What is the Dyson Eclipse?

In typical fashion I’ve once again neglected the blog and entirely missed mentioning that my latest crowdfunding campaign is currently running on Kickstarter as part of Zine Quest and comes to a close this Saturday! Hopes and Dreams of the Orbital Bound is a slice of life sci-fi RPG about normal everyday life when you just happen to live on a gigantic alien space station. It’s inspired by the Wayfarer novels by Becky Chambers and the cyberpunk RPG Remember Tomorrow by Gregor Hutton. Follow this link to check it out.

As the campaign approaches the end I want to talk a little about The Dyson Eclipse, the larger setting that the game is a part of. If you’ve already played Signal to Noise then you will be familiar with how it starts – sometime in our near future humanity detects a signal from the stars. They discover that it originated at Tau Ceti and that the star is surrounded by vast megastructures that were not present during previous surveys. Within the signal is a message – we are here and we invite you to join us when you are ready.

Decades later the Generation Fleet departs the solar system, three great vessels built from asteroids and supported by dozens of auxiliary craft. Two complete the journey, during which generations live and die aboard the vessels and contact with Earth is lost. When they finally arrived in Tau Ceti they discover thousands of orbital structures, the Arrays, and six Habitats, each the size of a continent on Old Earth. But there is no sign of the entities who could build such wonders. With no sign of their Builders humanity expands across the system, though the majority live in Habitats 1-5. The sixth lies in ruins, destroyed long before their arrival. 

These are the people of Tau Ceti and it is this period of expansion and exploration that the majority of material will focus on. My plan is to slowly release details of the timeline and the truth about the Arrays but right now my aim is simply to explore the setting through a variety of lenses.

Why is it called the Dyson Eclipse? 

The name is inspired by Freeman Dyson’s speculation of the type of structures an advanced species might build in order to collect energy and support an orbital civilisation. Numerous sci-fi shows have popularised the concept of a complete Dyson Sphere, which fully envelops a star, but his original concept proposed the use of many satellites, arranged in intricate constellations to efficiently collect and distribute solar energy.

As for the Eclipse part of the name, well that’s a secret for now.

What’s already available?

At the moment the Dyson Eclipse spans the following:

Signal to Noise – a bittersweet two player epistolary game that charts humanities journey to the stars and the slow loss of communication with Earth.

Rock Hoppers – a solo Wretched and Alone game that transports you to the edge of the system as a prospector trapped deep within an asteroid following a cave in. Will you escape before your resources are depleted and what will you make of the secret at the centre of the rock?

The Kandhara Contraband – a system agnostic adventure build that sees a crew hired to retrieve cargo from the Kandhara Independent Impound Yard on behalf of a crime syndicate.

Near Carbon Blades – A one page supplement for Nick Bate’s awesome Stealing the Throne, a game about stealing gigantic mecha.

You might be wondering though why I am writing a series of games and supplements rather than develop a single core sci-fi game (or even just write material for games such as Traveller, Coriolis or Orbital Blues). The simple answer is that I want to zoom in and focus on specific genres and emotions. Signal to Noise is meant to be a bittersweet journey about connection and loss, it simply wouldn’t work using a generic system designed for general space opera stories. I want that to be the same for each release, with mechanics that are specific to the story I aim to tell. 

Will I eventually write a generic game to run adventures such as The Kandhara Contraband in? Probably, but if I do it will be a small and lightweight entry that I can offer as a free bonus to support adventures and settings.

But that’s not all…

One of the great things about writing a setting that spans many games is that I’m not tied to my own systems. The Kandhara Contraband started life as a Firefly adventure but the current edition could be used with a wide range of sci-fi systems. As the setting develops I want to be in a position to provide guidance on using other games to tell stories about it. 

The very first Dyson Eclipse story I ever told was a solo play through of Chiron’s Doom – another great game by Nick which is currently Kickstarting to raise money for an updated print edition as part of Zine Quest. That story helped guide the development of the setting and will inform my own personal canon as it develops further. At some point in the near future I’m planning a run through of Notorious, a solo game of bounty hunters by Jason Price to explore Shan, one of the planets in the system. The list is endless and later this year (once the work on Orbital Bound is complete) I’ll look at how I can pull together a list of recommendations of other indie games for exploring the setting.

So that’s the big picture and I’m really excited to see how the story of Tau Ceti will develop over the next couple of years (at a minimum). Hopes and Dreams of the Orbital Bound is going to be central to that story so the next few months of work so expect more about the setting as the game develops.

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