First: English is not my native language (and not my players too), so there is may be some missunderstanding or mistakes. I'm sorry about it.

Second: I know about game-recommendation question's rules and I learnt other's questions on this site and reddit too.

Players: Different. There are 1 roleplayer, 1 "commander", 1 min-maxer and 1 "i can play almost anything".

Me: As GM I'm "min-maxer" and I'm always trying to maintain balance between classes, in combat and in adventure (site/event based). I much care about "fair play" and "fun" than about real dice-numbers, BUT I strictly follow the rules of the system if they exist with may be minor balance-homebrew fixes. Currently I'm GMing 3.5/PF fantasy campaign. I can learn the system of any complexity, but I should have a chance to explain it to my players (which not-reading, not-English).

Setting and Adventure's hooks: Almost any setting with fast travels between star systems (Earth may not exist or be wiped/destroyed). Aliens is acceptable and desirable (I hate only-human-based Sci-Fi settings). PCs are long-distance truckers, or/and traders/explorers. Adventures are unclear/mystic cargo, troubles with payment, old-story problems, new places/cosmos exploration (yeah, I like Firefly so much).

Not-to-suggest: Savage Worlds, Shadowrun.

  • \$\begingroup\$ While my question A modern-SF, non-transhumanist, simulationist-leaning game? is only moderately related, you might find some of the answers quite helpful for your research. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – OpaCitiZen
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 6:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @OpaCitiZen Thanks for the comment (you question is hard to answer, heh). Traveller is the answer here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Iver Cold
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 3:03

3 Answers 3


Traveller. Traveller is an old game that's had a lot of editions, and several of them do what you want. It's... Well, it's basically Firefly. No, seriously: It's a game where the players are the crew of a small independent starship that hauls cargo and passengers between star systems to stay out of the red. I've described its features below, with the points that seem most relevant to your requirements in bold.

In most iterations, it's a traditional-style game, and should be flexible enough to accommodate the playstyles of all of your players. Balance is... A bit different to how it works in D&D. Characters don't have levels, and while advancement is available (in the form of equipment) for the most part, characters don't end a campaign a whole lot stronger in combat than they began - they just get a lot smarter about not dying. This means that the reward structure is different (it's about credits, not experience, and so combat isn't so central a theme), but it's not so different that it'll feel unfamiliar, and nearly player can find a mode of play that they feel comfortable with.

The setting is easily customisable (to the point where there's sayings about it in the player community) and every edition of the game has had strong and extensive rules for randomly generating vast swathes of space, so there's no risk of running out of content if you go "off the map."

A variety of alien races exist (and may or may not be playable, depending on the edition and the GM and which race you're talking about).

Long-distance trucking is the default assumed mode of play, with smuggling, mercenary work, piracy, asteroid mining, taking job offers from sketchy employers also being pretty common alternative sources of income. Most games start the players out with a considerable mortgage to pay off on their ship, so players are often willing to take on sketchy, risky or outright illegal jobs in order to make ends meet and keep on flying - which makes those rare jobs where everything goes right and you come out ahead seem like a real triumph, and gives you, as a GM, the ability to dangle all sorts of plot hooks in front of them and know they'll bite. Also, many planets both in and out of civilised space are underdeveloped and unexplored, so exploration can be as much a plot hook as any of the others I mention.

Character creation in most editions is a minigame where a player goes through their character's prior life in four-year blocks, deciding what career choices they made and rolling randomly to see what significant events occurred in that time. This means that A) character creation is more interesting than most other RPGs out there, B) Every character starts out with a roughed-out past that may come up in play, and C) Min-maxing is about risk management rather than point-buy.

In the last campaign I played in, the crew was a disgraced former army captain, a sociologist with a history of getting stranded on backwater worlds, a noble ex-diplomat who was 'slumming it', a pilot who had previously worked as a scout and belt-miner, a ship's doctor who was an illegal psionic, and an ex-intelligence operative trying and failing to stick to the straight-and-narrow. We started out with an rusty asteroid mining ship and forty years of mortgage to pay off before it was ours. Worried we might not make our first payment, we accepted a job from a military contractor who was suspiciously generous with pay and light on details about the work - work which consisted of seeking out a gone-dark installation on the other side of the subsector.

That... Went sour quickly. Only a few weeks later, we'd gained a criminal record on one world, barely managed to avoid getting caught on a second after an attempt to steal medical supplies went sour, and had our ship (technically) sold out from under us by a sneak before we managed to sort things out - and the military contractor was worse: After being jerked around on a string for a while, we decided to skip out on our mortgage, and spent some time fleeing imperial space for the border worlds. (Like I said, it's basically Firefly.) The campaign ended shortly after that, but it was awesome while it lasted.

