Wish List for Transhuman Space
Updated January 9, 2015
We want good new stuff, mostly.
Okay, if you want to work on the Transhuman Space game line, the first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the general information on Writing for Steve Jackson Games, and especially the information on Writing for Warehouse 23 and the Warehouse 23 Wish List. This document is essentially an appendix to those, discussing some special cases and line-specific details. If your proposal seems to suggest that you haven't read those, we will not be impressed! And note, to begin with, that initial proposals and related correspondence should go to firstname.lastname@example.org, and not to the Transhuman Space Line Editor. If the company and the Line Editor like your ideas, you'll find yourself dealing primarily with him, but that comes later.
Having said all that – we will of course be delighted to see good new proposals for Transhuman Space books, and we're more than ready to entertain some slightly different ideas as to what should go in them. These will all be electronic publications, in PDF format for sale on Warehouse 23, for now and the foreseeable future; that's what the market will support. (Very successful books may subsequently see low-volume print runs, but that comes later and isn't the norm.) This, though, is good news for prospective authors in many ways; it lets us take ideas for books that are a little unusual in length – or for that matter content – and try them out on the market. Note that smaller books are not only acceptable, and a good way for a new author to demonstrate basic ability – they often sell quite well.
Thanks to the wonders of Changing Times, Transhuman Space is now compatible with GURPS Fourth Edition. All material submitted for publication should be consistent with Changing Times and where necessary with Shell-Tech or Bioroid Bazaar, and should use Fourth Edition rules and conventions.
GURPS Ultra-Tech Fourth Edition: Some Fourth Edition players may well decide to use hardware and weapons from the new version of Ultra-Tech instead of from the Transhuman Space books. This works fine for incidental material, although the treatment of computers and robot bodies in the newer books is probably too divergent. Anyway, we should support this idea with box-outs; wherever you talk about gadgetry, weapons, etc., you'll probably want a box explaining how gamers should handle things if they're using Ultra-Tech equipment lists rather than the Third Edition books plus Changing Times.
GURPS Bio-Tech Fourth Edition.: Conversely, the new version of Bio-Tech probably clashes a bit too much, too often, to drop the material straight into Transhuman Space games. There are bits you can use, of course, and some new books may well take the odd template or game mechanic (with due accreditation) – but there's no standard requirement for cross-connections.
What Sort of Books Do We Want?
To begin with, see the Transhuman Space section of the Warehouse 23 Wish List for GURPS again. There are several categories mentioned there that could certainly work very well indeed:
Adventures help to demonstrate what sort of scenarios will work in a setting, as well as giving potential GMs with time or inspiration problems a lot of help. The snag with Transhuman Space is that the types of adventurer and campaign framework that are possible in the setting are extremely diverse, so anyone writing an adventure for publication should take it as an opportunity to illustrate one possible adventure frame, while accepting that not everyone will be interested in this particular scenario. You will probably also want to key the adventure to one or more of the line supplements; pitch it as "a Broken Dreams adventure" or "a Deep Beyond adventure" or whatever.
Also, do be prepared to have your plot and incidents analyzed and discussed in detail, and maybe severely criticized, at various points. Transhuman Space is a hard SF setting, and logic and coherence are a big part of the deal.
Agencies are something that would be well worth doing. In a complex, politically multipolar world, there are dozens of powerful intelligence, law-enforcement, and security services, and thousands of smaller but interesting bodies in the same line of work. Some will be direct descendants of real-world agencies of our own time; others will be new creations. The existing books for the line mention some of them – but there are many more which don't happen to have been named yet! And remember, these agencies can use the full range of Transhuman Space paraphernalia – advanced technology, AIs, memetics, whatever works. Most can serve as a (perhaps worrying) patron or employer or as a (possibly somewhat sympathetic) antagonist to PCs, and will have complex interests and agendas.
Encounters are a very promising idea; the short format could give new writers a chance to show what they can do, and experienced writers a chance to add a line to their credits list relatively easily. "Interesting people to meet somewhere in the course of a Transhuman Space campaign" should be an inspiring idea for anyone who knows the setting! The trick may be to come up with sufficiently interesting encounters that are suitable for a reasonable range of Transhuman Space campaign types.
Foes, likewise, offers some interesting possibilities; think of this as very close to the Agencies idea, but with an emphasis on the group's antagonist status.
Hot Spots and Locations for Transhuman Space differ mostly in the matter of scale, and may blur together somewhat. They may mean real-world places as they've become in 2100, or completely new, even artificial locations (space stations, asteroid bases, spaceships, black biotech labs, Martian frontier towns, undersea colonies, etc.). Note that, if you want maps (which are required for Locations), you'll have to supply them yourself. We'd like to see a few of these, giving Transhuman Space adventuring groups somewhere specific to operate. Note that a few places have already been covered in varying levels of detail in existing supplements; the best proposals will come up with something substantially different to what we've got already.
