Recent Changes - Search:

Side Projects Wiki for Robots Everywhere

Return to main


The Stuff



Dice are required for rolls. For a fast paced game, a single D20 can be used. For more serious games that assume there is a large player time investment for each launch, a bell curve should be introduced: roll 4D6, and subtract four. Other options are 2D10, 3D8-3, or anything similar - in general the more dice per roll, the more of a bell curve you will get.


Players will need a something to keep track of their manifest, and recognizable markers (anything will do, really) to place their Upgoers on the board.

This started as a way to stimulate cooperative writing, so coming up with names for Upgoers, brief backstories for the spacederps, and short narratives based on the dice rolls during flights is strongly encouraged!

  • Every Upgoer that does more than a simple suborbital or low orbit mission should have a blueprint - write the name of the Upgoer and the names and stats of components and crew. It will make life easier.
  • Every space program should have a manifest indicating dots, saved points, research status, and available crew.
  • All fluff that gets written should be filed in triplicate at the Alpha Centauri basement office. Beware of the leopard.
  • COPYLEFT Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Sharealike

The Rules


  • Players get resource points according to their budget dots, do their R&D, and write their fluff about it. Upgoers are assembled. This can be done concurrently without interaction.
  • Players get together and swap fluff.
  • Flights are launched (depending on how long a R&D turn lasts in fluff, one to three takeoffs per player per turn).
  • Flights and trading/diplomacy happen. Cooperative fluff may be written. Suborbital flights and reentries are resolved.
  • Duration steps happen. Rations are used by derps still in orbit.
  • Resource dots are awarded/removed from budgets according to flight results.
  • Luck is awarded for fluff written and/or derps returning safely.
  • Players part ways, and write their fluff about flights.


  • At the start of each R&D turn, a player gets as many resource points as they have dots.
  • Dots are assigned based on how the last turn went.
    • If it's the start of the game, everyone starts with 40.
    • If they just finished a mission, they get the bonuses that mission has earned them.
    • If they have visited mission steps they never visited before, they get one dot per new step.
    • If they lost derps in space or in landing, they lose five dots per derp.
    • The budget cannot be higher than 70 or lower than 30 dots.
  • Points can be spent to research, develop, build and train, as follows.
    • 3 points per mass: Invent a new thing with a name, type, and mass. It will start at 1/5.
      • Technology transfer: If a similar thing with half the mass or more had already been invented -and- successfully flown, the new thing will start at the older thing's rating, or 5/10, whichever is worse.
    • 1 point per mass: Move the Reliability of a thing by one (Boom to Fail, or Fail to OK). Max 10 (5 and 5) reliability improvement per thing per turn. A thing can never get better than 19/20. Other than a payload, a thing that has never flown cannot get better than 10/15. Other than a payload, a thing that has never flown successfully cannot get better than 15/18.
      • OPTIONAL: Simulationist approach. A thing can get to 19/20 through research alone.
    • 1 point per mass: Build a thing that has already been invented, at its current reliability ratings. Research makes ALL things of that type get better, regardless of when you bought it. However, this is not true of things that have already been launched!
    • 1 point: Hire a derp. Derps start at 0 piloting, 0 engineering, 2 stamina. A derp in boot camp CAN go to space today!
    • 1 point per derp: Train the derp in Piloting, Engineering or Stamina. A derp cannot have more than 9 points total, and only one skill type can be trained per turn. A derp in training cannot go to space today.
    • 1 point per derp: Heal an injured derp, who is then back at 2 stamina and must retrain it. A derp in traction cannot go to space today.
  • The players are allowed to trade points, dots, equipment, blueprints, spacederps, or immediate benefits (such as a rations delivery to a spacecraft that requires it).
    • Trading can happen at any time except during a timing-sensitive situation.
    • Trading a piece of equipment does NOT automatically mean sharing the blueprint; use the Reverse Engineering rule for that instead. However, Technology Transfer still applies.