I recommend Mongoose Traveller over other editions of the system; It's easily available (It's still in print), not too complicated (Beware T5), and contains some of the best features I've described above.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This sounds like fun.... :) \$\endgroup\$
    – link64
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 5:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @link64 It is. There's nothing quite like discovering that the "easy money" freight run you picked up was actually an illegal combat drone. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 6:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. But A small comment which may help the OP. Traveller is very open ended. It contains very few setting or plot hooks to work with unless you purchase supplements specifically for that purpose. And the material that does exist has always suggested to me that it's as much about exploration and classic sci-fi as it is galaxy trucking. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bob Tway
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 12:50
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This would have been my recommendation, but you beat me to it (and much more thoroughly). I also recommend the Mongoose version. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 13:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Various editions of Traveller also exist in multiple languages \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 13:40

Sounds like you may want to play Rogue Trader, set in the Warhammer:40K universe.

The players play the part of the Rogue Trader and his closest companions. They start the game with at least one Starship. This starship would be manned by at least hundreds of crew members with the players taking on the role of the Captain and his highest ranking officers.

Their main motivation is to increase the wealth of their dynasty (the ingame mechanic is called Profit Factor), whether it be by trade, exploration, colonisation or war in the relatively unclaimed Koronus Expanse.

'Fast Travel' is achieved by travelling through the 'warp', but this contains it own perils.

The PC's are all human but there are numerous alien races, most of which are hostile. I believe some of the supplements allow you to create non-human characters.

In regards to your players:

  • Your 'Commander' can play the Rogue Trader
  • Your 'Min/Maxer' can play the Arch-Militant (think of a fighter class, but not just an individual, he is also responsible for all the 'peons' that make up your personal militia)
  • Your 'Role Player' can play the Seneschal (think of a rogue/spy class, responsible for the finances and adminsitraton of the Rogue Trader dynasty - this is the person that will attend negotiations on behalf of the dynasty etc)
  • Your 'Amost anything' is going to be spoilt for choice - Psyker, Navigator, Void-Master, Explorator or Missionary to name just the ones from the Core rules

The worlds in the universe vary from untamed death worlds, primitive worlds, medieval worlds and highly advanced civilizations.

Personal Experience

I've run a few of the pre-made adventures that are available in the rule books and am currently in the process of creating my own campaign. The framework is extremely flexible in terms of creating your own star systems and planets - the rule books provide some major locations, but you are free to create as many planets and systems as you like. You can also generate 'alien fauna' for these planets but the rules for this is from one of the supplements.

The hardest thing to get your head around in Rogue Trader is that the PC's are already incredibly powerful & rich people relative to the vast majority of people in the universe. If they want to buy something, it is not a matter of cost, but more a matter of sourcing it and setting up the supply lines so that they can have a constant supply of it. For example, you may want your milita to have some fancy Lasguns - you will be negotiating contracts for the supply of said guns, the ammo that they require and transporting all 20,000 units of it to where you are.

The system also has a concept of 'Endeavours', which are like goals that cannot be achieved directly via in-game actions. An Endeavour could be to colonise and exploit a planet for its resources. This will require exploration, subduing/extermination of the native population/aliens, building of the colony, setting up supply routes, installing a plantery government & defences against rivals. Your players will not be physically building what is required, by they would be inolved in the 'project management' for lack of a better term.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer! First: I like Wh40k setting, but I think it's too hard to convert it to more generic sci-fi universe. Second: I dont like concept of dynasty and "hundreds of crew members" cause in my opinion small crew spaceships are easier to feel, roleplay and work with. Third: I should say also that I feel Rogue Trader more like strategic economic game rather than roleplaying. That is not what i'm looking for. \$\endgroup\$
    – Iver Cold
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 1:34

You could play Star Wars Roleplaying game.

This is a d20 system similar to 3ed D&D, so you will already be familiar with the core mechanics, dice rolls etc. and most probably have all the needed dice. It will also help you with explaining the system to your players.

You probably already know the world and the flavour. The game takes you to the time shortly after the defeat of Galactic Empire, and the following turmoil. Usually challenges revolve around either protecting the New Republic or chasing the Imperial remnants, but as a GM you might as well focus on rebuilding the so-much-needed trade routes between lesser worlds. Travel between star systems is easy enough and the game allows to select from a large range of aliens known from the series, such as Twi-leks, Zabrak, Wookie etc. As for trucking/trading, I'd say this system favours Han Solo-type characters and adventures.

Finally, all of your players might find something useful. The commander could play the role of ship's captain. The minmaxer would probably go for a Force-sensitive Jedi/Sith or a bounty hunter. The roleplayer could be a politician or member of one of the more alien races or maybe a gang made-man on a mission. Finally "I can play anything" people usually just want to fit into the team and contribute, but if there is no "needed" role, they sometimes want to play something unusual. This system provides a unique opportunity to roleplay a droid.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The only downside to this is you have to all like the Star Wars universe, at least enough so that you can get into playing characters in and from that universe. But, I have played a few campaigns of this, and it can be quite fun. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to note, the d20 edition of Star Wars also supports the Old Republic and Clone Wars eras. I actually ran a campaign years ago where one of the players was a smuggler working for a shady shipping company based out of Coruscant. Eventually he killed his boss, took over the business, and managed to become administrator of Cloud City. Good times. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandalfoot
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer. Ok, I know there are so many fans of Star Wars universe but it's definitely not me or my friends. \$\endgroup\$
    – Iver Cold
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 1:41

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