Universe RPG

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by Tom Verreault

The Step-cousin of Star Frontiers

“Universe, The Role Playing Game of the Future” was published by SPI in 1981. One of the developers was an experienced Traveler referee who was attempting to “fix” the problems of that system. When SPI experienced financial difficulties it was bought by TSR making it the “step-cousin” of Star Frontiers till it was quietly phased out. The last official reference to it was in the Ares section of Dragon magazine #87 which gave the impression that the game was going to receive continued support in Ares.

The game was noted for its map of the 30 light years surrounding Earth which included all known stars in a 3d system and is still considered a thing of beauty and one of the best science fiction maps in RPGs. Many sections of the rule system were praised as perfect to drop into any other system. However, combat resolution was universally panned as clunky and the setting as too thin.

One supplement was a game compatible with Universe called Star Trader. It’s a mini game involving interstellar commerce which might be of interest to gamers today.

Universe was discontinued in favor of Star Frontiers. Its trademark was allowed to expire and appears to have not been renewed. Later when TSR was acquired by Wizards of the Coast, part of the TSR catalog was sold to Decision Games and Universe appear to have fallen through the cracks. PDFs of the rules and many of the supplements are available for download on Sourceforge at http://universerpg.sourceforge.net/.