Wandering Galaxy Designer Diary

First Entry

Science Fiction Forgotten Waters! (The concept)

For the past couple of years, I’ve been working on Wandering Galaxy, a science fiction Crossroads Game, in the same vein as Forgotten Waters and Freelancers. This article is about the core concept of the game.



The idea was inspired by our 2020 Crossroads Game, Forgotten Waters. I really fell in love with that narrative game approach and I thought a science fiction version would be really cool. I had a lot of ideas but I was working on Familiar Tales at the time, and never spent more than a few hours brainstorming ideas and creating characters (I created around 25 science fiction characters). 


Then Freelancers came along last year and did so many cool things with the system. It impressed upon me the value of humor and playfulness and how these things are often overlooked or even dismissed in our hobby as “unserious". It’s precisely because of this nature that I value the time spent with these games. For me, that laughter seems to always lead to fond and indelible memories.


So with this in mind, I started really working on my own space opera expression of this adventure game system. 


The Setting


A few years ago, I read a scientific article about J0437+2456, a supermassive black hole at the heart of a spiral galaxy. This black hole is oddly in motion compared to other supermassive black holes, which are usually far more stationary. My pulp fantasy and sci-fi brain latched onto this idea, and I imagined this huge Wandering Galaxy moving through space gobbling up other galaxies, maybe even our own.



In Wandering Galaxy, the players are a group of wannabe space adventurers who’ve sunk their life savings to purchase an old, used relic of a ship from a bygone era. They’re in over their heads and must take on all kinds of jobs in order to pay off their ship and become masters of their own destinies. 

The ship is named The Zephyr, and it has a history of its own. You’re not the first owners, and it seems likely that you won’t be the last. This sense of extended continuity is important as there are three mini-campaigns in the game, but they all feature the same ship. Each set of characters who plays through a game of Wandering Galaxy is just another part of this ship’s long story.




The Scope of the Game

At its core, I wanted Wandering Galaxy to be a game about flying around space, doing odd jobs and having mini adventures while trying to keep your ship running. The bigger struggles in the galaxy are just a backdrop you sometimes interact with or even affect, but the main story is the one you create just by exploring. 

I wanted the players to feel like part of an oddball crew of misfits. Greater emphasis is placed on managing your assigned ship stations. Your character’s talent is reflected in your skill deck and personal development is handled through light deck-building. Future articles will explore these aspects of the game in more detail.




The game will come with three campaigns. Each campaign is made up of just four game sessions. In each session, you’re attempting to pay off a portion of your debt. But while each campaign has a story, you’re completely free to ignore it and strike out on your own, just so long as you make your payments!

As an individual, you’re trying to level up your character, allowing you to unlock more of your personal story. You have to be bold, but you might also become injured, which could lead to an embarrassing early retirement. 



Wandering Galaxy is a cooperative, space adventure for 1-6 roguish players. It pays homage to all the things we love about the science fiction movies, shows and books that we’ve grown up with, by putting you in the seat of your own starship. 





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