Twenty Quick Questions for your Space Opera Campaign Setting


Many space opera games have a built-in or implied setting, but some don’t. The original Traveller LBBs existed before the Third Imperium, and the Frontier in Star Frontiers is at best a sketch before Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space.

Based on the inestimable Jeff Rients’ blog article, Twenty Quick Questions for your Campaign Setting,, I thought I’d do something similar for space opera games. Some of these are kind of multiple questions, but the important thing is to get you thinking!

For Wormholes & Waystations ( I decided to include only the sketchiest post-Collapse space opera setting, so GMs can explore these questions for themselves if they want. So you know there’s a peaceloving Assembly guarded by a StelNav service, a capitol on New Geneva, some Precursors, an evil reptilian Tsenari Empire, but the details are left wide open. So!

  1. Have you taken on the hassle and worry of running a ship, or are you booking passage where you need to go?
  2. Do you work for a larger organization, or are you a bunch of freelancers? Who’s our main patron, or our space corporation’s manager, or our space navy admiral? How do I get an appointment?
  3. Where can you go to get military gear — from your organization, or from some shady contact?
  4. What’s the nicest, freest, just-est local planet or star nation? Is all that real, or just a facade?
  5. Where’s the closest planet with the best shipyard? The best medical facilities? The cheapest ship repairs?
  6. What’s the nearest Hive of Scum and Villainy, where I can get anything and life is cheap?
  7. Robots — are they sentient? Do they look like trash cans, or like people with funny skin? Do they have civil rights? How commonly do they break with the Four Laws and just go berserk — how long before the Robot Revolution?
  8. What alien species are there hereabouts? How are aliens treated on human worlds?
  9. What’s the biggest, meanest Evil Space Empire we need to keep our eyes out for? Are there several? Do they look like us, or are they bugs or lizards? Do they have spies and assassins?
  10. What’s the local level of tech like? Do we even have zero gravity? What about matter replicators? Teleporters? Genetic Engineering? Cloning? Anagathics? Holographic theaters? Time travel? Are there any technologies that are taboo, maybe because they’ve been badly abused?
  11. Where can I hire extra ship hands?
  12. What if I just want to do a little asteroid mining, where are there some good veins of minerals? What are they?
  13. What about major trade routes? Who needs what, and how much are they going to pay?
  14. What’s the biggest space pirate fleet? What about an organized crime syndicate?
  15. When I go to the space bar to drink space booze, what’s on tap? What kind of games of chance are there? What about hot meals? Some companionship for the night?
  16. What’s the local attitude about psionics? Are they feared, adored, tightly regulated? Do they get police powers and special responsibilities? Are there lost orders of psychic space samurai that can train me? Are there some races that all have Esper powers?
  17. What alien civilizations left interesting ruins around? Any annoying god-like aliens that show up to annoy unsuspecting crews from time to time?
  18. Does my organization pay me to go exploring off of major trade routes? If not, are there megacorps or government agencies that will pay for new trade routes?
  19. Hyperspace, how does it work? Do you “jump” somewhere else, or do you travel the intervening distance? How long would it take to get from Earth to Alpha Centauri — days, weeks, months, seconds? Does this setting span entire galaxies, parallel universes, or alternate timelines?
  20. How instantaneous is interstellar communication? Am I pretty much on my own, or can I call for help if my engines die? If I need some data from the homeworld, can I expect it today, next week, in months? Is interstellar radio even viable, or is there some form of space mail service?

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