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.
An Independent Space Horror RPG [ edit ]
As an RPG specifically designed for space horror adventures, Mothership clearly belongs as an option for running such a campaign. However, being good for a particular genre doesn't necessarily make an RPG good ... which raises the question: how good is it?
That can be a difficult question to answer, because Mothership is relatively new (2018 release), and so there are far fewer reviews available for it than more established RPGs. For instance, just by looking at Mothership's ranking on RPG Geek, you might not be impressed by its position (in the mid 200's, out of all RPGs).
However, the RPG did make a strong impression to many gamers at the famous Gen Con gaming convention, taking home the trophy as the "Best Game" of the 2019 ENnies. Furthermore, while it lacks the number of reviews of more established games, the few (nine at time of writing) gamers who have reviewed it gave it very high marks overall, with an average rating of 8.44/10.
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.
Only Downside: It's a Newer/Indie RPG [ edit ]
With a well-received and well-ranked (if a bit new) system that's perfectly designed for space horror, it's hard not to recommend Mothership. However, no system is perfect, and Mothership does have some downsides, mainly because it is relatively new and comes from an independent RPG publisher.
For instance, when the game first came out it was criticized for not having certain rules details (eg. specific rules for handling pressurized oxygenated areas), or for having much game master material. However, now that more Mothership products have been released, this feels a bit like criticizing the game's "Player's Handbook" for not having DM material.
With a total of 12 released products (as of October 2020), Mothership now has has a variety of game master source material, including adventures. In fact, it's first published adventure, Dead Planet, took home the Silver ENnie (ie. second place) from the 2019 ENnies.
Who Should Try It? [ edit ]
In summary, Mothership is not quite as "refined" as many existing RPGs ... and that's about the worst thing you can say about it. If you're looking for a more "crunchy", or rules-heavy RPG, or you want to have lots of supporting published material, you may wish to consider other RPG options.
However, for most gamers looking to experience their own space horror campaign, Mothership will be an excellent fit, and what's even better ... you get to pick your own price! The core rule book for the system (Mothership: Player's Survival Guide), is available at a sliding scale price: the recommended cost is $7, but you get to decide how much you want to pay, making it extremely easy to get started with the system.