Science Fiction and OSR

Started a blog recently that I may update periodically. Main reason was to write down some thoughts on Space Stations as Dungeons.

However, I also wanted to use this as a kick-off for people to talk about Science Fiction and how it does or doesn’t relate to OSR. It seems like the mindset that stems from the OSR play-style allows for Sci-Fi but don’t see as many Sci-Fi games being released.

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I’ve been running a Sci Fi campaign for about a year now. I also run one a few years ago that last the same amount of time. I like to alternate and mix it up every now and again. I don’t get too caught up in the “science” aspect of it though - run a very rules light space opera type campaign. All my rules light sci fi stuff is in my game Star Dogs: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/295403/Star-Dogs--Players-Handbook (let me know if you desperately want a copy and i’ll send you one).

Regarding space stations as dungeons…

Here’s my outpost/space station generator https://lizardmandiaries.blogspot.com/2019/11/automated-sci-fi-outpostspace-station.html and then you can stock any dangerous areas with this https://lizardmandiaries.blogspot.com/2019/11/automated-sci-fi-dangerous-sector.html . They generate places and room in a similar method to the ideas in your blog post.

My campaign is very open ended - the first 10 ish sessions were the players hustling to get a ship. From there they’ve sort of become a bunch of pirates/free lance mercenaries. Its a lot like a hex crawl but in space so I made a bunch of generation tools for easily coming up with planets/aliens/npcs etc (they are all here: https://lizardmandiaries.blogspot.com/2020/01/star-dogs-galaxy-sector-creation-kit.html + all the tables are in the star dogs referees handbook). Sci fi is fun!

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@LizardMan These resources are great. Definitely saving these.

I’ve stumbled across Star Dogs and I would definitely take a copy. Always down to take a look at other Sci-Fi systems.

Here you go :slight_smile: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XTm2Xau3X3CtUZLoSWju97HEM2vP5IFD/view?usp=sharing

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Great idea for a discussion. I really want to run a sci-fi osr game but my players aren’t interested :disappointed_relieved:. I think one obstacle with running Sci-fi OSR games is the OSR reliance on player skill over character skill. Everyone intuitively knows what a rope or some pebbles or a candle is capable of but the introduction of future technology leads to uncertainty occasionally I feel like.


Like this list of equipment from SWN, what are the limitations of this tech etc are things that bog down play imo.

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i would def ask players what they think the limitations are.

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https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adamxvass/necronautilus a new
scifi osr game. looks very awesome :0

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I think what kind of holds back Sci-Fi OSR rule sets is general interest from the around the scene’s player base and the general presence that Sci-Fi TTRPGs have period across the TTRPG community. Not saying there is Zero Interest in Sci-Fi Rulesets, but the ones that are available are usually tied to a long running ruleset (Traveller), something that has come upon the scene recently (Starfinder), or is licensed by a larger group (Star Wars) or an independent work.

Personally, I kind of want to try and develop a Ruleset or at least hash out the basic outline for a Sci-Fi Ruleset in the vain of Spelljammer where it’s a mix between Sci-Fi and Fantasy to help pull players with something familiar.

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Yeah. I’m hoping to see more OSR-adjacent Sci-Fi systems start to come about and looking to put some out myself in the near future too.

My initial thought was more focused on Hard Sci-Fi than Science Fantasy. More along the lines of Expanse than Flash Gordon. @Kingroy23 probably has a good point with item lists and familiarity. It’s easier to describe low-tech equipment and have an immediate sense of what to do with it.

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i dont think this argument really works, because there are spell lists in fantasy games with which the players are also unfamiliar.

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I’m presenting somewhere else on the discourse OSR my newest attempt at a Sci-Fi game based on microlite 5th (and the black Hack):

For those who really get excited for a “alien meets Blade runner”-Black-Hack-derivation, I would really recommend “Extinction”. Best OSR SciFi I read in a while:
Extinction on DTRPG

That’s a very good point. I’m trying to put together a sci-fi version of my gritty-fantasy hack, and one of the main elements I’m trying to stick with is making sure that every ability and cybernetic is simple, crunchy and easy to explain. The way I see it, you could save a lot of trouble with those SWN items by not using contractions for no reason and actually saying what things are, rather than making them sound sci-fi-ish at the cost of readability.

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Sorry to bring this discussion back, but I definitely agree that familiarity and “comfort” are contributors to the lowered interest in non-franchise science fiction compared to “medieval-ish” fantasy.

However, I think this can be solved. I am running Delta Green right now (Call of Cthulhu crossed with X-Files in the modern day), and everyone just… gets the setting, even with all the Mythos and Conspiracy nonsense. It’s definitely not because the setting is simple (2018, even minus the Mythos and Conspiracy, was not a simple year) I think this is because it’s set in and built on top of the modern day which all the players are intimately familiar with because they all lived it.

So I think a solution to the “comfort” problem of sci-fi is to set it as close to the modern day as possible. Andy Weir’s The Martian is the best example of this approach succeeding, I think. Even my friends who hate sci-if and science loved it and felt comfortable with both the book and the movie because it doesn’t have any wild science fiction devices or concepts, and doesn’t have radically alien politics. It’s is supposedly around 2035, but it’s practically set when it was released.

I’m plan on testing this out by running a near-future (“20 minutes in the future”) adventure game of Lunar or Martian colonization with a mix of both sci-fi fans and those less interested in sci-fi and see how it goes. No fancy sci-fi tech, just what we have in the modern day plus what we need to survive (which we already can produce today).

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There are a couple of OSR scifi RPGs out there that aren’t tied to any particularly wide-ranging backstory a la Star Wars etc. For example, there’s White Star and there’s also Frontier Space. You can pretty much use either system to drop into a scifi setting your own choice/design.

Aside from that, I don’t think scifi RPGs tend to suffer from overly florid verbiage any more than your average fantasy RPG. If anything, the latter tends to win that particular side of things hands down.

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