Space Adventure RPGs

log in or register to remove this ad


I agree that one of the things holding Sci-Fi RPGs back a bit is the same thing that holds high level D&D back - it's wide open and tougher for some folks to run. There is a sense of endless possibilities than can be hard not to run as "Mother May I."

Mostly though it is because D&D is so darn popular - it's just easier to find a an enthusiastic D&D group.

I finished up a Traveller campaign earlier this spring and enjoyed it very much. However, by the end, the players were ready to return to D&D or WFRP. So, it is not just on the GM-side, in my experience, players tend to gravitate back to fantasy too.

Which, leads me back to Morrus's astute observation - D&D was first.


While SciFi games may not be so popular around IRL tabletops these days (at least in my city they aren't), they're being played quite often online on virtual tabletops. The roll20, Fantasy Grounds and Foundry VTTs all have a number of SciFi RPGs available, which get played a lot.
I'll ditto recommendations for Traveller and the Cepheus Engine, which is based upon the Mongoose Traveller 1e rules.

aramis erak

Dunno about being played (though I see plenty of Twitch and YouTube APs for the game) but I've noted a lot of people are buying Star Trek Adventures but not necessarily talking about it on Enworld or other forums as much compared to the big WOTC and Paizon games.
There's discussion about it... but not much to be said. I'm running it currently, it's not my favorite flavor of trek, but it's one of the easier to teach and use over VOIP. Plus, it has a good discord roller bot. And it's got a really good corpus of adventures...

Though I think part of it is just commonality; that a lot of people have a sort of generic sense of fantasy, where their sense of SF tends to be more specific.
This. There are a set of common fantasy tropes, cliches, and labels that tend to be present in most popular fantasy (games) that create an immediate sense of familiarity - and easy hooks for the audience to grab. SF, for the most part (outside of a handful of major media franchises), lacks this.

Something a basic as races breaks down in translation. When you say “Elf” or “Dwarf” most gamers (and non-gamers) tend to visualize a similar concept. When the game says you can play as a “Pnume” or a “Dirdir”, you visualize nothing unless you’ve read the same books I did.


I'm not sure. At least in the last 10-20 years, there's been an extremely common "shiny military videogame sci-fi" style that looks really interchangeable to me as someone who isn't diving particularly deep into the individual settings.
It goes back to Babylon 5, FreeSpace, and then Halo and Mass Effect, and more recently Stellaris and Star Citizen. I also think Neo Star Trek has the same look from images I've seen.

Of course there's variation, and there's sci-fi works that are completely different from that. But that also holds for fantasy. Not all fantasy is D&D fantasy.

That's more a general visual look than anything that isn't skin-deep though; just as a simple set of examples, B5, Trek and Mass Effect might have a not-dissimilar visual palette (likely because at least the last was influenced by the first two), but in terms of setting conceits, specifics and tech assumptions they aren't particularly close at all.


That's more a general visual look than anything that isn't skin-deep though; just as a simple set of examples, B5, Trek and Mass Effect might have a not-dissimilar visual palette (likely because at least the last was influenced by the first two), but in terms of setting conceits, specifics and tech assumptions they aren't particularly close at all.
A lot of Mass Effect's look was just recycled Star Wars stuff by Bio-Ware. You are right tho, they are not alike in concept.

A lot of Mass Effect's look was just recycled Star Wars stuff by Bio-Ware. You are right tho, they are not alike in concept.

Yeah. Of the things compared to, ME is probably closest to B5 in terms actual setting look-and-feel, but just to give an example that doesn't match up well, the implications of B5 psionics (and how the overall culture treated it) is considerably different than ME biotics.


I think one deterrent in "science fiction" is the "science" part, or at least the fear of it. People are put off by the thought of having to make allowance for the laws of physics. "Fantasy", on the other hand, implies a freedom to make up the rules yourself.

The irony is that the science is handwaved, and the fantasy formulated, to a point where they meet in the middle.


Could very well be. Which is ironic, given that most 21st century sci-fi doesn't even pretend to bother with science. It's gadget fiction. Or Matt Damon lost in space.

I think that requires ignoring a pretty fair chunk of lit-SF; some is, of course, just space opera, but its far less true than with visual media SF (and with that, its been true largely since day one; I'm a big fan of 50's SF movies but its not like most them gave much of a damn about science, either).