  • A Lower Stage is only used for Liftoff and Orbital Insertion. It is OK to cluster lower stages together in pairs (This allows launching an Upgoer with three lower stages of the same type), but if this is done, the combined lower stage then uses the average of the rolls, rounded up. Clustering more than 2 stages together is exponentially more dangerous: instead of the average, use the highest of the rolls.
  • A Thruster can be used for any burns except for liftoff and orbital insertion. If a burn fails, it can be reattempted immediately as long as you have any fuel and working thrusters.
  • A Capsule is used for Reentry, Landing, and Duration steps. The capsule is assumed to contain the actual maneuvering engines, etc. in addition to landing equipment such as legs, and parachutes, ballonets etc. If an Upgoer has no working capsule, it can still be lived in, but it cannot be steered even though the thrusters are in good shape.
  • A Habitat is used only for Duration steps and CANNOT control an Upgoer, but lets derps recover 1 stamina between turns and has more failure tolerance.
  • A Payload is used to perform a specific task. Payloads all have a mass of 1, and must be researched like normal. They are all reusable if you can get them back.
  • A Consumable is used by another component; for example, Rations are used by spacederps for sustainance and Fuel is used by thrusters to operate.
  • A RCS can be used for any TWO docking attempts. It can also be used to give two +3 Piloting bonuses to a roll or two diferent rolls. Finally, it can be used to deorbit. It works like payload in some ways.


  • A capsule masses as much as what it can carry, plus one tenth rounding up. A capsule must mass at least 2 to carry anything; a capsule that masses 10 can carry 9, a capsule that masses 16 can carry 14, and so on. It will need to be researched to operate well.
    • A habitat works like a capsule as far as mass and research are concerned and benefits from technology transfer from capsules.
    • If you have more than one capsule (for example, a station may have a habitat and a capsule), sum their masses up.
    • A capsule or habitat can be sent up partially or completely empty; this is decided at launch and allows using smaller rockets for big empty capsules.
    • A capsule (not a habitat) can be made reusable, but will mass a fifth extra and will have to pass Reentry and Landing checks in order to actually be reused.
  • A thruster is what uses your fuel in order to change the spacecraft's movements. It must mass at least a tenth of the capsule it carries.
    • If the spacecraft has to be able to make a lunar landing, it must mass half a much as the capsule(s) it carries there. This is assumed to include landing legs, etc.
    • If it has to be able to make a planetary landing (everything carried by it it becomes reusable), it must mass as much as the capsule(s) it carries home. This is assumed to include shuttle wings, etc.
  • A lower stage must mass as much as EVERYTHING it carries. This means that the the orbital insertion stage will be as big as the rest of the Upgoer so far, and the launch stage will be twice as big as that!
    • A lower stage can be made reusable, but will mass a fifth extra and will have to pass Reentry and Landing checks in order to actually be reused.
    • OPTIONAL: Simplified Stack. Use only one lower stage (which represents a multistage rocket), which has to roll separately for Launch and Orbital Insertion steps. This reduces the cost of Up Goers significantly!
  • A spacederp with basic life support for the current turn always masses 1.
  • A ration container always masses 1. It sustains one derp for two turns or two derps for one turn, so, rations mass 0.5 and are loaded in twos.
  • A fuel container always masses 1.
  • A payload item always masses 1.
  • A RCS always masses 1.


  • Every time a burn is made (successfully or not), look at the mass of the spacecraft. This includes the capsule(s), the contents thereof, the thruster(s), and all fuel. Spacecrafts will lose mass during operation, as they use up rations and fuel.
  • Divide by ten and round up: this means remove the rightmost digit, then add 1 to what's left. For example, if your spacecraft mass is 24 (of which 18 is fuel) keep the 2 and then add 1 to it. Your burn costs 3.
  • Subtract the fuel you burned from your fuel reserves. In this case, you would have 18-3=15 fuel left. Note that as the mission continues and the less fuel you have on board, the more efficient your burning is.
  • You may find it necessary to dump fuel, rations or payload to survive!
  • Hint: Calculate burns backwards, from doing the last one at your "dry" mass and add fuel from there. Then give yourself some safety factor (Or not!)
  • There are a few example Upgoers here.


