“Free Spacer, you’ve been commissioned to operate this Colonial Type, Corvette Class starship in service to the Empyrean Standard Megacorporation. I am your Patron Commissionaire, but you may call me Mister Wilson. I deal with your requirements, requests, and responsibilities during contract negotiation and post-operation debriefing. On an operational basis, you will have access to your crew’s considerable skills, your crew kit, and your Free Spacer ship; You will also have any other operational assets included in today’s negotiation. I hope to have a fruitful session of contract development followed by a no fuss successful mission.
Welcome aboard Free Spacer!” – Mister Wilson, Patron Commissionaire
Free Spacer is a sci-fi tabletop RPG about the troubleshooting crew of a contracted starship.
In Free Spacer, you are crewmember of a configurable starship commissioned by a Patron as a deniable asset. While indebted to your faction, you are expected to stay deniable by negotiating freelance contracts for operations outside the interests of your Patron. As a Free Spacer, you act as agents, bounty hunters, couriers, mercenaries, scouts, and technicians armed with flexible multitools and a configurable starship able to operate in any environment. You are an outsider to the ordinary populous; they know little about Free Spacers, except that you are dangerous and liable to do anything to complete your contract.
“The Orion Frontier has been forced to the focus of the Milky Way in these years of war, but once over civilisation will return.” – Duchess Vicenza, Minister of Culture
Free Spacer is set a few hundred years in the future. The Exploration Wars began here. The first war was a civil war over agricultural worlds. The second, was triggered when three Sapient species of the Sol System independently discovered Ether Technology and the space-time fold. The third front was a war of vengeance, which expanded the Exploration Wars to another quadrant. The Exploration Wars have recently ended, Old Gold had been overthrown, and the allies that toppled it have fractured into rivals. Sapient species have been scattered amongst these new societies creating a mixed quadrant. This frontier Quadrant is largely divided between a weak Cardinal Power and powerful provinces. Out on the rim, even their power wanes while colonists and drifters strive to build something amongst outcasts, slavers, and pirates. Your Patron still has a use for you. You and your Ship are the perfect weapons for a new cold war. While the societies are rebuilt in this time of a fragile new peace, you fight a secret cold war between the many factions in the Orion Quadrant.
Science & Technology
The science is more important to daily life now, then it ever was before. The Galactic Community relies on technology, not only to hold together civilisation, but to keep much of the population alive. Since the Information age, every emergent society has had to develop or acquire two core scientific breakthroughs to join the Galactic Community: Biotechnology and Ether Technology.
Every species evolved to thrive in their own environment and is reliant upon their native biome to survive. To leave their world and join the Galactic community requires advanced biotechnology to alter the species to remove its dependency on its homeworld. Beyond altering themselves for space and travel to other worlds, two characteristic augmentations have transformed life: Anagathics and the BioIncubator.
Anagathics: Anagathics therapy inhibits aging and grants limited immortality, which is only interrupted by Rebirth. Rebirth is cascading out-of-control regeneration, which occurs due to extreme trauma or bicentennially.
BioIncubator: The BioIncubator is the culmination of medical biotech. A multipart kit including an implant, sample extractor, med-tool, and the incubator. Use the device to boost your abilities or perform most medical tasks.
The sheer massive size of the Milky Way separates the Sophonts of galaxy from one another. Travel time between two systems in real-space takes so long, that it would be impossible to form a galactic civilisation. Ether Technology solves this problem with space-time manipulation. Ether Tech uses ether to inscribe software directly into space-time. While Ether Tech devices are essentially micro-space-time circuits, they require a physical component or anchor to keep the ether they are composed of, from dissipating back into the fabric of space-time. Most devices are hybrids, which use Ether Tech for only specific functions, such as grav manipulating tractor pulses, shields, and disrupter blasts. Hybrids are more efficient and effective for their specialised function. Full Ether Tech systems are moderately rare due to their difficulty to use and dependence on a Reactor.
Ship Systems: Although hybrid vessels are extremely specialised, rarely they have a Grav Drive with a Fold Inducer. The Grav Drive is the most prominent full Ether Tech system, which enables faster-than-light travel. Your Free Spacer corvette is far more flexible with a complete set of full Ether Tech Ship systems, including a Reactor, Sensors, Shields System, Grav Drive, and Pulse Arrays.
Ether Tools: While most of the populous uses archaic or hybrid tools, you use set of configurable Ether Tools. You carry a portable Reactor, Link, Scanner, Multitool, Shields, and may have a Launch.
Dataflow: For most of the populous daily interaction with Ether Technology is through the Dataflow, a ubiquitous communication, information, and entertainment network much like the internet. Many carry a personal Link that gives them constant access with unlimited storage and instant communications within the system. Like all communications, the Dataflow is only instant within the system; every network within the system is synchronised by ships folding in with clones of the Galactic Dataflow.
