Gary Gygax first invented Dungeons & Dragons in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in the 1970s. It wasn’t the first tabletop roleplaying game, but it established most of the norms that they still use today. Because of D&D‘s immense success, the tabletop RPG genre has always been closely linked to elements of fantasy. Despite this, there is also a booming scene for science fiction games.

With a long history also stretching back to the 1970s, these games cover virtually every sub-genre from space operas to cosmic horror. Fans of popular science fiction franchises can likely find an RPG set in their favored world, and options are almost limitless for those looking to create a completely original adventure.

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire

Fantasy Flight Games is one of the biggest names in tabletop RPGs and board games, and they’re the exclusive publishers for Star Wars RPG books. The company produces three different Star Wars tabletop games, and each one focuses on a different forcer of the Star Wars universe.

While players will likely have fun playing Force-sensitive characters in Force and Destiny or soldiers in Age of Rebellion, it’s Edge of the Empire that focuses most on sci-fi. This book lets players step into the shoes of smugglers and explorers to journey through the most wretched hives of scum and villainy in the Star Wars galaxy.

Traveller

The original Traveller was published back in 1977, and it has been updated and adapted into several different versions and systems since. Traveller presents players with several of the sci-fi genre’s most-used tropes. They can travel between planets, explore undiscovered locations, engage in futuristic battles, and more.

One unique element in Traveller is the lifepath system. Players are presented with a mini-game at the start of the campaign that awards skill points and skills for making decisions about the characters’ lives before the first game session.

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Those Dark Places

Those Dark Places is a sci-fi tabletop RPG that focuses on the scarier elements of outer space and the unknown. The general premise for the game is simple; each player is trying to carve out a living in space, and they need to survive accidental and intentional dangers to do it.

Those Dark Places mixes creature horror, espionage, wilderness survival, and corporate greed into a flexible package that emphasizes accessibility and narrative than complex rules or combat. Character creation is relatively straightforward, and game masters will have an easy time creating engaging mission hooks with the game’s provided tools.

Shadowrun

Video game players may be familiar with the Shadowrun IP from their twisted horror and cyberpunk games, but the franchise started out as a tabletop RPG. In the Shadowrun series, magic is quickly reawakened on Earth in the far future.

This mixing of fantasy and sci-fi defines Shadowrun‘s unique feel. While players can sling spells and use potions, they’ll also be engaging in corporate espionage and futuristic turf wars. While the dice and skill system is fairly complex, this is still a good RPG for beginners as several new player kits and guides are available.

Scum and Villainy

Scum and Villainy is a “Forged in the Dark” RPG, which means that its dice and gameplay systems are based on those in the popular steampunk game Blades in the Dark. This system doesn’t have many complicated rules and instead puts the focus on fast play and engaging, player-driven narratives.

Scum and Villainy lets players step into a sci-fi criminal underworld in which they can build a ship, create a crew, and carry out smuggling and combat missions. Character creation isn’t as wide open as other RPGs, and players build their crew members from one of several playbook templates, including the Mechanic, Pilot, Muscle, and Mystic.

Eclipse Phase

Though not all sci-fi RPGs have pleasant premises, Eclipse Phase is one of the grimmest. During World War III, humanity developed AI entities known as titans that subsequently rebelled and killed approximately 90 percent of Earth’s population. Due to this decimation, human colonies spread throughout the solar system are forced to exist without aid from Earth and accept planetary refugees.

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Eclipse Phase presents players with several complex ethical and moral issues related to mass death, human evolution, scientific advancement, and terraforming. The core rulebook was first released in 2009, but several expansions and a revised second edition have also come out in the years since.

Numenera

Numenera doesn’t just bring players into the future; it brings them billions of years forward from the present day. In the world of Numenera, several cycles of civilization have risen and either transcended the world or fallen. Players jump into the Ninth Cycle civilization and must navigate among the leftovers of their forebearers. Despite the strange setting and established lore, Numenera is actually one of the best tabletop RPGs for first-time game masters. Character creation is more straightforward than what is often found in other games, and it’s easy to create small arcs that only last for a few gaming sessions.

Star Trek Adventures

While some gamers prefer to play tabletop roleplaying games that let them create wholly original characters and worlds, other players enjoy stepping into established settings that they already know and love. Star Trek Adventures presents players with everything that they love about the various Star Trek television shows.

While there’s plenty of combat, the game also puts a focus on exploration, moral dilemmas, and inter-crew conflicts. The game is often praised for its relatively straightforward rules and several systems that let players curb their unluckiest roles.

 Cyberpunk Red

Cyberpunk 2077 may have been one of the most infamous video game releases of all time with its underdeveloped features and terrible performance on consoles, but the tabletop RPG that inspired CD Projekt Red has remained much-beloved by fans. There have been several iterations that take place at different points in the Cyberpunk timeline, but Cyberpunk Red is the most recent.

This game lets players build characters in almost any walk of life, from powerful Corpos to media personalities, mechanics, medics, or law enforcement officers. Players can deck out their characters in a wide array of cybernetics and either take down the powers that be or fight to become one of them.

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Paranoia

While most tabletop role-playing games require players to work together to defeat common threats and accomplish their objectives, Paranoia is filled with espionage and backstabbing. In this game, players live in a futuristic dystopia controlled by an all-powerful machine called Friend Computer.

Players simultaneously work for The Computer to stop threats while also working towards their own secret objectives. The game promotes a light-hearted, humorous tone, and it pokes fun at dystopian classics like 1984I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, and Brave New World.

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