  • Components generally have three stats: Fail, Boom, and Mass. Mass is how much they cost, both in resources and in fuel to move them. Fail and Boom represent the chances of not working or exploding, and are the numbers that must be beaten on a die roll according to the Reliability Formula.
  • The 1st number is the Boom safety. If the die was rolled higher or equal to this, the part goes Boom.
  • The 2nd number is the Fail safety. If the die was rolled higher or equal to this, the part Fails, assuming it hasn't gone Boom.
  • If the D20 was rolled lower than the Fail rating, the part works as intended. Yay!
  • Under no circumstances the Fail safety can be higher than the Boom safety. At best, after all modifiers are applied, the Fail safety is 1 lower than the Boom safety.
  • A shoddily built part is 1/2. An excellently built part is 19/20. These are hard limits: nothing can get better or worse than that.
  • Some factors, notably spacederp skills, can temporarily increase the rating of a part. The Engineering skill increases the boom safety, the Piloting skill increases the fail safety. Temporary safety increases can be used to negate a bad roll on a "perfect" part, as well.


  • Flights happen in real time when the players get together to share any fluff they've written and present their R&D results. They are considered simultaneous for most purposes. For prestige firsts, timing rules apply.
  • Interceptions/interactions are only possible in stable orbits; two Upgoers catching up as they circularize, deorbit or transfer is just too difficult.
  • Collisions are very unlikely unless a docking attempt is being made, so don't worry about it.
  • Launches are resolved first, using timing rules if necessary. A player that wants to delay their timing despite normally going first may do so.
    • Reentries and Landings that are caused by Launch failures are resolved as soon as they occur.
  • Orbital Insertions are resolved next, using timing rules if necessary. A player that wants to delay their timing despite normally going first may do so.
    • Reentries and Landings that are caused by Orbital Insertion failures are resolved as soon as they occur.
  • Flight steps involving launched Upgoers are resolved next. A flight step consists of:
    • The Upgoer performs any flight activities it is able to perform in its current position, if the player wants it to.
      • An Upgoer may shed components or consumables to decrease its mass. These components are lost in space unless another Up Goer is present, in which case a recovery attempt may be made.
      • Two Upgoers that are in the same orbital step can try to dock - if an Up Goer has already moved and another hasn't, this prevents the one that hasn't from moving (This represents phase shifts due to matching orbits).
      • Two Upgoers that are in the same step can interact in other ways, such as exchanging crew. This does not affect their move status.
      • An Upgoer crew can activate or deactivate a payload, perform jury-rigging, and so on.
    • The Upgoer follows the orbital "rail" it is on, eiher clockwise or counterclockwise according to its color.
      • When it meets a burn, it can either try to burn to a new trajectory or continue on its current trajectory.
      • When it reaches a duration (transit or orbit) step, it MUST roll against its active capsules and/or habitats to verify survivability so far. This ends that Upgoer's movement, but not its turn.
      • When it reaches a special step, such as lunar landing, refer to the instructions for that step.
      • OPTIONAL: Hostile Waters. If none of your Upgoers have ever been in the new position, any roll for it suffer from a -2/-2 penalty. This does not apply for orbital steps that have the same name as one that has already been visited.
    • The Upgoer performs any flight activities it is able to perform in its new position, if the player wants it to.
      • All activities that can be performed before movement can be performed after movement.
      • OPTIONAL: Plan Ahead. Omit this step.
    • Space debris always move last, and just follow their current orbit.
    • The turn is over when all Upgoers and debris have moved and nobody wishes to perform any more activities. If any crew has stamina left, an Upgoer can perform additional flight activities at any time to react to other Upgoers' movement.
  • A flight ends when the Upgoer is destroyed or when it lands home.
    • A player may "write off" an unoccupied Upgoer that is sufficiently damaged, but a different player may keep monitoring it as space debris for possible recovery purposes.
      • Debris that no player wants to track are removed from the board.
      • Collisions with debris are very unlikely and will be ignored.
    • A player may "write off" an occupied Upgoer, but immediately suffers the crew death penalty.
      • The crew remain in orbit and will defect to the first available rescuer.
      • The defection happens as soon as the craft is rescued, so the International Rescue rule does not apply.
      • If the rescued crew dies in the rescue attempt, the rescuer suffers NO dot penalty for their death (at least they tried!)
  • As a consistency check, Upgoers and debris should ALWAYS end their turn landed somewhere, or on a duration (transit or stable orbit) step. If any have been forgotten, finish resolving their movements.