As I mentioned in any earlier post, I publish Starfinder third party compatible products, and Starfinder is "science fantasy" with great amounts of magic. The Pact Worlds setting is kind of an impossible system of dozens of planets all inside it's habitable zone, and if measuring distances from worlds to the imagined speeds of Drift drives, I can only guess that Drift is sublight speed, so not FTL. As third party, I cannot use the Pact Worlds (I wouldn't want to anyway), and cannot even use Drift drives with the accepted alternate of the same thing being Hyperspace drives. However, I mention that I lean harder sci-fi, much harder than the default Starfinder setting. Magic is still fully incorporated, but the setting isn't as gonzo. To some degree I grasp the "science" part slightly more.

Last December, I published a 39 page supplement called The Planet Builder. It began with me creating one-shots, and not satisfied with Starfinder's default planet stat block, and wanting something more for my own publications. I was visiting a Discord community called Derwood's Starfinder Combat League, where some of it's members are decent designers. I posed the question, how should I develop a better planet stat block and/or rules to create custom planets. Because that community features starship combat training exercises, someone suggested emulating the starship building rules doing so for planets. And I began development of that in that Discord community, somebody on their boards (Carey Dunn), turns out to be an astrophysicist lab technician suggested because among the factors of world building, is determinig it's moons and their influence on the planets gravity and tides, which habitable zone and where within it exists matters too - why not build rules for custom entire star systems. So I recruited Carey to create the tables for generating scientifically viable star systems. I coupled this with a planet point system allowing you to adjust your table rolls to further customize to your needs, then spending planet points you could purchase Resource Stations (orbiting mine processors, for example) which manifest annual planet points to your pool, as well as other extra-planetary structures (orbiting rings, space stations, weapons platforms, Oniell cylinders, etc.) to grow your system over time.

A major development consideration, is Paizo published a deck of Planets, but under it's default premise you can have worlds that are entirely water, no solid matter at all, and other impossible possibilities. While my rules doesn't preclude such integrations, you'd have to replace a planet or moon created in the tables to accommodate more fanciful results. I designed my Planet Builder rules to be fully compatible with Starfinder, yet as a subsystem only, it's versatile and scientific enough to be useful in any other Sci-Fi game system that lacks rules to generate entire star systems. In a way, it goes against the Starfinder default grain, but I don't care - it's what I needed, so it's what I created. Thus it cannot possibly fit every Starfinder GM's default, it does fit some, and for referees of other game systems than Starfinder, possibly. It was a design choice.
Last edited:

I find while I have and interest in games, role playing games, and science fiction role playing games in general; when one looks at what I am usually reading, as well as posting in my discord, twitter, facebook, etc.. It is usually science, and engineering articles, many of them technical, which in turn circles back on to why I made my own sfrpg, as a teaching tool, it allows one to experience, and interact with the science fiction concepts, such as transhumanism, or solarpunk, as well as science, and technology.


I think that's mostly because there's more Sci-Fi TV and movies than fantasy. And we're currently living in an era of milking everything that was popular on a screen in the last 40 years for adaptations.

I know of Reign of Discordia, and it promises new space combat rules, something that is often brought up in discussions of SFRPG's is how they handle space combat. It is sort of the "magic rules" for sci-fi vs fantasy.

Promotion by designers, publishers is important, and with that, reading the room. I mean, for a lot of the licensed big name RPG's, they have a lot of promotion going on


I find another thing about SF games is that many recent ones have been tied to movies/tv show IP.

Meanwhile, interesting releases like this struggle to get as noticed:

I think the generic sci-fi has just never took off like the fantasy genre has. SW has had some luck getting a little traction.

How is the white star system? 5E reskins are no go for me. They all end up feeling like D&D.

Myrdin Potter

I think White Star is an amazing example of how to do a pretty rules light SF system. Space combat, for example, just treats the ships as monsters and you run the combat using the same rules as you generally do.

Rules light does not mean that there is not a lot of content in the rulebook, just that it is built on top of 0e D&D and does not add so much complexity that you could not drop a dragon into your world and then fight it with powered armor and lasers.

I saw an at the barrier peaks style 5e module coming out that is power armor and lasers vs a dragon on the cover. Definitely games have a built up fandom around them that help give them impetus, mothership is one. At the same time, one has to ask why is say there is going to be another sfrpg horror or dystopia, why? What makes it different than the ton of others? There are a lot in that category, and maybe it is to capitalize on another success without jumping on their bandwagon or something.

Level Up!

An Advertisement