Thursday, August 13, 2009

Space: The New Black in RPGs

X-Plorers RPG from Grey Area Games I don't know if it's Gen Con, the peak of the Perseid meteor shower or the confluence of the two, but this sure seems to be a banner month for science fiction RPGs in general. The genre is still overshadowed by fantasy setting releases such as Paizo's Pathfinder and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Unaffordable Edition, but there does seem to be plenty of renewed interest in SFRPGs.

Here's a sample, starting off with the flood of Mongoose's Traveller releases (looks like I picked a good time to quit sniffing glue collecting them):

Golden Age Starships Compilation
Supplement 5: Civilian Vehicles
Supplement 6: Military Vehicles
Book 6: Scoundrel
Alien Module 1: Aslan
Judge Dredd

Mongoose is also releasing the 25th Anniversary edition of the classic Paranoia with Paranoia: Troubleshooters. And Shadowrun celebrates its 20th anniversary with, um, Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition. Also just released is the transhuman sci-fi Eclipse Phase, the Cthulhutech supplement Damnation View, FFG's Warhammer 40k game Rogue Trader, and Adamant Entertainment's new hardcover release of MARS: Savage Worlds Edition.

Also at risk of being overshadowed are some SFRPG releases from smaller outfits, but books I can't wait to get my hands on nonetheless.

First up, Grey Area Games has released the OGL-based X-Plorers: the Role Playing Adventures of Galactic Troubleshooters (pictured above) by David "grubman" Bezio. If you've ever wondered what would have happened in 1974 if Gary & Dave had tried to make a science fiction game rather than a fantasy game (using that same Original system), X-Plorer's may have been the result. The printed version is available for $12 ($6 PDF) through Lulu, and I'm going to wait until I have it before I do a proper review elsewhere, but you can check it out right now, absolutely FREE, on the X-Plorer's Downloads page. The Free version omits the art and some of the enhancements of the Full version, but is absolutely everything you need to start playing. So try it, then buy it! I'm really anxious to see what comes of this game. David is already planning on Galactic Troubleshooters, a quarterly supplement to the game, and it will be interesting to see if it gains the same kind of traction that other recent "old school" games such as OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry and Spellcraft & Swordplay have garnered. And of course (on topic), I'm interested to see how easily the "United Corporate Nations (UCN)" might translate to the UFP!

From Original-based old school to FATE-based new school, the long-awaited hard science fiction RPG, Diaspora, is finally here from VSCA Publishing with a 6x9 hardback available for $35 through their store at Lulu. Here are some description excerpts from the Diaspora Wiki (where you can find preview PDFs and other tools):

Humans have been in space tens of thousands of years, and societies have risen and fallen so many times that no one remembers where we come from.

Colonies are grouped in clusters of a few systems connected by slipstreams - artifacts of the cosmos or perhaps a forgotten technology. Only the splipstreams allow travel faster than light. Apart from that, spacecrafts make do with reaction drives, dumping heat as best they can.

Diaspora is a self-contained role-playing game, with rules for starship-battles, individual combat, social interaction, and platoon-scale engagement, in an original science fiction setting that you help design.

This is your universe. How are you going to survive?.

Sounds stark, but fascinating. Very "anti-Traveller" in ways, and I think the market could use that right now. Looking forward to picking it up with the next paycheck.

Thousand Suns: Foundation TransmissionsFinally, from Rogue Games' comes the latest supplement for their grand space opera RPG, Thousand Suns, called Foundation Transmissions. It's available today for $7 as a PDF through RPGnow, with the $13 print edition available at Gen Con now and through Indie Press Revolution in a few weeks. The 130-page book is a collection of articles and new game mechanics for Thousand Suns by Rogues Richard Iorio II and James Maliszewski, Gabriel Brouillard, and some new guy named Robert Saint John. I saw it this morning and it's absolutely loaded with some great art, some of which didn't make it into the original core rules book. Articles include:

  • Military Ranks in Thousand Suns (this is one of mine... note the section on ranks for "Navy/Combined (Starfleet)")
  • The Ways of Scheming
  • Custom Weapons
  • Custom Protection
  • Guide to the Core Worlds
  • A Spacefarer's Introduction to Lingua Terra
  • The Aurigan (new alien species)
  • Robots

A preview of this and other Rogue Games and Thousand Suns material can always be found on their Scribd site.

