Free Spacer is a sandbox science fiction roleplaying game about a crew of a commissioned starship performing contracts for a Patron faction in a quadrant wide cold war. There is exploration, trading, investigation, bounty hunting, space combat, science projects, infiltration, troubleshooting, and away missions. We play to find out how the crew completes contracts. The terms they complete, choices they make, the rules they break, and the lengths they will go for their Patrons.
What do you do?
In Free Spacer, you play a crewmember on a small flexible starship. You’re commissioned to complete contracts as agents, bounty hunters, couriers, mercenaries, scouts, or technicians. Completing contracts earns you cargo. Most significantly, Complex Material and Supply, which you use to maintain and advance you and your ship.
I designed Free Spacer for science fiction roleplaying. The game emphasises science with project mechanics and skills focusing on communications, operations, and engineering. It stresses technology through a set of high-tech tools and a flexible starship. The game model’s science fiction like depicted in your favourite shows and fiction. Inspired by Cowboy Bebop, Dark Matter, Farscape, Firefly, Killjoys, Switchblade Honey, or the works of Heinlein.
True Sci-fi// Free Spacer embodies sci-fi themes. At its core, the game has a theme of freedom vs power, but it involves your sci-fi themes as a series of tracked trends based on play. Likewise, the game depicts a future far from now, rather than a retro sci-fi. It is contemporary science fiction that leverages the newest space sciences, takes into account biotechnology, and brings the internet to the rim of the quadrant.
Custom Starship// Above all, you play the crew of a starship. The ship acts a group template, you choose the flag indicating the type of contracts you take. Together you operate the starship, each taking a ship station. The ship has a configurable Layout with systems and modules divided between four cardinal sections.
Sandbox play// Space is big. A vast sandbox of unlimited freedom. Free Spacer provides a series of streamlined and efficient tools to the Gamemaster to prepare the sandbox. Game preparation is frontloaded with tools to build the locations and characters. These are not just empty places and stat blocks, rather each includes faction interest, populations, and their agenda. Prep is further narrowed by faction undertakings and contract proposals.
Cold War Phase// The Cold War phase is a faction turn, the Gamemaster simulate the undertaking of the factions in their struggle to control the sector. The phase sets up current events and enables of a contract proposal preparation. You will use this proposal to negotiate contracts during play. This provides the group with an agreed upon direction for the game and lets your Gamemaster to know what to prepare.
Contract is law// Free Spacers are contractors; they live and die by contracts. Like the law, you may break the terms of your contract, but there is a price. The crew negotiates contracts to earn Residual Value – the value of Cargo, which acts as the in-game experience points. Like XP, use special cargo to maintain or advance your crewmember and your ship.
Procedural Sector// From the Sector and the great societies at the core of civilisation down to settlements and creatures, Free Spacer has tool to procedurally generate everything. Sit down and build out your own detailed setting or just what you need. Every world, system, and factions will be your own, all while emphasising a real sci-fi galaxy.
Free Spacer uses a unique set of core mechanics designed for science fiction. The system is player-centric and streamlined. Crewmembers perform a series of tasks to pursue their intentions. All tasks use this core system.
Tasks// The player rolls all the dice. They roll a ten-sided dice pool representing their crewmember’s skills, specialties, and an expenditure of resources. They roll these task dice against a pool of six-sided dice that represents the difficulty of the task as provided by the Gamemaster.
Results// The results of a roll are calculated by comparing hits to misses; more hits indicate a success, while more misses indicate a failure. The difference indicates the degree of success or failure.
Outcomes// The Gamemaster can interpret the task Outcome from two degrees of failure or four degrees of success. The two highest degrees of success are crits, which provide players with the charge resource. Likewise, the Gamemaster gathers their complications resource from other failure dice results.
Resource Management// During play, you have a variety of resources to manage. Spending resources confers useful benefits in play. While you will likely want to save your resources for more significant tasks, do not horde resources. Ensure that you keep the resource economy moving. Spend charge to increase your chance to earn more, trade cargo to earn profit, spend Supply to power gear, and spend Complex Materials to maintain or advance.
