Designing the Convention Authority

I thought you might enjoy exploring some of the design thinking for The Convention Authority: home to player characters in Return to the Stars.

Before the loss of the Mars Beacon, which ended galaxy spanning travel for over a century, The Convention Authority was an association of societies that celebrated and preserved speculative popular culture of the 20th and 21st centuries: fantasy, science fiction, and gaming. It was a popular tourist destination, and boasted some of the galaxy’s most skilled terraforming engineers. During the Great Silence, the systems of the Convention remain connected, due in to a large and varied fleet of replica early interstellar craft.

campus
the campus of the Convention’s Scouts Academy

You play as one of a new generation of geeks from the Convention — a maker, genetically enhanced cosplayer, scientist, or pop culture enthusiast setting out to reconnect the lost worlds of humanity.

Why this setting? What does it do for you?

First, it gives you a rationale for bringing in fun elements you like from all sort of different types of pop culture, and mashing them up together. The initial playtest group brought in things they loved from Tolkien, RPGs, My Little Pony, and the Girl Genius comics. The mashup was possible because they came from a civilization that valued these stories, and had “sufficiently advanced” 27th century cosplay technology.

Of course, you don’t have to take advantage of this—if you want to play scientist or hot-shot pilot who doesn’t celebrate “ancient entertainment”, that’s fine too.

Second, as a thriving post-scarcity civilization, it reinforces optimism about the future: a core theme of the game. It gives players a secure base from which they can go “out there” and have adventures reconnecting the lost worlds of humanity. Later they can return and can reflect on what they’ve experienced in a place of safety and abundance. So your game can include both danger on the frontier and also pastoral ST:TNG style cozy futurism.

And, of course, such a society is perfect for exploring and interrogating different elements of pop culture. I’ve had fun tweeting micro fiction news headlines about the Convention.

 [Dateline: Convention Authority]

  • Shipments of fragrant cedar arrive across the systems of the Convention Authority as gamers and geeks prepare their saunas for the R³ Festival, when they reflect critically on the media they love, and prepare for renewal and transformation in the coming year. 
  • Controversial decision bans baying of genetically engineered werewolves at soccer matches.
  • New report from the Scouts Academy documents the existence of over two dozen rediscovered colony worlds that worship “a bomb, or a computer, or a missile or something like that.”

Cosplay is important in the Convention, so I new the uniforms of its Scouts Academy would need to be stylish. A fashion illustration created some initial concepts,

uniform
scout uniform concept art

 

Which became reference art for later illustrations:

future_instructor
a historian leading a seminar on the Climate Wars at the Scouts Academy
mark_pia
Pia, science officer and geologist—proudly wearing the uniform.

The Convention is all about pop culture, but I wanted to integrate that into art game indirectly. So rather than create a pastiche of a particular amine, a character might have “anime hair” as in this illustration from Amy King:

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Ligaya: a champion cosplayer who is a skilled tailor, genetic engineer, and acrobat.

Or wear a tee shirt that featured a unique fictional robot.

mark_amobi
One of the youngest interstellar explorers Amobi is both a math whiz and already a skilled yogi and tai chi master.

Or be a cheerleader, who just happens to also be genetically enhanced to cosplay as a vampire.

vamp_cheerleader
We’ve got “spirits” yes we do!

 

What elements of pop culture might you explore in the game?

Hope you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes! Thanks for your support as the kickstarter comes to a successful conclusion!

P.S. The inspiration for the vampire illustration came from photo I took at a con of a friend who is a skilled cosplayer. When she saw it, she was like “LOL, I posed with my hands on my hips like a cheerleader!”

As a bit of extra fun, when Yog Joshi drew the environmental illustration at the start of this article, he included a vampire cheerleading squad among tiny figures on the campus. A bonus Halloween themed “Where’s Waldo” style mini game for you!