I noticed this section of forum is very inactive but coincidentally I'm starting new personal project this summer and it's perfect place to make a thread for this.

At first it was meant to be concept art pitch for computer game that would resemble something like x-com or jagged alliance where different factions would fight against each other in turn based combat. Then I decided it might be better as small pen&paper RPG on Savage Worlds mechanic. This way it would be actually playable and I could make some fun illustrations instead of concept art. Maybe it will grow into something interesting.

This is an sci-fi setting where humanity was forced to live under water and learned to adapt by genetically altering their bodies. Things started going in the right direction but newly created society got divided and people started fighting against each other for energy and oxygen supplies.

Just to get in to the mood I did small thumbnail illustrations with story beats that explain a bit how it all started. I'll try to expand it more visually as I go.

There was a large colony ship sent from Earth. It was searching for new home and after decades of hibernation people finally found new place. It had good atmosphere however it was all covered in ocean. The exception was large flat structure created by some unkown alien civillisation. There were no signs of life both on the surface and under water. People decided to land as they had no other choice. They were extremely low on supplies. On the edge of the structure the colonists created their own small houses.

Then came time for exploration. A group of scientists soon realised that this huge structure covering large part of the planet actually has some entrances under the water. The moment they opened the gates it activated some sort of planet's defense system. A swarm of nanorobots started killing everything alive. People had no chance and the only way to survive was to dive under water. Then all colony moved past the gates and found there was a huge ecosystem preserved. Some alien race abandoned a place with hundreds of aquatic animals and plants living under good conditions. All life support systems worked perfectly fine and people managed to use those systems for their own survival and even flourish a bit. However they never figured out how to disable nanorobots. They were stuck for good.

that is one hell of a premise! i love it.
A minimalist rpg focused on exploration on this setting would be awesome.
There are waay too many vanilla medieval fantasy rpgs out there, kudos for thinking about something original.
Please keep us updated, i really want to see more about this project. :)

Great stuff! Keep on developing it. The idea of doing a McCaig style story beat viz-development is a cool thing to do. It really gets across ideas quickly and effectively without labouring on too many details to start with. Must be tons of fun as well. :)

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EduardoGaray - Thanks! It's not entirely original as there already are some similar RPGs like Blue Planet or Polaris. However in underwater settings are very rare so there's a lot to try out. Oceanarium RPG has it's own unique twist but at the same time I don't want it to be too original beacause then it wouldn't work.

Amit Dutta - Yeah. I took the method from Iain McCaig and soon discovered it's extremely fun way to develop some idea. Those are not final illustrations but more like exploration of how things would look like. The whole thing makes the process very organic and free. I'll definitely do more alongside with more detailed images.

Damn. I wish I had more time to do this. As soon as I'm starting to get really in the zone it's late and I need to go to sleep. I tried doing some rough map. It will probably change many times as I develop the setting.

The round alien structure people started calling The Nest. It's enormous. You can travel inside for weeks both horizontally and downward into lower darker levels. Many years after the gate was opened people deconstructed part of the wall to enlarge the entrance. What it did was some of the wildlife got out and started swimming outside of the Nest (Which caused some undesirable effects. I'll explain that later)
Some of the scavanged metal plates were used as a material for the first habitat. People managed to do this beacause they found that some parts of the Nest had shafts with oxygen and power lines transmitting energy from geothermal power plants. The amount of places that has those things is limited so it quickly become the source of never ending battles.

Character idea (updated).

In order to adapt people used bioenginnering to develop gills. To see sharply under water all kind of face covers are used. From typical diving masks to advanced visors or covers that are inserted under the eyelids. Some people take more radical measures and through bioengineering add membrane to their eyes which helps them see under water like fish. However when not in water the image is very distorted and blurred.

New story beats.

During exploration of the Nest people found large underwater areas filled with coral reefs. Those are placed on grids of special panels that support growth. Scientists managed to recreate those panels for producing food.
The top light comes from ceiling which is all covered in huge automatic shades.

Other major step in survival was building first habitat. It was positioned on the surface of large pillar supporting the structure.

Here are rough designs of the few groups inhabiting the Nest. I need to warn that nothing here is set in stone and I might make drastic changes if it won't work out. Also there might be more factions but I don't have clear idea for new ones right now. I still don't have the names figured out.