  • Sometimes, the order in which things happen is important even when they are effectively simultaneous -- to see who grabs a prestige first, for example.
  • If this is the case, whichever Upgoer is most likely to work goes first -- this is determined by adding safety ratings together.
  • The reliability considered depends on the part used for the mission step: for a Launch it'll be the lower stage, for a Reentry it'll be the capsule, and so on.
  • Spacederp skills can be used to improve these odds, but this costs a point of stamina like normal!
    • If after that there is still a tie, whoever has the LOWEST budget goes first, as underdogs are more motivated.
    • If after that there is still a tie, roll a die or flip a coin.
  • Once a timing sequence is determined, the actual reliability check does NOT benefit from the extra stamina spent to rush, as that was effort to do something faster, not better. If spacederps have stamina left, they may spend it as normal.


  • Prestige First - Any mission step: 1 dot bonus (so two total).
  • Prestige First - Any orbit type: 1 dot bonus. If there's a mapping payload, 1 mapping step bonus for the closest celestial body (Synch orbit goes to moon).
  • Prestige First - Docking: 2 dot bonus.
  • Prestige First - Extra Vehicular Activity: 2 dot bonus.
  • Prestige First - Multiturn Mission: 2 dot bonus.
  • Prestige First - Multiderp Mission: 2 dot bonus.
  • Prestige First - Rations Delivery: 2 dot bonus.
  • Prestige First - Reusable Capsule: 1 dot bonus (Awarded on the 2nd reentry of the capsule).
  • Prestige First - Reusable Upgoer: 2 dot bonus (Awarded on the 2nd reentry of the vessel. Can be cumulative with above).
  • Prestige First - Gravity Slingshot: 2 dot bonus (Put a probe in a planetary escape trajectory).
  • Prestige First - Rock Landing and Return: 3 dot bonus (if the rock is present).
  • Prestige First - Moon Landing and Return: 5 dot bonus (if it doesn't end the game).
  • Prestige First - Lucky 13: 2 dot bonus for the first time a stranded crew is rescued via jury-rigging.
  • Duration Mission: Whoever has had a continually crewed Upgoer in space the longest has a 2 dot bonus. This bonus will be moved around.
  • Space Party: Whoever has the largest-crewed Upgoer in space has a 2 dot bonus. This bonus will be moved around. If there are no crewed Upgoers in space, this bonus goes unassigned.
  • Positioning System: Your derps can use artificial stars to help navigate. As long as a Waylight under your control is active in polar, synchronous or any lunar orbit, all derps on your team get +1 to Piloting. This can add up to +3 by having one Waylight in each of the three orbits. Having more than one Waylight in any given orbit still only gives +1. A derp that already has maxed stats can still enjoy the bonus.
  • Rescue Mission: Any player rescuing another player's stranded crew receives 1 dot per derp from the rescuee. Can be cumulative with Lucky 13.
  • No More Asking For Directions: A working Upgoer in a polar orbit with a Mapping payload maps 5% of the world or moon it's orbiting every turn; whoever has the most mapping done, or 100%, gets a 2 dot bonus.
  • Bring It On Home: Any empty/stranded Upgoer or part thereof that belongs to another team can be returned home for reuse or reverse engineering.
  • Reverse Engineering: If technology is acquired from another team, its prototyping cost (mass multiplied by 3) is added to the next R&D budget. This can only happen once per inventor/plagiarist pair of teams.


