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Elite Dangerous RPG – In Depth Part 1

My mind wonders how you go about fitting a vast expansive game like Elite Dangerous into an RPG. Well, the people at Spidermind Games successfully ran a Kickstarter for the book 2 years ago and this year during UKGE, I met some of the team behind it. They talked to me about their current Kickstarter for the Elite Dangerous Battle Card game which you should all take a look at and we will review in full later this year. However, this article is the first in an in-depth look through the RPG. Spidermind Games were very kind to give us the books in PDF and a copy of the core book in hardback that we will be giving away as a prize.

My intention here is to cover the core book its contents and add a healthy dose of opinion here and there. I won’t be including the Espionage, Exploration, Military and Trading supplements, but we may tackle this separately if there is enough interest.

Initial overview

Like most big RPG systems, the rulebook is A4 and stands at around 370 pages. It runs off a D10 based system, which is not ruled by, but does include percentile rolls. The first thing I noticed is the quality of the full-colour imagery throughout the book; it’s hard to miss – the front and back cover alone is beautiful. Having read a few rulebooks in my time, there have been times when I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information contained within it. I am pleased to say that I have yet to feel that way with this rulebook. There was certainly a design decision to not pack it full of information and have a significant amount of white space, which I applaud it for. It makes the book a lot easier to consume.

The book recommends, since the universe is so expansive, that if you are a novice GM then you aim for one of four types of game; Exploration, Military, Espionage or Lone Wolf. As with any RPG, there is nothing to stop you doing some sort of horror story, or run your own space station style game.

Character creation

Everybody in the Elite universe plays a human; there are no other playable races in the core book, although you can play and encounter cyborgs. There are “alien” creatures in the game, but as far as I know, there is no such thing as an alien NPC (although I could be very wrong here). As much as my brain thinks that the creators may have missed a trick here, I can sympathise in having such a vast universe to play with already without adding other playable races. As far as I know, the only major sentient alien race that is documented in the Elite Dangerous universe are the Thargoids and since they are still such a mystery, it’s probably for the best that they are not playable.

When you’re ready to create a character, the first thing you do is choose how much experience you start with by picking your rank that spans from Harmless all the way up to Elite. You then pick your skills, or if you’re feeling daring you can randomise them, then choose a background, karma abilities, a ship and equipment worth 100,000 credits. The only thing that really needs explaining here is Karma abilities, which are feats of extreme luck which will get you out of extreme situations. For example “Duck!” gives you a +2 modifier to your Dodge ability. You get these abilities once per turn in combat, providing you have Karma points to spend on them, so use them wisely. Karma points are recovered at a rate of one per main rest, classed as a full nights sleep.


Combat comes in three flavours and in this article, we are going to just cover personal combat. There will be other articles covering space and vehicular.

So there you are, minding your own business in a space station, then some idiot gets into your bad books and you’re forced to fight. The first thing to note is that there is no artificial gravity, most people wear mag-boots that you can optionally turn off for a zero-g boost, which in this universe are so technically advanced that they don’t really slow you down. During your turn, you can move up to 10 meters and take an action which could be one of the following:

  • Shoot a weapon
  • Make a melee attack
  • Make a fighting attack
  • Draw a weapon
  • Run
  • Interact
  • Reload

During a personal attack, you can make a defensive move and choose to parry, which then may lead to a counter-attack or dodge. Fail enough combat and you’ll have to eventually deal with death. Death is not a complicated affair (and nor should it be,) as it all revolves around endurance points which can go into negative amounts. Dropping to or below zero your character instantly becomes unconscious, dropping anything they were currently holding. Any character that was not shot with an energy weapon will go into a “Bleeding Out” state. In this state, you roll a D10 every round and lose you that many more Endurance points. On an odd number roll, you stabilise and then don’t have to roll again next turn, but on an even number means that you just continue to bleed out. Endurance is recovered at a base rate of five points per day or more if you are using medical treatment.

In our next article on the Elite Dangerous RPG, we will cover space and vehicle combat. In the meantime, why not take a look at the Elite Dangerous Battle Card game on Kickstarter and treat yourself to a copy for just £20? Then come and let us know – How do you feel about humans being the only playable race? Is there anything you like the sound of so far? Do you have any questions about anything I have already mentioned? Get in touch via the comments section or over on Facebook and Twitter.

Yours, mostly harmless

– Chris


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