1. (Colonists/Citizens/Technocrats) This is the most civilised group. They have the biggest amount of habitats and rely a lot on technology. Some people still believe it's possible to escape the planet or at least deactivate the nanoswarm hidden in the atmosphere. In the "field" they wear clothing similar to what the colony had in the beginning but without oxygen tanks and breathing masks.

2. (Herders/Coral folk) This group tried to take environment-friendly route and found new home in the upper level wildlife and coral fields. They have small amount of habitats but spend more time underwater. Unfortunately some people got so used to that lifestyle that they forget to communicate and that slowly turns them into savages. People from this group change their skin to resemble fish that they find in their surrounding. They are also expert in underwater camouflage.

3. (Shark riders) Group from lower levels. Unpredictable and agressive. They take great pride from fighting and killing enormous underwater beasts that hide in the dark tunnels. Sometimes their target becomes other factions. People from this faction have pale complexion from abundance of light. They wear skins from the beasts they defeated and put paint on their scars to show their combat experience. Some wear black eye covers that give their faces a disturbing alien look.

4. (Clones) The origin of this group comes from one outcast scientist who stole some advanced technologies from the main habitat labs, escaped to his hideout in the lower levels and cloned himself. His cloned version has modified body. It's very slim to improve performance while swimming underwater and also completely androgynous. This scientist seemed to have a crazy idea on how the new society should look like. When it comes to the look they seem almost the same. Modified white lab outfit, white eye covers and for some reason blue hair.

loving the factions dude, the setting already has a cool cyberpunk vibe.
The shark riders and clones seem specially interesting, keep posting! :D

Sounds pretty awesome! Will you also be considering other underwater life forms besides fishes?

EduardoGaray - Thanks! More precisely it's a biopunk as there are biological enhancements used instead of cybernetics. Also very unexplored genre :D. 
As for the shark riders and clones. I think what makes them interesting is the fact that these are very "alien" factions. To be honest I hesitate to make those playable for that reason.

meat - Yes, definitely. Weird thing about wildlife in this world is that a lot of the animals are exact same as on Earth. As if aliens visited Earth oceans and took DNA samples to put in this new place. But apart from known species there are also unusual fantastical ones.

Today only one quick sketch and new aspect of the world that really puts new light to it.

People always felt like something is not right with this place. The Nest feels hospitable now in the upper levels but lower depth of the ocean covering the planet is hiding some horrible truths. About five kilometers in Snake Trench and in other deep areas of the planet aliens were disposing radioactive waste way before the surface structure was built. In the past all planet was covered in wildlife but beacause of mutations it became extremely dangerous environment to live. Eventually aliens decided to create a place to hide and preserve in it some of the animals. The rest of the planet was purged. However some of the lifeforms were moved when they should be killed. As a result lower levels are inhabited by mutated creatures that are best left alone. Some became sentient beings and even posess psychic abilities. There are stories of people meeting gigantic fish and when they look it in the eye they become insane. Some human communities even started treating lower level creatures as gods and hunt for others to sacrifice them.
Outside of the Nest there are places of high radioactivity and toxicity. When people opened the gates some wildlife got out and several years later infected fish started coming back. For the last few years people are afraid that the end is coming. Not only there is no escape but their hideout is slowly becoming more dangerous place to live. Chaos slowly spreads across the Nest. 

Lately there's lots of distractions but I keep thinking about the setting. There might be some drastic changes to the initial idea so that the settings allows for more richness. The more I'm controlling the less it becomes the playground for Game Master which is very bad direction. Need to keep going with some drawings though so here's quick update.

Lately I got an idea to turn those nanobots preventing people from living on the surface into biological insectlike creatures. I already know some settings and novels which use nanobots while insects are easier to imagine and much more creepy. It's a mystery how those beings manage to survive without any food. They were engineered to be as troublesome as possible. They can even bite through metal which is the reason why no spaceship managed to escape the planet.

Hey Farvus that looks neat. Keep up the work and post as much as you can and get the most out of your momentum. :) Something that might help is the world builders thread that Gliger started recently. I think as well as posting here, you could also pop your posts into that thread. I think people will be really inspired by what you have done so far, and you might get a little injector boost from them as well.


Either way, keep rocking it!

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Amit Dutta - Thanks for the link. Posted what I got.

Exploring some more postapocalyptic side of the world. It's not going to be all clean and pretty :).

Here's very rough sketch of one of the tunnel cities.

