“Free Spacer, you’ve been commissioned to operate this Contingency type Corvette class starship in service to our Patron. 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 a flexible crew kit 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.
“Your commission, it makes you something, but if you cross us, we’ll take that away and you’ll be on the drift again.” – Mama Nix, Patron Commissionaire
In Free Spacer, character creation is call commissioning. Commissioning represents your Patron hiring you on and providing you a ship, gear, and putting you on retainer. Commissioning is a step-by-step process. You choose aspects representing your ship or crewmember, which corresponds to packages of skills, specialties, and tools. While specking out your contingency type corvette, your Ship commission also acts as a group template to bring your crew together. Your ship Flag determines the type of game you will play and the contracts they complete, while you choose sides by creating a Patron Faction. Your crew commission defines your crewmember. You choose your responsibilities and expertise via stations in two departments, create your old wartime faction, and your species. Commissioning sets up your game the way you want to play it.
“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 hundreds of years in the future after the Exploration Wars. Before the wars, there was Old Gold, at the core of the quadrant than isolated prefold societies independently discovered spacetime fold technology.
Their exploration quickly turned to war, but who they are and what happened is up to you. The wars raged for years. Nations fell and societies fractured. New tactics adopted and old revived. The commissioning of autonomous Free Spacers became a common practice, to fight a war with limited communications.
The Cardinal powers from the neighbouring quadrant ended the wars with the Cardinal Compact, which granting those states that stood down access to anagathic therapy. Anagathics grants limited immortality and none could resist for long.
Now that the Exploration Wars are over, the Orion Quadrant is balkanised. Control of Orion is split between a weak cardinal society, several powerful provinces, and a multitude of backwater rim states. Likewise, sapient species have been scattered amongst these new sates, creating new societies with histories built on more than genetics.
While the wars are over and societies rebuild in this time of a fragile new peace, a new cold war ranges across the quadrant with the factions within each society still fighting their own battles. Below the notice of the Cardinal Congress, factions plot the downfall of old enemies and compete to control their societies. As Free Spacers, you and your ship are the perfect weapons for this new cold war. Your Patron still has a use for you.
Science & Technology
“In the Information Age, the first step to sanity is FILTERING. Filter the information: extract for knowledge.” – Marc Stiegler, Author
The science is more important to daily life now, than 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 Zero-point 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 adaptation for space travel and alien worlds, biotech continues to transform life with Augmentation. Your Free Spacer is equipped with three biotech tools:
Augmentation: Augmentation is bypasses many of the problems of direct genetic engineering by implanting artificial organs and symbiotic biosynthetics, which altar and regulate genetic expression. Augmentation traits provide enhanced abilities, such as the rebreather, boosted resilience, or integrated weapons. Biotechnicians often refer to natural abilities a species innate augmentation.
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. A rebirth cocoon forms around you, saving you from death.
Biochem Kit: The Biochem Kit is the culmination of medical biotech. A multipart kit including an implant, sample extractor, med-tool, and the incubator. All Free Spacers are equipped with these as part of their Crew Kit.
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. The science of spacetime displacement solves this problem by manipulating gravity using dark matter-energy to conflate spacetime. Zero-point energy is the background spacetime energy used for gravitronic circuits, while dark matter-energy is used to manipulate gravity and Tachyons are used for communications. Gravitronic circuits draws zero-point energy from spacetime, which it may convert to dark matter-energy or tachyons. Zero tech uses zero-point energy to inscribe gravitronics or software directly into spacetime. While zero tech devices are essentially micro-spacetime circuits, they require a physical component or anchor. The anchor keeps the zero-point energy they are composed of from dissipating back into the fabric of spacetime. Most devices are hybrids, which use zero tech for only specific functions, such as grav manipulation, tractor pulses, shields, and disrupter blasts. Hybrids are more efficient and effective for their specialised function. Full gravitronic 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 fold drive. The fold drive is the most prominent full zero tech system, which enables faster-than-light travel. Your free spacer corvette is far more flexible with a complete set of full zero tech ship systems, including a reactor, sensors, shields, grav drive, and pulse array.
