Space Adventure RPGs

Ixal

Hero
Space or rather SciFi RPGs have imo several problems which does not make them as attractive as fantasy RPGs.

- Scale
Scale is something many SciFi (and even some more modern-ish fantasy RPGs like Eberron) often do not get right.
In a SciFi RPG there would be billions of people on a planet which has further implications which often go against Space Opera tropes. Planetary invasions would be next to impossible and fleets would number in the thousand ships. That makes the individuals rather insignificant but RPGs are all about individuals.
Thus this is often either completely ignored without explanation or the setting focuses on small colonies and not developed planets.
Another "problem" with scale is that with billions of people it will be very hard to explain why there are not thousands, probably tens of thousands of high level characters all doing their thing.

- Connectivity.
In a typical SciFi setting you are usually always connected to the wider world (heck, you are already in the real world). And that opens up a lot of possibilities for the PCs to tackle a problem which the GM might be unprepared for, from stalking the BBEG on social media to hiring an expert for whatever skill they need to telecommunicate with when needed. That becomes especially a concern with the scale of developed SciFi planets which ensures that will find nearly anything.

- Structures
Most SciFi scenarios have a society which is at least as established as modern day western countries or even better. (with some exceptions like WH40K). That means a working and more or less effective police force, laws, emergency services and generally authorities.
And lets face it most PCs would be criminals and players are notorious that when they play they do not want to be shackled by law. Calling authorities? Gun registration? No way, the PCs are heroes and must not be hindred by this or be not allowed to shoot up the BBEG's base in the middle of the city.
And worse, when the PCs buck this trend and involve the authorities it often throws a spanner into the GM's plans. Hey police, the BBEG wants to destroy this city/moon/planet. Here is evidence, do something.

Most of the times all of those things get ignored or worked around by having the game happening around small wild west colonies or unexplored space.
Still, it limits what can comfortably be done with SciFi a lot.
 

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HaroldTheHobbit

Adventurer
Space or rather SciFi RPGs have imo several problems which does not make them as attractive as fantasy RPGs.

- Scale
Scale is something many SciFi (and even some more modern-ish fantasy RPGs like Eberron) often do not get right.
In a SciFi RPG there would be billions of people on a planet which has further implications which often go against Space Opera tropes. Planetary invasions would be next to impossible and fleets would number in the thousand ships. That makes the individuals rather insignificant but RPGs are all about individuals.
Thus this is often either completely ignored without explanation or the setting focuses on small colonies and not developed planets.
Another "problem" with scale is that with billions of people it will be very hard to explain why there are not thousands, probably tens of thousands of high level characters all doing their thing.

- Connectivity.
In a typical SciFi setting you are usually always connected to the wider world (heck, you are already in the real world). And that opens up a lot of possibilities for the PCs to tackle a problem which the GM might be unprepared for, from stalking the BBEG on social media to hiring an expert for whatever skill they need to telecommunicate with when needed. That becomes especially a concern with the scale of developed SciFi planets which ensures that will find nearly anything.

- Structures
Most SciFi scenarios have a society which is at least as established as modern day western countries or even better. (with some exceptions like WH40K). That means a working and more or less effective police force, laws, emergency services and generally authorities.
And lets face it most PCs would be criminals and players are notorious that when they play they do not want to be shackled by law. Calling authorities? Gun registration? No way, the PCs are heroes and must not be hindred by this or be not allowed to shoot up the BBEG's base in the middle of the city.
And worse, when the PCs buck this trend and involve the authorities it often throws a spanner into the GM's plans. Hey police, the BBEG wants to destroy this city/moon/planet. Here is evidence, do something.

Most of the times all of those things get ignored or worked around by having the game happening around small wild west colonies or unexplored space.
Still, it limits what can comfortably be done with SciFi a lot.
IMHO, high tech and its consequences in sci-fi are pretty much the same as magic and its consequences in a typical midlevel D&D game with scrying, possessed nobility etc. The ramifications are different in form, not so much in substance. It's not much easier trying to run around with a vorpal greataxe in Waterdeep than it is to tote a gatling blaster on capital planet Ftumsch. Etc etc.

Of course it depends on setting, but that is true for both sci-fi and fantasy. IMHO.

Edit: Yes, my Traveller games are different than my D&D campaigns. But that is more because of the systems, power levels and preferred play styles than genre.
 

dragoner

KosmicRPG.com
Most of the times all of those things get ignored or worked around by having the game happening around small wild west colonies or unexplored space.
Still, it limits what can comfortably be done with SciFi a lot.
Some of it is a feature, not a bug, I mean there is little adventure in a comfortable suburb now, if I were to have a modern day game, I simply would not run it there. Though running a game on the frontier, you get all the tech from a developed society, in an undeveloped setting. There is a very real reason that modern sci-fi literature came from Hollywood Westerns.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Yeah, that kind of thing isn't my cup of tea.
Thats too bad. POD is one of the only sandbox campaigns I have been able to consistently run successfully with different groups of players. Much of that is providing a really good mapped area that is large enough to do whatever you want, but also sizable to keep the game centered. The massive goal placed in the first session rings true in every session as the players continually work towards it in any way they see fit.

