In today's show, there was a lot of talk about how to introduce 3rd party content to achieve a desired outcome in your game that isn't supported by the normal rules. How to introduce something that doesn't exist. At times, the change you want might be a minor tweak, and adding in this additional content won't be too harmful to your overall game. But sometimes the change is major, and begs the question of why you're trying to force something into the game that patently doesn't fit. In these instances, I wholeheartedly encourage others to simply try out another game altogether.
D&D is a monolithic titan in the roleplaying industry. It corners the market, and sets the gold standard for what a roleplaying game should be. And honestly, D&D is pretty great. But there are some things it just doesn't do well. For example, it generally isn't a sci-fi game. D&D is designed with fantasy gaming in mind. Swords and sorcery are pretty much integral to the system. Lasers and spaceships aren't. And while you can introduce them into your game, it begs the question of how well the rest of the game will handle that for balancing, let alone story considerations. And if you're particularly dedicated to making that balance work, you might be able to hack the game with enough third party or house-ruled content. But at that point, are you even really playing D&D?
Whether you are or aren't might be debatable, but maybe you shouldn't be. I say this because there are a ton of fun games out there that get less attention than D&D. Some of them independently written by single authors or small teams or tiny studios. Some produced by Major companies. A good example of your sci-fi D&D. would be Paizo's Starfinder. Starfinder is closely related to Paizo's other IP, Pathfinder. Which itself started as a 3rd party supplement for D&D. So they're pretty closely related.
If you're willing to look into other games with rules that diverge more from the standard rules of D&D, you can check out other wonderful science fiction games like Megatraveller, Dark Heresy, Cyberpunk 2020, or various roleplaying games associated with popular sci-fi IP such as Starwars or Firefly.
There are of course other genre's too. If your game leans into horror, I recommend looking at Call of Cthulhu or Vampire the Masquerade. Because again, you can replicate these things with D&D, but why would you want to? Creating rules from eldritch monstrosities in D&D almost defeats the purpose. Games like D&D are more combat heavy, and you'd be much more likely to be able to kill a Lovecraftian horror monster in such a system. Which removes a lot of the horror elements to begin with. And in case you were wondering, Call of Cthulhu does have stats for a lot of their enemies. You can fight them. It's just usually a really... really bad idea. And the same goes for the Vampire setting. There are dedicated rules for managing bloodlust and specific vampiric abilities, which you could probably port over, but they're nestled so well in their current system that it doesn't really do it justice to move it elsewhere.
And if you're into something niche for a roleplaying game, just look for a roleplaying system of it's own. Because as was mentioned today, there is such a massive wealth of content out there, whatever you're looking for probably exists, especially if you're a fan of a particular IP. I've had a friend of mine run a game set in the world of the One Piece anime. And he found rules for it somewhere, and played in that rule set. Apparently it worked out just fine. So if he can find that, odds are, you can find what you're looking for.
If you want to keep playing D&D, that's fine. I love D&D. And even if you change a lot about it, it can still be D&D. But if you want something that's well and truly different, consider another roleplaying game. there are many, many wonderful games out there. And they're just waiting for you to give them a try.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content from Digital & Dice. If you want more in relation to today's show topic, I have a pretty comprehensive writeup on third party content over on my blog. And while you're at it, check out some of the content I've made. Like many content creators, my heart and soul went into it, so I'd love to see people trying it and to hear what you think. Until next time... game on internets!
-Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.