New Humanspace Empires - Free Pulp Sci-Fi

Author: DHBoggs / Labels:

May the 4th be with you.

So this is a post about a "new" expansion of the Humanspace Empires game - actually released last fall, but I hadn't mentioned it here before.

I've long appreciated M. A. R. Barkers Tekumel setting, and as far as the history of our hobby goes, Empire of the Petal Throne is a foundation work.  Likely everyone reading this knows about Tekumel, so I'll only briefly explain that Tekumel is a world in the far distant future that has been thrown into an isolated pocket universe, causing the human and alien inhabitants to first revert back to barbarism and then slowly rebuild a civilization roughly based on South Asian culture.  Now, as interesting as Tekumel is, and as fun as it may be to play an EPT game or two, Tekumel doesn't really draw me in as a campaign setting.  I guess I just like the standard sword and sorcery stuff better, and I guess a lot of other folks feel the same way.  Still, the world of Tekumel is so well done and so interesting it cries out for something....

That's why, when the Drune created Humanspace Empires I was instantly hooked.  First and foremost it is a pure pulp Sci-Fi game, and that in and of itself is appealing, but Drune flavored the game throughout with the sci-fi elements of Tekumel,  He set the game in the centuries before the world of Tekumel became isolated.  So it is a game of space exploration and looting in a universe of superscientific/psionic powers and bizare aliens - exactly the sort of universe exemplified in movies like Starcrash and Forbidden Planet.  

Drune built the his game on the excellent Labrynth Lord platform, reconfigured to a 1975 feel, and made it available for playtesting.  Unfortunately, that's pretty much as far as it got.  There were a number of loose ends in the playtest rules, some things that didn't quite work, and a few rough spots here and there.  Even so, I loved it.  Here was a game that made the most of Barkers' imaginative universe, and brought in all the awesome goodness that is pulp scifi.

So, over the years, I kept tinkering with the rules.  I added spaceship design and combat rules based on John Sniders (another Twin Cities gamer friend of Arneson's)  Star Probe.  I added weapons and other details from the Sci-fi elements of Arneson's Temple of the Frog.  I added more of Barkers alien races, some stuff from Jules Verne, other early science fiction works, and movies and so on.

I also took a close look at the rules and "Barkerized" them, taking cues for spells and score modifiers, combat and so forth from the Green Cover version of EPT and general color info from wherever I could find it.  I also reworked the skills system entirely, because it pretty much had to be. 

I took a close look at the great material created by Drune on his blog and by others for HE on the ODD74 forum - especially Vagr1105 - and wove that into the game too, nor was I shy about including OGL material from other games, like Dan Proctors' terrific robot construction rules.

In short, I filled in all the gaps, and made the whole thing as true to the visionary world of the Tekumel universe as I could, and after discussing things with Drune, decided to make it public.


Have fun!


Baron Greystone said...

Marvelous effort! I look forward to reading through this, and hope it gets widely distributed and shared. I've hesitated to try an OD&D clone for SF rules. I mostly use Traveller. But who knows? I'm looking forward to the read!

DHBoggs said...


DavidB said...

seriously excellent work - thank you

Baron Greystone said...

Oh, look at that, a new comment. Well, I should tell you that I used HEII in my Tekumel campaign so my planet-bound PCs could experience what life was like for their distant ancestors. I think they had a blast. Thought you'd like to know. Thanks again, and say hello to the Drune.

DHBoggs said...


Baron Greystone said...

You can read about it here, the Humanspace Empires stuff begins at the end of Session 23:

Baron Greystone said...

Ah, and here's the account of a different group that I used HEII with. Their science fiction adventure begins at Session 19:

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