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10 Finest Science Fiction TTRPGs (That Aren’t D&D)

Dungeons and Dragons has skyrocketed in popularity in the last five or so years, introducing a host of new players to the joy of tabletop role-playing games. After playing D&D for a while, some players may notice that it doesn’t quite provide them with enough material to create interesting games outside the fantasy genre.

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One notable area D&D is lacking in is science fiction, as even the most sci-fi-like settings of Eberron and Spelljammer are still firmly rooted in fantasy. Luckily for players looking for a fun futuristic or space-faring adventure, plenty of other TTRPGs focus specifically on the genre and do a much better job than D&D.

10/10 Only War Is An Appropriately Grim Meat Grinder

Cadian Soldiers attack in Only War TTRPG.

Warhammer 40,000 has seen a similar spike in popularity to D&D, and while there are a few TTRPGs set in the 40K universe, Only War from Fantasy Flight Games really stands out. The game puts players into the role of Astra Militarum soldiers. Unlike the genetically enhanced Space Marines, the poster children of 40K, the characters in Only War are mostly normal humans going up against impossible odds.

Players looking for a serious change of pace from Dungeons and Dragons will find it in Only War. Instead of being epic heroes with supernatural powers, players will constantly be in danger of dying in the trenches of some far-off alien planet. This might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but it perfectly captures 40K’s tone and will give D&D players a fresh kind of experience.

9/10 Dune: Adventures In The Imperium Rewards Hardcore Role-Players

Dune Adventures in the Imperium cover art.

For anyone unfamiliar with Frank Herbert’s Dune series, it’s a lot like Game of Thrones in space. There is a large focus on themes like politics and religion, and people must be very careful about who they trust. This is all translated very nicely in Dune: Adventures in the Imperium from Modiphus Entertainment.

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Dune: Adventure in the Imperium includes a ton of lore in its RPG material to help players immerse themselves in the complex world of the books. Players can carry out stealthy spy missions or engage in large-scale combat. Similar to the books, players must think about what they do and say to stay safe.

8/10 Cyberpunk Red Has Both Style & Substance

A crowded Night City street from Cyberpunk Red promotional art.

Forget the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077; Night City is alive and well in Cyberpunk Red. This updated version of the classic Cyberpunk 2020 takes place in a new era, but with similar themes of shallow culture and corporate greed to the original.

Cyberpunk is a great game for players who want to play in a more grounded and speculative future as opposed to something more fantastical like Mass Effect. Characters in Night City emphasize looking cool and making a name for themselves, so players who love playing big personalities will love this game.

7/10 Shadowrun Mixes Science Fiction & Fantasy

A crowded arena watches a band perform in Shadowrun.

Shadowrun is great for D&D players who may not be ready to fully give up on playing in a fantasy setting. Shadowrun provides a very nice mix of both sci-fi and fantasy elements, creating a unique game world.

Shadowrun is essentially Cyberpunk, but set in a world populated by fantasy races like elves, dwarves, and orcs. It does have a pretty complex game system, so newer players may have a bit of a hard time with Shadowrun. However, for players who are up for the challenge, it is a very fun game in a really cool setting.

6/10 Lasers And Feelings Is The Perfect Starter RPG

Art of a spaceship from Lasers and Feelings.

Players looking to get into TTRPGs will love the simplicity of Lasers and Feelings. The game features one of the simplest character-creation methods in any RPG, allowing players to get right to the action and see if this type of game is right for them.

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The game is essentially a classic Star Trek setup where each player has a designated role on a starship. Players will decide to solve problems using Logic (Lasers) or empathy (Feeling). Players will have a ton of fun traveling through space and debating the best way to ensure the safety of friendly planets. With the game’s simplicity, it can also easily be played by D&D groups who just want to mix things up for a session or two.

Divers explore under water in Blue Contact.

Blue Planet: Recontact has one of the more interesting settings, not just in TTRPGs, but in science fiction in general. It takes place in the far future after Earth has been made largely uninhabitable on a colony planet known as Poseidon 2199.

Poseiden 2199 is essentially an ocean planet, meaning that Blue Planet: Recontact deals with a lot of interesting underwater adventures. There are also strong themes of environmentalism and the dangerous side of technological progress that can give players and GMs a lot to work with for their collaborative storytelling.

4/10 Scum And Villainy Is A Science Fantasy Dream Come True

Spaceships fly through rings in Scum and Villainy.

There are a couple of distinct camps of science fiction media. For fans of lighter science fiction and science fantasy, Scum and Villainy offers the perfect setting. While the game has its own unique history, it takes clear inspiration from popular media like Star Wars and Firefly, making the world feel familiar to new players.

Scum and Villainy allows players to experience a lot of different science fiction staples, like smuggling goods between worlds or pulling off a high-concept heist. There is also a fun flashback mechanic that allows players to pause the current action of the game and describe something their characters had set up in preparation for that moment. This gives the game a cinematic and stylized feel that other RPGs might not have.

3/10 Numenera Is An Interesting Narrative Experience

Space spiders weave a web in Numenera.

The world of Numenera is one that players will love to explore. The game takes place in what is known as the “Ninth World,” a place where eight other civilizations have previously existed. The former civilizations were either destroyed or advanced beyond the world, and players are left to explore the ruins of what is left behind.

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Numenera offers a great setting for storytelling, as there are plenty of mysteries to be uncovered. It’s also a relatively simple game to start playing, making it friendly for newer players. In fact, the character sheet is essentially just a mad lib, telling players to fill out their names and a short description of what their character does.

2/10 Star Wars: Edge of The Empire Shows Players A Grittier Side Of The Galaxy

An angry alien from Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.

There are a lot of Star Wars TTRPGs to choose from, as well as supplemental Dungeons and Dragons material set in the Star Wars universe. What makes Edge of the Empire stand out is its focus on the more interesting side of Star Wars.

Edge of the Empire focuses more on the fringes of society in Star Wars, like smugglers and bounty hunters. Players can have some minor Force powers, but there won’t be a big fight over who gets to be a Jedi and wave their lightsaber around. By focusing on the outskirts of society, Edge of the Empire also allows for some more complex storytelling than the typical good vs. evil fare fans have come to expect from most Star Wars media.

1/10 Starfinder Is The D&D Of Science Fiction

An adventurer dual-wielding pistols in Starfinder.

A lot of science fiction RPGs are slightly more focused, but Starfinder shines due to its expansive options. In the same way that Dungeons and Dragons can safely support anything fantasy-related, Starfinder can be used to create any type of sci-fi tale GMs can think up.

Starfinder offers a robust system and plenty of options to create whatever kind of game players want, whether GMs want to run a horror campaign set on a creepy abandoned space-station like Dead Space or something more like Star Wars. The game also offers suggestions for adventure hooks for newer GMs if they want help creating one.

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