Projects// To emphasis science fiction, the game has a set of advanced mechanics known as projects. Projects use the core mechanic, but multiple tasks work together to complete it. Projects can’t fail, but If you fail a contributing task, the project may be interrupted with dangerous encounters or you may increase the Gamemaster’s Complications resource.
The Free Spacer core book is a 6×9″ 352 page book that comes in three forms. A full colour PDF, a B&W hardcover layflat book, and a softcover layflat book. All three versions of the game contain everything you need to play and run Free Spacer. The physical book was printed by Friesens in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on 80lbs paper with 4 colour matte covers. The PDF and physical copy can be purchased through Indie Press Revolution, while the PDF is also available at DriveThruRPG and itch.io.
The Sector Archives is a greyscale 8.5×11” booklet designed to be printed on a home printer. The book contains of prepared setting and campaign materials. It is designed to replace your initial campaign prep and setting set up. The Sector Archives were a stretch goal for the Free Spacer Kickstarter. There are two versions of the Sector Archive. The first is for you as a player; it has all the setting information and player prep for you to play the game, make your ship together, and commission your crewmember. This is the version available to print on demand from DriveThruRPG; use it at the table as a player reference book. The second version is for you as the Gamemaster. On top of the player information, this version has setting secrets, information about the contract, and prep sheets for you to run the first contract. You will likely print out the prep you need from this using your home printer.
The Free Spacer Games Resources is a collection of sheets to help you play the game. These are greyscale 8.5×11” double sided sheets that help you track every elements of gameplay from ship cargo to the setting. With these sheets, players and Gamemasters have everything they need in play, you won’t even need a note book. The sheets are available on DriveThruRPG and Itch.io
Setting sheets// Present these to your players stapled together or on your Roll20 page with all the setting info you come up with together. This includes the Sector Map & Log, Faction sheets for your three Societies, the event table & timeline, and the species log.
Character sheets// The ship sheet is a double-sided sheet that you share as a group. Together your group creates a ship that acts as your group template, spaceflight tools, and home. The crew sheet is a double-sided that you use to record all your choices and track everything you need to play.
Contract// Prepare proposals and ratify it with your crew then add addendum during play. The contract sheet guides you and your players in during play.
Gamemaster Prep sheets// As the gamemaster you will need to prepare many different characters and locations. Record all your prep on these multiple sheets, so that you always have all the info you need at your finger tips.
In this time of social distancing and internet gaming. Many tabletop games are happening on virtual tables tops. Free Spacer is all set up for online play through Roll20 with custom automated character sheets.
Just choose the Free Spacer Character Sheet Template when you set up your game and add the setting sheets from the PDF to the table top. As players, your Crew sheets and Contingency type Corvette sheet are all set up and ready to go with interactive ship configuration widget and cargo totals that calculate for you. For the Gamemaster, all your prep sheets are set up to help you run the game as smoothly as you do in your home game
Salvo Mode// Both the Crew sheet and Contingency type Corvette sheet include Salvo Mode an interactive dice roller that walk you through each roll tracking the Charge and Supply that you spend with each salvo.
After many years of development as a side project, the Free Spacer Kickstarter launched on August 14, 2018. The campaign was a slow burn, but after an extensive social media marketing effort the project raised the funding goal on September 16. In the next 48 hours, enthusiastic backers unlocked 5 stretch goals before the project funded on September 18, 2018. In the next 44 weeks, by July 26 2019, the project was completed:
- I finished writing four sector archives and supervised the production of three more.
- I finalised the core book’s text with Karen Twelves, my editor.
- Revised the Sector Achieves with my supplementary editor, Mathew Seagle.
- Worked with my Art Director to oversee the completion of core book’s art.
- Managed the project’s BackerKit.
- Designed the covers of both books.
- Completed layout of both books in InDesign.
- Printed the core book through Friesen’s in Winnipeg.
- Ran fulfillment through IPR in the US and Kixto in the UK.
- Shipped the last books to Canadians myself.