[Top 10] Best Sci-Fi Tabletop RPGs (Ranked Fun To Most Fun)

Science Fiction RPG Characters


10) Scum and Villainy

Evil Hat Productions Logo

Starting off, we have a wonderful RPG with a slightly smaller scope, called Scum and Villainy. Scum and Villainy is produced by Evil Hat Productions. The main premise of this RPG is that the players all make up a ragtag crew on a vessel that is doing whatever is necessary to make ends meet. Are you a smuggler carrying cargo from system to system or a bounty hunter chasing down targets across the galaxy? Whatever your profession, it probably isn’t considered wholly legal, and that is aye okay. 

Scum and Villainy’s ruleset is modeled after its precursor game, Blades in the dark. Almost all rolls are based on a D6 system, so players won’t need a complete set of RPG dice (a D20, 2 D10s, a D8, a D6, and a D4) to enjoy Scum and Villainy. Scum and Villainy’s mechanics are solid, and its narrative hooks provide great options for all kinds of stories. 

The downside of Scum and Villainy is that, since its created by a relatively small team, there are no additional materials for it that are published by Evil Hat Productions. It's a great game to start with if you’re looking for some fun Science fiction action. The Scum and Villainy book is available to purchase in both physical and PDF form, with the bundle costing $35 and the PDF-only option costing $20.

https://evilhat.com/product/scum-and-villainy/

 

9) Savage Worlds

Pinnacle Entertainment Group Logo

Next up, we have an RPG called Savage Worlds, which isn’t just designed just for science fiction gameplay but can do so very well., Savage Worlds is published by Pinnacle entertainment, and has the design philosophy that RPG games should be less work and more fun! The Savage Worlds ruleset is easy to read and digest, allowing both players and GMs alike to get into the action faster. Whether your adventure is fantastical, modern-day, in the near future, or beyond, Savage Worlds has what you need to get started and have an absolute blast. 

Savage Worlds adopts the traditional RPG Dice system (a D20, 2 D10s, a D8, a D6, and a D4), but also uses a deck of cards to determine initiative and enhance certain rolls and mechanics. The thing that makes “Hero” moments stand out is the use of the game's ”Bennie” system. Every player starts each session with a set number of bennies that can be cashed in to reroll checks. GMs can award additional bennies when players solve problems in out-of-the-box ways, or if they do something that is simply just too cool not to reward.

The Savage Worlds Adventure Edition core rules are available on Pinnacle Entertainment’s website for $39.99 for the physical hardback, or $9.99 for the digital PDF. There are also numerous add-ons, such as alternate settings or unique rulesets for different types of campaigns that are available for purchase. These have a vast range of prices due to bundles, and some products that are not currently released have large, Kickstarter-Esque, bundles backing them up.

https://peginc.com/savage-settings/savage-worlds/

 

8) Those Dark Places

Osprey Publishing Logo

If you’re looking for a great Sci-fi Horror RPG game, look no further than Those Dark Places from Osprey Publishing. This shorter rulebook has a very unique design philosophy, where the rulebook is written as if the reader is putting a crew through a simulation (which technically they are!) The aesthetic of the game is dark, and it shines in its ability to emulate the classic horror elements of science fiction. Dark corridors, flashing lights, narrow spaces, and of course, space monsters are all present. 

That being said, the game markets itself as a “rules-light” game, which depending on your viewpoint could be either a feature or a bug. GMs with high levels of imagination who prefer creative freedom will like how open-ended the rules and setting are. GMs who prefer more structure may find the lack of rules to simply not be enough to hook players on their own. Overall the game is set up fantastically, but its size should be considered when making efforts to begin playing. 

Those Dark Places is available on Osprey Publishing’s website in both hardback and digital form. The hardback edition costs $25 and the PDF version costs $17.50

https://ospreypublishing.com/those-dark-places

 

7) Dune: Adventures in the Imperium

Modiphius Entertainment Logo

We’ll start the section of officially licensed games with Dune: Adventures in the Imperium. The main premise of this RPG is to put the players into the incredibly rich and detailed worlds of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune novel series. Given the nature of the source material, Dune Adventures in the Imperium stands out as an RPG system designed with political intrigue and espionage at the forefront. Whether you want to establish your own political house or use spymaster techniques to control the affairs of other reputable houses, Dune has the perfect system for you. 

