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Friday, January 7, 2011

Thoughts on Sci-Fi RPGs

Here's my take on JB's discussion points in his post about sci-fi RPGs: I have no problem with using a class-and-level system, with some provisos, and I'd prefer a very broad, mostly binary approach to skills. Most of the changes that need to be made, other than cosmetic changes to lists, have to do with the reward system and how adventures progress.

Proviso on Levels: The range and starting point of levels must fit the setting. You can start higher for more superheroic-level play. You can advance farther, if the basic theme is a grand cosmic battle.
  • Square-jawed '50s star pilots and space cadets? You want levels 1 to 5, but probably no higher.
  • Beginning Jedi? Keep the start point at 1 or 2, but the range has to be higher, perhaps 15 to 20.
  • Lensmen? Start at 10 to 12, but top range, if any, is in the 20s to 30s.
Proviso on Classes: These should be archetypes and not professions. Fighter works fine for those square-jawed heroes. Thief could work, too. I'd use my modified classes, focusing on the mundane ones: Fighter, Trickster and its variant Tinkerer, and Charmer. I'd use the Psychic if there are psionics in the setting.

Skills: I've already ranted about skills, so I'll just say here that you could get away with using the AD&D 1e secondary skills re-skinned for the setting. No skill rolls, no huge bonuses, just a "oh, you know how to use mining equipment, because you were an asteroid miner before you joined the star patrol." At best, skills should only add a +1 when a roll is involved; most of the time, however, they only determine whether the character can do something or not. I'd use my backgrounds system from Blanc to handle skills.

Reward System: As I've already said, I'd use the existing XP system with tweaks in a sci-fi game. I feel those tweaks shift the focus from dungeon crawl to planetary defense and rescue. I'd also use experience based on ability scores: risky tasks are 10 x relevant ability score(s), ongoing situations where no rolls are made (like travel) get 1 xp per ability point.

So, as it stands, I technically have enough stuff for the basics of a space RPG: Liber Zero, plus Blanc, plus modified classes and my xp house rules. All that's really needed is some setting-specific lists and rules hacks for spaceships and other sci-fi gimmicks, including any rules for creating appropriate adventures and situations.

1 comment:

  1. I always thought that QLI's T20 adaptation of Traveller was a good option for Sci-Fi using an OGL architecture. Unfortunately, they lost the license and the game is kaput.