose robotic avatars can accompany the rest of a PC group groundside
A range of races and human subtypes are available as playable characters:
- Humans from planetary cultures, including the Normans, Aztlánistas, and Vegans.
- Humans from spacefaring cultures, including the technology-trading Ming Lu and the awesome mercenary fleets of Kombine Mercantile Marine.
- Lynn’Ryn, a race of tradition-bound blue skinned humanoids whose ancient culture teaches the discipline of manipulating physical reality at the quantum level.
- Al-Mogur, entrepreneurs and merchants who grow their ships from organic matter and whose science appears weirdly mystical to outsiders.
- Sovizen, humanoids descended from arboreal amphibians. Their aptitude for macro-scale building is unparalleled, extending to the planetary scale.
- Bagduarh, a race descended from flightless avian carrion eaters. They are new to the stars, having rapidly assimilated new technology gained from other races.
- Dholi Ghat, the children of the Mold, a race of rudimentary humanoids connected by slime mold implants in their bodies to the Bloom, a self-aware information network that is the only known method of faster-than-light communication.
In addition to unique PC races and a variety of interesting antagonists, Empyrean will eventually include spaceship combat rules at two scales: micro, for GMs wanting to include small craft and fighter combat in their games, and macro, for star system-spanning battles between capital ships. This and other features of the game setting and rules allow GMs to decide on what balance of hard sci-fi versus space opera elements they wish to include in their game.
Empyrean was co-authored by Jack Graham and Derek Swirsky between 2003 and 2009. The core Empyrean book will be released in two sections: a setting book detailing the game universe, and a separate rules book. The rules book uses the Eclipse Phase game mechanics published by Catalyst Gamelabs and developed by Rob Boyle and Brian Cross of Posthuman Studios. In accordance with the Eclipse Phase Creative Commons license, the Empyrean rules book will also be distributed under a CC license. Wherever possible, rules for Empyrean material will be made backwards-compatible with Eclipse Phase, allowing EP gamemasters to borrow from Empyrean.
Empyrean material will be released online starting in Autumn of 2009.