Supporting Cast may rather overlap with the Personnel Files idea (see below), but the focus here will be more on usefulness as NPCs and often as antagonists. These groups should be interesting and varied, and should usually come with a complement of assistant AIs and their cybershells. SWAT teams, police investigation units, military forces, bandit gangs, and spaceship crews are all possibilities; feel free to come up with others.
Vehicles is another topic that deserves some treatment; there've been a reasonable number of vehicle types detailed in prior Transhuman Space material, but not as many as some players would doubtless like, and they've all been in Third Edition format. In fact, we'll entertain proposals for Vehicles books that include Fourth Edition conversions of those old Transhuman Space vehicles, so long as they also contain plenty of brand new, interesting material.
Note that these vehicle designs don't have to use the GURPS Vehicle Designer – which is just as well, as the Fourth Edition version isn't out yet. Nor do they have to explicitly make use of any of the modular vehicle design systems from the Third Edition books. On the other hand, we do want designs that are consistent with the Transhuman Space and GURPS concepts of technology, and with prior canonical material; using an existing design system to generate a rough version of a vehicle, and then converting it to Fourth Edition format, would be more than fine.
Other Possible Titles
In addition to the above ideas, we would like to see some books that expand all sorts of significant aspects of the Transhuman Space world in interesting ways. Some of these may have to be fairly substantial products, and as they will not only entail a significant commitment from both the author and the company, but will also define important aspects of the setting, we would mostly look to established, proven authors to propose and write these. However, a good proposal might convince us of a great deal.
The following are some ideas which we've toyed with – sometimes to the point where we might want to make extensive suggestions as to how to modify your outline. The list isn't exclusive, though (and the suggested titles are wide open for improvement).
Transhuman Space: Art Attack. In a wealthy, media-saturated world, the arts are a natural focus of interest – all else aside, they represent a powerful, subtle vector for memetic transmission. The subject has only been briefly discussed before now; while this may seem a rather rarefied topic for RPG treatment, it has the virtue of being novel and offbeat, and potentially of bringing out the strangeness of the setting. Sources of inspiration for this supplement would include things like Bruce Sterling's novel Holy Fire and any movie about Hollywood (or Bollywood); the content would cover new types of art, major artistic production and distribution corporations, interactions of art and memetics, bioroids and cybershells designed for artistic purposes, some famous artists, and so on. Total length would probably be in the 30-40 page range, but that can depend on what the outline suggests.
Transhuman Space: News Just In. This would be about the media in Transhuman Space, and especially the news services; the organization of news-gathering systems in 2100 deserves some thought. This book should also point to a great framework for campaigns; roving reporters have a reason to go almost anywhere and ask all sorts of questions, and don't have to get into too many firefights. In fact, all aspects of media work provide an excellent basis for roleplaying and adventures. After all, conventional RPG themes – combat, military life, crime, professional violence in all its aspects – are complicated by the development of very powerful weapons and refined security technologies. Media work, on the other hand, still has considerable scope for human judgment and the (post)human touch. The book can also explore one of the pervasive features of the setting: the information-saturated Web. Sources of inspiration can include the comic Transmetropolitan and Greg Egan's novel Distress. Specific topics can include news organizations and their relationships to the power blocs, methods for guaranteeing the trustworthiness of information sources in a world where any recording might be edited, the interaction of memetics and reporting, and data-gathering cybershells. Total length might go as high as 50-60 pages or even more, depending on specific content.
Transhuman Space: Power Blocs. This would be a series of books, each describing one of the major power blocs on Earth in 2100 in some detail (at least as much as, say, the TSA and Caliphate receive in Broken Dreams, and probably rather more). We have outline views of the E.U., the United States of America, China, the PRA, and so on, if only from Fifth Wave – but a game really needs more. How is the bloc run? Who are the leading political and cultural figures? Where are the cultural and economic hot spots and dead zones? Let's have some details!
The first book in this line will tend to set the pattern for others, so the outline will have to be carefully thought out and stringently reviewed. The lengths of the books in the series will then come from this.
Transhuman Space: Stranger Legion. The French Foreign Legion in the world of Transhuman Space is probably the strangest military organization in the solar system, having reverted to its classic willingness to provide a sanctuary for the wanted and the hunted. In 2100, this can even mean renegade bioroids and rogue AIs (although the Legion would probably do a certain amount of quiet background-checking in some cases). It's also an elite special ops force with a system-wide range of activities, and it has some cool real-world history to add color.
This would be akin to an "Agencies" book, obviously, but it should be a bit bigger (maybe 40-50 pages), with stuff on organization, training (including non-terrestrial environment training), equipment, vehicles, and so on. In fact, the Line Editor has himself produced an outline for the book . . . but he probably doesn't have the time to write it. Someone who can convince him that they could do a decent job on it, with maybe just a simple outline, might be invited to look at his ideas and maybe run with them.