  • Docking is hard. A spacederp has to use stamina to dock like for other payloads, and also must have at least 2 points of Piloting to attempt a docking at all.
  • Upgoers can only dock if they are on the same step of the same orbit. If they are not, it costs a burn to catch up (any number of steps) and docking can happen next turn.
  • Each attempt rolls a reliability check for the RCS:
    • OK means docking succeeded, and half of the maneuvering fuel for that cluster has been used.
    • Fail means docking failed, and half of the maneuvering fuel for that cluster has been used.
    • Boom means docking failed, the cluster has been damaged, and all its maneuvering fuel has been used.
  • Assisted docking - If A cannot dock with B, B can try docking with A in the same flight phase.
  • Stubborn docking - Docking attempts can be made as long a there is fuel and stamina.
  • Resource Transfer - Once docking has happened, you can transfer payload, RCSs, fuel, crew and rations. If both vessels are docked capsule-to-capsule, this is free. Otherwise, each transfer requires an EVA.
  • Undocking - It's free. In fact, it's so free that you can launch docked craft and undock them later! For example, if you have a big first and second stage, they can carry up two capsules-plus-third-stage that then go their separate ways.


  • Unless you are using underped rules, a spacederp is required to launch an Upgoer that covers any steps BUT launch, reentry and landing. Suborbital launches to test a lower stage can be done without crew.
  • Derps have three stats: Piloting, Engineering and Stamina. Derps start at 0/0/2 which is enough to perform basic flight operations and use a payload twice.
  • Most anything a derp does other than basic flight maneuvers costs a point of stamina. This includes operating a payload, using skills, etc.
  • For any roll, a derp can spend a point of Stamina to move a Boom roll towards Fail by how many Engineering points the derp has. This can be done as often as needed, including multiple times on the same roll.
  • For any roll, a derp can spend a point of Stamina to move a Failed roll towards OK by how many Piloting points the derp has. This can be done as often as needed, including multiple times on the same roll.
  • Multiderp crews can work together in unison to solve a crisis. Likewise, a lone genius spacederp can use both Engineering and Piloting skills sequentially to do everything.
  • A derp that runs out of rations is injured - rations include air, and there's only so much that can be stretched out. This represents the derp doing as little as possible to conserve air.
  • A derp recovers all Stamina in a turn at home, and one Stamina per turn in a habitat.
  • A derp with 0 Stamina left from operating payloads or solving problems is tired and should probably go home, but can fly an Upgoer without problems, as long as all goes well.
  • A derp who is injured counts as having -1 Stamina and cannot fly an Upgoer. If there are no healthy derps the Upgoer is stranded, same as for a capsule boom.
  • An injured derp can be retrained for Stamina at the normal rate while at home, but will not get better on their own in a habitat. Will not get worse either, fortunately.
  • An injured derp can be transferred to another Upgoer using an EVA suit, if there is at least one healthy derp nearby. The healthy derp may roll for Pilot and Engineer on behalf of the injured comrade.
  • An injured derp who gets injured again dies. Death is usually permanent unless there is an overriding story reason.
  • A disabled component can be jury-rigged to work again if a derp in it rolls under twice their Engineering skill. This costs a point of stamina.
    • A jury-rigged component still suffers from the penalty it acquired when it went boom. Fuel or rations lost after a boom cannot be recovered.
    • Derps cannot cooperate in jury-rigging, but having more than one derp on the scene allows for multiple attempts.
    • If the component is not a capsule/habitat the derp has access to, an EVA (with a check and extra stamina cost) is required.
  • Spacederps can go on EVA by using their EVA packs as payload, as normal. EVA packs will injure the derp on a boom, but will not cause them to be lost in space. One point of Piloting is required to go on EA. EVA is performed to:
    • Transfer to another nearby Upgoer without docking. They may carry one mass of payload or rations with them; they can also deliver the goods and return to their Upgoer in the same move (Don't forget to tip!)
    • Dock two Upgoers using a winch instead of RCSs (this will require two checks for EVA and winch)
    • Activate, tag, or deactivate a waylight or probe that is floating by itself.
    • Break into song.
    • Use a cart.
    • Attempt to jury-rig a component as above.
    • Any other thing that makes sense, such as collecting samples or participating in orbital construction.
  • There are a few example spacederps here.


