When one thought of the future years ago, people envisioned flying cars, intergalactic space travel complete with aliens, and robots everywhere doing the types of things that the average joe didn’t want to do. Since then, the ideas of the future have changed significantly, but these still may have a place in your setting. But when deciding on a futuristic campaign, you need to have an idea of where to do with it. Before starting, DMs need to figure out who the characters are. In this series of articles, we will be using various fictional franchises to inspire to discuss the topic.
Who are the characters?
DMs can draw inspiration from the following animes:
- Biker Mice from Mars follows three anthropomorphic mice, Throttle, Modo, and Vinnie, who crash land on earth, specifically Chicago. There they meet “Charley,” a charming female mechanic. The reason for their crash is because the mice were fleeing the Plutarkians, an obese fishlike alien race. This fishlike race plunders other planets’ natural resources because they have wasted all of their own. The mice discover that the Plutarkians have come to Earth in an attempt to steal its natural resources.
- Akira is set in a dystopian future (ironically 2019) in Neo-Tokyo. It tells the tale of how Tetsuo Shima, who acquires incredible telekinetic abilities after a motorcycle accident. These powers eventually threatened an entire military complex amidst chaos and rebellion.
- Megazone 23: the story follows Shougo Yahagi, a delinquent motorcyclist whose possession of a government prototype bike leads him to discover the truth about the city.
- Durarara tells the tale of Celty Sturluson, who is an Irish Dullahan. She is in Ikebukuro, looking for her stolen head while working as an underworld courier. The narrative follows the characters, showing how their lives intersect. It combines to create a more cohesive plotline from each character’s knowledge about a common incident.
- Both Star Wars and Star Trek are a start. In such campaigns, the DM needs to figure out what races/ alien species are allowed. Why? In both of these settings, there are LOTS of choices. Some may unbalance the game. Then, with many of the aliens, DMs need to consider any special environmental requirements the species are built for, e.g., a methane atmosphere.
- Jace and the Wheeled Warriors: The series follows protagonist Jayce and his crew, in their search for his father, Audric. Saw Boss and the Monster Minds oppose them. The Monster Minds are a race of plant-like monsters who wish to conquer the universe.
- SilverHawks: The show takes place in the ‘Limbo’ galaxy, where Stargazer protects the varies planets in the universe. He finds himself in trouble as Mon*Star escapes from Penal Planet 10. Mon*Star breaks out his Mob and aims to rule Limbo from Brimstar. Why? So he can from there receive Moon-stars light to transform into his stronger form. In response to Stargazer’s request for help, the SilverHawks arrive on the scene.
- Ulysses 31. It is the 31st Century. Ulysses is a famous explorer and pilot in space who desires to go home to Earth to his wife. He takes his son Telemachus, his son’s robot Nono with him, as well as a crew. His journey is aboard the space-ship Odyssey with computer Shyrka. ‘Cyclops’’ cultists kidnap his son. Ulysses destroys the Cyclops, rescuing Telemachus as well as Numenor and Yumi, Zotrain children. In revenge, the gods of Olympus put the Odyssey’s crew asleep, wiping the location of Earth from Shyrka’s memory. The only solution is for Ulysses to find the “Kingdom Of Hades”, but Ulysses, Telemachus, Yumi, Nono, and Shyrka have to defend against the Trident – the forces of the gods and the dubious community of the Universe in a desperate search for finding a cure for the crew and to find the Kingdom Of Hades and find a way home to Earth. A version of the infamous Greek trials of Ulysses set in space.
- My Hero Academia: In this world, most people have superpowers known as “Quirks.” Bullied, quirk-less Izuku Midoriya has dreams of one day becoming a Hero despite having no quirks. After trying to rescue his childhood bully Katsuki Bakugo from a villain, “All Might,” saves him. He bestows upon Midori his own Quirk, “One for All.” The story follows Izuku’s entrance into a school for training the next generation of superheroes. However, the League of Villains, an evil organization established by All Might’s archenemy “All For One,” has plans to destroy all Heroes and take control of society.
- Big Hero 6. Hiro Hamada is a 14-year-old high school graduate and robotics genius living in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo. He spends much of his free time participating in illegal robot fights. To redirect Hiro, his older brother Tadashi takes him to the research lab at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology (SFIT). There Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends, Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred. Hiro also meets Professor Robert Callaghan, the head of the university’s robotics program. Amazed, Hiro decides to apply to the university. He creates “Microbots” as his entry to the talent show at the college. After this, a fire breaks out at the venue. Unfortunately, Tadashi dies in the blaze. In response, Hiro forms a superhero team with his new friends to find out what exactly happened. They discover that Callaghan stole Hiro’s invention using the fire as a diversion. He mass-produced the devices to become the masked villain Yokai. As Yokai, he set out to enact revenge on Krei for the presumed death of his daughter. The series picks up after the movie, albeit with some continuity errors to protect their city from an array of scientifically enhanced villains. Hiro also faces academic challenges and social trials as the new prodigy at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology (SFIT).
