Here we come, ready or not!


Voyages of the Starship ‘Fridtjof Nansen’ is a role-playing game (RPG) campaign being played by posts to the play-by-post forum of its setting, Flat Black. It is a game about the adventures of explorers and diplomats in an interstellar spacecraft, the eponymous INS Fridtjof Nansen, who are exploring a region of space that is spangled with lost human colonies, 532 years after the destruction of Earth.

The genre is serial rationalised planetary romance; that is, the campaign will consist of a series of encounters between its protagonists and the people of worlds that have bizarre but logical human cultures, the peculiarities of which introduce complications into the attempts of the protagonists to perform the task for which they came to the planet. In this case the task that the PCs have to perform on each planet is to perform a preliminary ethnographic survey, write a brief for some diplomats, make a diplomatic first contact, and then assess what nature of resources will be needed by the definitive mission that will follow, what problem or opportunity this world presents to the Empire for which the characters work.

The campaign will be played in troupe style, which is to say that each player will control several characters, selecting the appropriate one to play from time to time according to the needs of the situation. In particular, in this game each player will control one of the explorer-ethnographers, one of the diplomats, one of the command crew of the military starship in which the whole lot travel, and one of the Imperial Marines commandos who will drag assorted kinds of fat out of an amusing variety of fires.


Forty years after the end of fifty years of ruinous and exhausting “Formation Wars”, the Eichberger Foundation — now called “The Empire” — has recovered and rebuilt enough to start returning to the hinterland beyond 60 light-years from Sol. There are a lot of colonies out there: six hundred, of which fewer than two hundred have been explored at all since the destruction of Earth. The Empire has commercial, naval, and humanitarian interests in the Beyond; obviously the first step is a quick survey to find out what's out there in the way of problems and opportunities.

A preliminary attempt by the Imperial Navy to conduct such a survey without professional diplomatic skills and expert social and political advisors ended in tears, wars, progroms, and a suicide.

So now the Navy, the Imperial Office, and the Colonial Office have combined their efforts to produce Survey, an ambitious program in which 24 specially-constructed starships under naval command will explore six hundred worlds in ten years. Each Survey frigate is operated by the Imperial Navy and carries a big stick of sorts, but it also carries a small diplomatic mission from the Imperial Office, a team of multi-disciplinary explorer/scientists mostly recruited from the colonies and commissioned by the Colonial Office, and a few marines in case of emergency. It's not half an administrative headache.

INS Fridtjof Nansen is one of the Survey frigates, heading out into the Black to visit a list of worlds where people have indeed been before, but no-one knows what they have been up to for the last three or four centuries.


Science fiction, particularly serial rationalised planetary romance with a pinch of rationalised space opera.


Flat Black, a star-spanning dystopia optimised for rationalised planetary romances and a dark and cynical tone.


Game System

    • GURPS Spaceships 1, 3, & 5
    • GURPS Low-Tech
    • GURPS Low-Tech Companion 1
    • GURPS Low-Tech Companion 3
    • GURPS High-Tech
    • GURPS Ultra-Tech
    • GURPS Bio-Tech
    • GURPS Space


Two turns per week, as follows.

  • GM posts: 1400 UTC Monday
  • Deadline for character posts: 1400 UTC Wednesday
  • GM posts: 1400 UTC Thursday
  • Deadline for character posts: 1400 UTC Saturday



The campaign is named for the spaceship, which in turn is named for the Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, and great humanitarian, Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930).

Nansen was a polar explorer, leader of the first expedition to cross Greenland and pioneer of arctic survival and exploration methods. He was a zoologist, pioneer of neurology, and pioneer of oceanography. He was involved in negotiating the peaceful separation of Norway from Sweden, and was Norwegian ambassador to the United Kingdom. A leading figure of the League of Nations, he organised the repatriation of prisoners after WWI, was the first League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and was also strenuous in efforts to alleviate the famines following the Russian Civil War.

Fridtjof Nansen was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1922.