2300 AD is a hard science fiction/cyberpunk role playing game created by Game Designers' Workshop, The art of 1st Edition books had an allegedly comic book feel, which was replaced by a more technical style in the second edition.
2300 AD is set at the dawn of the 24th century (between 2298 and 2301 depending on the book or supplement). At the end of the 20th century, a limited nuclear exchange took place between the United States, China, the U.S.S.R. and other nuclear powers. (This is the same "Twilight War" that is depicted in the role-playing game Twilight: 2000, also produced by Game Designer's Workshop.) In the intervening three centuries, mankind has rebuilt and returned to space. A practical means of faster-than-light (FTL) travel has been discovered, leading to the exploration and eventual colonization of interstellar planets. The post-Westphalian nation-state remains dominant, and most space colonies are considered the territories of various nations back on Earth. This fin de siècle society is analogous to the European colonial era of the 18th and 19th century (indeed, this seems to have been a great source of inspiration for some of GDW's other games). The dominant power, both on Earth and in space, is the Third French Empire, which escaped the nuclear war relatively unscathed by abandoning its NATO allies at the start of the war, and thus had a head start in the technology race. Competing powers include Great Britain, Manchuria, Germany, and an alliance of America and Australia, all of which control certain extrasolar planets themselves.
Mankind has met with several alien species, all of which are decidedly strange and truly alien, from the genetically-engineered Pentapod to the vicious Kafers (The game writers coined this name based on the German word Käfer for bug, not on the South African insult "kaffir" or its Afrikaans equivalent kaffer.) The Kafers are the most humanoid of the alien species; unfortunately their history and biology means that war between the Kafer and mankind is inevitable; in 2301 the Kafer start an invasion of human space that will be costly to both attackers and defenders and serves as one of the major dramatic events of the game line.
A faster than light device called the Stutterwarp Drive allows mankind to colonize other solar systems. Ships can usually reach about 3.5 light years per day as a maximum speed; the real limitation of the Stutterwarp drive is that it can only propel a ship up to a maximum of 7.7 light years before it needs to enter a gravity well and discharge lethal radiation that would otherwise kill the crew. Because ships need to reach a world within this distance, the effect of this limitation is the creation of lanes along which travel and commerce are conducted and along which wars are fought. There are three major lanes through known space, called Arms, named after the nations which dominate them (thus the French Arm, The American Arm and the Chinese Arm). It is still early in mankind's expansion into space, thus exploration has reached little beyond 20-40 light years from Earth.
Overall, the technological level of 2300 AD is not terribly more advanced than the modern day. What is depicted refines or updates currently used technology, with occaisonal instances of breakthroughs predicted by modern science. The wonder-tech cliches of Space Opera are deliberately absent (with the notable exception of FTL). For example, most personal combat is still conducted with guns firing chemically projected slugs even though energy weapons do exist.
The background history of 2300 AD is a continuation of the nuclear war depicted in the Twilight 2000 role-playing game by the same company. A custom strategy game called "The Great Game" was used by the authors to develop the background history for 2300 AD.
The game has some very obvious influences. In various supplements and adventures one can find characters, situations and equipment which were clearly modelled on items from popular science fiction movies and novels. Guns and the power loader from the movie Aliens and a buggy from Silent Running, for example.
The alien Kafer (bugs) could be seen as loosely modelled after the Bugs of Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The game also includes several types of powered armor combat suits quite similar to those of the Mobile Infantry of the same novel.
Finally, the authors added a Cyberpunk campaign to the game with the publication of the "Earth/Cybertech Sourcebook" and two adventures for the same, trying to capitalize on the Cyberpunk fad of the 1990s. References to such works as Neuromancer or Blade Runner inevitablely appear.
Several RPG magazines carried articles for 2300 AD, but GDW's own Challenge stands out for its quality 2300 AD contributions.
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