Character example: Leslie Lachance

Leslie Lachance is a shape shifting gender fluid first contact specialist (current pronoun: he)  A historian of old earth and famous cosplay champion, he uses both these skill sets to help the team interact with the new societies they discover. Charismatic, he is, perhaps a bit too popular and ambitious.


  • High Concept: shape shifting first contact specialist
  • Trouble: too popular for my own good
  • historian specializing in pre-stellar Earth
  • ambitious and hardworking
  • famous cosplay champion


  • +4 Cosplay
  • +3 Networking, Scholarship
  • +2 Empathy, Acrobatics, Combat Arts
  • +1 Intrusion, Scan, Making, Blast


  • Mission Control +1 to all attempts to create advantages for other players when you aren’t present but can communicate.
  • Suspension of Disbelief Once per session, you can take +2 to any roll where a character you are cosplaying would have an advantage.
  • Research Montage you can use your Scholarship skill to quickly accomplish tasks that would normally require extensive investigation or research, even when a library or archive is not available.  You must explain how you came to research this topic in the past

Leslie Wanders

Character example: Tanya Parks, PhD

Tanya Parks is straight shooting science officer and a polymath, who the team can rely on in investigations in many different fields from astrophysics to forensic pathology. She’s also skilled with heavy plasma weapons: her motto: “Science advances one funeral at a time.”  It is true that she can be easily distracted by shiny objects and scientific anomalies.


  • High Concept: straight shooting science officer
  • Trouble: Oh, shiney!
  • Science Advances One Funeral at a Time
  • Mistakes Lead to Success
  • My Destiny is in the Stars!


  • +4 Science
  • +3 Blast, Acrobatics
  • +2 Cosplay, Networking, Empathy
  • +1 Making, Scan, Survival, Piloting


  • Polymath: your science skills applies to all realm of science
  • That’s Funny: once per session you can succeed at any Scan roll, create an aspect to describe the scientific anomaly that drew your attention
  • Plasma Weapons are Messy: After you successfully shoot a target, they gain the aspect “on fire”


The Cosplay Skill

Return to Stars cosplay

Cosplay is your character’s aptitude for self-presentation using costuming, genetic modification, posture and movement. Thanks to centuries of refinement, it is considered a fine art in the Convention Authority.

Because Cosplay involves granular genetic control of your body it is a skill you can use to recover from physical consequences.

For cosplay competitions, the player defines the level of the challenge, which represents the impressiveness of the costume and performance they desire to create. They need to overcome this difficulty, or they fail to captures the judge’s attention.

You can perform Cosplay to create distractions in combat, thanks to your knowledge of stage fighting.

Sample Cosplay Stunts

  • Dress for Success you understand the power of FASHION!  With appropriate garb once per session you can use Cosplay in place of the Networking skill.
  • Suspension of Disbelief Once per session, you can take +3 to any roll where a character you are cosplaying would have an advantage.




Hopepunk: Optimistic SF Gaming

Return to Stars optomistic indie rpg

In dark times games can fill us with joy and hope.

Return to the Stars is a narrative tabletop role playing game designed to make it easy to tell stories of exploration and adventure in an optimistic space opera setting. It is a game where you can paint a better future in bold primary colors.

There is a surplus of dystopian science fiction games and media.  Putting aside fiction, simply watching the new provides stories of  political conspiracies, mega-corporations, and fascist mobs.

We need to face hard truths  but we also need stores that show how humanity can be better in the future.  That enlightenment values, reason, cosmopolitanism, diversity, and humanism are a path forward.   As NPR pop culture critic Linda Holmes said of the movie Arrival: “There is great faith in these stories that the more we know, the more we grasp, and the more we turn around and communicate to others, the better off we are — and the better we are, too.”

The genre is Return to the Stars is hopepunk. It is a game where you can paint a better future in bold primary colors.

To quote Sun Ra:

“In some far off place
Many light years in space
I’ll wait for you.

Where human feet have never trod,
Where human eyes have never seen.
I’ll build a world of abstract dreams
And wait for you.”


The Dank Lords of Gulch

Prior to the great silence, Gulch was a paradise planet created to cater to every whim of an ironically named “collective” of merchants who were based there. When the Great Silence came, they certainly proved incapable of collective action, and their pleasure planet was reduced to a desolate wasteland in struggles for dominance and control.  Petty warlords led nasty, brutal and short lives preying on each other.

Unfortunately, they hadn’t quite managed to kill each other off before galactic travel was restored. Starships of the original merchants were fitted out for raiding, and a scourge of pirates set out to prey on an unprepared galaxy.

Galtian Trooper

The Science Skill

Return to Stars science

Science is the skill you use to find things out using detailed observations and experiments.  When you choose science as a skill, you should also choose a field of specialization such as biology or astrophysics.  You receive a bonus to your skill in you specialization and a penalty outside of it.  Science also implies a knowledge of scientific literature.

You can use science to do things like uncovering the cause of a disease, understanding when a supernova is likely to explode, or analyzing a crime scene for clues.

Sample Science Stunts

  • Technobabble you can use your scientific knowledge as a social attack (rolling against Will) to persuade or deceive others when they can’t evaluate your bogus explanation
  • That’s Funny once per session you can use science to succeed at failed attempt at notice.  Create an aspect that describes the scientific anomaly that drew your attention.

The setting of Return to the Stars!

1810670The Climate Wars of the 21st century nearly ended life on Earth. Humanity survived thanks to planetary engineering techniques and genetic enhancements that increased people’s intelligence, empathy and curiosity.

Peace, increased human capabilities, and optimism from overcoming the challenges of a century of conflict and environmental devastation led to a global renaissance in culture, science and technology.

Humankind soon spread through the solar system: terraforming Mars and Venus, and modifying and enhancing life to thrive in varied environments.

The development of stellar drives enabled the exploration and colonization of the Local Interstellar Cloud. Second generation drives extended that reach considerably, but the impact of these technologies was dwarfed by discovery of hyperspace topology and origami engines. A hyperspace beacon, built at enormous effort out the planet Mars itself, enabled near instantaneous navigation through folded space. The entire galaxy was in reach, and a galactic civilization was born.

With easy access to countless worlds and untold resources, humanity sorted itself into like-minded communities, with novelty relishing traders and tourists moving freely between them. The game starts in one such community, a collection of nearby systems known as the Convention Authority, founded to celebrate the most important pop cultural works of the 20th and 21st centuries: science fiction, fantasy, and gaming.

Suddenly and without warning, the stellar beacon at Mars went silent, rendering every origami engine ship inoperable instantaneously and ending galactic civilization.

The systems of the Convention Authority were able to stay united and in contact, because fans had maintained a replica fleet of early starships.

After a century of effort, a long range starship has been built. Its purpose: to return to the stars, and reconnect with lost civilizations of humanity.