The Thousand Worlds is a bizarre science-fiction universe created by the mind of George R.R. Martin in the 70’s and 80’s. Yes, that guy.
What draws me to it are that the stories told describe a broken universe that is very alien to our experiences in the real world on earth. Like most stories set in the future, the themes presented are all parallels for modern problems the world is experiencing right now, in the present. However, the subject matter is often unsettling, creepy, uncomfortable, and most important, hits with an emotional impact like a punch to the gut. This is exactly how I like my RPGs to be.
So, I created, ran, and successfully completed a Thousand Worlds campaign, using Edge of the Empire as a basis for the nuts and bolts ruleset. From the outset, I started the campaign design by sketching out what I wanted to accomplish. I had a burning passion to share my enthusiasm for these stories, which I had just finish reading. And I wanted to have a “rags-to-riches” campaign, one that started the game off with the player characters extremely weak and poor, struggling to survive, but then end with them in an earned position of incredible wealth and power. Above all else, I wanted a campaign that – on an emotional, gut level – gave the players the feeling of wondrous discovery. I wanted to give them the childlike wonder of exploring what’s buried under the rocks, and have that thing be fun, interesting, and memorable. I wanted them to never feel like they had run out of the game, or were in any way limited to where they could go or what they could do. There’s always more out there.
In the next few blog posts, I’m going to be talking about some of the details of my Thousand Worlds campaign – design goals, planning, house rules, a starmap puzzle, creating heists, a design checklist, and reinforcing the theme of wondrous discovery in as many ways as possible. Sit tight, it’s a hell of a ride. It might take me some time, be patient.
If you’d like to dig in more into The Thousand Worlds, and I heartily recommend it, go check out this overview video. There’s links to the stories themselves in the video description, many of which have audiobooks or free recorded readings available. There are a lot of stories, but (aside from Dying of the Light) they are all short stories and novellas, making them very quick reads. My favorites are probably In the House of the Worm, A Song for Lya, and The Stone City; though it’s very hard to choose, many of them are really, really good.