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"Causality and Choice in RPGs, Part 1: Getting rid of the {TECH}" on The 20' By 20' Room blog by Neel Krishnaswami It was a bit challenging to find this article. It took a search result pointing to a forum post linking to another forum post linking to a dead site (which I then looked up in the Wayback Machine), but I found it. Here's the article. ...


47

They're really not that different... ...because you left out an important adjective: abandoned. Often, those "fantasy" adventure locations you cited - a crypt, a prison, a cave system, a necromancer's lair, or a castle - are only interesting because nobody is currently and legitimately/legally living there. They're full of loot because it's stuff ...


19

Possibly Star Ace. While I cannot hit all of your bullets, there was a game called Star Ace, published by Pacesetter Games from 1984 to 1986. There was combat and experience points, and human was a race option. Thematically, the game was similar to Star Wars in that there was an evil empire that the good guys opposed. In addition, the game featured a special ...


17

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 ...


17

Well, it depends what you want out of an actual game system that would make it "hard SF." Except for systems that have bunches of magic integral to them, I assume what you want is a "simulationist" system, one that behaves realistically, and has some explicit rules support for realistic near-future tech. The most prominent fit for this is probably GURPS. ...


17

The most useful way to create a Fate Accelerated pregen character is: just barely, and then jump into the game immediately and let people fill in the blanks when they need to. Aeon Wave (which is pay what you want, including free) does this to great success, and is a sci-fi game based on six premade characters. It's for Fate Core, but you may want to adapt ...


17

This is a difficult one, as we don't know the reason that the pilot isn't going on the "away missions". Answering the main question: Pirates/local big bad/aliens/space whales/asteroids attacking If you don't mind it being a bit dangerous, have the pilot fight off or defend against lots of small enemies whilst the party are planetside. Telepresence I'm ...


15

Conspiracy X is pretty much built for XCOM style play. It isn't Pathfinder style clone; it uses Unisystem, by Eden Studios. In Conspiracy X, you play members of Aegis, a secret organization dedicated to protecting human kind. There are three alien races (Greys, Saurians, and Atlanteans), as well as Psychics and other humans (such as another secret ...


15

Not all dungeons have walls. A dungeon is really an encounter graph with connections between them. Encounter graphs can be generated without any walls. You can start an encounter graph with a goal or a hook. A goal is an "end room" to your encounter graph (the treasure room of the moon king) while a hook is an entrance room to your encounter graph (a ...


13

This is the only one I know of that is completely free: Stars without Number This was is part of the D6 universal system. However I am adding this because the progenitor system was Star Wars The Roleplaying Game. Of all the D6 games this is the closest to the original sci-fi RPG: D6 Space The Cepheus Game Engine is available as a clone of classic ...


13

Luckily, this system you search for is not only existent, but also has a free pdf available! (Although the extra content in the book is definitely worth getting) Stars Without Number is a futuristic sci-fi system and setting. Essentially, humanity reached the stars and spread out across the galaxy using 'spike drives' to travel between solar systems faster ...


13

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 ...


13

Human(oid)s will be human(oid)s When in a scifi setting, what is new and innovative to us, is ordinary to the characters. People tend to iterate and adjust ordinary stuff. Your problem is not that space stations won't have strange nooks and crannies, it's that new space stations won't have them. Just like that new crypt didn't have any at the time of the ...


12

First of all, have a critical re-read of whatever game system you're using. There is the possibility that either: It is deliberately telling your players to anthropomorphise. If it's packed full of stereotypes of animals (owls are wise, foxes are cunning, cats are elegant and self-centred), then the game doesn't really care about real animal psychology. It ...


11

Put a tented index card labeled No Gravity in the middle of the table.


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Decribe the situation accordingly, using proper terms. Instead of saying "you are there" say "you are floating there". This should be a pretty strong reminder. Plus, force them to use the near-0 gravity, for instance placing objects in locations they couldn't reach with Earth-like gravity. However I'm puzzled: which problem exactly did you encounter with ...


