in 2005/2006 i was itching to play a sci-fi rpg. our group was in the middle of slogging through some D&D 3.0/3.5 campaigns and they weren't really too keen on changing systems. i had tried to run them through a DRAGONSTAR adventure, but one of the guys hated the idea of "elves in space" so much that he went out of his way to be a jerk and single-handedly sabotaged the whole thing.
then i discovered a new d20 setting called DAWNING STAR. it used the d20 modern and future rules and had no elves, halflings, orcs or any of that stuff. i ordered the 2 core books - OPERATION QUICKLAUNCH and HELIOS RISING - and totally fell in love with the setting. the basic version is this: humanity was forced to leave earth in 2196, as a large object was detected hurtling toward the planet in 2184 - large enough to create an extinction level event. in the 12 years before impact, the people of earth band together and build huge evacuation ships. as the massive fleet departs earth, it makes a startling discovery at the very edge of our solar system...a damaged gateway device (sort of like a mass relay from MASS EFFECT). the gateway detects the ships nearing and activates - but, being damaged, scatters the fleet all over the universe.
the games focuses on the people who were on board the ship DAWNING STAR, which suddenly found itself alone at the edge a strange star system. nearby was another one of the gateway devices - but try as they could, they couldn't get it to activate. scans of the system detected several habitable planets in the system - which was hard for the crew to believe. they set a course for the nearest one and touched down - but not before suffering damage. apparently, the upper atmosphere was laced with a chemical that accelerated rust development - and the crew realized that they would not survive a return trip through the atmosphere. so, they set down, disassembled the ship, built a city and began the long process of establishing a permanent settlement. they were, after all, carrying 2 million people in cryosleep! the planet is named Eos, and the star is dubbed Helios.
as the settlement was established and the planet surveyed there were several surprising discoveries: the planet was inhabited by a blue skinned race of humanoids called the velin (who are genetically identical to humans), as well as a seemingly primitive race of insectoid beasts that the settlers call "darklings"; the planet is pocked with ancient ruins which appear to have been destroyed in a massive, planet-wide battle; these ruins sometimes contain functional, wondrous high-tech devices; and finally, there are crashed spaceships on the planet that are not ancient - and are obviously of alien origin.
the book HELIOS RISING goes on to detail the entire solar system - which is VERY inhabited. GM's are given a choice of settings:
1) you can start your players in the year 2251. the exploration of the planet is first getting underway, and you can slowly introduce all the cool aspects of the solar system and the planet as they adventure.
2) you can start the players somewhere after that date - one where the humans of Eos have learned of the conflict in the Helios system and have discovered/made contact with at least a few of the alien races living in the system. this allows for more of a space opera feel.
now, i hate the d20 system. this game came with a lot of it's own weapons, gear, prestige classes, skills and the whatnot - but you still needed the d20 modern book and d20 future. d20 future was a DISASTER of editing mistakes and conflicting rules. when i ran this i just flung a bunch of that stuff overboard.
sadly, support for this game vanished around 2007/2008. i was pretty bummed out and a reason was never given. the website and message board just simply died, and the monthly magazine that supported the game also vanished. i guess most of that was tied to the d20/3E transition into 4E...but damn, i wanted more from this game. i'm not sure how popular the game was - or d20 future, for that matter. i know i saw a few copies of OPERATION: QUICKLAUNCH for sale at GENCON this year for $1...that's not a good sign. there were a few modules (one of which was supposed to be a 3-parter which would have revealed more about the setting) and a promised sourcebook which would have outlined the STAR CONFEDERATION (the mysterious ancients of the setting) but none of that ever materialized.
personally, i feel like this setting would be PERFECT for the X-PLORERS rpg. it's d20 based - so the conversion isn't all that difficult...i know since i converted a bunch of the races for use in my X-PLORERS campaign. revising it with an OSR attitude would only benefit the game.
i did see that BRAVE HALFLING acquired the rights to produce a PROMETHEUS RISING setting for X-PLORERS, and that was also a d20 product. will they do the same for DAWNING STAR?!?!? i can only hope! there was some chatter about making DAWNING STAR into a SAVAGE WORLDS setting...and i guess that would be better than nothing.