RPG Game Review: Diaspora

Review of the Table Top Role Playing Game Diaspora, published by VSCA Publishing.

Finding a game with its roots in hard science fiction is a little like trying to bridle a unicorn.  You can read all the early Heinlein and Clark you want and geek out on that retro technical von Braun space stuff as hard as you like, but at the end of the day, if you game in space, your ship is gonna be laid out like Serenity, you’re probably going to get around using a space drive like on the Enterprise, and if you wanna shoot it out with another ship you’re probably going to launch fighters and then close to point-blank range and fire broadsides like in Star Wars.

Yeah, it all looks very pretty and fantastic—and doesn’t look the least bit like what would really happen.

So if you want to game “hard sci fi” what are you to do?  You get Diaspora.

Diaspora is a very different sort of beast than your average space opera RPG.  For one, you know right up front that the authors have spent a lot of time at the gaming table, mostly playing Traveler, and they have a great grasp of the genre.  Two, they know what they like about gaming in a universe where “reality” is, for the most part, king.  And third, they knew enough about systems to take a very good one that will get the players into the game in ways they never thought possible.

Diaspora uses the Fate system.  Fate is used by Spirit of the Century as well and the recent The Dresden Files game.  Fate is a unique 4dF system, using four “Fudge” dice (d6 in nature), with each die has a value of 2 “+”s, 2 “-“s and 2 blanks, creating values from +4 to -4.  (If you do not have these dice 1-2 can be used for “+”, 3-4 for blank and 5-6 for “-“.  One can also buy a computer dice roller that handles Fudge, like PrecisRoller.  There is also iFudge, which is free and has its own die roller.  Better yet, go to www.fudgery.net and use their interactive dice roller.)  Fate uses a difficulty “Ladder” to show the complexity of a task, and this ranges from a +8 for Legendary to -2 for Terrible.  One merely rolls the dice, adds their skill and checks the result again the ladder (or an opposing roll) to see the outcome.

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  1. Posted December 16, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Thank you for your kind words about my Project Rho site. I recently discovered Diaspora and concluded that it was not just an impressive game, but was also the most scientifically accurate RPG I have ever encountered.

    After contacting the author I did find out that they had done research on the Project Rho site while creating Diaspora. Which means my cunning plan to help out RPG and SF authors is working.

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