TTRPG Roll 23-18: “From S.H.A.D.O. to Alpha” (U.F.O./Space: 1999) Character Archetypes and Skills

As I slowly start work on my U.F.O./Space: 1999 home-brew TTRPG, From S.H.A.D.O. to Alpha using Free Leagues Publishing’s Year Zero Engine, I need to think about character archetypes and an initial skills list. Let’s see what I can divine by looking at the cast lists from the two TV series and several other Year Zero Engine titles.


Broadly speaking, characters appearing in both the U.F.O. and Space: 1999 TV series fell into several somewhat distinctive categories:

  • Leaders – Commander, Administrators
  • Scientists – Doctors, Professors
  • “Operators” – Pilots, System Operators (some specialists), Engineers
  • “Civilians” – Few in both shows, but usually family or background to an episode

Furthermore, most characters in both shows had very military-like backgrounds (S.H.A.D.O. in U.F.O., the International Space Commission in Space: 1999). I also don’t think one can ignore the seemingly obvious influence that Star Trek: The Original Series had on these two Gerry Anderson shows. The classic Star Trek character triumvirate (Leader-Scientist-Doctor / Kirk-Spock-Bones) would be very closely copied in Space: 1999 (Commander-Doctor-Professor / Koenig-Russell-Bergman).

The Technical Operations Manual for S.H.A.D.O [Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization] and Moonbase Alpha provide descriptions of uniforms which also helps define characters. Admittedly, the S.H.A.D.O. listing is a bit unhelpful because the uniforms are seemingly determined as much as by where one works rather than just what they do.

S.H.A.D.O.Moonbase Alpha
High Ranking OfficersCommand
SHADO HQMain Mission
Interceptor PilotTechnical
Uniforms of U.F.O. and Space: 1999

Twilight: 2000 – Roleplaying in the World War III that Never Was (Free League Publishing, 2021) and ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game (Free League Publishing, 2020) both use archetypes in their versions of the Year Zero Engine (YZE).

Twilight: 2000ALIEN
The CivilianColonial Marine
The GruntColonial Marshall
The GunnerCompany Agent
The KidKid
The MechanicMedic
The MedicOfficer
The OfficerPilot
The OperatorRoughneck
The SpookScientist
Character Archetypes

Comparing the Moonbase Alpha crew uniform list (8 entries) with Twilight: 2000/ALIEN we get pretty close to a list of likely archetypes:

  1. Command
  2. Medical/Science
  3. Pilots
  4. Technical (such as computer specialists)
  5. Services (such as nuclear power plant engineers)
  6. Security (at least they didn’t wear red!)
  7. Administrators (usually interfering)
  8. Civilian
  9. Kid (rarely seen)

So let’s see how the cast of characters in U.F.O. and Space: 1999 would break out:

U.F.O.Space: 1999
Commander Edward Straker – COMMANDCommander Paul Koenig – COMMAND
Colonel Alec Freeman – COMMAND/PilotChief Medical Officer
Helena Russell – MEDICAL
Colonel Paul Foster – COMMAND/PilotProfessor Victor Bergman – SCIENTIST/Civilian
Colonel Virginia Lake – COMMAND/ScienceChief of Recon Alan Carter – PILOT
Lieutenant Ellis Gay – COMMAND/Technical Controller Paul Morrow – TECHNICAL/Pilot
Doctor Douglas Jackson – MEDICALData Coordinator Sandra Benes – TECHNICAL
Captain Peter Carlin – PILOTAsst Medical Officer Robert Mathias – MEDICAL
Lieutenant Nina Barry – COMMAND/TechnicalHead of Technical Paul Kano – TECHNICAL
Lieutenant Ayshea Johnson – TECHNICALChief of Security Paul Verdeschi – SECURITY
Lieutenant Keith Ford – TECHNICALMaya – SCIENTIST
Interceptor Squadron Leader Mark Bradley – PILOT
Cast to Archetypes


The Free League YZE defines characters with four attributes describing basic physical and mental capabilities: Strength, Agility, Wits (alternatively called Intelligence), and Empathy. The YZE System Reference Document (SRD v0.9) gives users two options for how they want those attributes scored: Dice Pool (multiple d6) or Step Dice (polyhedral dice). Personally, I am more comfortable with the Dice Pool approach so I will use that for now.


The YZE has 12 Core Skills. Other skills may be added, but the SRD recommends no more than 16. Here is my first attempt at rectifying Core Skills with Twilight: 2000 and ALIEN in a first-stab at S.H.A.D.O. to Alpha.

YZE Core SkillsTwilight: 2000ALIENSHADO to Alpha
Force (STR)Close Combat (STR)Heavy Machinery (STR)Force (STR)
Melee (STR)Heavy Weapons (STR)Stamina (STR)Close Combat (STR)
Stamina (STR)Stamina (STR)Close Combat (STR)Stamina (STR)
Marksmanship (AGI)Driving (AGL)Mobility (AGI)Piloting (AGI)
Mobility (AGI)Ranged Combat (AGL)Piloting (AGI)Ranged Combat (AGI)
Stealth (AGI)Mobility (AGL)Ranged Combat (AGI)Mobility (AGI)
Crafting (Wits)Recon (INT)Observation (Wits)Observation (Wits)
Observation (Wits)Survival (INT)Comtech (Wits)Comtech (Wits)
Survival (Wits)Tech (INT)Survival (Wits)Survival (Wits)
Healing (EMP)Command (EMP)Manipulation (EMP)Command (EMP)
Insight (EMP)Medical Aid (EMP)Medical Aid (EMP)Medical (EMP)
Persuasion (EMP)Persuasion (EMP)Command (EMP)Persuasion (EMP)
Core Skills in YZE


YZE defines Specialties (sometimes called Talents) as, “tricks, moves and minor abilities that give you a small edge…Specialties are more narrow than skills and give you a way to fine-tune your character.” For example, in ALIEN the Officer Archetype has Talents of Field Commander, Influence, and Pull Rank. However, in Twilight: 2000 the Specialties are tied to Skills, such as Medical with Specialties of Combat Medic, Counselor, Field Surgeon, General Practitioner, and Veterinarian.

This is going to take some more thought and consideration. Do I use Specialties has in Twilight: 2000 (narrow skills) or as in ALIEN (broader “character traits”)?

Feature image courtesy stick-man-11 on DeviantArt

Legalese: “This game is not affiliated with, sponsored, or endorsed by Fria Ligan AB. The Year Zero Engine System Reference Document is used under Fria Ligan AB’s Free Tabletop License.” © 2007-2023 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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