Want to get started in a sci-fi rpg, but don’t know where to gather inspiration from? There are plenty of options, like Star Wars and Star Trek, but if you have exhausted these avenues, what other works are there? What if you don’t want to run a space opera?
Other options may seem elusive, but don’t fear – your inspiration report is here. Here are some movies and books for your consideration whenever you are looking for some sci-fi inspiration.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Philip K. Dick
The sci-fi classic, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the inspiration of numerous movies and spin-offs all around the world. The most famous of these is Blade Runner, but also includes Ex Machina, Ghost in the Shell, and Altered Carbon.
Do Android Dream is a pulp detective novel set in 1992 (or 2021, depending on the version) after nuclear war has decimated Earth. With the rich fleeing to Mars, the remaining citizens of Earth are fighting to survive on their own. Of those citizens, bounty hunter Rick Deckard is responsible for ‘retiring’ androids, known as ‘andys’. These androids have been enslaved on Mars, and are now trying to escape from servitude. The novel follows Deckard as he realizes that there may be something more to humanity than just being human.
Do Androids Dream really emphasizes the morality in sci-fi, which is a strong place to lean into when running a game. Sci-fi is a genre that was established to make commentary on contemporary life, so feel free to add social commentary into your game, or challenging perspectives – as long as your players are on board, that is.
Neuromancer: William Gibson
Considered the origins of the Cyberpunk genre, Neuromancer is a great inspiration for any Cyberpunk RED or Shadowrun games your thinking of jump-starting.
The story follows a former hacker named Case. His greatest days are behind him after he stole from his employers, leaving him unable to access the online world of the Sprawl. Now, he lives in Night City (That’s right, the Night City) trying to find away to survive. When he’s approached by a mysterious woman, things begin to change for Case as he is thrown into thick of the underworld once again.
The best part about Neuromancer is it’s tone and atmospheric nature. From the first step of the story, you are thrown into a world alien but familiar. The reader feels like anything could happen in this exciting, strange world. The story is also entrenched into high-tech net-running, showing you some crazy things someone could do as a net-runner. If one of your players is planning on playing a hacker, check this one out.
Roadside Picnic: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
A lesser known sci-fi classic, Roadside Picnic dips into eldritch horror as well as science fiction. The story was the inspiration of the Soviet film Stalker that became a sci-fi cult classic. It is also very clear that this text was the inspiration for the video game Control, which is a wonderful time if you haven’t played it yet.
The novel tells the story of Red Schuhart who sneaks into extraplanar locations known as The Zones. These Zones are believed to be pockets created by aliens, but are otherwise unexplained. Red is a ‘Stalker’, or someone who sneaks into these Zones to smuggle strange items out. However, as things turn desperate for Red, his once careful practices going into Zones become more and more reckless.
Roadside Picnic does a great job adding the weird into sci-fi. Some may think that sci-fi needs to be logical or hard science, but this is far from the truth. Sci-fi can meld into fantastical elements. Feel free to explore these otherworldy avenues – don’t limit yourself in your creations.
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