Mothership is a sci-fi horror roleplaying game where you and your crew try to survive in the most inhospitable environment in the universe: outer space! You'll excavate dangerous derelict spacecraft, explore strange unknown worlds, exterminate hostile alien life, and examine the horrors that encroach upon your every move.
A Very Different (Horror-Focused) Take on Space RPGs [ edit ]
Let's get one thing out of the way: Mothership is not the game you'll want to use for a campaign based on Star Trek, Star Wars, or any other "mainstream" space setting. But, if you're running a campaign inspired by movies like Alien(s), Pitch Black, or Event Horizon ... in other words, if you're looking to run a space horror campaign ... Mothership will be the perfect RPG for you.
Although still relatively new, having first been released in 2018, Mothership has quickly grown in popularity, and even took home the "Best Game" of the 2019 ENnie award. While Motherships has rules for all your standard sci-fi needs (eg. spaceships), it also has rules which support its horror genre, such as a "stress" mechanic to track the toll that facing horrors takes on the players.
In short, Mothership isn't the type of RPG where your players play the kind of heroes who sail through the universe, confident in their ultimate success (or at least survival). Mothership is the type of RPG where survival alone will likely be the entire objective of the adventure ... and that success is far from guaranteed.
Mothership, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse
Character Creation [ edit ]
Characters in Mothership must pick one of four classes, all of which should be very familiar to fans of Alien and similar movies: Teamster, Scientist, Android and Marine. Like many RPGs, characters also have core statistics, but the game keeps things simple with only four such stats: Strength, Speed, Intellect, and Combat.
Characters can also skills, which add a bonus to the relevant statistic when making a roll that uses that skill. Speaking of rolls, Mothership uses a d10 based system, but it has a unique convention of differentiating between d10 rolls that go from 1-10, and underlined "d10" rolls, which instead treat the d10 as a percentile dice (eg. 2d10 would generate 20-200).
In addition to creating their individual characters, the group an also create their own custom space ship. As you can see from the ship's "character sheet", there is plenty of detail to this process, allowing for each group's ship to be unique.
Core Mechanics [ edit ]
To accomplish most things in Mothership you make stat checks, similar to skill checks in other systems (since having the relevant skill adds to your chance of success).
To make a stat check, the player simply has to roll less than than the appropriate stat on 2d10. If you roll the same number on both d10's, the check becomes a "critical", either a critical success if it would have succeeded, or a critical failure if it wouldn't.
Like (modern) Dungeons and Dragons, Mothership also has the concept of "advantage" (when circumstances make a check either) or "disadvantage", which lets the player make two rolls, and then lets/forces them to keep the highest/lowest. Similarly it also has the concept of saving throws, which you make to avoid suffering ill effects. There are four saves (Sanity, Fear, Body, and Armor) and, like a stat check, you have to roll under the appropriate one to successfully save.
Combat [ edit ]
Owing to its horror nature, combat in Mothership begins with the players making a Fear save simply to be able to act. After that initiative is determined. All enemies in Mothership act together, so initiative involves making a Speed check to see if you go before or after the your foes. Characters with certain skills, Commander and Tactician, get a bonus to initiative, which they can share with others.
On each round of combat a player can take two actions, such as attack, bandage an ally, or move. To attack the player makes a check using the appropriate stat (possibly with bonuses, eg. from skills), and the defender makes an Armor save. If the attacker rolls higher than the defender, without the defender rolling over their Armor save, the attack hits.
As a horror RPG, Mothership also has another form of "mental damage", known as stress, and rules for panicking when faced with alien monsters. However, as a space RPG, it makes sure to include a full set of rules for handling ship-to-ship combat as well.
A Perfect RPG for Space Horror [ edit ]
Unlike GURPS, Savage Worlds, or similar games, Mothership does not try to be great for most/all possible campaigns. If you're looking to create your own "space opera", styled after Star Trek, Star Wars, and the like ... or if you're looking for a game that has detailed or "crunchy" rules, or that comes from a major publisher, Mothership will probably not suit you.
But if you're specifically looking for a space horror RPG, one whose rules enforce a sense of dread, making it possible to bring stories like the kind from the Aliens or Pitch Black to life ... Mothership is the RPG for you. And despite coming from an indie publisher, with an 8.17/10 (from 12 reviews) on RPG Geek, and an incredibly high 4.8/5 (from 230 customers) on Drive Thru RPG, you can be confident you're still going to get a great game.
Other Space Horror RPGs [ edit ]
Although Mothership is certainly one of the more popular space horror RPGs, it's not the only one. Goblin Crafted has an entire page dedicated to space horror RPGs, with several other options to consider.