Dune uses an interesting dice mechanic known as the 2d20 system. Rather than rolling one die and stacking any bonuses to it, and hoping for the lucrative natural 20 to ensure success on the check, Dune’s systems favor rolling low. Essentially, any task that you would need to roll for has a target number, which your skills, traits, or attributes affect. If you roll under the target number, you gain what's called a “Success” and every action requires a certain number of successes to complete the action. It's an interesting twist on the normal D20 mechanic that will absolutely SPICE (wink wink) up scenarios in the game.

The Dune: Adventures in the Imperium Core Rulebook is available for purchase on Modiphius Entertainment’s website for $54.78 in hardback, or 32.25 for PDF. A bundle containing both hardcopy and PDF is available for $80.63. There are also dozens of additional add-on books and accessories, all at varying prices. 

https://www.modiphius.net/en-us/pages/discover-dune-roleplaying-game

 

6)  Star Trek Adventures

Modiphius Entertainment Logo

Keeping along with Modiphius entertainment published games, we have Star Trek Adventures. This game is, probably exactly what you expect it to be, a licensed Star Trek RPG that allows you to helm your ship and to boldly go where no man has gone before. Take on the role of either the captain or various selection of crewmembers to keep your Starfleet vessel running in tip-top shape. Explore strange new worlds, seek out intelligent life, and contend with vile alien antagonists. If you’re a fan of any generation of Star Trek, this could be the RPG for you. 

Like Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, Star Trek Adventures utilizes the same 2D20 system that is present in all Modiphius entertainment titles. 

The Star Trek Adventures Core Rulebook and PDF Bundle are available for purchase on Modiphius Entertainment’s website for $84.21. A litany of bundles designed to help tailor your Star Trek experience to your favorite eras is also available for varying prices. 

https://www.modiphius.net/en-us/pages/star-trek-adventures

 

5) Star Wars RPGs (Age of Rebellion, Edge of the Empire, Force of Destiny)

Edge Studio Logo

Alright, so it wouldn’t be fair to talk about how great a Star Trek RPG is without also mentioning the Star Wars RPG. Here’s the catch though, Star Wars technically has three RPGs that all make use of the same core systems. In short, each game is tailored to a specific Star Wars experience that you are going for. If you want to emulate being a member of the Rebellion who fights against the overwhelming odds of the Empire, then Age of Rebellion will likely be your preferred system. If you want to play as a bounty hunter and live out your inner Mandalorian dream, then Edge of the Empire is the game for you. And finally, if you wish to be a Jedi who hones the power of the force to your will, then Forces of Destiny is where you should spend your time. 

All of these games can be mixed together pretty seamlessly since they share the same core mechanics, but it can be somewhat frustrating to know that the complete Star Wars package is not available in one consolidated rulebook. It also doesn’t help that Fantasy Flight, the original publisher of these Star Wars RPGs, is no longer printing copies since the rights have transitioned to Edge Studios. Edge studios have committed to reprinting the original fantasy flight Core Rulebooks, but no official information about the new edition has been released at the time of writing this article.

Each Core Rulebook is available for $59.95 on the Edge Studios Webpage, with additional material for each game available for purchase as well.

https://edge-studio.net/categories-games/starwarsrpg/

 

4) Shadowrun

Catalyst Game Labs Logo

Shadowrun melds a wide variety of genres together to make a setting that is as intriguing as it is unique. Unlike most of the other games on this list, Shadowrun is set on Earth, but in a cyberpunk future where the fantastical and technological have both risen to dominance. Classic staples of fantasy, such as elves, orcs, dwarves, and dragons are all present, just under the guise of corporate tycoons and shady dealings. Shadowrun is a great option for players that are looking for a very engaging yet stylized option. It’s not quite as open or freeform as some other games on this list, but the rules and mechanics allow for engaging gameplay in a variety of genres. 

Shadowrun uses the 6-sided die system for rolling, where the number of dice being rolled is what changes depending on the circumstance. What that in mind, the traditional 7-dice set that is used in many RPGs will not be necessary to play Shadowrun. Players should instead have a selection of 6-sided die on hand at the table. 

The Shadowrun 6th World Core rulebook is available on the Catalyst Labs website in hardcover for $49.99. Purchasing the physical book on the website also includes the PDF. Other supplemental Shadowrun materials are also available and range in price from $19.99 - $45.00. 

https://store.catalystgamelabs.com/products/shadowrun-sixth-world-core-rulebook

 

3) Cyberpunk Red

R. Talsorian Games Logo

Cyberpunk Red is the premiere game if you’re looking for classic cyberpunk action.  Groundbreaking technology, megacorporations, body augmentations, and futuristic weapons are all on display in Cyperpunk Red. The setting is one of the greatest elements within the game, as the absurdity of the technology and the setting feed into the combat to provide players with amazing levels of freedom.  

