Fly Casual With These Space Smuggler RPGs

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Based on the trailers, the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story looks like it’s going to take us all on a trip through the grey areas of a galaxy far, far away. We’ll be skulking around in the dive bars and dark corners where shady deals get made instead of big battles for control of the galaxy. The adventures of a ship full of sketchy characters have been a popular set up for RPG campaigns ever since Harrison Ford made Han Solo an iconic character in our pop culture.

There are plenty of excellent ways to play roleplaying in the Star Wars universe, but other tabletop games offer some excellent takes on the drama of keeping a ship spaceworthy, hauling cargo that may or not be 100% legal, and outrunning customs officials by the skin of their teeth.



The adventures of the crew of the Serenity spawned a pair of licensed RPGs. The first was based on the film and the most recent based on the TV series.  Firefly allows tables to mix and match original crew members and new creations equally, while also providing several examples of the game based on elements of the show. Ever wanted to know how Mal won his duel with Atherton Wing? His player saved up a ton of Plot Points to blow them all on one big roll at the end to save the day.



Rumors have flown for years that Joss Whedon’s Firefly was based on a Traveller game he ran (or played?) during his teenage years. This game was released in 1977 in a boxed set featuring three little black books that are almost as ubiquitous in many old school gamer’s libraries as a classic version of D&D. Traveller put players as the small crew of a space freighter doing their best to keep the ship’s mortgage paid while dodging pirates and outsmarting port officials looking for a bribe. the most infamous part of the RPG was the character creation mini game. Characters ran through lifepath options which gave them more skills at the risk of dying before the character ever saw play! There are two “current” rulebooks available; T5 from original creator Marc Miller which pulls rules from many previous editions into one massive tome, and  Mongoose Traveller, Second Edition, which updates the most recent game line with new options.



Disney double dipped into the space scoundrel genre when it released Guardians of the Galaxy. Our favorite RPG that mimics that style of smuggling game is  Bulldogs! The players are a crew of strange aliens that work for a massive freight corporation moving the cargo nobody else will take. These adventures are a mix of hilarity and action and the alien species map fairly well to the characters aboard the Milano. The strange part? The game predates the movie by several years!

Scum & Villainy


It was only a matter of time before someone adapted the heist game  Blades in the Dark from the rogues of the dark industrial fantasy of Doskvol to the dingy world of space smuggling. The shocking twist was that Evil Hat Productions is releasing  Scum and Villainy alongside the original game as the first Forged in the Dark product. The Forged line will feature the best products evolved from the Blades rules, and this one offers not just many ways to play but also a character sheet for the most important character in any smuggler game; the ship.

What roleplaying games set in space do you play? Tell us about them in the comments!

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Image Credits: Fox, Mongoose Publishing, Margaret Weis Productions, Galileo Games, Evil Hat Productions

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly all the way down to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional  Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is  here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

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