Elite: The Role Playing Game

A long time ago, in a galaxy… wait, no.
Take my love, take my land, take me… wait, no.
It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind… wait, no. 

There’s a certain kind of science fiction that speaks to me. It’s not fast paced Space Opera, though it can be. It’s not gritty or realistic SF, though it can be. And it’s not slow burn storytelling with payoffs that take time to realize, though it can be.

There are great SF stories out there that I rarely think twice about after I’m done reading or watching it because I don’t really imagine myself there afterwards.  Sure it can have a powerful message, or insightful allegory to the human condition, but at the end of the day it’s that sense of having actually visited an actual place and wanting to return that makes me think about it long after it’s done.

Of course, the characters play a huge part in this as well, but just roll with me on this. We’re talking about the kind of worlds you daydream about running around in while slogging away at your 9 to 5 job.

Star Wars is one such world, Firefly is another, and so is Babylon 5. In some ways similar, and in others light years apart.

Now, if you’re a roleplayer, and you those names make your eyes light up, I’d like you to have a look at this:

I’ve talked about Elite before.  Elite began as the original “sandbox” game back in 1984. The kind of game where it drops you in the middle of the galaxy with a ship and a few credits and says “have fun!” There’s no high score to think about, just getting by, improving your ship, and staying alive.

Sound familiar?  Back in the 80s that game was my way of living out my Han Solo daydreams. Today it might be Malcolm Reynolds, or Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, but the spirit is the same.

Since then it’s gone through a few iterations (such as Frontier and First Encounter) and others have tried to copy the magic with varying degrees of success, (such as Privateer, Freelancer, and the X-series out of Germany)

But the original Elite did something no one else did, something that cemented it in the minds of impressionable kids.

It came with a book.

A novella, The Dark Wheel, by Robert Holdstock.  And something like that helped make an already immersive game into a living universe.

The manual helped with that too.  I remember pouring over it, looking at the tidbits of information about various other ships (even though I couldn’t fly them back then, you’re stuck with a Cobra MKIII in the first game), which was filled with information about their production history and use.

This was an unheard of level of worldbuilding to give a video game back then. Remember, this is the age of Pac Man, where game developers believed all players wanted were extra lives and ten-minute bursts of gameplay.

I mention all this because while the game franchise is still alive and well today as Elite: Dangerous, I think I’ve made my case that there is more to it than just the game itself.  Over the years it’s really built upon its own history, and done some serious worldbuilding of its own.

Elite is one of those worlds I like to live in, just as much as Star Wars, Firefly or Babylon 5.

So when I heard about this RPG Kickstarter, I was intrigued.  What was it going to offer?  Just ship to ship combat in tabletop rules, or more?

As it turns out, a whole lot more.

The ED:RPG’s system reminds me somewhat of the rulesets used by games such as MekTon Zeta and CyberPunk 2020–based on a d10 plus modifiers, beating a target threshold. It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t depth. Much like the games I mentioned, the idea is to keep the pace going and not get bogged down in mechanics so the focus can be on storytelling and action.

If you’re curious about the mechanics you can download a demo adventure of the game from their main website: https://www.edrpg.co.uk/

The ED:RPG is an ambitious project, and it’s already funded, but if you’re a roleplayer and like science fiction worlds where you can blaze your own trail, then you owe it to yourself to give the ED:RPG Kickstarter a looksee.


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