Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 65: How to Choose a System: Sci-Fi Edition

Main Topic

Science Fiction has been part of the RPG universe for decades and is an enduring and popular setting! There are numerous options out there from licensed to original, so how do you choose a Science Fiction setting right for you and your group?

Consideration the First – Setting! Similar to our talk in Episode 64 about Fantasy Settings, where do you want to play?  Science Fiction can cover the gamut from near future cyberpunk distopias like Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020 to Hard Science Fiction Space Settings like Traveller to Science Fantasy & Pulp settings like Starfinder & Gamma World! These don’t even touch on the licensed properties like Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, the impending Expanse game, and many more.  

Consideration the Second – Campaign Flavor! This ties into the Setting question again! We’ve talked about how different games are better at certain styles because it is baked into their setting or rules and it shines in Science Fiction. While we have a deep and abiding love of Shadowrun, the simulationist ethos of the Rules and the trade offs that are part of the setting prevent it from making a Space Opera game feel as epic as Star Hero’s ability to make the scope and scale accessible.  Similarly, Star Frontiers, an old TSR game now being discussed in Card Catalog, is surprisingly open and flexible in providing for social intrigue games while Starfinder leans more to Flash Gordon than the Expanse in tone.

Consideration the Third – Player Familiarity! In a lot of ways, this can be easier than Fantasy these days.  When Tabletop RPGs launched, Fantasy seems to have been more ascendant but now it is more likely to find the near future inspiration that can be shared. Shows like Black Mirror and Doctor Who have been at the top of popular consciousness providing Science Fiction and Space Fantasy familiarity with tropes and concepts.

Consideration the Fourth – GM Familiarity! Make sure you want to run it! If you are jazzed about doing a social or political intrigue based campaign, a setting or game that prioritizes starfighter combat could be harder to incorporate.  

None of these are impossible barriers to your science fiction gaming, but are thoughts you should have similar to the ones we outlined for Fantasy gaming. But drop us a line on our Facebook Group, on Twitter, or on Instagram and let us know your favorite Science Fiction Setting and why you choose it!

Stat Blocks

Zendead-  Blade of Calid of the Dark Moon

All great stories start with a great hero. The one that will save the masses from the coming Darkness. This story is not about the light but about the dark and the man that is bent on bringing it to the world. His name is Calid and he was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen. He started his journey with wanting to make the world a better place. He began with the sword of his ancestors. A weapon of war and death. He figured if he fought the evils of the world with it then he could be a shining beacon against the darkness. The blood he spilled was evil but a bit seeped in and Calid found himself doing small things at first that when not bright. As more time passed and he was in charge of the large army of a king something changed in Calid and he and the troops marched on the home of the king. The king died at his hands because he kept sending young men to die in this decades long war. It was for them, he had to do this to save them these troops. The kings archmage saw something in Calid he could use since he wanted to rule this small empire. His designs where massive and called for help to make it all work.

A few more years pass with the help of the mage Calid was turning a large kingdom as he saw it into a full blown empire. The sword he still wore at his side had killed more beings then almost any other the the world. Beings of Dark called to the man that held this weapon making promises to him, make him stronger and young again. Anything to get him to agree to helping them and all it needed was just a small thing really just his mark on this page so it was all official. After that pieces of Calid where gone pieces of his soul and his darkest memories he didn’t ask where they went till one day his sword opened a dialogue with him. Explaining that his friend the archmage was planning on ending his life this very evening. Well Calid couldn’t allow that to happen so he tested the mage who surprisingly failed this test and found his power was no match for the newly awakened Dark Moon as he would be known from this day forward. Dark Moon started helping Calid to make worse choices and eventually got Calid to give himself to the devils of Hell. Leaving Dark Moon here on this plane to wreak havoc from that time forward to now. The Sword you hold in your hand cackles as it helps you to make the next choice. The only one really to end this screaming child’s life and well it makes the most sense really.

Joules- MicroInvaders-

To think all invaders are large is a mistake and one you will not make again. The invasion started with only a few breaching the line and sneaking in to start wreaking havoc. They then setup fortification and started replicating the invasion force in the fortifications. This is the thing that has taken hold and will not let go. Then they started Terraforming inside the fortifications. And then started pushing out to take over more territory. This is how things have happened soon they take over the host and make her feel like she was not going to make it. But she has found help in fighting this force that has setup camp in her systems. Now she is on the mend at least she hopes so.

Guard-a-Manger – Zorodithium-74

The Zorodithium series of androids, or Z-Packs, have been a constant in the outer Rim for quite some time.  Simply enough, the Z-Packs are the workhorse of the Freyaldan Expansion even unsung, ever unrecognized but always present. Last time you needed to get the ship taken care of in port, there was one somewhat lonely and slightly tarnished Z-Pack that just walked up and started working on the ship. If it wasn’t going to ask for payment up front, at least you got some free labor out of this, right?

On the way out of port, the authorities not quite hot on your heels but let’s just say that the reciprocating food re-energizer had been set to kablow, you discovered that the sensors had been modified.  The Z-Pack – that you now call Z74, or just seventy – had installed some extras. And it wanted to come along into the great beyond. Z74 was from the previous edition of Androids, and when you aren’t shiny and new anymore, it is pretty easy to get replaced.  What few people had realized on the station was that Z74 didn’t have an owner anymore. Pulmonary Embolism you see. His owner has unexpectedly passed away, and with no heirs, Z74 had cleaned up the office and gone right on doing Stevedore work and the occasional repair. That time was coming to an end.  The taxes were … intuitive rather than logical on the station and Z74 had missed the appropriate payment dates.

A new crew member who didn’t take much oxygen to stay alive, took no food from the stores, and that was handy with repairs? Hard to say no, right? Z74 is going to be helpful and you’ll find that it can often repair the ship before you realize it is damaged, but something is nagging at you.  Why did Z74 start acting this way? Is it a simple malfunction, a cross of the wires, or something more? It’s time you paid Z74 back, and that may mean looking deeply into the unspoken truths about the Freyaldan Expansion and what really goes into the Z-Packs construction.


Baleen   noun
ba·​leen | \bə-ˈlēn

Definition of baleen
: a horny keratinous substance found in two rows of transverse plates which hang down from the upper jaws of baleen whales

History and Etymology for baleen
Middle English baleine whale, baleen, from Latin balaena whale; akin to Greek phallaina whale

First Known Use
14th century

Bottom 30% of words

Closing remarks

Zendead- Elder Scrolls Online I have been enjoying diving back into this the last few months. If you want to join me look for Zendead on the PS4 servers or friend me on PS Network and we can play something else maybe. Never.  Run away. Run far away from Zen at all costs.

Joules- Weapon Brown – Your saturday morning comics have been weaponized.  Join friendless Chuck Brown and his faithful mutt snoop fighting to survive the syndicate in the post apocalypse.  Watch out for the syndicate’s ultimate weapon. An assassin with no self control… and a stuffed tiger.

Guard-a-Manger- Doctor Who vol. 2, Season 11 – Jodie Whittaker has started off her tenure as Doctor Who to some of the highest numbers in a decade.  While there are some rough spots in the writing, you should take a look at this season as a reintroduction to the classic forms different Doctor Who stories can take and as a set of examples about how varied science fiction or science fantasy stories can be.

Music is courtesy of The Enigma TNG you can find his music on YouTube or on Bandcamp

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And Thanks to Merriam-Webster for our Lexicon segment

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