I’ve been a bit quiet on the new Battlestar Galactica campaign we’ve got running, partly because our China-based Hollow Earth Expedition game has been a blast and is just charging along, and partly because I’ve been retooling some of the ideas I’ve had. I’ve got to be a bit careful about saying to much, lest I drop spoilers for the gamer or two in my group I know read this blog (so stop now, you!)

The game is set roughly a year to two before the Cylon attacks. I did this last time to develop the background of the characters and the Colonies so that the players would have something to miss when it was gone — family, friend, places. This time, however, it’s also to give the initial “seasons” a new flavor. Whereas last time the Cylons just showed up out of nowhere, as in the new show, this time the toasters are out there, we know they’re out there, and we know they’re still sniffing about the Colonial space.

The flavor is more of a combo of Cold War tension — the characters are stationed on an “expeditionary” craft that is ostensibly on exploration missions out of the solar system (I’m using the Quantum Mechanix four-star cluster idea. I know some don’t like it, but it look pisser on the wall when referring to places.) The rest of the time they are on detached duty doing political flag-waving, military assistance of policing, etc. On that side, I’m pushing an erosion of rights and heightening inter-Colonial tensions flavor. Troubles from within and without.

The Cylons are probing Colonial space and outposts: ships and outpost personnel go missing. Strange ships are spotted only to jump away. The Fleet is returning the favor, slipping around the Armistice Line from time to time to do surveillance. But the goal is to avoid any escalation, especially as the public is convince the threat is gone (and the politicians are pushing the meme as a way to shift Colonial expenditures to domestic priorities) and the Fleet stands to be fiscally gutted.

Overlaid on this is another major subplot modified from the show: All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again. There are old ruins being found on the colonies that predate the Kobol exodus…could the scrolls be wrong? Or could this cycle have played out more times than thought? To that end I’ve created a few other “prophecies” — there’s the Scrolls of Pythia, which tell of great migrations; there’s the Sibylline Prophecies, which tell of another cycle, that of resistance and triumph; and there are the prophecies of Dione and Trophonius — which I’ve yet to flesh out.

The goal is to find evidence that humankind and Cylon had preexisted in the past, fought, run, refought, died over and over again, and that the Colonies themselves have been populated multiple times over the millennia as the story has played out on Kobol, Earth, the Colonies, and other places.

UPDATE: Didn’t get to this, and thanks to Runeslinger for giving me a nudge on it — Cylons. The new campaign is going to have a bit of mystery concerning them. As with the new show, there’s humanoid Cylons, as there were in the First War, but these were obviously android/gynoids — silicon skin polymers, very close to human-looking but still somewhere in the “uncanny valley”. There were classified reports of the Cylons doing strange experiments on humans near the end of the war, possibly an attempt to create something like the Terminator-style cyborg, skin over metal.

There will be the new improved Cylons, the old ones will be around, as well — no point in decommissioning them; they’re just not front line troops. There will be moto-centrions, similar to the motorcycle-Terminators (love this idea — why stick bipeds? They’re not exactly efficient for certain tasks.), Cylon tanks (similar to the heavy raider), and a host of other smaller devices for spying and scouting. The toasters aren’t going to stovepipe their design philosophy.

There will be a “big 12”, as in the show, but none of the Final Five nonsense — the 12 are the governing body and they will do the multiple copies thing, regularly uploading their consciousnesses to synch their knowledge. They will be similar in character to the Greek gods/Lords of Kobol — part of the cycle of time. How did they make the jump to biomechanical technology? They’ve had 40 years, they’re smart, and they don’t have regulations, scientific oversight boards, and politics to interrupt improvement of their design…they could very well have just ‘evolved.’ They also might have had help from older machine races…or possibly their God (I’ve not decided if this is a manifest creature — maybe the “jealous god” from the War between the Lords of Kobol [possibly older Cylons?] and Man [possibly older humanoid Cylons?].)

The big difference: the Cylons can use cloning and invasive cybernetics to create copies of actual humans. These humans are still Cylon-human hybrids, and depending on the length of time they have to do the work, they can get very very close to recreating a person (theoretically, they could create a Cylon that is so perfect a copy, it would not know it was a Cylon, and they would be completely unable of their nature…perhaps spying for the enemy without ever having to actively work for them [uploads of sensory data only.)

Now the big change I’m planning — the Cylons will still have to attack through stealth. Despite their 40 years to rebuild and prepare, they are numerically inferior to the Colonial Fleet, and they will be acting in response to something that happens in the game; they act a bit ahead of their ability to win out over the Colonials without subterfuge. They will be using the CNP, as in the show, but the first strike is not nuclear, but using mundane technology against the Colonials (ala Robopocalyse.)

I’m positing a Colonial culture that is on the cusp of attempting to recreate artificial intelligence ( a concern to the Cylons), but at this time they only do high-end expert systems: cars that drive and park themselves, heavily networked data systems, household butlers as in Caprica, etc… There are people that don’t like this trend, and a few of the planets have outlawed machine labor (Sagittaron, Gemenon), others control it heavily (Canceron, Virgon, Arelon), and others don’t use it because their populations are low enough that mechanization hurts the work force (Aquaria.)

The Cylons will use backdoors and software updates to create mass malfunctions (again Robopocalse) putting the Colonies off balance and distracted when the Cylons jump in. The CNP will disable much of the fleet, but they’ll still have a fight on their hands. Use of nuclear weapons will be focused on command and control areas — places like Picon and Caprica will get hit hard, but other colonies not so much.

The goal is to give the players a chance to win against the Cylons, but it would be a hard fought win. The Cylons aren’t interested in saving Mankind (although I might change this if I decide their God is an actual being), but they do want the real estate in good condition for the biomechanical Cylons (the humanoids and other quasi-biological critters.)

If they have to run, they’ll be able to find out that this has happened before, and that Earth isn’t the only human Colony left…but neither are the Cylons the only mechanical race out there.