Flashback: The Big Idea

Remember "Thieves World"? It was a game supplement (a superbly detailed city) by Chaosium, based on a line of fiction anthologies set in that city, written by multiple authors and curated/edited by Robert Asprin.

I am thinking of putting together a team of writers/designers to create a future city supplement along those lines (working title: "Ubiquicity"). I was going to do it myself but the future is hard to predict in toto, and I think this can be a much better product if it's multi-valent.

So. The goal of the working group would be to imagine a city of the first world, roughly 100 years in the future, where ubiquitous computing has become commonplace. We would write and publish collections of short stories set in this city, as well as a system-agnostic gaming supplement allowing GMs to use this city in their near-future SF roleplaying games.

- Tod Foley

That was part of a pitch letter I sent to a few handfuls of people back in 2016, in order to "test the waters" among both writers and gamers that I knew (or knew by reputation). With some help from the awesome Deborah Teramis Christian, I found nine people who really resonated with the concept (a tenth would be Brent Newhall, who contributed ideas and constructive criticism as the concept gelled).

The assumptions of the Ubi "genre" are...

  • We don't destroy ourselves completely within 100 years
  • Corporations govern openly, usurping governments
  • Capitalism survives but in a modified sense
  • Things become more and more privatized
  • Universal Basic Income and reputation economies
  • AR, VR, and AI leads to robots and artificial realities
  • A super-dense ad-saturated media landscape
  • Lots of green technology
  • The internet of things

The authors - Niko Carcosa, Antony Copeland, Tod Davies, DeAnna Knippling, SL Koch, Shariann Lewitt, Adrian McCauley and T Reynolds - would be asked to think about...

  • characters - from all walks of life; each of you has a main POV character
  • factions - from corporations to local government to street clans/gangs
  • agendas - reputation points, funding, oppression, protest, crime, terrorism, hacking
  • fashion - including high-tech accouterments, holography, smart fabrics, cybergear
  • entertainment - virtual/augmented reality, jaded celebrity, interactive experiences
  • slang - language is already altered by the internet; how will it change further?
  • parts of town - specific locations of color and interest within the larger areas
  • local legend/history - bits of historical data allow symbolic glimpses of the past
  • landmarks (seen from multiple angles) - what do they mean to various characters?
  • social spots & activities - what do people do with their free time in this world?

...and boy, did they deliver.

The attached document (see link below) was part of the initial pitch package to those ten people. A private mailing list was set up, and Project Ubi was on its way.