#RPGaday2015 – Day 18: Favorite SF RPG

The question for today, Day 18, asks us to identify our favorite SF RPG. Although my gaming interests lie in this direction much more than yesterday’s topic, over the years I have not managed to play in very many SF games. There was even a period in my D&D days where I wasn’t sure that RPGs were all that well-suited to the genre, given the amount of work required to bring things believably to life. Of course, part of that may have also been a reaction to the hit or miss nature of SF in those days.

It’s funny how things change~


The SF RPGs that I want to mention today are not many, but they are ones which I think deserve more attention and more play than they get. They are the original Prime Directive, pretty much any edition of Blue Planet, and A Time of War. I have talked enough about FFG Star Wars and others have cited WEG Star Wars often enough that I feel that area is well-covered. I love them too, but let’s talk about other games, shall we?

I missed all of the licensed Star Trek RPGs, never even seeing them in a store. Nearly twenty years in Asia didn’t make them any more visible. Prime Directive, however, I got into early and played a bit in Canada and later on here. It was the original RPG put out by Amarillo Design Bureau to add roleplaying to the options for their Star Fleet Battles war game. Later in its life it was redone for several other systems, but I have no sense that it ever made a big impact. Like a lot of SF games, I feel the idea of the setting moves silently in the background, kept alive by people who primarily operate in other hobby circles – such as wargaming. Prime Directive played quickly, was supported by an interesting system, and had a clear theme of well-trained ‘Prime Teams.’ That latter aspect presented a rather more martial approach to Star Fleet than perhaps players expected in the days when the Next Generation was on the air. Oh well. Expansions, while the line lasted, began to fill out the universe and I felt showed a lot of promise.

Blue Planet seems to be one of those games that a lot of people own and would like to run, but can’t find a group. I thought perhaps Hangouts might suddenly bring about a Blue Planet explosion, but it hasn’t quite seemed to have happened, yet. Blue Planet is a hard SF setting focused on themes of exploration of a new word, and in new worlds of science and technology. Touching on genetic uplifting of other mammals to allow for easier human interactions, as well as ideas of longevity, the frontier setting of Poseidon is ripe with possibility for SF tales and campaigns. Settlers, frontier law enforcement, explorers, investors, inventors, dreamers, corporate security, monkey-wrenchers… ideas just keep coming. Yet…. who plays it?

A Time of War gets a lot of mention around these parts, and in Battletech circles, but not much elsewhere. As the 4th Edition of MechWarrior it has a lot to live up to and a lot it is expected to deliver. That it does, and does so better than ever before is perhaps a shock to some. That it has a certain entry bar of player skill and knowledge is an unfortunate side-effect of being a part of a game that has been flourishing for 30 years. While I feel anyone can pick up the core book and start playing, that core book has a daunting look to it. A newcomer might allow themselves to be ‘daunted’ right out of the idea, and that is a shame. With a solid system that slips easily between the tabletop RPG and tabletop skirmish game, and plays on the very fast end of the scale as far as system goes, A Time of War definitely has a lot of surprises to offer between its covers. That Catalyst continually provides historical support for each of Battletech’s Eras, is a nice bonus. From the Age of War forward, this game has the simplicity, depth, and support needed to keep a group gaming for generations.

So, of these three, which will I agonizingly put forward as my favorite? I sadly have to disqualify Blue Planet because what I have managed to do with it has not amounted to much. It scarcely counts as playing it. The other two I have both run and played, and of those two, A Time of War has seen almost constant play since I got it 4 or more years ago. I certainly could have gotten my MechWarrior group to try Prime Directive or Blue Planet in that time, I suspect, yet I did not. That tells me a little something. The lure of the Inner Sphere and the conflicts of 3025 and beyond are just too compelling to deny~

Today’s favorite? A Time of War.


What is your favorite SF game?



4 Responses to “#RPGaday2015 – Day 18: Favorite SF RPG”
  1. morrisonmp says:

    I wondered if you would write about Time of War today. I’ll admit. When I think of running a Battletech RPG, I take one look at Time of War and put it back on the shelf. As 30+ year vet of gaming and an avid Battletech fan, Time of War just presents itself as a game not worth the effort to learn. Daunting is an appropriate word for it.

    At its core, Battletech is an incredibly simple game with layers of complications you can add on top. Time of War is a complicated game right from the get go (or so it seemed during my initial read through). I think Mechwarrior, 2nd Edition got the closest to “getting it right” for me when I want to bridge the RPG/Wargame aspects of Battletech.

    But even so, I know that when I try to teach Battletech to players who have only ever played other minis games, I get a lot of glazing over until they really get into it. Battletech, especially the Mech Sheets, feels daunting. But one of the reasons I continue to go back to BT over all these years – even more than the setting – is that where Battletech has little quirks, they exist to make the game work better. Many wargames cannot make that claim. And at its core, it remains a very simple game.

    Great write up. SciFi is a hard genre for RPGs. We gamers seem to have a love/hate relationship with them.

  2. I’ve played a lot of sci-fi games, mostly licensed properties… D6 Star Wars definitely was a favorite in the ’90s for my group, and Decipher Trek in the aughties…but I think I’m going to have to go with Cortex system and the BSG setting. A shock, I know.

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