Tabletop RPG for telling tough sci-fi stories
Most classic sci-fi tabletop RPGs, whether old school classic games like Traveler or the Scout spin-off called Starfinder, usually take place in Star wars or Star Trek– distant environments inspired with artificial gravity, humanoid aliens and psychic powers. Games like Diaspora or The extent RPG, on the other hand, give players the storytelling tools and gameplay mechanics needed to tell wonderful yet realistic stories in the vein of The Martian, with spaceships with heat radiators and centrifuges, interstellar travel spanning years, and alien life forms that are truly, strangely alien.
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“Hard Science Fiction” is a sci-fi subgenre focused on telling stories based on humanity’s current understanding of physics, biology, astronomy and engineering, while consciously rejecting tropes of science fiction which completely violate the laws of physics or common sense. Contrasting media like Star Trek, the spaceships in “Hard Science Fiction” stories don’t make noise when they fly between worlds, and the “Hard Science Fiction” aliens don’t look like humans wearing prosthetic makeup. Harsh sci-fi stories, as seen in movies like The Martian and Interstellar or TV shows like The extent, frequently portray outer space and alien worlds as vast, beautiful and deadly places, and the heroes of these stories are often engineers, tirelessly innovative solutions to keep themselves and others alive in the face of disaster .
When crafting a “Hard Sci-Fi” story, the writers run the risk of focusing too much on science or math at the expense of characters and plot – producing details on the thermal nuclear rocket of a spaceship, carefully arranged heat radiators and tower-style deck layout, then cast in a bland protagonist who is bounced back by the plot and never makes meaningful, life-changing choices. For this reason, tabletop players and storytellers who want to craft a scientifically accurate sci-fi story will benefit a lot from the role-playing systems listed below. They contain helpful guidelines for designing / simulating future worlds with plausible space societies, as well as helpful tips for telling emotional stories about fallible, childbearing, and goal-seeking people who live in those worlds.
Tough Sci-Fi Tabletop RPG: Fate Space Toolkit
the Fate’s Space Toolbox, published by Evil Hat Productions, is an add-on for their FATE Signature System, an easy-to-customize RPG rule set focused on the use of “Aspects”, narrative details, and tropes that the player can invoke to gain an advantage on the dice rolls. the Fate’s Space Toolbox comes with a number of sample settings that players and GMs can use to create their own sci-fi game settings, ranging from alternate story sagas to Cold War superpowers exploring the solar system in from nuclear rockets to gritty future stories about “Belter” asteroid miners and post – singularity dramas about transhumans and AI gods venturing into the galaxy.
To facilitate these different sci-fi campaigns, the Fate’s Space Toolbox gives RPG players a list of special tools and rule systems for simulating / representing futuristic technology and space travel, as well as helpful tips on how to introduce “impossible” technology like the anti-gravity or faster-than-light travel without breaking the game altogether.
Tough Sci-Fi Tabletop RPG: Diaspora
Diaspora, released in 2010, uses a modified version of DESTINY system for telling sci-fi stories independent of the set, similar in scope and tone to the classic sci-fi RPG Traveler, but with more realistic physics and futuristic technology in play. When starting a campaign of Diaspora, players collaborate to design a “star cluster” of unique worlds and suns, each linked by Stargate-style “Slipknots” left behind by a long-lost civilization.
The overall plot of most Diaspora Campaigns focus on players investigating, exploring, and looting ruins and mega-structures left behind by cultures that peaked in technology and then collapsed or rose to a higher state. In addition to the basic mechanics of FATE, Diaspora also offer more detailed rules for tactical infantry combat, social maneuvers, and battles between intersecting spaceships at high speed.
Tough Sci-Fi Tabletop RPG: The Expanse RPG
The RPG Expanse, based on James SA Corey’s best-selling books and their award-winning TV adaptation, is built around Modern AGE’s “Adventure Game Engine” created by studio Green Ronin. As the official tabletop game for players who want to tell stories in the gritty universe of The extent, the narrative chapters of the core book contain detailed knowledge for players about the state of the solar system in the distant future, the culture and politics of the Earth, Mars, the Belt and the outer planets, as well as the NPCs renamed in the frame.
The RPG Expanse Also contains a lot of useful information for players on the challenges of life and space travel, covering concepts such as Delta-V, orbital transfers, and distance / communication shifts between different worlds.
Hard Sci-Fi Tabletop RPG – Mars Colony & Mars Colony: 39 Dark
Of all the tabletop RPGs listed in this article, Colony of Mars and Mars Colony: 39 Dark are most closely aligned with the “Soft Science Fiction” subgenre – not in the sense that it is unrealistic, but in the way they focus more on human-oriented sciences such as politics, economics, sociology, psychology, ecology and building better worlds. As their titles suggest, these two two-man RPGs, created by TCK role play, take place in a surface Martian colony beset by logistical and social unrest.
In Colony of Mars, a player assumes the role of the governor of the colony and exposes the problems that the player representing the “Savior” must solve – engineering problems like those seen in The Martian and political issues such as paying living wages to oxygen refinery workers. In Mars Colony: 39 Dark, In the years to come, the Savior player is a revolutionary rather than a reformer, trying to unite the broken rebel factions of Mars and overthrow the existing colonial government – it is hoped that he will be replaced by a truly society. fair and free.
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