The typical fuel, fit, and pay for your ship routine descends into an aimless game. There are campaigns like Deepnight Revelation which is Traveller brand version of the Star Trek 5 year mission. Problem with those campaigns is they feel like a ride you cant get off. You cant stop being an explorer and do something else.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Space or rather SciFi RPGs have imo several problems which does not make them as attractive as fantasy RPGs.

- Scale
Scale is something many SciFi (and even some more modern-ish fantasy RPGs like Eberron) often do not get right.
In a SciFi RPG there would be billions of people on a planet which has further implications which often go against Space Opera tropes. Planetary invasions would be next to impossible and fleets would number in the thousand ships. That makes the individuals rather insignificant but RPGs are all about individuals.
Thus this is often either completely ignored without explanation or the setting focuses on small colonies and not developed planets.
Another "problem" with scale is that with billions of people it will be very hard to explain why there are not thousands, probably tens of thousands of high level characters all doing their thing.

- Connectivity.
In a typical SciFi setting you are usually always connected to the wider world (heck, you are already in the real world). And that opens up a lot of possibilities for the PCs to tackle a problem which the GM might be unprepared for, from stalking the BBEG on social media to hiring an expert for whatever skill they need to telecommunicate with when needed. That becomes especially a concern with the scale of developed SciFi planets which ensures that will find nearly anything.

- Structures
Most SciFi scenarios have a society which is at least as established as modern day western countries or even better. (with some exceptions like WH40K). That means a working and more or less effective police force, laws, emergency services and generally authorities.
And lets face it most PCs would be criminals and players are notorious that when they play they do not want to be shackled by law. Calling authorities? Gun registration? No way, the PCs are heroes and must not be hindred by this or be not allowed to shoot up the BBEG's base in the middle of the city.
And worse, when the PCs buck this trend and involve the authorities it often throws a spanner into the GM's plans. Hey police, the BBEG wants to destroy this city/moon/planet. Here is evidence, do something.

Most of the times all of those things get ignored or worked around by having the game happening around small wild west colonies or unexplored space.
Still, it limits what can comfortably be done with SciFi a lot.
When dealing with planets of mega populations and planetary war, sure scale could be something more difficult to fit in your mind and be somewhat problematic compared to fantasy gaming themes. But how many sci-fi games require planetary invasion with mega populations as a theme. I could run an entire space campaign where that never occurs, so doesn't come up as an issue. I mean in my fantasy games, I never play a tiny element of a special force amid a vast army doing some kind of fortification siege. It's certainly a storyline you could fit into a fantasy game, but isn't a necessary major encounter. I've played in 40 years of fantasy gaming, and that scenario never popped up in the entire time. While I have one planet in my developing sci-fi setting with 1.4 trillion population, the majority of my settled worlds have more like 20,000 on an entire planet. Scale is relative.

Look at Traveller and/or a Firefly kind of sci-fi/space game where the PC party is the entire crew of a given ship and whether the party are traders, explorers, smugglers, special military operators, a gang of thieves, hired mercenaries - there are infinite kinds of small group sci-fi adventures that can be had, that never involve planetary assaults and interstellar war - that's just one possible theme among many.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Alternity appears to be out of circulation, but if you can find anything for their Star*Drive setting, it is good for inspiration.
I found a single adventure module at my Public Library (no rulebooks, drat) and now have some plot ideas to drop into other campaigns.
 



Yora

Legend
Then they should have mechanics and narrative structures that work with this premise.

That's not something special to sci-fi games. All well done campaign settings need that. (And which is why you can't slap just any rules system on any established setting and expect it to work well.)
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
A lot.
Oh sure not as primary theme of a campaign, but nearly all SciFi settings except the really hard ones have that in their backstory.
Sure even in my setting it's backstory, there was an alien incursion in one of the independent colonies. Because of the threat many colonies joined in collaborative efforts to eschew the alien force, which after 7 years of hard fighting finally ended. Having joined in this community effort gave the grounds for forming a Colonial government. So, yes, that's in the backstory, but that has been 2 decades ago and no evidence of any upcoming wars. The likelyhood that a major war will occur in the next century is pretty slim. Now revolts and smaller actions would certainly happen, with a Colonial Navy and Colonial Marine force to handle any possible war activities, but in the basic setting premise there is no war, and not likely to engage in war for a century or more...
 

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