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The Sa’adani Empire RPG

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All of my science fiction stories and novels are set in the Sa’adani Empire, which is located in a galaxy far away, with a culture that is most definitely not “Terra extrapolated into the future.”

The Empire is also a role playing game setting that I first created in 1980. My stories have influenced the game setting, and the game has influenced my stories, so it has been quite a creative feedback loop for a long time.

Future and Past; SF and Fantasy

Sa’adani space is the future world that grows out of the events and places explored in my fantasy works. Indeed, my fantasy world of Astareth is the historical “cradle of civilization” for the futuristic Sa’adani Empire, and is a location that can be visited. There is a vast web of culture and history linking the two settings together. And yes, as you may have guessed, Astareth is also the framework for my fantasy rpg, which predates my space game by one year.

Inspirations for S.E. Version 1.0

As an RPG, the Sa’adani Empire game took its early influences from many sources, including:

  • Star Wars–which I’d seen premiered in West Berlin in German just a few years before. (I didn’t see Star Wars in English until about 1981).
  • The science fiction writing of Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg and other notables of the 60s and 70s. These were stories that were noteworthy when I was growing up and first absorbing the genre.
  • Thunderbirds–the animated marionette show
  • Buck Rogers–the original, that I recalled from black and white tv reruns in the 1950s when I was still a toddler. (I still want a jetpack!)

I cannabalized various rules systems and developed my own over time to come up with a homebrew that created the kind of world I wanted to adventure in. RPG influences included:

  • D&D–which I began playing in 1979
  • Traveller–which I liked for the mapping and some of the character and career  development
  • GURPS–mainly for the skills system
  • Arms Law, Space Law–for combat and miscellaneous tech
  • Palladium–interesting tech and combat trivia

and a very large dose of

  • Spacequest. This competitor of Traveller had less commercial success, but a great wealth of imagination and inspiration for my own original design work, from modular ship design to intriguing use of psionics, and much more.

S.E. Version 2.0

As my world building became more sophisticated and I began to write for the rpg industry in the ’80s (including TSR and West End Games’ Star Wars), I was no longer content to have a hodge-podge homebrew that did not feel like a unified whole. I revised my rather rough-edged setting in 1989-1990. In 1991 I introduced S.E. version 2.0 to my gaming group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where I was a contractor.  With that edition of the game, I was able to bring much more of my science fiction vision and sensibilities to the gaming table in an effective manner.

An historical side-note, here: I and my gamers formed the first RPG gamers club at JPL. We applied to be formally recognized so we could use facilities after hours to host our group meetings. As GM and one of the founders, I had to sit down with administrators and reassure them that we did not plan to tie people up and risk getting someone injured or killed in the course of playing our game. That was a straight-faced conversation with people who had serious concerns; they were relieved and a little surprised to learn that our game entailed only dice rolling and sitting around a table, because of all they’d heard on media about the game.  Yes, it was still the D&D moral panic years, and we gamers precipitated some bureaucratic worries when we first congregated.

So, weirdly, it was my Sa’adani Empire setting and game that broke the ice, helped found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory RPG club, and became the first rpg played at JPL under official colors.



It was during those JPL gaming days that the Sa’adani Empire came to feel especially alive to me, and more fleshed out than ever before. It is probably no surprise, then, that I had a dream around this time about certain events in that Sa’adani space, featuring an unusual female character. This gave me the seeds of the story idea that grew into my first published novel, Mainline.

In the course of writing that book, I did more game development and a ton more world building, because the story raised a lot of questions for me that I did not yet have answers for. This kicked my world building for the Sa’adani setting into high gear, and although that served an immediate purpose for the fiction writing, the long-term effect was to make the rpg setting much richer.

This glut of world building info also forced me to get better organized about how I was producing and recording information, so I could easily access it later for games or stories. That array of background material goes through growth spurts whenever I game in the setting, or write a story set there, or experiment with plot ideas for book or game.  Although little of it is online or in print at the present time, I have it on my computer or already thought through in my imagination.

S.E. Version 3.0 in the 21st Century

After Mainline came out I paid more attention to my writing and my day job, and my personal gaming took a backseat during this time.  About a decade later, in the Oughts of the new millenium, I did more dedicated gaming. I played some correspondence games in my Empire setting, and then connected with a great solo player who helped inspire some of the elements in Splintegrate. (In the Acknowledgments of that book, I talk about the contributions gamers have made to my fiction.)

To support my gaming, I polished up the Empire setting once again, revising the game system further and deepening some aspects of the setting (like philosophy, and clan relationships, and so on).  I revised and reprinted my “Common Knowledge” players handbook (an in-character setting guide). With these and other tweaks, S.E. 3.0 was ready for play, and saw me into the ‘Teens. I continued to expand material as I worked on Splintegrate. And that is where it is at right now: a rich and well-developed game world and campaign setting, with some sets of custom mechanics for things unique to the Empire.

Can People Buy or Try the Sa’adani Empire RPG?

Right now, the rpg is not in good shape to share with others, since the content was never written or organized with the intention of it making sense to a reader other than myself (with the exception of player handouts). To release it, I’d need to clean up and revise the material yet again, so we’d be looking at S.E. version 4.0.

I’m not able to undertake such a major project right now, even though I’d really like to share my setting with others. So, I have thought of two ways to potentially skin that cat:

  1. Release materials piecemeal, as miscellaneous gaming supplements for other people’s games (system-agnostic plug-and-play bits), probably with Patreon funding assistance. Or,
  2. Start up a Patreon or Kickstarter, and get funding to launch the Sa’adani Empire as a dedicated game project.

At this writing, there isn’t much interest in my science fiction rpg as a game product. But that might change as people read the associated novels, and decide they like the feel of that world and would like to adventure there too.

Depending what feedback I get from readers and gamers, I’ll consider either or both of the above options.  Please share your thoughts and questions about this rpg and campaign world in the Comments below. You can also join my mailing list, and I’ll keep you posted on what develops.

If you’d like to sample, play or buy The Sa’adani Empire RPG version 4.0, please click the link below to let me know your interest, and answer a brief survey about what kind of game content you would like to see. Thanks!

[LINK PENDING; please bookmark and check back later]

Author Deborah Teramis Christian

Teramis wrote her first book at age 9, but like all good literary lizards has taken her time charging upon the market. Finally in a situation where she can write full time, she is becoming the Dragon, Unleashed, or a close facsimile thereof. Roar, said the saur.

Teramis On the Web

Alternate History Weekly Update - Guest Blogging

MilSciFi Interview - re "Live Fire" in No Man's Land

New Books

This military science fiction anthology contains "Live Fire," Christian's Tiptree Award-nominated short story set in the Sa'adani Empire, the setting of her science fiction novels. Now available at Amazon in print and Kindle editions.