Ask the readers: Filing off the serial numbers

If you follow me on twitter (@sunglar) or read my recent posts about Breaking the D20 Paradigm you may know I am struggling to find a system for a future sci-fi game (pun intended). While the game may be some time away, anywhere from 10 months to a year, I like to plan ahead and I want to work on a campaign knowing what the system can handle. I know the argument can be made that the system is irrelevant to the story but I like to be a little bit more pragmatic and know the strengths and limitations of the rules I’ll be working with.

Also, many of my players like some crunch in their game, and as a GM I like some myself, so the idea of going too indie or experimental, while maybe appropriate for a one shot, will not work for a long term campaign. To add to the complications I want to homebrew. I am not playing a pre-existing setting, but instead creating a new campaign.

I have become a fan of reskinning. I had done it before without using the term, repurposing spells or monsters for an alternate effect in AD&D and D&D 4th edition with its simplicity and the ease for doing this really brought the point home and I have integrated what I learned about reskinning playing D&D 4th edition in my Pathfinder campaign and even more in Mutants & Mastermind, which has proven incredibly easy to reskin with.

Thinking about possible sci-fi RPGs and reskinkning has led me down another train of thought. Repurposing systems to play another type of game, I won’t call it reskinning since it’s a larger endeavor, in extreme cases its redressing the system to support a different genre that the rules were intended for. I call it filing off the serial numbers.

I have done it before; I once used RIFTS to play a homebrewed fantasy game and used the same OCCs, the equipments, but described it all in different ways. A good friend and longtime fellow player used AD&D to play Mutant Chronicles, and I tried to use Mutants & Masterminds 1st edition to play a sci-fi game… As you can see I have struggled with sci-fi games before.

Since I aim to please and some of my players have inquired about the possibility of adapting the Star Wars Saga System to a generic sci-fi game, I feel compelled to at least consider it. I posted about this on twitter and got some great feedback. The easiest one: call the Jedi psychics and move on. I don’t what to keep the laser sword wielding monks around, even if I were to call them Cheddar Monks (shout out to the excellent Darths & Droids webcomic), and some have suggested to simply drop Jedi but keep the skill (Use the Force) and the feats to gain powers, thus allowing any of the other classes to gain “powers”. I would also need to weed out certain powers that may be to over the top for traditional (i.e. stereotypical) sci-fi psychics. I have been working over ideas for the past couple of days…

With all this in mind I come to you dear readers. I played Star Wars Saga System for about seven months, but this was back in 2008. Some of our readers may have more experience with the system. What are your house rules and your fixes to the system? Any thoughts on filing off the serial numbers… Anyone adapted it to other settings? I know about the fantasy and horror/pulp adaptations. What else is out there?

I know there are generic or easily adaptable systems out there, GURPS and Savage Worlds to name just two, but I want to explore the feasibility of the adaptation they have suggested. Your thoughts and ideas are appreciated. I hope everyone has a great week!

PS – I was unaware of this use of the filing of the serial numbers concept; still the concept works for the purposes of this post so I’ll go with it. Here hoping no one is terribly confused!

Welcome reader, thanks for taking the time to find out just who I am! My name is Roberto, although in the Internet I usually go by the name of Sunglar. Long time pen & paper RPG player, mostly a GM for the better part of that time; some will say that’s because of my love of telling a good story, others because I’m a control freak, but that’s debatable… I was born, raised, and still live in Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean, with a small but active gaming community.

I’ve played RPGs for 30 years, and for most of that time I played D&D in all its various permutations, including Pathfinder and I'm currently playing D&D 5th edition. Other games my regular gaming group has played over the last few years include Mutants & Masterminds and Savage Worlds, but I have played many other games through the years, and plan to play many more. I am a compulsive homebrewer and rarely play a campaign I have not created myself.

You can follow me on Twitter as @Sunglar, and find me in Google+ also as Sunglar. I'm very active in Facebook where you can find me posting regularly in the Puerto Rico Role Players group. Looking forward to hearing from you!