- Some timelines of the X-men also apply for being futuristic, particularly those involving the X-man cable in his fight against the Sentinel Nimrod and the techno-organic virus.
Mutants, Aliens, & Monsters
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Four mutated anthropomorphic turtles taught by a rat fight the forces of the Shredder.
- The C.O.W Boys of Moo Mesa. An irradiated comet struck the late 19th-century Western plains creating a mile high mesa shrouded in clouds. Everything trapped atop the plateau gets mutated into cow-like forms. Inspired by tales of the Wild West, they emulated that era’s way of life. The concepts of steampunk and Weird West are utilized throughout its run.
- Parasyte: In secret, alien parasites drift downwards toward Earth. Their directive: to take control of a human body and thrive in secret. When a parasite attempts to take over Shinji, an ordinary high school student, he stops it in his arm to save his mind. With the strange power of amorphous muscle, the curious parasite strikes an uneasy truce with Shinji: it will keep him alive and strong so that it may continue living, and will help protect him from the other parasites that might not take kindly to Shinji’s mind still actively working. Can Shinji gain the courage to face the parasites and protect humanity? And would it even make a difference if he did?
- Assassination Classroom: A humorous and action-packed story about a class of misfits who are trying to kill their new teacher – an alien octopus with bizarre powers and super strength! The teacher has just destroyed the moon and is threatening to destroy the earth – unless his students can destroy him first. What makes things more complicated is that he’s the best teacher they’ve ever had!
- Back to the Future is an American science-fiction adventure-comedy film franchise. It follows the misadventures of a high school student, Marty McFly, and an eccentric scientist, Dr. Emmett L. Brown. Their story centers around them using a DeLorean time machine to time travel to different periods in the history of Hill Valley, California.
- Generation Gawl. The story is set in 2007 when Professor Takuma Nekasa uncovers a genetic code. This code unlocks the human body’s greatest mystery and exposes humanity to its greatest threat. As a result, Gawl, Koji, and Ryo—three young scientists from a future period—have traveled back in time to undo this mistake. Though the trio intended to arrive one year before the calamity, they are instead transported three months before the event. Ryuko Saito, a mysterious and cunning, a scientist who prefers the future as it is, thwarts them at every turn. Generators, unearthly assassins posing as humans, assist Saito. As Ryo and Koji try to complete their mission, Gawl himself must “generate”—becoming like his enemies to fight on their terms.
- “Buck Rogers,” tells the tale of a NASA/USAF pilot who commands Ranger 3, a 1987 spacecraft. Due to a life-support malfunction, Buck got accidentally frozen for 504 years. He is discovered adrift in the year 2491 and gets revived. He learns that civilization on Earth was rebuilt following a devastating nuclear war that occurred on November 22, 1987, and is now under the protection of the Earth Defense Directorate. The series followed him as he tried to fit into the 25th-century culture. As no traceable personal records of him remained, he was uniquely placed, due to his pilot and combat skills and ingenuity, to help Earth Defense foil various evil plots to conquer the planet. Buck is aided in his adventures by his friend and sometimes romantic interest, Colonel Wilma Deering, a high-ranking officer and starfighter pilot
- Occult Academy: Maya is the daughter of the former Headmaster of Waldstein Academy. In 2012, the world aliens invaded the world. The future sends time travelers back to the year 1999. Their purpose is to prevent the apocalypse by destroying the Nostradamus Key. In 1999, Maya returned to the Academy as headmaster to destroy it. Her plan is interrupted when she meets Fumiaki and learns of the impending destruction. They form a pact to look for the Key. By using special phones to locate the key, Maya and Fumiaki investigate occult occurrences.
- Stein’s Gate Steins is set in 2010 in Akihabara, Tokyo, and follows Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed “mad scientist.” Obake runs the “Future Gadget Laboratory” in an apartment together with his friends Mayuri Shiina and Itaru “Daru” Hashida. While attending a conference about time travel, Okabe finds the dead body of Kurisu Makise, a neuroscience researcher. Sending a text to Daru, he later discovers that Kurisu is alive and that the message arrived before he sent it. The laboratory members learn that the cell phone-operated microwave oven they are developing can send text messages back in time; they are joined by Kurisu, and investigate it, sending text messages – referred to as “D-mails” – to the past to change the present. Kurisu eventually creates a device that can send memories through the microwave oven, effectively allowing the user to time travel.
When looking at all these different TV shows and anime, it’s useful to ponder the character’s background, allies, equipment, and mindset. Consider also their abilities, flaws, skills, and powers. Finally, look at their environment/setting and the tech, magic, or metal powers that surround them. By taking all these factors into account, BOTH DMs and PCs can work together to make a fantastic futuristic setting.