10 Pro Tips You Need To Know For DMing a D&D Sci-fi Campaign

Sometimes instead of swords and sorcery, people want to deal with plasma blades and photons. For those people, it’s about time they veer into the other side of the tabletop roleplaying spectrum.

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While the genre has a plethora of fantasy-themed systems that includes Dungeons And Dragons among many others, it also has limitless potential to explore space, alien races, and the far future. All of which are characteristic of the wonderful genre of science fiction that some hold dear. For those people, here are ten tips on how to run a science fiction campaign for their table.

10 Decide On What Type Of Sci-Fi

Just like how fantasy can be further divided into sub-genres that include low fantasy, high fantasy, and dark fantasy among many others, science fiction also holds dominion over cyberpunk, space operas, and many more. Narrowing down exactly which type a Game Master and their players want to explore is of utmost importance.

So it is best to discuss openly with the players about where the campaign should take place. Maybe even holding a “session zero” to discuss whether everyone wants to swing lightsabers at each other or travel through the galaxy making deliveries on Old Bessie.

9 Be Prepared For New Ways To Solve Problems

With a whole new genre comes a whole new approach to problems. A locked door might give the players pause in a fantasy setting, but they can Qui-Gon Jinn their way through almost any barricade in a Star Wars campaign.

The same can be said for a lot of troubles that would usually pose a problem to a standard fantasy adventure. It is a DM’s job to either find ways to circumvent the players from opening every door with a trusty laser sword or find other troubles to replace those easily dealt with. Keep this in mind when developing challenges in a campaign.

8 Find New Ways To Use Skills

Some skills might just find new uses in the far future. While survival mostly applies to knowing the lay of the land, hunting wild game, following tracks, and generally being an outdoorsman in a fantasy setting, that trait might just change in a sci-fi adventure.

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It might include how to survive stranded in space, what critters to look out for on certain planets, and avoiding space radiation. This is only one example though, and a GM and players (see above) might find a whole bundle of new uses for the old skills from Dungeons and Dragons.

7 Adding New Skills

Science fiction presents its own sets of problems that can only be circumvented by inventing whole new skills for the players to tinker with or, if someone doesn’t want to complicate the skill set any further, adding new uses to old skills.

A computers skill is almost a must for anything science fiction related. The ability to pilot spaceships can mean life or death in a dogfight or in the middle of an asteroid field. Furthermore, religion might need to be replaced entirely in a universe where the gods aren’t actively involved in the world, and several science skills might take its place.

6 Decide How Magic Works (If At All)

One of the main draws in D&D is being able to play a character that can bend the rules of the world to control the elements, up their abilities, or just control people in general. In certain subgenres of science fiction, the draw is something else.

So the DM has to ask themselves whether or not magic exists in their universe. Once that is set in motion, they are either done or have to figure out exactly how it works. Though, whether it be super science, psionics, nanomachines, or whatever other way someone chooses to throw a fireball, each has strengths and weaknesses that need to be accounted for.

5 Decide On Races

At some point in time, a science fiction campaign has to answer the question of whether or not humans are truly alone in the universe. Then it has to answer how that affects the universe at large.

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Sometimes someone can take the races from the Core Rule Book and dump them right into the future. (Shadowrun, anyone?) Sometimes, a GM needs to find a whole new slew of creatures to populate their world with. If the setting is based on an existing property, the work is done. If not, it has just begun. It’s best to research several popular properties and other tabletop roleplaying games to help develop races. Then again, stealing wholesale is also an option if that much work is frightening.

4 Give Them A Reason To Stay

Science fiction has one clear problem to any campaign, and it is that the players have a whole universe to explore. So it is the GM’s job to give them a reason to go to or stay in a particular place or planet to accomplish their goals.

The easiest way of doing this would be to have the players be part of an organization (peacekeeping or otherwise) with its own goals or motivations. Otherwise, they have to delve deep into character backstories to prevent them from buggering off at the first sign of trouble.

3 Decide Whether To Use Companion Books

GMs and their players currently live in a wonderful world where tabletop roleplay is as popular as it has ever been. Because of that, there is a bountiful bevy of roleplaying books to help any GM set up a sci-fi campaign.

Some notable entries include Shadowrun, Gamma World, and Esper Genesis (which already uses 5E rules). Give them all a look when deciding on the campaign. Even if someone doesn’t play them exactly as stated, they are wonderful references for turning 5E into sci-fi adventures.

2 Whether Or Not To Space Dogfight

Sometimes the fighting is done on the ground with troops. Othertimes, daredevils are flying through space dodging laser beams and shooting them at their enemies.

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Whether or not this is possible in a setting is a big deal. If it is, then it means that a GM has to develop a system for space combat that, more often than not, is widely different from on-the-ground encounters. Speed is one of the utmost differences between them. It might be best to look at the Star Wars tabletop roleplaying games, the Star Trek roleplaying games, and others like Nova Praxis for ideas on how to handle space fights.

1 Have Fun

It is the most important rule of all. That is why it is present almost all fo the Player’s Handbooks for Dungeons and Dragons. Without it, why else would someone dedicate their time and effort into a complicated system of dice rolling that takes days to prepare for.

No matter what sort of campaign someone is running, remember to keep this key rule in mind for the best sort of roleplaying experience—a fun one.

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