Source: Apathy Blogs
(…) The setting is the relatively near future. Mankind has colonized the solar system, but nothing beyond it. There is no galactic empire that spans thousands of star systems. We only have the planets of our solar system to work with. We have advanced to the point where we have stations every where from the sun’s corona to Pluto and beyond.
Meanwhile, Earth is dead. Or mostly dead. 10 years ago a collection of AIs sparked World War III and wiped out most of mankind. There is a quarantine around Earth because automated war machines still roam around destroying anything that moves. Luckily the AIs mysteriously left the solar system, so things have been relatively quiet since then.
We have also perfected the technology for copying brain patterns. So a few billion people “escaped” earth by uploading their brains into the colonies. We have the ability to implant these brain patterns into bio-enhanced bodies, artificially grown bodies, or purely robot bodies. However, living space isn’t unlimited. So many refugees from Earth have to live virtual lives in the computer network until they can earn a body. A large number have chosen to contract themselves to corporations as indentured workers, often mining or other tedious jobs, just for the chance to walk around again.
Another aspect of being able to copy brains is that you can now duplicate yourself. The legality of such “forks” (as they are called) varies from place to place. Most of the time it is illegal to have multiple true copies running around, but some places allow limited versions for a short period of time. You can also merge your forks back together, stitching the memories of both into a new whole. Of course, doing so after being separated for too long may lead to mental instability. For the most part, people don’t fly from colony to colony when they want to visit someplace. It just takes too long. Way easier to temporarily send your mind over there and rent a body for the trip.
I said we hadn’t reached other star systems earlier. That’s actually not quite true. After the AIs left we discovered a number of “Pandora Gates” (named after the moon they were found on, although the mythological implications of the name are intentional.) Nobody knows how they were created. They do allow travel to distant worlds. Of course, not very many expeditions return successfully. Those that do often come back with worthwhile information or tech. Whole campaigns can be centered around the exploration of the worlds beyond the gates. (…)