Away Systems: While most of the populous uses archaic or hybrid tools, you use set of configurable away systems. Away Systems are powered by zero-point energy from your portable reactor. You carry four of these systems: your link, scanner, multitool, and shield.
Dataflow: For most of the populous daily interaction with gravitronics 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.
Species & Societies
“To be a genius is to be misunderstood, but to be misunderstood is not to be a genius.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Since the wars, Orion societies had splintered and merged to create a complex balkanised Quadrant loosely divided between a weak Cardinal society and powerful provinces. As part of preparing your game, you and your group decide the events of the war. You decide what incited the war, who Old Gold was, and outcome of the conflicts. Each society you create is a vast multisector nation occupied Sophonts from multiple species, and composed of many factions. You determine which is the Cardinal Society and the roles of the others. You decide the wartime role, dominion, demographics, and ambition of each society. Each of your societies fought on one side or the other of the Exploration wars and still carry many of the old loyalties and animosities.
The Milky way galaxy is occupied by many distinct sapient species. In the Orion quadrant, the Exploration wars scattered species from their native societies into many others. In the post war period, every society is composed of more then one sapient species. You and your group create several species for your setting, that are usually the prevalent species of the Orion quadrant. Each species biological features and a selection of innate augmentation that makes them unique.
Sector & Factions
“Every corner of the galaxy is filled factions fighting for power and as space is all curves, there are a lot of corners” – Vladimir Gregory, Explorer
While your quadrant setting is the backdrop for your adventures, you create a unique Sector for your Campaign. Your Sector is an spacetime cone, composed of many systems within a fold range. All the events and contracts of your campaign happen in this fold neighbourhood.
You will also create factions, whose jockeying for power form the machinations behind the scenes in the cold war. You and your group will define many of these factions during ship and crew commissioning. The first faction you make is your Patron Faction, followed your crew’s wartime factions. Your Gamemaster will also prepare factions significant to each contact. Your crew takes contacts from these factions to promote their agendas and face the assets of other factions. Between contracts, the results of your actions and inactions in the events of your contracts alter the Sector around you. While you are the centre of your story, the sector turns on agenda of the competing factions in your Sector.
“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 Player’s’ 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 are any device that enables your ability to perform tasks. Tools provide you functions, abilities you do not have naturally. On top of the tool’s function, your ship and crew tools have features. Features boost your ability to perform your tasks by expending a Charge from your Reactor. Your associations, augmentations, away systems, and ship systems have powerful features. Likewise, other tools have Fittings, which boost your tasks, but require the you to spend Supply, Assets, or purchased good such as ammo. You Modules, EVA suit, and archaic devices have useful fittings. When activated, an Advantage Feature or Fitting may provide more dice, while a Damage Feature or fitting add damage for weapon attacks.
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 and causes a Fail or Consequences Outcome as well
Conditions represent stress, destruction, and wounds, which 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. The task inflicts an amount of damage based on your Outcome and the weapon, while each Condition Slot protects from a particular amount of damage. Damaging tasks fill at least one condition slot, but if enough damage is inflicted, it will overflow to others. Each condition hinders the bearer in its own manner; the more damage the slot protects against, the greater the hindrance.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” – Michelangelo, Artist
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 Project, you and your crew work together to plan, prepare, and resolve your objective. These are situations where you will succeed at your objective, but complications and dangers may arise. Projects are scientific, social, and clever scenes in which your crew alters their environment, travels exploring the environment, negotiates a contract, investigates a scene, or modifies technology.
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 coordinated tasks; some of these tasks are required by the project, while others are support linking the Contributing tasks together. Each Projects requires a particular number of Contributing tasks.
Each Contributing task either adds points to a reserve or completes a milestone. Negotiation and salvage projects gather Reserve with their successes. The successful results of each task are added together into a Reserve, which is spent on a complex Outcome. Travel, investigation, and fabrication step forward a Milestone for each contributing task. Once all tasks are complete, you achieve your final project Outcome.
When your Contributing task fail, they may increase the Gamemaster’s Complication resource or interrupt the project with dangerous encounters. You may also compensate for Failures and low results by buying a success from your Gamemaster with complication Dice.