What’s a Good Sci Fi RPG part 3

More rambling on this as it’s interesting and I realise this is what I’ve been trying to do with Traveller for a while – inject a more sciency feel.


Recapping – if we accept as a premise that a good game is a series of interesting decisions and that good sci fi is either speculative-science fiction or space fantasy with enough science to *feel* sci fi then what’s a good sci fi RPG?

I’d say

  • any RPG, not necessarily sci fi, with mechanics that can make non-combat encounters into a series of interesting decisions applied by the GM to a speculative science plot
  • any space fantasy RPG where the GM sprinkles enough bits of science into the mix to give it that sci fi feel


Just a List

A list of what and where to sprinkle from the top down. Some games will already have some of these and others won’t – for each category scavenge what is best from each..

Sciency Space

Instead of just space or star system also have nebulae, proto-stars, brown dwarfs etc

Sciency Star Systems

Binaries, anomalies, odd hazards, colonies of colonies, intra-system conflict

Sciency Planets

Gravity, atmosphere, orbit, climate, evolved species

Sciency Colonies

some mundane, some exploring sci fi social tropes

Sciency Space Travel


  • realistic and STL
  • handwavium and ignored – taxi service
  • handwavium but with rules and complications – fuel, maintenance etc – which buries the handwavium in practicalities which in themselves are sciency

Sciency Combat

sciency weapons, equipment, environments

Sciency Plots, Maguffins and Chrome

Have chrome that reinforce the feel e.g. instead of just mundane trade goods add sciency things that reinforce the setting to the list like: life support cartridges, greenhouse parts, fuel refining plant, ice processing plant, water purifiers etc and/or planetary exotic trade goods like Regina Wine, Karelian Bluewood etc.



Sciency Space / Systems / Planets

Size of setting and speed of travel is important here. If you want a giant empire then the number of systems will be too large to detail however if back story specifies only the best systems get fully colonized then you only need to do those systems and any stepping stones in between. The rest can be done as and when needed.


If you make nebulae block FTL then you can use them to create interesting geography – a system might be tucked away inside a nebula only reachable by a complicated route – perfect for some secretive group.

2D vs 3D

If you hand wave that jump technology uses 5D geometry then you can treat a flat 2D star map as a projection – like Mercator’s – so the star positions are correct for jump navigation and a STL star map including the z co-ordinate would look different. I think that’s a reasonably neat way to ignore the z coordinate if you don’t want the hassle.


Sciency Combat
  • core is a series of interesting decisions
  • don’t need lots of weapons doing the same thing
  • make each have a tactical cost/benefit e.g. long vs short range, zero g, powerful but slow firing etc
  • exotic weapons can be situational or non-lethal: shock rods, web tanglers, tranquilizer darts (or poison)
  • tactical gadgets, sci fi armors, combats in sciency environments
  • low health, high damage, high armor



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