Running Games in the Perry Rhodan universe? Possible or not?

Perry Rhodan Perry Rhodan is definitely my favorite SF series. Even though it’s pretty unknown in the US it is the world’s largest SF series. It has been started in the 1960s by two German authors in the form of dime novels which were (and still are) published weekly. Today a whole team of authors works on the series. This Friday Perry Rhodan #2664 will be released. The series spawned several spin-off series (like ATLAN, Perry Rhodan Action, Perry Rhodan NEO), one crappy movie, several computer games, board games and two roleplaying games. Alas both roleplaying games were not what most roleplaying Perry Rhodan fans have been hoping for.

The Perry Rhodan universe is huge, complex, but could also be a great place for roleplaying adventures. So it’s no surprise I tried to run a RPG campaign based on my favorite SF series for many years now. Alas this is much easier said than done. We already established that the two official Perry Rhodan RPGs (both are out-of-print now), are not really that great. So I am looking for other systems I could use. I have thought about using Open D6 or Savage Worlds, since I have experience with both systems and both systems are quite versatile. But they might not be versatile enough for the Perryverse.

One of the main issues the series always had was that during it earlier years each author tried to outmatch his colleagues with descriptions of exotic aliens, bigger spaceships, and more deadly weapons. Over the years several attempts have been made to “nerf” things, but a few extremes still exist.

There is one aliens species that can turn their bodies into an almost indestructible material at will, think faster than a computer, run over 100 kilometers per hour fast, eat rocks, etc. And there are descendants of human settlers who shrank to about 11 centimeters due to their stars’ radiation over centuries. Both species are very popular with fans and a Perry Rhodan conversion should be able to handle both characters. The image below shows members of each of the aforementioned species.

Haluter and Siganese
Because of these extremes using Savage World’s Super Powers Companion might make sense, or I should have a look at fully-fledged superhero games. Another trope of the Perry Rhodan series are characters with paranormal abilities from telepathy to teleportation. So the more I think about it using a superhero system might make a lot of sense.

Another issue is technology. A Perry Rhodan game is only half the fun if you can’t use all the nifty space ships, guns, space suits, computers, etc. described in the novels. In some cases things might be pretty easy. Even though there are various kinds of hand weapons in the series, most can be easily converted to any game. A gun is a gun after all. It’s more complicated to model the protective shield technologies or the space ships. With space ships ranging from small one-person vessels to huge spheroid space ships with diameters of 2500 meters and more, you need a system that can handle this scales easily.

Terran space ship Leif Eriksson
Last but not least anyone interested in converting the Perryverse to the tabletop should decide which era he or she wants to play in. The series spans at least millenia with a few trips beyond that using time travel. Creating a roleplaying game conversion that is able to portray the series from the moment when Perry Rhodan first landed on the moon in 1971 to the events in the latest novel which is set into the year 5056 is probably impossible.

Another possibility would be to run a game set into the Perry Rhodan NEO universe. PR NEO is basically a reboot of the series which tries to avoid some of the issues the original series had. Alas the NEO universe is still very small compared what the original series has to offer. I am still not sure what would be the best course of action. If you were in my shoes, what would you do? As always every comments is highly appreciated!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

17 thoughts on “Running Games in the Perry Rhodan universe? Possible or not?”

  1. Based on your needs for different scale I would avoid Savage Worlds. I really like the system but I find it lacks in granularity if you have to pit things in very different scales against each other. It is not granular enough to handle something like his in my experience.

    A superhero system might work well enough for species interaction but then most do not offer much in terms of star ships.

    Mabye you should first decide on a timeframe to play in as that would limit what you need to build in the rules. And then define certain functions a ruleset must be able to simulate and go from there. You already establised it needs to handle races of very different powerlevels and space ships from single person fighters to Death Stars. Hmm Sounds like a task for some kind of Superhero / Star Wars RPG mashup?

  2. Sounds like you need a system where handwaving actually has rules to guide it. Have you considered overlaying the Perry specifics onto a FUDGE build?

    1. FUDGE might work, but I also considered Starblazer Adventures (which is a SF FATE game). Some people have also recommended Other Worlds or Heroquest 2nd Edition. I’m looking into the latter right now.

      1. I was just about to suggest “some version of FATE” and Starblazers Adventures in particular. The extreme elements of the alien species can probably be covered with Aspects and/or Stunts, for example.

  3. Depending on how crunchy you want the game to be, I’d say M&M3 or FATE. I’ve only read the first PR NEO novel and was pretty underwhelmed, so I can only comment in general – chose a Zyklus/time period you want to game in and be done. 😉

  4. I’d use either Traveller or Open 6, and I’d use the beginning of PR NEO as the beginning of a campaign. The initial characters would be the crew of the Stardust and I would see what they do. It would work best if the players are non familiar with PR at all.

    Make your game your own reboot.

    But then, the only Middle-earth campaign I’d be interested in is one where the characters are the Fellowship of the Ring, and nothing follows the LotR canon. (Is Saruman really tainted by evil? Is Sauron really in Mordor? Is Moria really deserted or did Balin succeed with his colony? What is Galadriel scheming in her forbidden Golden Forest?)

  5. In a world with such vast differences and extremes, it might be an idea to go a bit more meta and use something like Burning Empires. The biggest issue with that system is it is meant for a competitive invasion scenarios, which might be completely inappropriate.

    The world does sound a bit science fantasy, what about Monte Cook’s new system that he is kickstarting right now? Might have to wait a bit though:

  6. Funny you are posting that, I was working on some articles about using Perry Rhodan as a background for Traveller games. Maybe I should finally revise them and get them on my blog. Caution though: I wanted to start from the very beginning.

  7. I’ve been a fan of the series for ages and can only second that the rpgs wherent really that great, but you might want to take a look at HERO System (the mechanics that power Champions). HERO allow you to build anything from a simple Maakh to a complex Haluter or any of the more arcane aliens. Kosmokrat anyone?

      1. I know that the 6th Edition is spread out over several $20-$40 books (to be complete) which kept my group from playing it.

        The Basic Rules is for Players (character creation).
        The Vol 2 is for GMs (combat + gming).

        I would recommend you at least “Star Hero”, unless you are a good systembuilder and can figure out how to apply Powers to SF/Tech.

  8. I’ve tried this a couple of times.

    The first time was 30 years ago using FGU’s Space Opera. The storyline was basically the Vega expedition from the 1st cycle. It ran fairly well for a couple of sessions but died because none of my players liked running pre-gens.

    The second time was using MegaTraveller to simulate the 1st cycle storyline but within the MegaTraveller universe. The world situation on the hero’s home planet was set up to be the same as it had been in Enterprise Stardust, but in place of the Arkonide research cruiser I used a disabled Vilani starship. That actually worked well. We got to the end of the founding of the new world government before it ended, as players left for real world reasons.

    I’ve since toyed around with the idea of trying it again using HERO 5th Ed. even did a little playing around modding the system. It was quite do-able, unfortunately I have no more players around here. If I had the players, I’d set the campaign between the first and second cycles. Lot of exploration/colonization of near space, maybe a short conflict against opponents more in the Solar Empire’s league, secret missions into M13. Rhodan himself can’t risk being seen so he has to leave these missions to talented subordinates, enter the player characters.

    Just something to think about setting wise.

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