First off, I’m not talking about dystopian futures, steampunk, cyberpunk, or the post-apocalyptic game genres. I’m talking about RPGs that explore the final frontier, flip off the galactic senate, and make with the blue skinned lovin’. Secondly, I’m not talking about universal systems like GURPS Space, or adaptive theme modules like Dread RPG's Metal Sky. I’m talking about games specifically crafted to the genre of science fiction, games that take space and science, and then apply rules to them. Thirdly, I’m not talking about great science fiction RPGs like Traveller, Mindjammer, or Star Frontiers, although I probably should at some point in the future. I’m talking about TV shows and movies that have been transformed into comics and RPGs so that players can immerse themselves in their fan-boy or girl favorites.
1) Robotech (not to be confused with Macross II)
I was always more into Transformers than Robotech as a kid. For those of you that don’t know the history, Robotech was one of the first anime TV shows to be released in the North American market, due to it’s success in Japan. Palladium saw the potential of the series and released the Robotech Role-Playing Game in 1986. It was a Mech lover’s dream, and it introduced the concept of mega-damage, which would go on to significantly influence RIFTS. Palladium then went further and released Robotech II: The Sentinels in 1988 and Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles in 2008. The games were a little glitchy due to translation issues with the source materials but I’m not really a giant robot suit guy so… meh.
2) Macross II
Now I’m not trying to start a fight here, but as similar as the themes and games are, Robotech and Macross are not the same things. Although, they obviously are. When Robotech was adapted to North American TV markets, it was combined with 2 other, unrelated series to meet the minimum 65 episode syndication requirements. One of those series was The Super Dimension Fortress Macross. It made for confused mech-loving children on Saturday mornings. So, that being said, Macross II is a totally different universe from that of Robotech, with minimal crossover, and it has its own distinct following...right? Palladium must have loved releasing Macross II: The Sentinels in 1993, so that Robotech gamers could get their fix.
So yeah, Joss Whedon gets good ideas and he’s an ok director. After Firefly ended its TV run, the fans brought it back from oblivion to the big screen. It also spawned some pretty decent comics, some borderline socialist larping clubs, and 2 different RPGs. First came Serenity- The Role-playing Game in 2005 by Jaime Chambers, produced by Margaret Weis Productions. The game was decent and won awards for its Cortex system. However, when the license for the rights expired in 2011, the fan loyalty did not. By 2013 Weis had re-acquired the rights for the game, inclusive of characters not only in the movie, but also in the series. 2015 saw the release of the Firefly Role-playing Game using the new Cortex Plus system. Both games appealed to Whedon’s fan base and sold well. PDF’s for additional content are available on DriveThruRPG.
4) Star Trek/Star Trek: The Next Generation
So apparently Star Trek has a large and loyal following. Star Trek’s huge fan base called “Trekkies” demands huge content, and while there have been previous incarnations of Star Trek RPGs, Last Unicorn Games did it best. This is a case of the latter preceding the former. Last Unicorn developed their Icon system for The Next Generation, and the supplementary material even had a holodeck adventures book. Immediately after it’s release, developers started in on the original series (1999) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The Star Trek: Voyager RPG was in the works, but by 2001 Last Unicorn had lost the rights to Decipher Inc, whose RPG line crumbled in 2009. The fans of Last Unicorn’s version were rewarded for their loyalty, as the writers released the majority of the uncompleted material. One former Last Unicorn writer even completed 7 new source books, and presented them to fans free online in 2013.
5) Star Wars
There have been 3 iterations of Star Wars role-playing. West End Games published a decent D6 version through 3 editions, but went bankrupt in 1998. The material developed by West End Games today is still understood by most fans to be foundational in the greater Star Wars universe canon. Wizards of the Coast later picked up the license and published their D20 version in 2000. It was easily relatable to D&D players familiar with its system, however some mechanics within the system were missing or broken, and a player using their force powers was generally understood to be in God-mode. Wizards didn’t renew the rights and in 2012 Fantasy Flight Games published Star Wars: Edge of the Empire to mixed reviews. While most players thought that the unique game-developed dice were cool, they also felt that the dice dictated too much of the story, detracting from the players and DM. The mechanics of the dice also allowed for success in combat even if you didn’t hit the opposition. People loved the rulebook though. Weird. Honestly, I’ve never met anybody who plays this game, but I know a guy who rolls a lot natural ones, so I’ll recommend it to him.
Space. A sea of darkness waiting to consume the last sparks of our light, a place so empty that we have to fill it with wicked adventures. Strap in and hold tight. This isn’t like dusting crops. Boldly go where no one has gone before, and when you’re there, take a look around. Not everybody can be an astronaut.
About Ryan: So I try to read about 50 comics a week, depending on my ability to pay the power bill. I try to read as much new and independent works as my tried and trusted favorites, and I’ve been doing this for years. Thus, I can roughly say that I am pretty decent at comicology, however I hold no formal degree. Luckily, degrees are no substitute for common sense and that’s how I got this gig.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.