If one is of a certain age you might recall that between the original Star Trek television series in 1966-1969 and the movie Star Wars in 1977 there were (a few) other science fiction shows on TV. U.F.O. was a TV series that ran from 1970-1971 that followed the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation (S.H.A.D.O.) in their fight against aliens and their unidentified flying objects. The same production house, led by Gerry Anderson, produced a second science-fiction television series, Space: 1999 that ran from 1975-1977.
In the past year, the Gerry Anderson Store has sold a “technical operations manual” for each of these series. These are beautiful coffee table books that are well illustrated with lots of in-universe information. I am fortunate enough to have scored copies of each.
Technically speaking the two series universes are not officially related. There is a loose real-world connection due to the fact that a follow-on TV series to U.F.O. named U.F.O.: 1999 was eventually developed into Space: 1999. However, there is little in-universe connection between the two settings. Putting the UFO S.H.A.D.O. Technical Operations Manual together with the Space: 1999 Moonbase Alpha Technical Operations Manual and adding in the graphic novel Space: 1999 – Aftershock and Awe one can put together a fair bit of the “story” between 1970 (the birth of S.H.A.D.O.) and September 1999 when the Moon blasted away from Earth. As long as you are not a rabid canon abider it could make a good setting for a tabletop roleplaying game (RPG).
Imagine you are an early S.H.A.D.O. operative working to build the organization with Colonel Straker. Or an Interceptor pilot forced to work with purple-wigged (and mini-skirted) Lt. Ellis on Moonbase in the hey day of the secret fight against the aliens. You could be a member of the International Space Commission (which appears in both U.F.O. and Space: 1999…this may be the connection!) charged with exploration of the solar system and deep space probes to the mysterious planet Meta Maybe you are fighting alongside Captain Walker and his HAWK space fighters in World War III. You could play in the 1970’s and be the real secret behind Close Encounters of the Third Kind or the 1980’s and be the real Reagan Strategic Defense Initiative (aka “Star Wars”). Or maybe it is September 14, 1999 and the world must deal with the Moon’s violent departure. But what rules to use?
As a long time Traveller roleplaying game player I certainly could use a more modern rules variant such as Cepheus Deluxe (Stellagama Publishing). I also see the possible use of GENESYS (Fantasy Flight Games) that powers the Star Wars Roleplaying Game series or even CORTEX Prime (now Dire Wolf Digital) that has powered games like Serenity/Battlestar Galactica/Firefly. Although I don’t presently possess a System Reference Document (SRD) for the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) that powers The Expanse Roleplaying Game (Green Ronin) I could probably lay my hands on one.
Each system has its advantages and disadvantages. I am most comfortable with Cepheus Deluxe and it is a very straight-forward core mechanic though maybe not the most “narrative.” GENESYS is very narrative but requires those funky dice (not a deal-breaker) but I am not as versed in setting creation. CORTEX Prime is maybe the most varied toolkit in hand and can create games using a diverse array of core mechanisms, but again I am not as familiar with setting creation.
More recently, I have plunged into roleplaying games using the Year Zero Engine from Free League Publishing. Games like Twilight: 2000, ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game, and the just-released Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game have me excited about this system. Again, I don’t have an SRD but maybe I should get one…
In many ways, creating a homebrew U.F.O.-Space:1999 RPG setting seems like it could be is a good bit of therapy. While I’m sure somebody has already done their own hombrew, I think the journey of creating a setting may be just as powerful as playing in it.
Feature image courtesy scifiairshows