In case you haven’t noticed, I like to use existing RPG resources in my games. I’ve been doing this almost as long as I’ve been gaming. I added Star Wars races and creatures to AD&D 2E, used minis from other games in Hero Quest, and this only increased with the onset of D&D 3E and the OGL that brought a host of different settings from sci-fi to fantasy to pulp all under and generally unified system. When I switched a lot of my gaming to Savage Worlds, that ability of being able to draw on various settings easily didn’t change much thanks to the awesome community of gamers converting lots of properties for use with that system as well. Now that I’m playing Stars Without Number, I can easily use just about any D&D and OSR source to enhance my campaign. Plus, I can still use a lot of material from other systems as well. Below is a listing of some of my favorite sources of inspiration, both new and old.
D&D: There is no game with a longer history and larger catalog of resources. Most of what I use so far for SWN are the various creature books from the Creature Catalog, to the original Fiend Folio, to the 2nd Edition Monster Compendiums, all the way to the huge amount of 3rd edition and OGL sources I’ve picked up over the years. (I’m a bit of a monster book junkie.) I’ve devoted several posts on how I’m adapting D&D sources to SWN, so I won’t go into them again.
Rifts (includes Heroes Unlimited, TMNT, Fantasy, etc.): I’ve had a long time love/hate relationship with the Palladium games, especially Rifts. There are a lot of great ideas jammed into otherwise very bland books and all tied to a system in dire need of a major overhaul. I’ve long since given up on houseruling Rifts and lieu of porting the bits I like into systems I like. Rifts is an excellent resource for new creatures, psionic powers, equipment, vehicles, and cybernetics (to name a few). Plus, since I like my games more towards the fantastical end of the spectrum, many parts of Rifts are a great fit. Porting over material from the Megaverse isn’t something I do on a stat-by-stat basis since so much of it is way over the top in power level, so porting the bits over with the feel intact is what I try to do. Some of my favorite books in the series are: The Three Galaxies, Anvil Galaxy, Africa, Atlantis, Splynn Dimensional Market, Aliens Unlimited, D-Bees of North America, Japan, Mindwerks, Phase World, South America, South America 2, and Naruni Wave. There’s a lot to rob from these books (and many of the other books in the Palladium catalog) and I’ll be adding quite a few pieces to the campaign. Sadly, I’m not likely to post much more than background ideas due to Palladium’s draconian fansite policies. (Those may have eased in recent years, but I’d have to check to make sure.)
D20: The D20 SRD and the Open Gaming License saw the birth of a lot of games tied to various properties from Star Wars to Farscape to Starship Troopers. Some of these have been mentioned in previous posts about the setting. The Minbari from Babylon 5 play a large role in the founding of the Galactic Concord. I’ve determined how several species from Star Wars and Farscape also fit into the setting. I’m playing around with the idea of adding the Bugs from Starship Troopers as an alien menace from deep in the vast uncharted regions of space. Plus, there are a lot of great resources from companies that came on in the great D20 Explosion that are also great for mining ideas from. RPGObjects in particular has a wide array of D20 Modern/Future products. The Stellar Bestiary for the D20 version of Fading Suns is an excellent resource for alien creatures. (Fading Suns itself is a great setting with a wealth of swipe-worthy bits!) Plus, since the D20 system was spawned from older D&D, conversion is typically a breeze.
Star Trek: Last Unicorn Games’ Star Trek line is one of my favorite stop for ideas. Sure, there’s Spaceships and Spacemen, and Prime Directive (which also has D20 versions of several of the books in their catalog), but LUG’s series is the official line. Sure, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the LUG books. The system is similar to D20, so conversion isn’t a big deal at all, and they are beautiful books that invoke the feel of The Next Generation and later series. Star Trek Aliens, Star Trek Creatures, and the various setting sourcebooks are great if you want to inject a little or a lot of Star Trek into your games.
Dr. Who Aliens and Creatures: I love Dr. Who. It’s weird and wacky, generally light-hearted fun. While there are quite a few creatures in this book that I probably wouldn’t use because they are just too odd even for me, there are still others that I would…and will. Daleks, Cybermen, Forest of Cheem, Hath, Judoon, and others are all ripe for conversion/adaptation. Plus, it’s just simple a great book for Dr. Who fans in general since it’s loaded with background information and details that may not be readily evident from the episodes.
Cthulhu Tech: I’m not the greatest fan of the system (just too complicated for my tastes these days), but the books are gorgeous and have great ideas for applying the Mythos to science fiction. Horrors lurking in the dark, unexplored corners of the universe and beyond are already a part of the setting, so adapting parts of Cthulhu Tech is really a no brainer.
Alpha Omega: This is another beautiful game. It’s another that I’m not in love with the system, but I love the background. The Encountered Volume 1 is full of creatures that can be converted to SWN and would fit pretty well also. I believe Vol 2 is out, but I haven’t gotten around to picking it up yet.
Traveller: I have a confession to make, even though I’ve played in a lot of sci-fi games over the years, I’ve barely touched Traveller. For whatever reason, it just hasn’t ever interested me. However, there is a TON of books from the various editions that are chock full of material that can swiped for just about any sci-fi campaign.
GURPS: Gamers of all stripes have long since figured out that even if you don’t play GURPS, the sourcebooks are a good buy for just about anyone since they cover a wide array of topics, are well researched, and have lots of material worthy of conversion. Aliens, Lensmen, Robots, and the Space Bestiary all immediately spring to mind when I think of books I continually reach for when I’m in need of some inspiration.
Alternity: Any list of this type would be woefully incomplete without mentioning Alternity. In the late 90’s Alternity dominated my roleplaying time. In fact, I has started writing up my campaign for Alternity before switching to SWN. While I love the system, it is more laborious to create material for due to the unique die mechanics. There are lots of parts of the Star Drive setting for Alternity that I’m porting into my campaign. The Fraal and Humans live in a co-mingled society for instance. Players can play as or possibly encounter Aleerins, Sesheyans, T’sa, or Werens. I’ve converted aliens from both of the Alien Compendiums, and use some of the worlds from those books and others in the Star Drive series.
There are a lot of other resources that are ripe with ideas, and I’m sure that I’m forgetting a host of obvious sources. That’s one of the things that I like about sci-fi, especially the Space Opera sub-genre, just about anything can have a place in the galaxy, or even the universe. Few things are too weird to be used, at least for me, and the possibilities are virtually limitless.