THE SHIP IS ALL.
THE SHIP MOVES.
This is a perennial favorite setting of mine, especially when I’m in the mood to run a Warhammer 40K-style RPG. There’s a 1d4chan page about it, but I wanted to dive into what it is here, and why I enjoy running it so much.
The general idea behind the setting was sparked by someone mentioning an idea for the advancement of the 40K setting, by the Emperor awakening briefly, commanding the construction of a “great ship,” before returning to his slumber. The mention of the ship being 1 AU in length (1 AU = distance from the Earth/Terra to the Sun/Sol) led to all kinds of mentions of what would need to occur in order for such a thing to even be feasibly possible, and gradually the entirety of the 40K setting got folded into it in microcosm.
Now, The Ship Moves. Within it is the Imperium, inhabiting Dyson Spheres and artificial habitats, cooperating with Eldar and Tau to keep it functioning, fighting off the Nids, Orks, and occasional Chaos that managed to get stuck inside. The Ship, due to the close proximity of the Emperor (Renamed to “The Captain”), repels 99% of any daemonic incursions, keeping it relatively chaos-free compared to the average 40K world. Entire planets worth of people live and die in cramped decks caring for part of an engine, or a few enormous adamantium rivets keeping vital components in place, and vast lakes of coolant stretch to the horizon beneath towering las defense cannons the size of continents.
As Warp travel is now both unnecessary and impossible in the cramped interiors of the Ship, warships before now act as almost like elevators, although areas exist that occasionally need the firepower of Battle Barges and the like to defend them. Entire levels might be declared Exterminatus or quarantined due to Nid or Ork infestation, and rumors have spoken of both Dark Eldar and Necrons sighted in the shadowed areas of the sacred vessel as well.
As mentioned before, this is a microcosm of 40K. Everything is here, from Tau to the infinite flavors of the Imperium, to the Eldar and even some Chaos. However, this is a setting that has solidly and assuredly broken away from canon, which is part of why I enjoy it so much. I personally quite like the canon for 40K, but it is very, very dense, difficult for newcomers to 40K to absorb in any kind of timely fashion, and most of all it is stagnant.
A side note here on 40’s fluff: I understand why it is stagnant. 40K has a very rich and detailed history, and as shown by the Squats and Legions of the Damned, people don’t much appreciate when the story marches on and leaves their favorites behind. However, 40K’s fluff has become bloated, and this makes it difficult to move forward with a plot in any meaningful way without trampling on the toes of existing canon or venting major characters out of the proverbial airlock.
50K does away with a lot of established 40K fluff, but not in a setting-demolishing way. Rather, the 50K:AoE setting allows for a patchwork quilt approach to a setting, in that a GM can pick and choose what elements they like from 40K to keep in 50K, and what to drop. I, for example, chose to keep Dark Eldar and Necrons as enemy forces that infiltrated the Ship rather than helped create it, but I gladly took a sledgehammer to the men-only Space Marines and have a few female members of the various chapters.
You too can alter the 50K setting however you feel suits you best, and I suspect 50K as a setting will feel much more like the scattered D&D 4e’s Points of Light than something more cohesive and set-in-stone like Eberron or Forgotten Realms. The cramped quarters and Dyson spheres means you can easily focus on politicking, exploration, combat, tight corridors and spaces or wide open plains and coolant seas, but still be able to shift to a new area within the ship without breaking the setting in the slightest.
For me, this really is a Swiss Army Knife of 40K. You get all the delicious fluff, characters, and grimdarkness, but in a much more digestible format for new players, a much less canon-stringent format for GMs and those familiar with 40K’s lore, and there’s enough new material that you don’t have to worry about rehashing the nth Black Crusade on Armageddon like you might in a normal 40K RPG.
Both times I’ve run this game I’ve used the Simple D6 rules, first on /tg/ and then second on RPGGeek, which is still an ongoing game. However, there’s absolutely nothing stopping a GM from running a much crunchier system, such as Dark Heresy, in this setting. I think in the future if I run this for an in-person game I’d like to switch it up a bit and use a heavier system, or possibly take a crack at it with the eventual Warpsteel: Sci-Fi ruleset I’m working on for the One-Page Rules group.
So, have you ever heard of the 50K setting? Do you plan on ever using it, or a similar heavy revamp of an existing canon setting?