I’m on a study project to improve my understanding of roleplaying games. To this end, I already have two reading projects, A Game Per Year and An Adventure Per Year. This is the third, with the goal of reading or playing 52 games made in the last few years. Originally I considered making this “A New RPG Per Week” and that’s where the number 52 comes from, even though a weekly schedule is probably not within my abilities.
Death in Space is a Swedish OSR style scifi roleplaying game. It’s set in a decaying universe, in the aftermath of a terrible war. The characters try to survive as life support systems malfunction and the void grows ever closer. Like many OSR games, Death in Space combines an old school mechanical approach with existential, all-encompassing terror born out of nihilistic setting construction.
In short, there are a lot of ways to die in space and as you play, you’ll probably experience some of them.
The game’s reference points include Alien and Dead Space but its specific brand of space horror is its own. Most of all, its a game of decline: There’s little hope of anything better in its setting, largely described through different tables and graphs.
The game book has a lot of visual flair. It’s beautifully presented, bringing to mind another Swedish OSR hit, Mörk Borg. You get a sense for what this world looks like just glancing through the pages and taking in the vibe.
In terms of presentation, Death in Space privileges design over wordy explanations. There’s a lot of design thinking packed into a small space but to use it effectively you probably have to have some roleplaying background.
A lot of OSR games focus their innovation on coming up with a new initiative mechanic. Here after you take your action, you choose the next player who will take theirs. This showcases the game’s focus on small, tightly knit crews who know how to work together effectively.