10 Ideas for Babylon 5 RPGs
Probably the biggest obstacle facing the Babylon 5 roleplayer is the huge scale and undeniable canonicity of Joe Michael Straczynski’s original vision, which covers several decades of detailed history and spans 2000 years in total. While most science fiction TV shows (Star Trek in particular) occupy wider, very versatile universes – an open landscape with canonical building plots available – the Babylon 5 universe is structured very closely around the events of the show itself. The Babylon station sits at the very centre of this universe, a focal point through which all the most interesting storylines pass. Stepping out of its long shadow is not easy, as the two ill-fated Babylon 5 spin-off shows demonstrate.
The B5 roleplayer therefore has two options; attempt to avoid the Babylon station and its long legacy altogether, or meet the complex existing plot lines head on.
1. Following the League
One way to meet the events of the show head on is to explore the personal stories of some of its less important characters, such as the various representatives of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. You could follow these characters from the moment they arrived on Babylon 5, through the events of the show (adding extra storylines to those we’re already familiar with) and beyond.
While Londo was up to his foolish shenanigans and Delenn was busy enjoying the sound of her own voice, what were the other Ambassadors doing? Did the Brakiri and Drazi ambassadors also have dealings with Mr. Morden? How many Pak’ma’ra were slaughtered by the combined forces of the Shadows and Centauri?
This story would obviously have limitless scope, exploring how the League transforms into the Interstellar Alliance, and how it goes on to shape the next 1000 years of galactic history.
2. Following the Rangers
Another aspect of the Babylon 5 cannon that could stand further exploration is the story of the Rangers. The Anla’shok had been around for 1000 years by the time the show began, so there are centuries of history to explore. Of course, much of this time had been spent training and preparing for the coming Shadow War, but a little creative licence can always be applied.
It would also be possible to create a roleplaying game that covers the Rangers’ involvement in the Shadow War without rubbing up against the original plot too heavily.
The future of the Rangers is also something of an open playing feild. We know that the Interstellar Alliance endures for another 1000 years, but the details of this future are largely yours to create.
3. Following the Brotherhood
Another set of unimportant, but non-the-less interesting characters is the religious order headed by Brother Theo. Every now and then you will Theo’s monks lurking in the background. They amble around the Zocalo like undead Pak’ma’ra with nowhere else to go, but what are they really up to?
Where did Brother Theo’s quest to learn all the names of God take him? Minbar? Vorlon? Beyond the rim of known space? And what adventures did he have along the way?
4. Station Io
If you like the idea of running a bustling spaceport like Babylon 5, then you might consider taking command of another important space station, such as Space Station Io.
The station orbits the moon Io, which serves as the ‘transfer point’ for most traffic leaving the Sol system. Also orbiting Io is the system’s primary jump gate. This makes Io one of the most important colonies in the Earth Alliance, and the station one of the busiest.
While Mars Colony has been done to death, Io represents a clear field of play.
A game set on Space Station Io could parallel the events of Babylon 5 and beyond. Or you could choose to skip straight ahead to the Telepath War, or beyond into uncharted waters.
Another important colony is Proxima 3, which takes part in Sheridan’s insurrection against Earth Alliance President Morgan Clark.
5. Babylon 5: Shadow War I
Of course, the ultimate untold story of Babylon 5 is that of the first Shadow War (that is to say, the previous Shadow War – the ideology of the show suggests a history of perpetual galactic warfare). Telling this story would be no easy task, but given what we already know about the Vorlons, Minbari, Babylon 4 and Jeffrey Sinclair, we have a starting point at least.
6. Babylon Trek
If you want to give the original storyline of Babylon 5 a wide berth, the obvious strategy would be to adopt the traditional ‘wagon-train’ format used by Star Trek. While most of the interest in the Babylon 5 universe lies within the bounds of the existing story arcs, there is still a wider universe to explore. You should have no problems finding exciting scenarios to occupy you and your crew.
A good setting for this type of game would be an Earth Alliance explorer ship, but if you wanted to scale down the size of the operation you could always sign up with Interplanetary Expeditions (IPX) and explore the rim in a survey ship like the Icarus. Another opportunity is presented by Susan Ivonova’s appointment as captain of a Warlock Class Destroyer.
7. Earth Alliance Colony World
Another flexible format that sits well within many a science fiction universe is that of the colony world. The idea is to found a new colony on an uninhabited world, and guide a growing number of pioneers through the establishment of a new society.
Interesting locations for new colony scenarios include worlds with extinct civilizations (such as those investigated by IPX and the Markab Homeworld); worlds on the edge of Vorlon space, or near Za’ha’dum; and so-called ‘bronze-tech’ planets, which have primitive native populations.
If you wanted to shake things up a little, you might have your colony attempt to break away from the Earth Alliance and become independent.
8. Narn Occupation
Here’s a slightly off-the-wall idea that would suit fans of the melodramatic Narn Regime.
150 years before the series began, the Narn experienced a century of oppression at the hands of the Centauri Republic. It might sound depressing, even macabre, bit I think this period of B5 history would actually be quite fun to explore.
We know very little about the Narn Homeworld during this period, except that it was a lush jungle world before it was strip-mined by the Centauri. The Centauri were the first alien race to be encountered by the Narns, who were considerably less advanced (although the Narns had already established an off-world colony on Ragesh 3).
We know that the Narns eventually succeeded in driving the Centauri from their world, but how was this achieved? More to the point, do you feel like taking on the challenge?
9. Drazi and Pak’ma’ra – Freelance Police
I loved the idea of Garibaldi and Leeta Alexander running their own private detective agency, but the show never allowed enough time to explore their capabilities as a crime-fighting duo. Babylon 5 is the perfect place for a P.I to set up shop, and with so many alien traders and diplomats passing through this could lead to some really interesting stories.
Instead of a human and a human telepath, why not choose some alien characters for your game? Perhaps a hard-nosed Drazi detective and his telepathic Pak’ma’ra sidekick.
10. Pirates of the Epsilon System
And finally – this might not be the best, or most original idea, but it does make our list an even 10. Babylon 5 space is routinely over-run by villanous raiding parties. The raider attack is a B5 constant, like the unwritten rule that all EarthForce doctors must be either black or hispanic. The more ruthless and homicidal roleplayer might like to ride the hyperspace currents with these bloodthirsty pirates, and seek a fortune in looted Quantium 40.
This article was written by Mark Ball. You can read more of Mark’s science fiction ideas by visiting the SciFi Ideas website.