I have to admit I’ve been generally disappointed with science fiction role playing games. It’s true that I’ve discovered some recent gems — especially Ashen Stars and Rogue Trader — but I don’t really get to game much these days, so they’re mostly of academic interest.
You know what would have been great? Discovering a fast-paced, easy-to-learn science fiction RPG when I was still gaming every weekend. One that captured the spirit of 1950s sci-fi, when space exploration meant wide-eyed explorers stepping gingerly out onto mist-shrouded planets, clutching futuristic sidearms and highly unreliable sensing equipment.
I’m talking about the science fiction of Forbidden Planet and Planet of Vampires, where every alien landscape concealed ancient secrets, unknowably strange artifacts of long-dead races, and sinister lifeforms. When an alien encounter meant checking first to make sure the safety was off.
A key feature to this ideal science fiction game, of course, would be that it’s rules-light. Something you and your friends could learn in an afternoon at most, and be deep into your first encounter with space vampires on the rings of Saturn before the evening news.
Believe it or not, at long last my ideal science fiction role playing game seems to have finally arrived: X-plorers, from Brave Halfling Publications. X-plorers celebrates the spirit of pulp science fiction in all the best ways, and it unapologetically embraces those things that made it great, including robots, space pirates, and aliens with tentacles.
There’s even an entry in the Sample Creatures section for Vampire Moths. You see? That’s what I’m talking about.
And yes, it’s a very quick read — about 25 pages of core rules. The chapter on Playing the Game is shorter than the Equipment chapter. These guys know how to write a rulebook.
X-Plorers was written in 2009 by David Bezio, and first published by Brave Halfing in 2011. I have no idea why I haven’t seen it before now, but I’m glad I spotted it on the New Arrivals shelf of my local game store when I did. It is 40 pages, professionally illustrated, and priced at $12.95; a PDF version is available for $5.95. Complete details at the Brave Halfling website.