So even if you (like me) couldn't make it to Gen Con, there's plenty of new SFRPG stuff out there this month to keep us occupied. 2009 has shaped up to be a great year for the genre, and it shows no signs of slowing down in 2010!


  1. What, no TS rules for mecha?

    It looks like there's a little something for every taste. Plus Patrick Sweeney's EABA sf setting Fires of Heaven is set for publication soon. Lots to choose from.

  2. Actuuaallllyyyy... there is I think enough information in Custom Weapons, Custom Protection and Robots to apply toward introducing mecha, and some of the illos are undeniably mecha. Nothing explicit though, and it's not the first time someone has asked about it.

    I had the same thought. Regardless of playstyle or favorite flavor of SF, there seems to be something for everyone these days. I hadven't looked in on EABA for awhile, didn't even know about FoH. Thanks for mentioning it!

    For others interested:

  3. I hadn’t heard of Diaspora before clicking to this page. It’s pretty cool that this came out at the same time as X-plorers just because the two games are so totally at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

    Diasporia is hard sci fi, while X-plores is heavy on the fiction, light on the science. X-plorers is 60 pages vs. Diasporia’s 270. X-plorers is based off of old school OD&D game mechanics while Diasporia is based off of one of the more artsy modern game mechanics.

    I think if both game touch they might implode ;).

    But, being the game junkie I am, I’ll certainly check out Diasporia. You can never have too many rpgs! Even if you don’t get a chance to play them all each and every one provides inspiration and ideas.

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  5. Trek gaming fan Decloaking...

    (This is not an August release - it now seems to have been put back to spring next year - but there's been a sudden burst of activity in the mailing list coinciding with your post.)

    This may be another one to look out for: Battlefield Press have picked up Morrigan's Terran Trade Authority RPG to re-release using the Traveller system. I'm not a big fan of the rules, but I've been a fan of the setting since the original books were published.

  6. I'm definitely looking forward to Jonathan's new TTA. I had and loved "Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD" as a kid.

  7. Mecha was one of the most asked questions I had at GenCon this past week. I will have to talk to James about this over the next week and get his thoughts. I do know James and I have a lot of plans for TS, and that everything is on the table.

    Still, as Robert points out, with the Robot Rules, you could easily scale these up and have a rough mecha ruleset.

  8. I was kind of joking when I said that. Mecha don't fit every game. For example, I don't expect mecha in Traveller, but I do think it was stupid of Hero Games to omit mecha from their Terran Empire setting. But mecha are really popular, so adding them will probably give TS broader appeal.

  9. Hey there,

    Been on an extended hiatus for various reasons but did get to check out a few new games and I'm surprised you didn't mention Eclipse Phase, the new transhumanism space opera/horror rpg for Catalyst Games. Looks like some one without a major license (Star Trek or Star Wars) finally decided to get a budget and make a SF game that looks cool.

    Also, there is Starblazer Adventures, which may have been mentioned in an earlier post, which is soon to come out with a supplement or two.

    Great time to be a Sci-Fi gamer indeed!

    Barking Alien

  10. Welcome back! Well EP wasn't available, just a limited amount at Gen Con and not a lot of information when I wrote this. I'm curious about it as a setting (it gives me a vibe similar to CthulhuTech, which I think is great).

    As for SA, it came out at last year's Gen Con (although it took, what, 7 months to get it into people's hands??).

  11. Indeed and it (Starblazer Adventures) is a bit of a quicky game, at least in my opinion. Its subject matter and particular take on 60's-70's-80's SF is right up my alley but its FATE-ish mechanics take some getting used to for me.

    Barking Alien

  12. So the siren call of Eclipse Phase haunted me all day, Adam, and I went ahead and got the PDF and put in my order for the core. Wow, this looks like it's going to be a stunner. I haven't dug into the crunch yet, but (like Thousand Suns a year ago), this is a game for which I've waited a long time, and didn't even know it.

    I also picked up the 20th Anniversary Ed of Shadowrun. Not sure why, I can't really afford it, and was only mildly interested in Shadowrun back in the days of 1E. It must be because I'm on a Ghost in the Shell kick right now, and craving some good near-future SF.

    And I got my print copies of Foundation Transmissions in my hands today. What a great feeling to have that first book in your hands.

    It's been a good (albeit expensive) day!

  13. Robert, this is great stuff! Thank you for stopping by Exonauts! BTW. I appreciate all of your comments. As for this blog, consider yourself followed!