A Game of Humanity & Hope
In Starlight Manifesto, players take on the roles of officers in Peacekeeping Force of the Starlight Union. They have sworn an oath to promote understanding between all sentient beings, to serve the people of the Starlight Union, and to protect, maintain, and restore peace in the universe. This is done through exploration and discovery, the spreading of diplomacy and education, and as a last resort, through direct military intervention. Service aboard a Peacekeeping vessel tends to be equal parts scientific expedition, diplomatic outreach, and defensive action.
The majority of the Peacekeepers are from the surviving members of the human race, colonists who can trace their ancestry back to Old Earth. With them are their primary allies, the Taodhan, a slightly older, moderately more advanced race with problems of their own. Other alien cultures from around the Starlight Union round out the ranks, each bringing their own particular strengths and motivations to serve the Peacekeepers’ ongoing mission.
Not everyone shares the Starlight Union’s vision. The traders — some say pirates — of the Brocour don’t like others imposing rules on their commerce. The Fringe Worlds, colonies of Old Earth with opposing ideologies, see the Union as an oppressive force. The Desolate Accord, a shadowy organization with unknown motives, commit seemingly random acts of terrorism. The ancient Zyrosh, the godlike Oshiori, and Kumbru the Machine God all have their own mysterious agendas. And on the border, the Tel’Keth Khanate are awaiting the perfect moment to invade Union Space.
While Starlight Manifesto is broadly science fiction, it is more properly nestled within the space opera subgenre. The most basic definition is an adventure story set in space with stereotypical science fiction trappings like spaceships, aliens, and ray guns. It originated as a pejorative term in the 1940s, playing off of the term “soap opera” and denoting cliched and formulaic stories that often lapsed into melodrama. It’s since been reclaimed by fans and creators, and includes a wide variety of popular and award-winning novels, films, and television shows.
The key to successful space opera is to focus on its characters. There are elements of chivalric romance, where idealistic knights head off on quests and encounter all manner of wonders and marvels. It also contains the speculative elements of science fiction, but filtered through human reactions to imaginative concepts and their potential ramifications rather than the nuts-and-bots of how such things might work. Think in terms of sociology, rather than physics.
A Plausible-Feeling Future
As the actual future is as yet unwritten, the specific timeline of Starlight Manifesto is a fast-and-loose thing. It’s supposed to be two or three hundred years in the future. If it’s important to you to nail that down specifically, feel free to do so in your group’s canon. The idea is to put it far enough out that it seems plausible that the necessary technologies have been developed, but not so far that human beings have changed significantly. Fifty or a hundred years doesn’t seem like enough time for their to be established space colonies. Five hundred or a thousand years feels like people might be so different as to be unrelatable. Here in the 21st century, we need to be able to relate to the characters in the story.
A Bright and Hopeful Tone
Between now and the time period when Starlight Manifesto takes place, a lot of things happen to the human race. A lot of it is objectively good. Some of it, depending upon where you’re standing, objectively or subjectively bad. Very, very bad. Cultures and even individuals are still dealing with some of those events in different ways. The shape of the Starlight Union is a reaction to some dark times. The existence of the Peacekeepers is a declaration that some things are not and will never again be acceptable. Yet the point is that we got over it. The human race still exists, with all its hopes and dreams and ambitions. There is nothing that we can’t get through together, if we can just keep trying to do better and continue reaching for the stars.
A Simple Yet Flexible System
No charts, no tables, no variable target numbers. Using standard polyhedral dice, you can resolve character actions quickly without having to look up esoteric mechanics and exceptions to the norm. It’s a system, a way of doing things, not a rigid set of rules. Use it when you need it, ignore it when you don’t, and alter things to suit the needs of your group and the story that you’re telling together.
A Rewarding Roleplaying Experience
The players and the guide share control of the story you’re telling. Embrace the opportunity to describe the outcome of your character’s actions, whether they succeed or fail. Do the same for the antagonists. Define what form injuries and other complications take, and how they impact the characters and the story. Play your character to the fullest, and have more influence over the way the adventure unfolds.
Create, Collaborate, and Have Fun
Craft characters and stories using the guidelines provided. There are no finite lists to pick from, and no limitations on what is or isn’t possible aside from what’s appropriate for the story being told. Work together with the guide and the other players to develop relationships between characters and the way subplots and story goal unfold. If your character isn’t in a scene, you can still participate by describing outcomes and defining complications.