Transhuman Space: War in 2100. This would be a more "general" book than Stranger Legion, although there's an obvious danger of overlap if both end up being written . . . Basically, we need to look at serious military operations in the setting. This would be much more than a book of guns and killer cybershells (though there'd be some of those); it would look at tactical and strategic doctrines, and show how military equipment and training is designed to work under the constraints of the setting. (One possibility is that the battlefield is dominated by human-sized up to tank-sized tactical shells, the larger types often acting as carriers for whole platoons of cat-sized scouting shells.) Cross-referencing to GURPS Mass Combat is actively encouraged. This book could be as long as the outline demands, really, but don't get too carried away.
What We Don't Want
We are generally interested in all sorts of stuff, but there are a few things that we're avoiding . . .
To begin with, proposals for more Personnel Files books might end up being held back for a while or simply rejected. These are books which provide both a pregenerated PC team or group, and the outlines of a campaign in which that group would operate, including scenario seeds and so on. The trouble is, we've already got four of these available, and sales, while not bad, haven't been awe-inspiring. Try something different for now.
Also, Metaplot. Transhuman Space doesn't have one. It's got a "current present date," arbitrarily set at January 1st, 2100, and everything that happens after that is officially unknown. People can get to decide this stuff for themselves in their campaigns; we do not get to tell them. Maybe, one day, we'll publish something about the future of the setting (or more likely, revise the whole setting and play with its entire history), but that's a decision for the company; don't try proposing anything on those lines.
(On the other hand, stuff in the past of Transhuman Space might have some potential. This wouldn't be our highest priority, but a good proposal for something on this topic won't be rejected automatically.)
Other Stuff to Avoid
There are a few topics and ideas that, if not actually banned, may cause the Line Editor to cast a jaundiced eye on your proposal, and a few things you simply shouldn't worry about too much.
To begin with, don't fret about the present date. We've set this at January 1st, 2100, to have a round number, but really, the date for Transhuman Space material is "some time in (or around) 2100" – nothing more specific. Characters who were born in, say, 2080, can be described as being 20 years old, and so on.
The Early 21st Century: While on the subject of dates . . . Transhuman Space material has always tried to be rather vague about events close to our own time, to avoid having the texts invalidated by real life in the lifetime of the books. Now, since the first publication of a lot of this material, we're actually several more years into that future past (and we've already got a few problems with predictions that haven't worked out). Try to preserve that saving vagueness in anything you write. If you really have to talk about imaginary events between the date of writing and 2025 or so, keep it non-specific. The less specific a supplement is, the less stupid it will look in a few years' time.
Mad Billionaires: Okay, it's established that some very rich people in 2100 are more than a little eccentric, and are spending a lot of their money to do strange, interesting things. This is part of the setting (some people are very rich, and some very strange things are possible), but it's not something we ought to overuse. Mostly, things that happen in the Transhuman Space world should happen for logical, rational reasons – it's a hard SF setting, after all – and not just because a nutcase wants to play at being God. For that matter, most billionaires in the setting should be quite sane; they or their parents can afford very good therapy, after all, and it's hard to acquire or to keep a fortune if you're crazy. The "mad billionaire" plot device is in danger of becoming the SF equivalent of "a wizard did it," and of becoming a bore; you should try to find an alternative plot device to explain why some things happen.
Human Pheromones: The last we heard, humans aren't actually terribly susceptible to pheromones, and Transhuman Space supplements shouldn't overplay the subject. Bioroid Bazaar discusses this topic in some detail, and offers a range of options for treatment of pheromones in games; please review that if you want to use pheromone-based effects in your proposed supplement. The important point, for writers, is that pheromones aren't an excuse for magic mind control.
Neither is Super-Memetics. We're walking a fine line here; memetics is powerful, effective, and cool in the setting, but it's neither perfect nor perfectly reliable – and it's much more about manipulating a random proportion of a large population than messing with individuals. It should work more with possibilities and tendencies than with individual certainties. If the rules in Toxic Memes might produce extreme results in extreme cases, it may be safer to assume that those rules are slightly open to abuse than that things really work that way.
Bioroids with Short Lifespans: Early in the history of the line's development, there was some suggestion that bioroids had significantly shorter than human lifespans. This idea was eventually killed off for reasons of plot logic, but there are traces in some of the texts. Ignore them; unless you have good specific reasons, you can assume that bioroids live at least a good few decades.
You should follow standard Steve Jackson Games stylistic conventions in general, as described elsewhere on this site and in the standard GURPS formatting guide and document template. For things like capitalization standards, if in doubt, follow the precedent set by earlier books. There is a Transhuman Space style guide, which you should follow except where it's Third Edition-specific; we'll try and get it updated and expanded sometime. A couple of other things to note for now:
E.U. (short for "European Union") gets periods between the letters.
movements and generations. Names of things like movements and the generations described in Fifth Wave are capitalized: "Majority Cultures," "Outbreak Generation." Contractions based on such terms ("Overturners," "Outbreakers") likewise get the initial capitals.
waves. "Third Wave," "Fourth Wave," and "Fifth Wave" are capitalized.
That's it, for now. We look forward to seeing your proposals!