10

I just played a game in a similar situation. We were running a Stargate-themed game and I was the team doctor. We spent three to four game sessions in non-stop combat situations where our four soldiers shined and discovered of a "magic" healing device along with an NPC who could use said healing device and usurp my character's entire reason for being there, ...


9

You're correct that the first step is Shapeshifting. Any time a GURPS character has a normal form, but sometimes becomes a second, distinct form, you use the Shapeshifting (Alternate Form) advantage. If a character can turn into any form that they'd like, then they should have Shapeshifting (Morph). I think the issue that you're running into with your ...


8

There are really two problems here: the player/character isn't suitable for some scenes, and some scenes aren't well-suited to one of your PC's. You need to meet in the middle. (I think all sci-fi RPGs, and stories generally, have to deal with this problem to an extent; I'll be basing my answer on experience GMing a homebrew GURPS Star Wars game and playing ...


8

There is no shame in describing some aspects of a scene at a slightly higher level of abstraction than other aspects. This is not a matter of replacing specific jargon (flux capacitors) with generic jargon (whosawhatses). Rather, I mean one of the following: Refer to systems by their functions, rather than parts by their names. So don't have your ...


8

Secondary objectives and incomplete information The first thing to remember is that you can technically do exactly the same in sci-fi as you can do in fantasy. Why not put the tomb of a long dead race as something they can explore? But if your goal is to have them explore the given location more beyond them just making a beeline for the objective you can do ...


8

The High Guard book covers this as far as MGT-2 mechanics go. Spinal mount meson and particle weapons are on pg. 28, nuclear missiles are on pg. 30, and nuclear torpedoes on pg. 32 Meson screens and nuclear dampers (for defense against these weapons) are on pg. 33. In summary, all of these do some amount of damage (Meson and particle cannons do the most, ...


8

I'm pretty sure that there was never an official GURPS supplement for it. Steve Jackson Games' web page listing everything they've ever published has no obvious mention of it. There is a GURPS Crusades historical supplement, and there were 3e supplements for various licensed properties, such as Alan Dean Foster's Humanx setting. A text search on my 8.2GB ...


7

GURPS You are describing GURPS. Gear All the gear you want (and much, much more) is available in either the basic set or various supplements like High Tech, Ultra Tech, or Biotech. Rules GURPS can provide a highly tactical combat system. You can play on a hex grid or without a map, whatever you prefer. But many combat options and situations are covered ...


7

My very first RPG, the venerable TSR game Star Frontiers, is (legally) available for free from starfrontiers.com now. Alpha Dawn was the basic space opera game and Knight Hawks was full starship rules. Percentile based stats/skills, lots of equipment. I've also played a lot of the later TSR SF game Alternity. The fastplays are downloadable for free; the ...


7

Declaring Desires: You mentioned your desired solution should be not too long, not too boring, using mostly roleplay or non-combat related interaction, and without too much dice-rolling. Barter Method This suggestion is that you go the route of many famous computer games that are usually referred to as Quest, Adventure, or Point-and-Click. This method ...


7

This might be an oddball suggestion, but I would take a look at Shock: Human Contact, which is an in-depth varient of Shock: Social Science Fiction . It's an unusual game in its focus, style, and mechanics, but it allows focus and attention to the hard-SF element, in a way that's quite unique (and doesn't actually require any astrophysics calculations, ...


7

I agree with and second everything T.J.L. said - in particular, the importance of providing a "Why". However, while he emphasizes the significance of abandoned places (which I second), I think you can get much of what you want in a fully active target if you just reflavor a few things. Active installations are likely to have dead ends, storage areas, and ...


6

The GURPS Transhuman Space line is set in 2100 and is a little more advanced that what you want, but it is a very well realized multi-book setting line. It has a comprehensive timeline so you could "back it up" in time and have some running room of where you know the future's going to go. Actually, you know... OK, so you will probably have to get this from ...


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