In Space, nobody can hear you not have enough spare time to run a great looking game
Random Internet rambling recently led me to discover an absolute gem of a roleplaying game. It’s called Mothership and it’s a game of science-fiction horror that seeks to emulate a setting and feel similar to that of the Alien/Aliens franchise (and by extension similar stories of futuristic isolation and menace).
You can find the game HERE and since the rulebook is Pay What You Want I suggest you go snag it for yourself now and if you like it go back and throw a few credits to the creator.
The rulebook is short and concise and the design work is incredible. The character sheet is a work of genius allowing a complete novice to create a character without ever having to refer to the rules – everything you need is on the character sheet complete with arrows showing what scores modify what results, how skills work and everything. The rest of the rulebook is equally accessible.
The game itself has simple but very functional mechanics – a d% system with rolling under attributes (modified by skills if appropriate) to succeed. Contested rolls resolve combat and any other form of conflict. Nice and straightforward.
Where it shines though is the Stress system. This is a brilliant mechanism to reflect the increasing desperation and panic of the source material. You can gain Stress in many different ways – failing critical checks, taking damage, seeing something dreadful. When you then encounter a situation that may cause you to panic you make a roll of 2d10 against the currently accrued Stress. If that roll is equal to or under your current Stress level you then roll on the Panic table and add the current Stress. Results vary from the trivial to the extreme – Remember how Hudson flipped out in Aliens and went berserk emptying his rifle in all directions. Yeah that’s a thing.
Entertainingly each character type has a different interaction with the Stress mechanic. Teamsters, being practical down to earth blue collar types can reroll their Panic reaction once a session. Androids make everyone uneasy… if there’s an Android around when you make a Fear based Stress roll you have Disadvantage. If a Marine panics then everyone around has to make a Fear save themselves. And if a Scientist fails a Sanity save then everyone nearby takes Stress as they realise that if the big brain guy can’t deal with this then what the hell are we getting into…
What this all leads to is a mechanical support for the way that these stories tend to go. People get burned out, twitchy, angry and reckless as the situations worsen. It’s a great mechanism for recreating the feel of the source material.
Other highlights of the rules – some wonderful rules for NPC followers and enemies, for designing ships and stations, and the physical layout of the book is tremendous. Combat is designed to be quick to resolve and pretty dangerous – as a Horror themed game this isn’t a system that rewards pulp-heroism and charging machine gun nests armed only with a pointy stick (unless you’re in the machine gun nest in which case it rewards you just fine against the idiot stick-wielder), and the overall mechanics suit my style as a GM; they’re detailed enough to give a framework for resolving action but loose enough to allow some collaborative world building and on the fly improvisation.
I’ve already had an idea for a story of a few sessions’ length that would work well in this setting and system, but I’m not likely to have enough time in between the other campaigns I’m currently running to actually play it until the start of the next decade. I may just write up the bare bones of it and post it here just to get it out of my brain.
Finn’s first novel A Step Beyond Context is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and a few others as well. It’s a punchy genre-busting mystery with a heroine who is a Regency lady, a high tech mercenary and much more