For some time now, we’ve been stomping all over the canon of the reimagined show with our campaign. I figure if you’re going to roleplay in an established setting you’ve got two real choices — adhere to the established material and slavishly model it, or work in the interstices between the events of the movie/show/book…or that what you like, throw caution to the wind, and do it your way.
I’ve used all of these techniques — from playing on the edges of the Babylon 5 universe in a campaign back in the late ’90s, to throwing a large part of the franchise out the window for a Star Trek campaign a few years back. With my first Battlestar Galactica campaign, I did the second fleet thing — a smaller group looking to find a new home, working from the flashes of insight of an oracle in the fleet and an alternative book from the Sacred Scrolls. It worked well, but with the collapse of that gaming group, I tried something new — throwing out the stuff I didn’t want and building anew.
Adama: gone; replaced with a player character, Commander Pindarus. The Final Five nonsense: gone. The humanoid Cylons are actually from Kobol, and are agents of the blaze known as Seraph. I borrowed the Ship of Lights for the Blaze and the Seraphs from the old ’70s show. Added: more science fiction elements, archeological hints that the Cycle of Time has repeated for at least three or four times. And our people finally set down on Kobol this time in the midst of a civil war between the Seraph and the centurions they had created and those from the Colonies they coopted into working with them. The goal was the same: find the Temple of Athena and the roadmap to Earth.
We had established that the war and the Fall of Man was to bring them “home” under the loving embrace of “the Blaze” — the one true god…except it’s not. We had a ton of exposition under fire this last session, and some of it involved what the Blaze is/was.
After a great cliffhanger (literally) in the week before, we launched off into characters on the ground mission rappelling out of an old Olympian temple or palace while the ruins were being blasted apart around them. They’d already lost one (former) PC, scads of NPCs, and lost a major NPC — the love interest of the commander — when she broke her back falling from the building. Still alive, but paralyzed and barely able to breathe, the characters carted her to the Temple, where they used the Arrow of Apollo to open the tomb — to do this, the arrow had to be shot at a “lock”, which opened the tomb.
The tomb, however, was more of a command center for the Goddess of War. Athena presented as a hologram, demanded from them their intentions, and learning they were from the 12 Tribes, demanded a “sacrifice” — the injured and dying member insisted she be used, as she was the obvious choice and the Athena specter agreed. She was loaded into the sarcophagus of the goddess (empty), and a vial of something inside the Arrow of Apollo was loaded at the hologram’s direction into a panel of sorts. The sarcophagus went to work doing something horrific — laser light and milky liquid a la the resurrection ships — while the hologram gave them the night time sky from Earth stuff from the show, but followed it up with a zoom out to show that they are about 1100LY from the world, on the other side of the Orion Nebula. They can be there (safely) in about 300 days.
The sarcophagus was done, by this time, having repaired the injured colonel and “infected” her with the DNA of the original Athena. While her appearance won’t change — the body is mature and while it might change over time — she still looks like the colonel, has many of her memories, but has also had Athena’s memories programmed in somehow. The newly restored Athena gives them the low-down:
The Blaze is Hades, a jealous “god” who should have been the King of the Lords of Kobol, as he was the eldest, but was usurped by Zeus. At least, that is the memories, the legend, they had been created with. In truth, they are the creations of the TITANs, some kind of advanced machine intelligence that destroyed their makers…humans, then in a bout of regret, recreated life from Earth on Kobol and gave them the Lords to rule over them and help them develop. The Lords started to take the PR too seriously, especially Hades, who after the rebellion and exodus of the Ophiuchan or 13th Tribe (of whom he was the patron god), he followed them and discovered the TITANs. Intrigued by their investigations into the nature of the universe, he “saw the face of God” and went mad, fashioned himself as a god, and returned to Kobol to instill order and gain the adulation of his peers and their human charges.
Except it didn’t work out that way…and for ten thousand years or more, they’ve played out this story — over and over — with Hades hoping for the “right” outcome: he as the one God, worshipped and loved by his followers. However, just as humans created their machines that destroyed them, and the TITANs created the Lords that fashioned themselves as gods and viewed Man as their creation, and just as Man created machines in their image, the Blaze created Seraph as a replacement for his departed brothers and sisters, the Lords of Kobol.
The history is fractal — from the massive superintelligent TITANs, to the Lords, to the Blaze, the humanoid Cylons/Seraph and the humans…the same hubris to create a perfect slave destroys the maker. Athena, having remembers other iterations of the story, threw herself from Olympus not in despair over the colonies leaving, but to set her mind-state free to be transmitted to “follow the course of the Blaze” and find a way to stop him. She has been waiting for a millennia for someone to find her, having been beamed home 1000 years ago.
While this was happening, Galactica found out the mission on the ground was rapidly going FUBAR, and they jump in to nuke the Blaze’s citadel on the ruins of the “City of the Gods” on Kobol — the Tower of Dis, a massive diamondoid structure that is mostly computational substrate, but also an active energy weapon system. It’s dug into the planet to feed on geothermal energy and according to Athena, has the records of every Seraph, human puppet, Lord of Kobol, and who knows what else stored in it. If Hades escapes, the cycle will just start all over.
While Galactica is locked in a tense fight with the Cylon fleet over the planet, and the missiles are on route, Athena and Hades have a snark off that ends with her revealing the one thing she has left: her father’s thunder. She lets the ship and the ground crews know it’s a trick she can do only once…and they have three minutes to be outside of the magnetic field of the planet. With a strike of her spear on the floor, she sets the weapon in motion.
A few more NPCs and almost two PCs, were lost trying to evac to the SAR raptor had had just gotten to them (One of the characters was physically hurled by the increasingly strong Athena into the raptor.) and they manage to barely clear the planet as the magnetic field starts to amp up sharply and the planet starts showing signs of volcanic activity all over the globe. The magnetic field collapses down to the surface and increases to a sci-fi ridiculous level and destroys the Blaze…and Kobol.
The Cycle is broken. With the roadmap to Earth they head back for the fleet.
There was a great moment when the mission returns when the commander realizes that Athena is no longer his lover, and has his nervous breakdown in private. They also learn from her that while they have the map, they will need her to get past the “Guardians of Earth”, who will need to see someone they “know.” Hence the need to take biomass and retool it with her DNA. There were some intimations that the TITANs may be “near” Earth, and that the Blaze may or may not be destroyed. If not, they will need to attract the attention and aid of the TITANs to stop him.
If the characters follow their own plans, the fleet will split with Galactica leading the ragtag fleet of civilians to Earth, while Pegasus takes the other military assets and fights the much weakened Cylons with hit and run attacks designed to distract the enemy from the fleet’s escape.
So that’s an example of how you can take the material from an established property or universe, keep a lot of the elements (and even enhanced them), and still go your own way.