Space… the Tiny Frontier

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Military Science Fiction or Space Opera has had a long tradition in the gaming world. There are a LOT of crossover fans of both of these things. I remember as a youth I’d play privateer and escape velocity (still the best computer game of all time, I don’t need your stinking graphics or cut scenes! –grumblegrumbleoldmangetoffmylawn-) getting my own ship, trading from port to port, fighting off or becoming a pirate and then building to blow up whole systems. It was awesome.  I spent hours up far too late playing games like that and others like it, imagining myself as a ship captain or pilot through those experiences.

Naturally my reading habits stretched to those strange new worlds as well. I took in anything I could find that had a starship on its cover, as much as I was eagerly finding games that did the same thing. 

I didn’t actually start playing RPGs until my 20s. Naturally I found the d20 Saga Edition Star Wars and a group that played that pretty regularly, which I still find to be a great game. Babylon 5 had a cool game through Mongoose Publishing. I picked up a few books of the Star Trek Role Playing Game and different manuals detailing ship specs and the like from other Trek related books (sometimes unlicensed). They all brought me a lot of fun and opened up my imagination for  There were plenty of others out there as well that I didn’t venture to as well, I know there’s too many to mention.

Here’s where I got really nerdy. I had a nice email list where my friends and I would work as different posts on a starship and collaboratively write something together. The player who played the captain acted as game master and directed the plot. I found these far more fulfilling because it took the RPG concept, which was fun, took writing, which I also find fun, and created a social environment where I got the best of both worlds, and didn’t have to worry about pesky dice rolls dictating my actions. Not having them in real time also let me think about my next moves and progressing the story as well. It was really cool. For those wondering, I played a Romulan. Because Romulans are the best (Klingons smell!).

As these games proliferated (I use this word because I just read a Magic: The Gathering card with the word proliferate on it), I feel like fiction changed with them. I can’t tell you how many novels I read that feel like they’ve come out of someone’s video game or RPG adventure. As I read more of those, I started expecting more from my GMs and the like too, and tried to make better games when I GMed.

As I aged and started to quickly run out of time, I found myself wanting these experiences but having to play lighter style games because of time constraints. This led me to card and board gaming more than RPGs. Plenty of board and card games play with the space opera theme. As I’m wont to do top 5s, I think I will do one with those soon.  I ended up playing these a lot more just because of the time commitment involved, and I still play a lot of these to this day.  They don’t quite give me that experience that I love from RPGs or those old computer games though.

Earlier this year, a good friend of mine, Alan Bahr, messaged me on Facebook about a cool idea he had. Most Sci-Fi RPGs are overly rules heavy, catering toward people who want to get into the minutiae, min/max their spaceships, etc. There isn’t much out there that captures the fun play that I remember from those RPGs I used to where we just wrote, or the computer games where they were very simple and I could do my missions and trade without a lot of headache. He wanted to create an RPG system that gave me that same feeling and experience, but with a simple rules structure for normal tabletop RPG playing. I thought this was a phenomenal idea.  He showed me the rules set he was working with, and then Tiny Frontiers started to come to life.

The game system operates off of simple rolls with 2 6-sided dice. Character creation only takes a couple of minutes. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it lets people get together and tell stories.  It sounded like a ton of fun. Later, I even attempted to get people to play this on a flight to GenCon. The people behind me thought I was joking when I asked them to play, but I wasn’t. I really wanted to!

My friend knew I had a passion for space opera, and when the kickstarter hit a certain level for the game, he asked me if I’d like to write a small setting for it. I jumped at the opportunity. I had ideas from RPGs past where I never got to develop them, and happily provided them for print.  A quick fun fact: I actually have an outline to make this setting into a novel that I’ve been sitting on for a while, which was my original plan. I think it works way better as an RPG setting.

I’m pretty happy that I was able to merge my two favorite things: writing and gaming, and that Alan from Gallant Knight Games gave me the opportunity to do so. He also made a pretty awesome game that I’m comfortable busting out at conventions or parties if I have a quick story in mind and can get a couple people to play (which I often do!).

As I’m about to come out with my first Space Opera… and game related novel soon, I started to reflect on this recent experience, and thought you might be interested in seeing how games and science fiction converge. If this RPG sounds interesting to you, you can get a PDF of the rulebook, which has my setting in it (along with some other AWESOME authors) at:

Alan’s since worked on a Mecha and Monsters version, which hits the Gundam or Godzilla style end of the sci-fi spectrum if that’s your speed. I bet if there’s enough  demand, he might be willing to expand this universe too.  Pick this up and let him know!

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