Sophonts & Societies
A Sophont is a sapient individual, a person of any intelligent species. Sophonts are spread across the Milky Way into many distinct societies. These Societies range between vast multisector nations with multitudes of factions to tiny single world societies with only a couple factions. The greatest and most strategically placed society is the Quadrant is its Cardinal Society. The Cardinal designation became official at the end of the Exploration Wars with the signing of the Cardinal Compact, when the group designated the strategically placed and politically savvy CMA as the Orion Cardinal.
Orion is a balkanised Quadrant loosely divided between the CMA and powerful provinces. Each of these societies fought on one side or the other of the Exploration wars and still carry many of the old loyalties and animosities. Despite declared peace, many of the factions within the Orion Quadrant jockeying for power and continuing their fight in the cold war. The population of each society ranges between poor drifters abandoned to asteroid drifts to comfortable citizens living in luxury.
Agriunion: The quadrant’s great agricultural power, the revolution of the Agriunion began the Exploration Wars. During the wars, the peaceful agrarian caste-based society quickly became soviet-style militarised society, which has now cornered the quadrant agricultural markets.
Bennu Sovereignty: New to the quadrant, the current Bennu Sovereignty is a nation in exile after being run off from their dominance of the Crimson Quadrant by Oath Alliance. Sovereign General Krvos is forging this new incarnation of the Bennu into a militant power with both vengeance and rebuilding as goals.
Colonial Merchant Association: Before the wars, the CMA was a loose allegiance of powerful megacorporations that left earth for freedom and fortune. At the end of the wars and a great deal of political wrangling, the CMA took their tenuous position of Cardinal Society of the Orion Quadrant. The CMA spends their efforts strengthening their position, ensuring corporate freedom, and playing the provinces against one another.
Flotilla: While not a recognised society, the Flotilla is composed of great fleets. While many are older then Old Gold, the society grew during and after the wars. Many ships deserted joining together to wander the quadrant looking for something greater. Each individual Feat is its own faction, seldom mingling with the others.
Golden Duchy of Cygnus: Once the dominant power, Old Gold ruled the quadrant for a thousand years till the Exploration Wars. With forces mounting against them, factions of the Golden Duchy of Cygnus retreated to the citrine sector to sue for peace and end the wars. Officially, the new Golden Duchy of Cygnus is friendly, considerate, and willing to make nice with everyone, but underlying it all is a nostalgic goal to return to old times.
Oath Alliance: Honouring the promise between homelands of Mars and Triaxicor, the Oath Alliance is the population remaining after the fleets left to conquer the Crimson Quadrant. The Cardinal Compact formally divorced the Orion province from the Crimson Imperium, but they remain closely aligned. The current Oath Alliance is society of miners and warriors, orginised by as a military with each citizens given rank.
United Earth Nations: The United Earth Nations is the cradle of Human life formed from the ancient Human nations of Earth. The Exploration Wars began when the UEN and their allies confronted Old Gold over their tyranny. While they freed the quadrant, their rightful position as the Orion Cardinal Power was stolen by the double-dealing CMA. Presently, the United Earth Nations are the last bastion of true democracy and freedom.
The Milky Way is populated with many sapient species. While many Sophonts are isolated to a single sector or system, seven prevalent species are spread between all of the societies within the Orion Quadrant.
Atoli: A short amphibious lizard like species that once ruled this quadrant. The Atoli are extremely dimorphic with males and females having district traits. Female Atoli are taller with yellow to gold scales, while the males have head spikes and colour shifting camouflage scales.
Cordin: A winged raptor like species that one dominated the crimson quadrant. Cordin females are muted browns, while the males show off crimson plumes. The species is renown for scavenging abilities and their cunning, but are at their best when expressing their freedom.
Eda: A large trimorphic knuckle walking and trunked species with a special relationship to plants, soil, and the sun. Eda Males and females are very similar and close to human sized, but are dwarfed by the mammoth Neuter, which is renowned for a deep singing voice traditionally used to for Garden songs.
G’vorn: A androgynous mushroom like grey alien with 6 limbs and gravity based brains that breed by budding. The G’vorn dominate the distant Athenaeum Triunion and are the oldest galactic species. They are often considered a logical and emotionless, but conversely many are known for quirky senses of humour.
Human: During earth biotech age humans genetically modified themselves for space exploration, life on other planets, community living, and the fashion of the time. Human males and females are relatively indistinct, but colours vary from dark brown to light pink tan.
N’mon: The newest prevalent species, the N’mon has an armoured shell and the ability to roll up into a ball. They are known thrill seekers with the capacity to jump by deforming their rolled shape and propelled by a strong broad tail. The N’mon are intersex, but may have a single very large litter.