8 thoughts on “Ask the readers: Filing off the serial numbers”

  1. Hmm, I am not sure if Star Wars Saga Edition is the best choice for using it for anything other than Star Wars or a setting very closely modelled after the Star Wars universe. Each of the classes, the equipment, the way supernatural abilities work ("The Force"), everything was created with the Star Wars saga in mind.
    I just can't imagine running a Star Trek or Babylon 5 game with it, just to name a few examples. But if you want to run a Space Opera game with a lot of fantasy influences, SWSE might work after all.

    Using Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition might actually a more sensible choice. While it's first and foremost a supers system it is generic enough to allow classic fantasy or SF characters. M&M 2nd Edition had actually a couple of source books with special rules that made it easier to run games in other genres.

  2. I'm a freaking huge fan of FATE. My group used it to run a 1940s-style pulp adventure in the "far future" of a fantasy campaign setting–think "Zepplins and Dragons." It's easily adaptable, and great for telling story-based games.

    There is a sci-fi geared variant of FATE, though I haven't played it. It is called Diaspora. One of my gaming buddies has read it and is gung ho to give it a try. Read more:
    My recent post Dyson Logos’ Random Dungeon Dice

  3. So is the purpose of this just to have a challenge? Or is the goal to see how one set of mechanics alter the story telling process? Or is this a game setting that you’re looking to find a home for mechanics wise. In all three of those situations, knowing what feeling you’re going for is helpful because mechanics go a long way in defining the mood of the game.

    It would be interesting to hear more about your past efforts in filing off the serial numbers and what effect the system you used had on the mood and tone of the games.

  4. You could try WEG's d6 System. It's the old go to for star wars but had lots of different sourcebooks like fantasy and future. I think that a good amount of the stuff out there for it is free to the public. Another I would recommend is Hero Quest v2 by Robin Laws. The rules are infinitely scalable and can be used alongside thorough bookkeeping to make things pretty crunchy.

    Charlie's idea of using FATE is a pretty neat one. Haven't played all that much of it but I did play quite a bit of Spirit of the Century, which I have to admit was quite fun.

  5. My friends and I tend to prefer using White Wolf's d10 system. It's easy to repurpose to almost anything. We had finally run out of patience for Palladium while playing Rifts and converted it to d10, where it worked beautifully. The new World of Darkness edition is clean and straightforward and intentionally lacking any serious thematic elements that tie it to one setting or theme. I took it and ran a late 19th century Hunter game successfully, while a friend has been using it to run a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-style game. It's rather flexible.

  6. as far as the jedi thing …. Keep the force powers, give them exclusively to an alien race. make the race 'make sense' by not giving them the physicality that force powers replicate (make them energy beings or limbless or low grav worlders who's bones break if buffeted by a light wind ….

    Apart from that I half agree with Jess, but go witht he old 2nd edition White wolf stuff rather than the modern. The seperation of background elements and racial traits will make more sense.

  7. Here's another vote for d6 Sci-fi.

    SWSE would be a lot more balanced without force users around. I think you could reskin (and depower) the force most easily by splitting powers up thematically – put all the bashing and throwing stuff around ones in one category, and the mind-screwy ones in another, etc, and not let people take powers from too many.

  8. Jess talks about switching from Rifts to WW d10… we made a similiar switch from Shadowrun 20th Anniversary to FATE when the rules started grating on us.

    One recommendation I'd make if you use a vanilla FATE, like FreeFATE or FATE v2: agree to a common (and relavent) group of skills! In the v2 game I ran, we did _not_ use shared skills, and it ended up being a little weird. We used a combo of skills from Shadowrun and FreeFATE for that game, and it worked a lot better. The "established" FATE games seem to be moving toward established skill lists (see Dresden Files RPG)

    My recent post Dyson Logos’ Random Dungeon Dice

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