James S.A. Corey's Expanse Series Began As A Role-Playing Game

Over at Barnes & Noble’s science fiction blog, regular io9 contributor Andrew Liptak writes about the origins of the Expanse series. (And visiting the set of the TV show!) And he explains how Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (aka James S.A. Corey) began this world as a role-playing game.


Here’s the most fascinating part:

[The Expanse] was well suited for gaming, and while it wouldn’t become an MMO, [Franck] started to run it as a roleplaying game on a post-to-play gaming forum. He opened up a private forum with threads for each round, for each character, their actions and out-of-character commentary. It was here, online, that a story began to emerge. What had been distant elements of a world were now together in a vibrant setting, alongside a grand story of human societies in competition with one another. Now, all it needed were some characters.

The game heavily influenced what would one day become the book: a crew of a water hauler is caught in the midst of an interplanetary war when they stumble upon an alien protomolecule on the asteroid Eros. Many distinct elements of the game made their way into the novel: characters, locations, ships, and events (Franck killed off one of his gamers when the player had to leave the game early; his out was a spectacular death). They key components of the larger story began to fall into place through various runs of the game, fleshing out the setting and testing out the logic of the world. Core elements of a narrative began to coalesce. Gamers developed the narrative’s central characters: Holden, Naomi, Amos, Alex and Shed, who navigated the solar system and the delicate balance of power around them, aboard the freighter Rocinante....

Abraham, too, had heard a bit about Franck’s RPG world, and asked if he could play too. With their wives as fellow players, Franck set up another game in The Expanse universe. Abraham played as a detective named Miller, living on the dwarf planet Ceres. Miller experienced problems with his police captain, even as a larger political crisis loomed. “What happens when you’re a cop and the government collapses?” is how Abraham put it. The game’s level of detail impressed him, and after three or four sessions, he realized that the setting would make for a great novel.

The whole thing is worth reading over at Barnes & Noble.

Contact the author at charliejane@io9.com.



I’ve always been kind of curious about the heavily ship based RPGs.... it kind of rubs me the wrong way that you could put a lot of work into making a strong character and then they could be sucked out into space or splattered by a random rail gun burst, or you could roll a 1 fixing the ship and kill the whole party.

Is that how these sorts of things play out? Or are DMs more merciful? Cause when my old college DM pitched us Spelljammer, it was very much in the “Oh, and I could keel you in a Thousand ways!”