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Podcast (Episode 061): Science Fiction Role Playing Games We Love and Hate

In episode 61 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester asks the panel: Science Fiction Role Playing Games – what have you played, what do you like, what do you hate?

This episode features our Summer of Scifi Trivia Contest Question!

This week’s panel:

© 2011

Featuring original music by John Anealio

About Patrick Hester (527 Articles)
Patrick Hester is a writer, blogger, podcasting dude, Denver transplant and all around Functional Nerd. Don't hate him cuz he has a cool hat.

12 Comments on Podcast (Episode 061): Science Fiction Role Playing Games We Love and Hate

  1. This was a deeply geeky SF Signal podcast…but lots of fun to participate in.

  2. Geeks on parade…and we only scratched the surface of SF-RPG’s I’ve played in or owned and did not even touch SF (let alone F) boardgames.

  3. Not having read Metabarons is a crime! Role Playing Games is one of the things I love the most and Sci-fi is my favorite genre. I liked the Star Wars Saga Edition, is a simplier d20 system, well adapted to the setting. Warhammer 40k is an awesome setting that I just love and love to visit. But in general, despite this, I also don’t like to much RPG’s based on franchises.

    Nobody mentioned my favorite game: Gamma World, a post-apoc rpg, where you can play as a telepathic cockroach, what’s not to love.

  4. Thanks for the mention, y’all. Oh, btw, I did play the Traveller, StarWars, Gamma World and StarTrek pen and paper games too — just not as much. Great podcast as usual.

  5. *ahem* Patrick – did you just suggest that women aren’t capable of being this geeky?    I really hope not 🙂

  6. @Loopdilou

    Nope! Only that they decided they didn’t WANT to be this geeky 😉


  7. No love for Cyberpunk 2020? This is one of the top games on the much-too-infrequent occasions my scattered friends and I get together.

    I also feel the d20 system doesn’t capture the feel of Star Wars, which is why one of my regular games is the d6 second edition SW from WEG. I used to run (fantasy) Warhammer RPG, but both the fantasy and sci-fi versions of the game stress the grim grimness of the grimmest grimosity so much that I started to laugh at it. Those books have been sold.

  8. In modern gaming with scant few exceptions the hobby has evolved so much from its roots that games designed before 2000 are held in the regard that the model t is to a prius.  (Paranoia is one of those exceptions)


    Where you list ends is where modern SF games actually start.  Diaspora and Bulldogs are ok, likely in the top 20-30 SF games(ashen stars has not actually been released yet).  In comparison they have some serious flaws but most importantly, they are not good for beginers.


    These following games are some the best designed RPG’s ever made. If you only try one game here, pick one of these 4.


    Shock: Social Science fiction – This game (one of the first modern RPG’s) allows you to explore all manner of SF concepts

    Misspent Youth – YA roleplaying, youth rebeling agains the authority

    Freemarket – “Down and out in the magic kingdom” the RPG.  

    Apocalypse World – Post apocalyptic with adult situations


    A few more games, not quite the same caliber.  Add “paranoia” and you pretty much have a complete list of what a new player might be interested in.


    Battlestations – Almost more of a wargame.  

    Microscope – Not strictly SF but does SF well

    Remember Tomorrow – Cyberpunk

    Burning Sands – Dune with the labels cut off

    3:16 – Another almost wargame

    Sign in Stranger – Colonists on an alien world

    Time and Temp – Temp worker Time travelers (humor)

    Burning Empires – Included for completeness, extremely complex game.  Not for new players.


    All of the above games a tight and well built to a degree not found in RPG’s prior to 2000.  The following games are several orders of magnitude below the games I list above. However if you are familar with RPG’s you will be able to make these work well enough to have fun.


    Saga Edition Star wars (I know, star wars is fantasy

    d20 modern (similar but not the same as star wars)

    Bulldogs, diaspora, starblazers (all the same game)

    Ashen stars (actually not out yet)

  9. Hi BG

    As it so happens, the gaming group I play with is on its second run of Apocalypse World. I considered mentioning that too, but I didn’t think Patrick wanted to give me twenty minutes to talk about too many RPGs. Besides, that’s what my Roll Perception Plus Awareness column is for.

    I am also not sure that AW is suited to novice players and GMs, either. I would argue you should play another of Vincent’s games first, to grok what he does in games before ever touching AW.

    I would disagree Bulldogs, Diaspora and Starblazers are the same game–they all use FATE, yes, but they do very different things.

    Didn’t like Shock that much when my group tried it.  It’s more of a setting generator, I think, than an actual game…



  10. Aldo, nobody mentioned Gamma World? I’m sure we did! Or maybe it was in the post-show burblings.

    Our problem is that we’re given a set timeslot and Our Master (Patrick) tries to keep us in check…I would have happily mentioned much more about Traveller, as well as 2300 AD, Space: 1889, Ringworld, Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun, Battletech, Ogre, GEV, WarpWar, Olympus, Stellar Conquest, and way more than I can probably remember!

  11. Paul,

    I have run AW for both new players and people familiar with traditional RPG’s and have yet to have anyone have a problem learning it.  In fact it is the second fastest and easiest game I have ever taught (Danger Patrol being the fastest).  So don’t be afraid to introduce new people to it.

    For games being the same, I think it is a case of pah-tay-toe/pah-tah-toe.  They use the same system therefore play the same.  If you consider an alteration of theme to make them different, yes they are different.  But if thats the case, everything is different and nothing is similar.

    As for Shock, it can be difficult.  A co-player once described it as “like doing science homework.”  It appeals to people who like collaborating and hashing out the implications of science fiction concepts.  Definitely not for people who want to run around a kill aliens.





  12. Gamma World: I recalled our first adventure therein. We came across a town where merchants were gathering. There was also a small show. Part of the show was a wagon with a cage mounted on it. In the cage was a pure-human, black ragged pants, golden-ish shirt. He kept muttering something about “new worlds”, “frontiers”, “where nobody has gone”, etc.

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