Most of the time when someone brings up old or out of print RPGs, it’s time to cue the eye-roll, and then put on your helmet because it’s time for war stories about how awesome things used to be before the d20 system or rules made for people who didn’t want to spend a lot of time doing math or memorizing obscure tables. This is a bit of a disservice though, since there are legitimately a lot of older games that have retained their playability and still have a lot to offer. This is especially true of the often neglected science fiction and related genre games. So here’s three old science fiction games that are worth checking out.
The original Traveller was simply three little black books (LBB’s) in a small black box with a pair of six sided dice. Text heavy and image light, this was one of the first big hits in science fiction gaming, and has, since 1977, been available in various incarnations by various publishers. Classic Traveller was notorious as one of the only games where you could die during character creation! But past that, it offers a great, and surprisingly timeless, science fiction RPG experience, and can easily be used within its own universe, or to create your own science fiction game setting as it lends itself well to multiple sub-genres of scifi. This game can get a bit math-y (especially if you get heavily into the ship design parts), but is still a great experience. Classic Traveller is available from DriveThruRPG, in a collected edition for $9.99 USD in pdf format, with reasonably priced print on demand options. Classic Traveller, and indeed, all editions of Traveller, have a vibrant and active fanbase, and a truly shocking amount of online support.
Cyberpunk 2020 2nd Edition
This is the granddaddy of all corporate dystopia games. Written by pioneering Black game designer “Maximum” Mike Pondsmith, this game is a must have experience for any gamer. The Interlock System used is the progenitor of the Fuzion system, and is very user friendly to new players, especially when compared to what it was competing against when the game came out in 1990! The core book contains everything you need to get started, and its themes are still poignant today, if not more so than when it was originally released. The ideas and technology in the game have aged well, and it’s not too anachronistic. So whether you’re looking to play in the established and well supported campaign setting, or looking to recreate anything from Blade Runner to Chappie to Escape From New York, or if you want to fight The Man or work for The Man, this game has you covered. Cyberpunk 2020 is available in pdf format on DriveTrhuRPG for $14.99 USD, and has print options available.
Fading Suns 2nd Edition
Described as a passion play, this game is science fantasy taken to the extremes. A thoughtful blend of science fiction and fantasy, this game is “space opera” written large. With hints of Dune, influences from the Age of Sail, and more, this game demands a lot of imagination and can provide a high level of immersion. The benefit of this game is that it can scratch several itches at once, providing an outlet for both players who prefer fantasy and those looking for something with more science fiction elements. While it was ported to the d20 system, it works best under its own Victory Point System (VPS), which has a bit of a learning curve, but matches the way way the game and setting have been assembled much better than the d20 system did. While not to everyone’s taste, it can provide a lot of fun and is definitely some inspirational material. This game is available in pdf format only from DriveThruRPG for $14.99 USD.
So, there they are, three older games well worth a looking over for groups looking to try something a bit different from the fare generally available right now. With the dominance of D&D based fantasy games, it’s often hard to find something a bit more grounded (as in hard scifi/near future), or less predictable than “Fantasy, but in space” (I’m looking at you Starfinder!) in your local shops or even for reasonable prices online. So, if you and your group are looking for something new, that won’t break the back, that has lots of support, these three games are a good go to meet that science fiction need.