How to Collect Science Fiction RPGs and Sci Fi Roleplaying Games
Collecting science fiction roleplaying games involves a few large investments and a lot of small investments, if you want something approaching a complete collection. You'll find a lot of sci fi roleplaying games have been published, though many of them have come and gone without a lot of fanfare. Many familiar names have had their universe licensed for roleplaying, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who, but these haven't always commanded a big share of the market.
Science fiction RPGs tend to be like sci-fi in movies and books. When science fiction games are good, they're really good; and when they're bad, they're really bad. Of course, some of the best roleplaying games about space, technology, and the future aren't what I would consider collectors items.
What Is a Science Fiction RPG?
A loose definition of science fiction RPGs would allow for everything from superheroes to modern espionage and/or conspiracy books. Obviously, cyberpunk books would be sci-fi, but many people might not consider a fantasy cyberpunk book like Shadowrun to be a science fiction game. I'm going to call any future or dark future game a science fiction RPG, even if it represented the future at the time of publication, but is now in the past (a lot of "Year 2000" games came along). Just about anything that smacks of comic book heroes, horror, or supernatural, I'll save for some other discussion. That tends to leave cyberpunk, non-cyberpunk dystopias like Paranoia, space opera, hard science fiction, and post-apocalyptic genres.
No overview of collectible science fiction roleplaying games would be complete without a mention of Traveller, which was one of the first roleplaying games with a science fiction theme. (The only sci fi RPGs I know of that were published prior to Traveller were Metamorphosis Alpha and Ken St.Andre's Starfaring. Good luck finding a copy of the original boxed set in anything resembling new condition.
Traveller has gone through many editions. Most of the later editions are affordable enough. Serious Traveller collectors will also be interested in collecting The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society, a magazine devoted to the game.
Aftermath! is a cult classic post-apocalyptic roleplaying game released in 1981. Produced by Fantasy Games Unlimited, the Aftermath! roleplaying game is legendary for the complexity of its rule system. While this can give players fits, it also allows for amazingly detailed conversions of real world places in the Aftermath! world.
The nature of the apocalypse suffered is left up to the players, though it's assumed to be a nuclear winter on some level. Stories revolve around the collection of scarce resources. Given that much of the material is set in Australia, the comparisons to Mad Max are natural and compulsory. The core rulebook is probably going to cost you between $50 and $70 online.
Gamma World RPG
Gamma World was the third roleplaying game published by TSR, the makers of Dungeons & Dragons and Boot Hill. Gamma World has been through 7 editions, including releases in 1978, 1983, 1986, 1992, 2000, 2003, and 2010. The earliest Gamma World rule book and supplements cost more, given their age, rarity, and contribution to the growing RPG market.
The setting is the 25th century on Earth after "The Big Mistake", though the nature of that mistake is left unexplained. Supplements for the early editions tend to be in the $20 to $40 range for collectors, though later editions are dirt cheap. Products to look for include the Gamma World Referee's Screen & Mini Module, Famine in Far-Go, Exploration Module Legion Gold, Beta Principle, The Survival Module, and the Gamma World Boxed Set.
Collecting Star Wars RPG 1st Edition
The first edition of Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game from West End Games sells for around $60 online and is a must for any true fan of the George Lucas space opera. Which kid growing up in the late-seventies didn't imagine adventuring in the Star Wars universe, so it's surprising that the game (produced by West End Games) didn't dominate the market.
It might be that the relatively late release date for the first edition of Star Wars (1987) meant that most of the craze had died down. Whatever the case. George Lucas considered the background information contained to be authoritative enough to send the source material to Timothy Zahn when he wrote The Thrawn Trilogy, though, and the Star Wars game eventually had roughly 140 supplements released for it--a success by any standards. There have been later Star Wars RPGs released, some of them better reviewed, but the original RPG is a collectors item these days, going for around $60 on eBay.
Collecting the Paranoia RPG
The Paranoia roleplaying game has been a fan favorite since the eighties. The core rulebook and several modules have become collectors items, including the Paranoia: Black Missions Limited Edition RPG (don't buy it without the DVD). There were only 1000 copies of the Black Missions book ever made. The Acute Paranoia RPG Book Clone Secret Societies Guide and the High Programmers Supplement are also collectible.
If you're wondering what the Paranoia roleplaying game is, imagine a Orwell's 1984 if it was run by an artificial intelligence and everything was sprinkled with black humor. Most scenarios involve a group of players who are pitted against each other.
Besides whatever ostensible group mission may exist, each character is given a secret mission which often requires the PC to doublecross the others. Any mention of the rules of the game (rule lawyering) during game-play results in summary execution of the player character--one of the greatest rules in the history of roleplaying games.
The Morrow Project
The Morrow Project is a post-apocalyptic setting published in 1980, which went on to include supplements (called "modules") like Operation Damocles, Operation Lucifer, Operation Lonestar, Desert Search, and The Ruins of Chicago. The entire set can sometimes be found on eBay for a little bit over a hundred dollars.
More Sci-Fi RPGs to Collect
Other games to consider collecting are Traveller, Cyberpunk, Judge Dredd, Fading Suns, Alternity, Cthulhutech, Jovian Chronicles, Battletech, Eclipse Phase, Metamorphosis Alpha, Star Trek, and Twilight 2000.