Courtesy of the folks at Spidermind Games, I’m taking a look back at 2018’s Elite Dangerous RPG. This review is intended to replace our previous look at the game, and while it’s much the same in terms of the end result should provide much more detail for players, learned through our subsequent physical board gaming reviews.
This tabletop pen and paper roleplaying game is set within one of my favourite game universes. Again it’s one I was looking forward to as soon as I heard it was coming, and it’s available now in fine box set form. If this article floats your flotilla you can get your hands on it in physical or digital form by heading just over here. If you remain undecided, Spidermind also provide a free tester adventure which you can find just here.
N.B. For clarity, these statistics are based on Pixel Bandits recommendations, rather than publisher approved.
- Players: 4 – 6
- Age: 8+
- Supplements: 4
- Play Time: 2 hours per session
- Style: Pen and Paper RPG
- Page Count: 365 (Base)
The ED RPG is set within the bright technological future of the early 34th century. The Elite Dangerous video game boasts a 1:1 scale model of our galaxy, and it’s clear that the licensed RPG really looks to tap into that sense of size and scale. Before Odyssey was announced, this was an exciting preview of the potential futures which Space Legs could bring to the title.
CMDRs (the in-lore term for player characters) will journey through this galaxy, rotating through three main game modes
Elite Feet – Much as you find in any RPG, a lot of the game will be spent on foot. Here you’ll be armed with a vast selection of melee and ranged weaponry and facing off against pirates, security forces, alien creatures and even hard hitting mechs. SRV – Known in the video game as the Surface Recon Vehicle, the main one person lunar rover is also joined by many other forms of transport. Combat is possible in these too, and you will find some heavy firepower throughout. Many campaigns can of course be written without touching on these at all. However if your GM finds it convenient, you can choose from quad bikes, battlecars, trucks, APCs, frontline tanks or submersibles. Spacecraft – Proving cheap(ish) faster than light travel, there’s a vessel out there for everybody. Video game fans will find many new and old ships here, including the original Krait and many of the ships currently in game. If you’ve not set foot in the virtual universe of Elite yet, you’ll find a host of cool looking vessels, with many varied capabilities.
Newcomers to the Elite universe don’t have to worry. Firstly, you’ll not have to immerse yourself in lore to enjoy this one. As an added bonus if you do want to immerse yourself in lore, there’s plenty of meat on the bones here to let you get a good feel for the galaxy and your place among the stars.
One thing which concerned me a little when I first heard about the ED:RPG was that it could be a lightweight fly-by-night conversion, which didn’t really touch too much on the video game itself. After speaking with writer Oliver Hulme for literally half a minute, I was happy to see that this wasn’t going to be the case, and after first receiving a copy of the game I was pleasantly surprised with the backstory and lore included.
If you’re a fan of Elite, you’ll find a universe which feels tangibly linked to the one we already know and love. Manufacturers names scattered throughout, game artwork created by familiar names, and of course the inclusion of many licensed vessels for space combat. With the ED: RPG you can enjoy the in-lore feel, without the restrictions that come from gamification and coding.
Fancy just getting out of your ship in the middle of deep space? Of course, you can do that. Want to march right onto that wedding barge and slap the groom upside the head? You can finally get your payback. Is that vessel rated in the top 1% of all liners out there? Why not board it and steal all the loot from its obviously wealthy passengers. The only restrictions here are what you can imagine (and of course what your GM will allow).
Parent’s Eye View
As a pen and paper RPG, there’s not a huge amount to worry about in terms of content. The book and expansions offer a look into the galaxy which won’t offer much in the way of worries. With the in-game content moderated by the GM it’s very easy to create a campaign which is suitable for young players, but that can still be exciting and engaging for all ages.
The closest thing I’ve found to being taboo in game is the fact that with the NPC random name generator (which is excellent, by the way) you could accidentally give an NPC the name Randy Palmer. Cut it out, Randy! You’re shaking the space station!
The Run Down
Visuals – Great: The art within the base game and supplements is beautifully created. Fans of the video game will find instantly recognisable ships and visuals within, while newcomers will find a realistic imagining of the ships of the future. The art here includes pieces drawn by known names in the Elite community, such as Kevin Massey, while also including big names in the graphic art world like Robin Smith.
Build – Great: Printing quality is great, and the books all feel solid and well crafted. There are some great small touches, even down to the choice of ribbon colour, which show how linked the creators are to the digital counterpart.
Storage – Great: The box set is a fairly standard size here, and should fit on most bookshelves. There’s nothing oversize, and no strange maps to worry about. Character and ship sheets as well as other items are included within the main book, with minimal chance of losing them.
Replay – Good: The base game comes with a huge number of enemies and enough information for you to create pretty much any scenario you could want. If you’re drawing a blank, there’s also a really handy random quest generator based on dice rolls, which will allow you to throw together a satisfying campaign in quick time. The only area where this falls down slightly is due to the lack of included adventures within the base game. While I’m happy enough to create my own adventure, I know some folks will be looking for some pre- written content, and it would be great to see more of that in future.
Overall the Pixel Bandits CMDR Level for the Elite Dangerous Roleplay Game is Grab It. This is another tabletop title which has been well balanced to provide a great experience for franchise newcomers, but strong links and lore for those who’ve already been hooked.
The various methods of combat within the title allow for any scenario you can think of, backed by enough weapons, ships and settings to make it easy for a GM to craft. Space combat has easy to follow rules which allow for strategic battles either with NPCs or with each other.
Sci-fi fans who haven’t played Elite Dangerous (or any of the previous Elite titles) will find a system which provides depth without being convoluted, and a great setting packed with far future content. In addition to that, fans of the franchise will discover a whole new way to imagine Elite, backed by a book which is packed with links, lore and old favourites.