In the first half of 2009 a friend of mine went to a con in the USA (don't know where exactly), and brought back a great scenario which we played in the UK. I would like to know if anyone recognizes the scenario and/or the system we used to play it. I've Googled for this on several occasions since, but never been able to find it.

The setting

The setting was a sci-fi, future-of-our-world universe with some similarities to the setting of Firefly:

  • the two main languages were English-derived and Chinese-derived
  • there were two or three main political powers in the universe, two of which had an uneasy peace, or were maybe even at war.

The PCs

I remember two of the PCs, one I played and another

  • An ex-army tough guy (my PC)
  • An idealist preacher

The PCs came on little cards, with backstory and minimalist stats (see below).

The scenario

The PCs awoke from cryostasis in the repair area of the space ship, with an alarm going off. The alarm turned out to be the radiation-sensor warning (of the cryostasis pods? of the ship?). All the passengers on the ship had been put in cryostasis for the journey to another planet from earth. As the PCs explored the ship, they encountered a boarding crew from another ship, who turned out to be friendly, though deceptive about the actual cause of the accident.

Kind of spoiler to follow:

The ship had been blown in half by a nuclear rocket fired at the boarders by another vessel. All the other paying passengers had died when the main cryostasis racks had been blown apart. The boarders had deliberately hidden behind the passenger ship although they were aware of the consequences. They dressed this up to us as an unfortunate accident.

The system

I remember the following with certainty about the system:

  • There were only three attributes (something like Body, Mind and Soul)
  • If your character background suggested a skill you had it automatically. Otherwise on a successful roll you could narrate a skill into existence.
  • You made skill checks by narrating what you wanted to do and then rolling a d6. If you rolled a 6 you succeeded and got to narrate some extra detail of the story yourself.

So I got to speak 'Chinese' as I rolled well, so I narrated that weapons manuals were usually written in Chinese and so it made sense for me as an ex-army guy to know the language. I also created the fact that the ship had an online map which I could interact with by rolling a 6 whilst logging on to the ship's computer.

I don't remember exactly how the dice mechanic worked otherwise, though I have a feeling that if you rolled 1-3 (or 1-4) you failed, but you could add your attribute rating, maybe...

I know this sounds a bit like "Roll for Shoes", but the new skills did not come with ratings - you still used your three base stats, but it just became a fact that you had the skill in question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not what you're looking for, but Firefly related: Serenity RPG \$\endgroup\$ Apr 9, 2015 at 3:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm that's a tough one to for someone with google skills to tackle. Can you expand on what you remember the three attributes to be at all? Any alternatives might help a search. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2015 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IainMNorman Yeah, I've spent many hours Googling, including nearer the time whem my memories were fresher. I fear it may not only have been a one-off scenario but also a custom system. I honestly can't remember more than I've put here though the stats might have been more along the lines of Numenera's Might, Speed and Intellect, though it was definitely a d6 mechanic. \$\endgroup\$
    – harlandski
    Apr 29, 2015 at 12:11

2 Answers 2


I ran this game for you, and it's nice to know you enjoyed it so much! Alex emailed me and linked me to this thread.

The setting was the 'Revelation Space' universe from the books by Alastair Reynolds. I believe you were colonists from Sky's Edge, a war-torn planet mentioned in several of the books, en-route to another system. The people who attacked you were Conjoiners, people who have a sort of hive mind, and who many people feared because they were believed to capture and forcibly assimilate people.

As for the system, it was essentially just something I made up for that one-off. I think the idea may have been very loosely based on InSpectres in that if you roll a 6 you get do describe what happens next, but it was much more GM-led than InSpectres itself. Basically it was just a case of "I'll let you do anything that seems reasonable, and occasionally ask for a roll". I think the three stats were Physical, Mental and Social.

Hope that's some help — sorry there's no actual game system I can point you at. Alastair Reynolds is a good author of space opera so definitely give his books a go. It's nice to hear that you enjoyed it enough to still be thinking of it all these years later!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yay, it's great to hear from you Olaf, and good to have the definitive answer to my question. Do you remember anything more about the mechanic? I looked at reviews of InSpectres, and there it's d6 dice pools, but if my memory serves me correctly, we only rolled 1d6 each. So I'm thinking the stats were maybe rated from 0-2 and we added them to the die roll with a 4 or 5 being a regular success, and a 6 being the "get to narrate it" success we both remember. Ring any bells? \$\endgroup\$
    – harlandski
    Sep 15, 2015 at 1:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm glad this finally got settled, I googled this one for hours! LOL. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2016 at 14:51

I think you played a FU hack.

I never played it but have read the short PDF which is available as Pay-what-you-want at DTRPG.

There is a review of the base FU on RPG.net, you can see it checks a lot of marks. Notably

Limited attributes as freeform skills

Characters are made of four Descriptors, in the standard rules these are Mind, Body, Edge and Flaw. Each character also has a Drive or goal, which includes a related complication and the lengths that the character will go to attain it, and a Relationship with another character which helps to tie the group together and perhaps explains why they are following each other around[...]

The Descriptor category is used to focus your thoughts on the various parts of the character, so Body would be something like Strong, or Quick, Mind might be Enlightened or Inquisitive, Edges are what most RPGs call skills so Shooting or Flirting, and finally Flaws are things like Honesty or Drug addiction or some other facet that will come into play and hinder the character.

Descriptive interpretation of dice rolls

But what of the results? This is the best part of the system, the resultant die (best or worst) is compared to a chart:

6 Yes, and...
5 No, but...
4 Yes
3 No
2 Yes, but...
1 No, and....
So, not only are you getting a positive or negtive answer you are also more often than not getting a narrative push to make your game come to life.

Creation of story details

Finally there are Conditions and Details, in the example Dark was a scene Detail, if Incognito had just been shot he might have the Condition Bleeding, those blood drops might have alerted the guards and so could have been worth a penalty die, or might have restricted his movement and negated his Quick Descriptor.

Conditions and Details are again freeform, so your Super could be Confused by a enemy illusion making his next task harder, or your mark might be Dazzled by your wit making stealing from him much simpler. Conditions and Details generally come into play when you get an and... or but... result so your super might hit Doctor Peril with the car but... it also smashes into the building behind him making it Unstable. This instability can hang around as the GM sees fit, possibly making the heroes next actions tougher.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Having got hold of the rules and read them I think it might well have been a FU hack we played, though I remember a few details which don't fit (Mind, Body etc were numerical, unless I've misremembered). I upvoted your answer straight away but I'm not going to accept it on the off chance that someone who actually recognizes the scenario (and so can confirm the system) one day stumbles across this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – harlandski
    May 4, 2015 at 5:18

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