All of the mechanics in Cyperpunk red are solid. Cyberpunk uses the traditional set of dice (a D20, 2 D10s, a D8, a D6, and a D4) and has subsystems that allow players to hack, steal, lie, and fight their way through any combat that they could want.

The Cyberpunk Red Core Rulebook is available on the R. Talsorian website for $60.00 with supplemental material costing between $20.00 and $30.00.  

https://talsorianstore.com/collections/cyberpunk

 

2) Traveller

Traveller is one of the longest-standing science fiction RPGs and has everything that you would need to have a traditional science fiction adventure. It still has some fantastical elements, but none that are quite as strong as something like Shadowrun. The bulk of the game consists of supplying the players with the freedom to pursue any kind of science fiction niche that they wished. Do you want to be a spacefaring scoundrel in charge of a ship, an intrepid explorer in search of new worlds, or simply just a trade ship looking for adventure across long voyages?, If so, Traveller has everything that you would need.

One of the things that make Traveller stand out in a sea of other RPGs is its amazing character creation system. The system includes the expected basics, such as skills and abilities, but it also generates backstories for your characters along with these stats. Here's the really funny thing, the system allows for characters to die even before getting to a play session based on the decisions made during character creation. It's like the old adage says, “You haven’t lived until you’ve died at character creation.” 

The Traveller Core Rulebook is available to purchase on the Mongoose Publishing website and costs $53.51 in American currency. PDF is included with purchase, and a slew of additional material is available, with more constantly being produced. 

https://www.mongoosepublishing.com/

 

1) Starfinder 

Paizo Logo 

Last but not least, is Starfinder from Paizo Publishing LLC. Starfinder is a great option if you’re looking to break into science fiction tabletop games if most of your experience has been with fantasy games such as DnD or Pathfinder. 

What makes Starfinder special is its emphasis on having science and magic present as core elements of the setting and gameplay. Players have the option to dive into the harder sci-fi elements and create strange alien characters that rely on technology and cunning, make tried and true fantasy characters such as Elvish wizards, or ride the line between technology and magic and see how the two can improve each other. It’s just like any fantasy campaign you’ve ever played, only now your wizards can have pistols that turn people into goo and your fighters can live out the fantasy of being a one-person army like the Mandalorian or Master Chief. 

The most jarring (but also the most fun, I promise) gameplay mechanics come within Starfinder’s starship combat. Starships can range from the smallest of fighters to massive ships the size of cities. Each PC can be built to suit a particular role on board a ship, with certain classes and archetypes having distinct advantages in Starship Combat encounters. The Starfidner Core rulebook also includes in-depth rules for creating your starship and provides example statblocks for players that want to hop right into the action. 

The Starfinder Core Rulebook is currently listed at $59.99 for the hardback copy or $9.99 for the digital PDF copy. Starfinder also has a large selection of additional materials. Multiple 3-part, 6-part, and standalone adventures are available in paperback and digital options, and new ones that release each month. New rulebooks that expand the setting, gear, playable races, monsters, and class options also come out multiple times a year, usually costing $39.99 for the hardcopy and $9.99 for digital PDFs. 
https://paizo.com/starfinder

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Hailing from the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, Zach loves all things science fiction and fantasy, but could never decide on which is better.
Gamer Since: 2008
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Destiny 2
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Klaus Teufel's picture

Klaus Teufel 1 month 1 week ago

No Stars Without Number. No ALIEN. No Coriolis. No Expanse. No Diaspora. No Transhuman Space. No credibility.

SirFrog's picture

SirFrog 1 month 2 weeks ago

I firmly disagree with your rankings Shadowrun and Cyberpunk Red are ranked way too high, Starfinder is way too complex and tied to fantasy to be #1, and Modiphus games don’t belong on any list of good RPGs 1. Stars Without Number (or any B/X based sci-fi game) 2. Traveller (Cepheus) 3. Savage Worlds 4. Scum and Villiany 5. Star Wars d6 6. Star Wars SAGA 7. Star Wars (Genesys) 8. Esper Genesis (5E) 9. Starfinder 10. Cyberpunk Red … 732. GURPS

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