Since Dan’s interested in changing his Warhammer 40K setting using SavageWorlds over to Kapow! I need to get cracking on writing up a minimal set of the genre-specific rules for changing it from supers to space opera.
Broadly I think these are the areas that need tweaking:
For superheroes, equipment other than vehicles is just an explanation of some heroes’ powers. For most SF settings, gear matters and players care about it (and upgrading it). Tentative rule: an item of gear is a power, with its own dice rating, but most gear requires that you have an appropriate Shtick to use it to full effectiveness; roll only 1 die if you don’t have a Shtick that covers it. E.g. a Blaster might be d8, d8 but you only roll d8 if you lack a Shtick like Soldier or Gunslinger to justify it. Some characters might still take a full-fledged Power where the explanation is gear, such as a cyborg with a built-in laser, bought with the usual power rules.
Vehicles will have their own Scope appropriate to the vehicle, so a groundcar would be Scope: Planetary Region, while a in-system shuttle might be Scope: Interplanetary, and a star-cruiser Scope: Interstellar. There will probably be more Scopes, so you can make distinctions between FTL where travel between nearby stars takes a couple weeks, a couple days, a couple hours, etc. Movement will be rated in terms of Scenes. One of the things I’ve noticed about travel in RPGS, and in SF RPGS in particular, is beyond a certain point unless travel is insanely dangerous (as in wandering monster rolls every 6 hours) players tend to stop caring about how long trips take; a journey of 10 days is not really any different from a journey of 100 days… both will be blipped over with the exact same hand-waving. Zap! will address this by requiring that you play out, or at least describe, a scene aboard the ship for each unit of distance traveled (size of unit determined by scope). Hopefully the scenes will be interesting, since the point isn’t to punish players for wanting to travel longer distances, but to give the act of travel texture so that the trips become more memorable and make longer trips seem longer because you can expect to have and later remember more incidents happening during them.
Similarly, and along the lines of my musings in Clarke’s Law and SF Roleplaying, to make tech seem a bit less magical, we’ll give equipment maintenance ratings (and maybe Advantages/Disadvantages like Low Maintenance/No Maintenance and High Maintenance/Constant Maintenance) that will also be expressed in terms of Scenes that need to be spent playing out or describing maintenance being done, or else it starts having chances of degrading or malfunctioning. Scenes will probably require that a character with an appropriate Shtick make a roll, with failure or mishap resulting in having to spend extra money or get replacement parts. I think this kind of thing is pretty important in SF…even in squeaky clean futures ships like the Enterprise require a ton of work to keep in repair, if the number of episodes where something goes wrong or needs replacement prompting them to make a landing and get in trouble is any indication. Again the idea is to make sure that there’s some “spotlight time” devoted to players, particularly those who’ve focussed on Shticks like Engineering, doing the things that define this as SF.
We’ll just be using the Template rules from Argh! to handle alien races that have unusual abilities. We’ll probably also use the Argh! Templates for characters, but with new names if needed (e.g. Magician -> Technician).
I’d like to come up with a simple way of handling commerce and trade, since that’s often important to star-faring SF. Again this is probably going to be expressed in terms of Scenes rather than tables of trade goods and prices, perhaps with some notion of trading off travel distances and risk vs. profit.
I think that’s the gist of it… but I’m open to suggestion on things I might have overlooked that would be important to an SF campaign that aren’t already covered.