Project Update: Return to the Stars!

progress update

With the game draft completed, and copy editing in progress, a game designer’s fancy turn to layout.  Here you can see a 6×9″ format, which seem to work well in print and on a tablet, and is even reasonably readable on a plus sized smart phone.

We’ll be at Totalcon next weekend, playing Return to the Stars on Friday and Saturday. Saturday evening is completely booked, but there are still slots on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon!


About the Stellar Beacon

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Science fiction roleplaying games want to give players a shared understanding of their setting so that it is easy for gamers to tell interesting stories together. Traditionally designers have accomplished this by issuing large books filled with details about the worlds they’ve built, or by the expedience of licensing a popular fictional franchise.

With Return to the Stars we’re adding an additional element to the mix: pushing out daily “news headlines” from the science fiction setting of the game on our Twitter feed: @ninja_festive and digesting them every week on our blog (on the web at, and our Tumblr and G+ account.

These headlines go out every day, so you can learn more about the setting in bite sized chucks on social media. Short and suggestive, they illuminate the themes of the game and make good story prompts for a gamemaster.

If you are GM who wants to take things a step further create your own campaign news account on Twitter, and retweet headlines from the official feed that that could be relevant to future adventures (or which might be intriguing red herrings!) Write your own headlines to foreshadow future developments or deepen player understanding of NPCs and organizations. Alternatively, any player can create a news feed as a campaign log of the party’s exploits and adventures.

Add the hashtag #SciFiNews to help other gamemasters and players find what you’ve written and retweet into it their game’s news feeds.  Feel free to tag @ninja_festive to let us know that you’ve started a campaign feed.  Who knows, maybe we’ll retweet you, and you’ll become part of the expanded news universe of Return to the Stars!

Within setting of the game, the Stellar Beacon is sent out by Senior House encoded as carrier wave on the weekly Beacon signal that illuminates hyperspace and allows Origami Engine travel. (Potentially, characters can learn relevant news every time they have opportunity to jump. Gamemasters can tease an upcoming session to players jumping home at the end of a successful scenario.)

Although news is broadcast by Senior House instantaneously across the area covered by the Beacon, they can only compile information as they receive it, and because of the arbitrary nature of galactic travel, some news can be quite dated by the time they’ve received it.

Here are some examples of news headlines from the Stellar Beacon:

[Dateline: Petram] Vatican officials condemned the practice of making statues out of genetically engineered human exoskeletons, “The human body is made in God’s image, and this type of cosplay is an affront to the creator” noted the papal spokesbot.

[Dateline: Shinyuan] Authority cruiser CAS Bradbury has tracked and captured the killers behind the attack on the mining ship Axkl: a pirate vessel of the Dank Lords of Gulch. The surviving pirates have been delivered to Shinyuan to stand trial.

[Dateline: New Lucknow] The Commissioner announced prototype testing origami engine stating: “We will play our part in ending the Great Silence.”  Opposition leaders ask if it wise to spend limited resources on origami technology.  Public outrage increases on social media.

[Dateline: Saitama Prime] The Diet debates the potential of clone overpopulation: real or imagined? How will society deal with millions of obsolete replicants?

[Dateline: Convention Authority] Shipments of fragment cedar arrive across the systems of the Convention Authority as gamers and geeks prepare their saunas for the R³ Festival, when they reflect critically on the media they love, and prepare for renewal and transformation in the coming year.

[Dateline: Senior House] Scientists successful in achieving quantum entanglement over 5 astronomical units. This opens up possibilities for instantaneous near stellar communication.

[Dateline: Third York] A.I. dyssynchronization virus causes problems for people with cybernetically enhanced limbs purchased from Xeracorp Industries. Right hand does not know what left hand is doing. Nor does it want to.

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.




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.