  • ANY boom means that the part is just not as good as it was thought to be: all instances of that part loses 6 reliability point (3 each). This includes the same part currently on another flight!
  • Lower stage fail: You will not go to space today. Everything else is fine so far, but the launch or orbital insertion simply not happen.
  • Lower stage boom: A lower stage going boom means a very large boom indeed! See below to determine the fate of the crew.
  • Thruster fail: The burn does not happen, but the fuel for that burn is used up.
  • Thruster boom: The burn does not happen and the thruster is disabled. Your spacecraft is not necessarily doomed, but the nearest capsule is also damaged, and loses 2 reliability (1 each) for this flight.
  • RCS fail: The burn or docking does not happen but the relevant amount of fuel is used up.
  • RCS boom: The burn does not happen but ALL the fuel for that cluster is used up.
  • Capsule fail: Choose whether to lose a payload, a unit of rations per derp, or 2 reliability (1 each) for ALL parts the rest of the mission.
  • Capsule boom: The Upgoer is stranded and can no longer be controlled (no more burns). Lose a unit of rations per derp.
  • Other payload fail: The payload cannot be used this turn. If it's a RCS, half the fuel is used.
  • Other payload boom: The payload is destroyed. If it is an EVA suit, the derp using it is injured.
  • Habitat fail: Stamina cannot be recovered by spacederps in the habitat as they are busy doing maintenance and dealing with glitches.
  • Habitat boom: Derps on board LOSE a point of stamina doing major maintenance. Any derps at 0 stamina are injured (coolant leak, etc).
  • Special steps have their own Boom and Fail consequences, as follows:
    • Launch: The lowest stage rolls, and is either discarded or proceeds to Landing if it's reusable.
      • Fail: The launch does not happen this turn. Every component but the lower stage(s) may be reused.
      • Boom: The entire Upgoer is destroyed. Exception: If the capsule was carrying an escape tower (Probe payload), and it passes a check, the capsule may proceed to Landing.
    • Orbital Insertion: The lower stage rolls, and is either discarded or proceeds to Reentry if it's reusable.
      • Fail: The orbital insertion does not happen. The capsule and any reusable components proceed to Reentry; everything else is destroyed.
      • Boom: The entire Upgoer is destroyed. Exception: If the capsule was carrying an escape tower (Probe payload) and the escape tower works properly, the capsule may proceed to Reentry.
    • Reentry: All capsules and all reusable components that are attempting a reentry must roll.
      • Fail: The parts cannot be reused. Any crew carried are injured.
      • Boom: The parts lose reliability as normal. Any crew carried are dead.
    • Landing: All capsules and all reusable components that are attempting a landing must roll.
      • Fail: The parts cannot be reused. Any crew carried are injured.
      • Boom: The parts lose reliability as normal. Any crew carried are dead.
    • Lunar Landing: The thruster must roll as below. Afterwards, the capsule must roll as normal because this is also a duration step.
      • Fail: The landing burn does not happen or is insufficient. It may be reattempted immediately, but beware: the Upgoer may end up stranded on the Moon due to lack of fuel!
      • Boom: The landing burn does not happen and cannot be repeated. The Upgoer crashes on the surface and is destroyed.
    • Rock Docking: You may treat this as a burn, or as a docking attempt that uses twice the RCS (but only one roll). Afterwards, the capsule must roll as normal because this is also a duration step.
      • Fail: The attempt is unsuccessful and the Upgoer remains in libration above the rock.
      • Boom: The normal boom consequences apply to either the thruster or the RCS.


  • A luck point can be used to reroll any die at any point. Use either result according to your preference. If you are using 4D6, reroll all four dice.
  • Luck is awarded if a sufficient quantity of fluff has been written at the other players' discretion.
  • If this is not a cooperative writing exercise, a player gains a luck point per derp coming back in good health from a mission in which they went to a new step, nd a luck point per stranded competing derp that they rescue.

Possible victory conditions

Optional space combat rules

Optional colonization rules

Optional underped (robotic) vessel rules

Solitaire or Cooperative game option - Stop The Rock!

Using this as a module in a larger RPG campaign

Edit - History - Print - Recent Changes - Search
Page last modified on May 07, 2014, at 10:39 PM