There are only few tunnel cities located within the dense structure of the Nest. They are heavily guarded places as it's rare to have a space filled with air. Even if living in such place is luxury in comparison to claustrophobic habitats constructed under water, the tunnel cities are not without problems. There is water leaking in many places on the tunnel wall so houses are very damp and filled with moulds. It's easy to catch some allergy or asthma from toxic substances.

Also the lower you go the poorer are the houses and the less there is daylight.

New environment. A lot of underwater areas in the Nest look like this.

Once you dive into lower levels of the Nest it can become claustrophobic maze. If you're running away from law it's a good place to hide. It's also often perfect environment for preparing an ambush and if you're not careful you can even get hit with a bullet from above or below. Sometimes if you get lost you can find way back by following the wildlife that's swimming around. In fact some tribes learned how to train special fish that could aid them in navigating tunnels or spotting enemy.

Hey. I'm not entirely happy with the execution of this one but had to try something.

After many decades of being away from home people feel big nostalgia to things that are in some way related to Earth. Belongings brought with the mission have great value and are treasured. Sometimes people create things that could remind them of the past times. Trees with paper leaves, little pictures, miniature houses. Also in order to make living in isolation more bearable there were all sorts of entertainments created based on the past. Tunnel city has TV channel with it's own little trivia shows, news and movies found on the spaceship archives. Some people make hand made sport equipment and use it to play in the tunnels. For example urban golf is very popular among some groups in the lower classes. Other polular sports include basketball, bike racing and of course swimming.

Hey. There has been a longer break. 

I had a small commission to do and also I decided to read as much as possible of the rifter trilogy by Peter Watts to get more into the subject. I didn't make any new graphics but there was one file on my hard drive I haven't posted. I tried doing some underwater rifle designs so that I could later put together illustrations with characters, weapons and environment. Those were inspired a little bit by the look of the spear gun (very thin and light) but also I looked at real life underwater gun. Russians designed one in 1970 and it's called APS (Avtomat Podvodny Spetsialnyy). What I found cool was the fact that due to different water pressure at different depts the range of the rifle changes. You can read more about that here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/APS_underwater_rifle

Also I was searching for some idea on how underwater combat could look like for inspiration and I only found out Call of Duty: Ghosts gameplay. I didn't like the guy's commentary but the whole sneaking thing, moving close to the ground, knife attacks was really cool. With all the underwater machinery and platforms there would be place for such attacks like diving straight onto enemy with knife or shooting at someone while being hidden in the ceiling. Those where my ideas when I was still thinking of Oceanarium as a tactical turn-based game. There's less use for that in PnP RPG. 

You can check out COD gameplay here.

Also something I thought about today. In case it won't work out with making a core rulebook for the game (I could run out of steam which happens a lot) I could still compose a small artbook in electronic format. This could work as a pitch for a game that I could use in some future.

New groups within the setting.

5. (Nomads) In the early days of colonizing the planet some groups of people were restless and they wanted the freedom of moving from place to place. They stole few submarines and later learned to build their own big ones which can function as their homes. Sometimes they attack small mining colonies supporting the Nest. Nomads rarely dive if they can stay in their transport. They take great pride in being able to do that.

6. (Grays/Golems) Some corporations within the Nest being faced with lack of labor force decided to grow their own humans using genetic engineering. In order to make them distinctive from humans they were given gray pigment for the skin. Also Grays/Golems are mentally conditioned and engineered to be submissive and lack gills which prevents them from being able to escape. Once in a while it turns out that among few hundreds of them there are few "faulty" ones and they have the will to escape and live independent life. 

Hey man, its been a while since i checked this thread but im glad its still going strong.
I love the idea of the tunnel city, it reminds me a lot of the interior of the Seed ship Sidonia in Knights of Sidonia manga. If you havent read it, i totally recommend it for some ref/inspiration when it comes to crazy arquitecture.
The research you did on the submarine weaponry is really cool too.

EduardoGaray - Well. I'm not going as strong as I'd like to. There is no momentum.
I know Knights of Sidonia. Actually all the Tsutomu Nihei work (especially Blame) is strong influence for this project :).

Lately I thought about how to better communicate the universe and realized that vertical approach would suit Oceanarium better. In the water you either go deeper or towards the surface. Every level of the Nest would have slightly different feel. Here's rough sketch of how I see it.


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