Offworlders is a sci-fi role-playing game, written by Chris P. Wolf and Olivia Gulin, which will catapult players into the sidereal space. This review will touch both the positive and the most problematic aspects of the game, it's up to admit it.

Su DrivethroughRPG english version of Offworlders, while the Italian pdf version costs about € 10 and is published by Big Red Dice.

We cannot say that we have not already seen science fiction RPGs that basically allow us to live the same stories. Just think of Coriolis and to our campaign, summarized in MADAR Diarythe Alienthe Star Finder, which we recommended to LIVE-ONE CD 40-ENA. Compared to these titles, Offworlders it's a simpler role-playing game, less structured and noticeably less particular, even by the standards of an indie title, but still worth a read.

Offworlders is it a… PBTA?

Offworlders it presents itself without giving itself a specific description, which fits it fully into a certain role-playing system.

Much of its structure, however, is that of the PBTA extension, that is the role-playing games “powered by the apocalypse” based on the system of World of the Apocalypse. In fact, of this line of games Offworlders it has booklets, the structure of the dice rolls (two d6 and result based on the result band of the dice), the moves of the master and the advancement system.

However, this title also has some features that are most typical of traditional role-playing games, such as the focus on measures of some area effect powers, terminology (Talents, Skills and Traits that go a long way D & D / Pathfinder) and the effects of some moves. The latter are sometimes basically a simpler rework of special abilities from d20system, such as sneak attack. Furthermore, Offworlders does not have a fundamental thing about PBTAs, i.e. Basic moves, common to all booklets. Instead, he prefers to rely on pure Characteristic or Skill rolls.

Of course, we've already seen role-playing games PBTA that refer a lot to the d20system, as Dungeon World, from which the authors of Offworlders evidently took their cue. We all know by now how the PBTA system allows a simpler and faster approach than the d20system, thus allowing you to take traditional RPG ideas and propose them in a more agile and generally more thematic key.

However this does not justify the authors from not having an artistic vision of their product, because unfortunately there are some absolutely too many choices basic. In fact, Offworlders offers the most basic version of PBTAs I've ever seen, so much so that it is also boring to read. And although there are some nice ideas and as a whole the product is playable and enjoyable, there are some problems that are difficult to get over.

So let's see the bad news first, then move on to the potential of the game.

The cover of the English edition of Offworlders
The cover of the English edition of Offworlders

The flaws of Offworlders

Trivial booklets

The first and most serious mistake of this game are the booklets. Offworlders offers only four character archetypes, customizable through skills and talents, which will therefore force a party of five to already have duplicates. Of course, using the combinations, the characters will be different, but the general idea is that the author has made little effort, throwing the classics "Nerd", "Warrior", "Outlaw" and "Psionicist".

Generally, PBTAs offer at least five or six different booklets to choose from, just to be able to give more variety. This happens precisely because each booklet tends to be less customizable than a generic character from a d20system, for example. We have fully seen it with Undying (another hybrid system inspired by PBTAs), although there are PBTAs that allow great customization, such as Masks.

In short, only four booklets are really, truly too few and seriously undermine the gameplay of Offworlders.

The absence of a setting makes itself felt

Systems without a defined setting are usually to be appreciated, because they show how the product adapts to many worlds, adventure moods, etc. In this case, however, the final result would have benefited from a setting, so as to be worth the purchase. What turns out is a banal system for sci-fi settings, without any kind of depth.

This certainly pays off Offworlders extremely customizable, also because it is evident that a zero session is needed to do worldbuilding, as we will see later. However, many PBTAs give their best because they allow you to play (well) very specific situations, like the monstrous teenagers of Monster hearts, the Russian pilots of Nightwitches, the Icelanders of Sagas of the Icelanders or the young superheroes of Masks.

A generic game like this would need one greater variety of choices booklets or game ideas, to compensate for the lack of setting.

The ship is there because it must be there

In a space work, the ship plays an extremely important role. If we talk about adventurers then, it should be the heart of the crew creation. If that of Coriolis drives players to ask questions, balance their desires, make compromises, Offworlders it simply pushes you to postpone the moment you expand the ship. All upgrades cost the same number of credits, whether we are talking about luxury apartments or new engines, and that is lazy.

A space role-playing game should give the ship more depth, given the fact that it has its own card.

The cover of the Italian edition of Offworlder
The cover of the Italian edition of Offworlders

The merits of Offworlders

A simple character growth, but with some nice ideas

Offworlders makes use of a very simple Experience Points system, following the trail of other titles, all concentrated in the final part of the session. The group replies to some questions and if he believes he has done something epic, then he gains experience points. Experience points can be spent on learning talents or improving features.

Another way to get experience is through i failures in dice rolls, another characteristic feature of many PBTAs, which however has the quality of moving things and pushing players to take risks.

The third way to experience is reveal information about your character's past during long journeys. This is a laudable idea, as it encourages characters to get to know each other better and interact.

The initial worldbuilding

In the wake of other games like On Mighty Thews, Offworlders suggests starting a campaign drawing the map of the solar system, and those nearby, in which the players will want to set the adventure. In this way, even the major ones can be defined factions (rigorously rivals each other!) that will move the countryside.

This operation of collective creation of the world it is a good idea and allows all people at the table to express themselves and insert details they care about. Thumb up!

Two words on the Italian edition of Offworlders

First of all, we thank the nice people of Big Red Dice for sending us their product.

Secondly, it is important to note that theItalian edition di Offworlders carries out a complete restructuring of the original product. Not only are there new color images, the work of Cristiano Catalini, but also the entire graphics and layout of the manual is done from scratch. And, it must be admitted, the end result is much better and easier to navigate. Furthermore, theOffworlders Italian has real character booklets, instead of a condensed half-page description of the booklets.

Further positive note: there are no notable typo or translation oversights, from what it was possible to see at a first reading. What, this, which is not at all obvious, nowadays! Congratulations to Cristian Di Mariano for the good translation work.

Two final words about the game

Offworlders is a very basic role-playing game without major innovations. It is basically the pseudo-PBTA more vanilla than you can do to have a space adventure.

The wink at traditional RPGs is understandable, but some references are too obvious, especially in the management of the books and their talents. For these things it would take not only more variety, but also more imagination. Furthermore, we reiterate, four booklets are too much, TOO few. Even the very sparse, affordable equipment is not totally convincing: are we sure that a middle ground of this kind, between the infinite tables of the d20system and the economy of the PBTAs, is the best choice?

On the other hand, Offworlders it is also a lot customizable and it has some interesting ideas, like the initial map and experience points due to getting to know each other better.

In short, Offworlders è a game with few pretensions, some big problems, but also a certain potential. It is certainly agile to learn and intuitive to play. Personally, it seems to me Coriolis with the PBTA system, but with less soul and less originality. But this is also the risk that is run with a generic setting system. If I had to do a PBTA in space, I would take it own Coriolis and I would adapt it to this system, while maintaining all the particularity of the setting.