Triax: A metal based species resembling insects with metallic exoskeletons. The Triax refugees aboard sleeper ships joined the Human colony on Mars in founding the Oath Alliance, but it was their conquest of their home quadrant that cemented the friendship. The Triax is intersex with individuals swapping back and forth between male and female every season.
The galactic situation is only the backdrop for the setting you and your group authors together. Your Setting begins with commissioning. Your ship Flag determines the side of the quadrant your crew sees and the contracts they are offered, while your choice of Patron Faction determines a significant society and faction that will drive the motivations of your campaign. Your Gamemaster’s preparation is a step-by-step process utilising a series of tools, which enables them to customise or create all aspects for your unique setting.
Setting tools prepare a unique Sector, interested Factions, original Systems, World stats with a Surface map, useful Settlements, sapient species, Sophont Profiles and Creatures.
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu, General
Free Spacer uses a task system; these mechanics are player-facing; the players roll all the dice. Everything you do during gameplay use this core mechanic. I designed the system this way to make it streamlined, it is easy to learn and gives it consistency. The mechanic is player-facing; this frees the Gamemaster from having to play with the same sort of crunch as the Players. Players can strive to add task dice to their salvo through strategy and roleplaying. As they roll Threat dice, they do not feel the reduction of the difficulty, rather the difficulty is part of the roll. I choose this mechanic to place all the dice, literally and figuratively, in the Players’ hands.
Each time you perform a task, you roll a pool or Salvo of task dice and threat dice. Your Task dice are d10s, which hit on rolls 5 – 9 (+1 Hit) and get a decisive hit on 0s (+2 Hits). Your Threat dice are d6s, which on rolls 1-3 is a miss ( -1 Hit).
- Your number of Task dice is determined by your skills and any Advantage you can gather from your tool or the situation.
- The Threat dice represent the difficulty of the task or opposition plus any appropriate Disadvantage.
As part of performing any task, you normally use a Tool. Tools provide special features that give you advantage, often ones that compensate for situational Disadvantage. While any tool may have these features, you can add mods to your Ship Systems and or commissioned Ether Tools to add appropriate features.
The Resources mechanic takes the place of bennies or inspiration in other systems. It represents connections, money, and the rerouting of power making them a set of strategic resources to manage. You have four distinct resources to boost your crewmember tasks. You can add these resources to your roll as points for Calibration or Advantage. These resources represent power from your personal Reactor, Ship Reactor, Rep, and Local Credits; each boosts a distinct set of tasks. Power from your Reactor can boost any task that uses your multitools; likewise, your Ship’s Reactor boosts your Ship tasks, while your Rep boosts your social tasks and Local Credit is used for financial tasks.
The result of your roll determines the Outcome of the task. You compare Hits to Misses; more Hits indicate a Success, while more Misses indicate a Failure. The difference indicates the degree of Success or Failure.
There are three Successful Outcomes:
- 1 or 2 is a simple Success
- 3 indicates a Complete Success
- Greater than 3 is a Critical Success
Failure is divided in the same manner:
- 0 is a Fail
- 3 is Consequences
- Any other result adds to Complications or inflicts Conditions and causes a Fail or Consequences Outcome as well
Conditions represent stress, damage, wounds, and status effects, which they inhibit your ability to perform tasks. You take conditions when you fail dangerous tasks and inflict them when you intend harm. The punishment your Ship, Crew, or Threat can take is measured by the number of Condition Slots possessed. Every Condition Slot may take a variety of Conditions based on the bearer, the task, and the features used to perform or oppose it. Each condition hinders the bearer in its own manner. Your task and the danger you confront determines the conditions taken or inflicted.
“I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world.” – Albert Einstein, Scientist
While Free Spacer enables adventure with fast and exciting encounters, I also wanted to put science in my sci-fi game. To handle science in the game I added an advanced more structured type of scene, Projects. In a Projects you and your crew work together to plan, prepare, and resolve your objective. These are situations where you will succeed at your objective with little danger, but complications may arise. Projects are scientific, social, and clever scenes in which your crew fabricates gear, investigates, or travels.
You begin these scenes with a clever, or not so clever plan. Once you know what you want to achieve, you and your crew perform a series of contributing tasks. Each Projects allows a particular number of contributing tasks. The successful results of each task is combined in a Reserve or overcomes a Milestone. Failures are combined into the Gamemaster’s Complication resource or may interrupt with dangerous encounters. You may also compensate for Failures and low results by buying a success from your Gamemaster with complication Dice.
To finish, resolve the scene by using your Reserve to obtain a complex Outcome or completing the final Milestone. The Outcome of the project depends of the type of scene. The Outcome of a fabrication project makes a device. Investigation products are information, negotiation finalises a contract, and travel moves you across the galaxy.