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Extraterrestrial Dragons! NASA Releases First Official Tabletop Roleplaying Game, The Lost Universe

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By Cassidy Ward
The Last Starfighter (1984)

In 1984, filmmakers imagined a world in which video games and sci-fi space battles cross paths in The Last Starfighter. It follows teenager Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), a kid on the cusp of adulthood, with all of the uncertainty that entails, and then some. He’s a nobody, a kid with no prospects, and he settles into the sweet escape of a science fiction arcade game called Starfighter.

In the game, the player defends a cosmic frontier against wave after wave of nefarious extraterrestrial villains. When Alex becomes the highest scoring player in the world, he gets swept up in a life and death adventure for the fate of the galaxy. See, it turns out that Starfighter is real, a digital analogue for a real-life battle among the stars, and Alex has just been drafted into the war.

Check Out NASA’s First Official Tabletop Roleplaying Game TTRPG, The Lost Universe

The Last Starfighter inspired a generation of kids to hone their gaming skills on the off chance that it might one day be the only thing standing between us and galactic destruction. Now, gamers can jump into a galaxy-spanning adventure in NASA’s first official tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG), The Lost Universe.

It takes place on the world of Exlaris, a distant exoplanet where science and magic come together. Exlaris is quite similar to the Earth, except for one major detail: Exlaris is a rogue planet wandering the vast cosmos without a star. It wasn’t always that way. About 400 years ago, a black hole inched just a little too close to the planet and kicked it out of orbit. Today, it roams the empty expanses of interstellar space with only its moon as a companion.

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Fortunately for everyone living on Exlaris, the planet is home to a collection of powerful magicians capable of harnessing the “energy of the vacuum,” a kind of magic which spans the whole of the universe. A group of powerful scholars and magicians placed a shield around Exlaris which keeps it at a comfortable temperature and atmospheric composition. Even so, most of the world is shrouded in a perpetual darkness inhabited by horrifying creatures. Newly motivated, scholars investigate the cosmos and make a bizarre connection with the Earth and the Hubble Space Telescope.

The adventure involves an extraterrestrial dragon hoarding knowledge, science, technology, magic, kidnapped researchers, teleportation, vicious monsters, interstellar travel, a missing Hubble Space Telescope, alternate timelines, and so much more.

The game is free to download and includes a gameplay booklet with background information about the world, NPCs, and a narrative broken up into two parts. There are also appendices which provide more information about the mysterious “energy of the vacuum” as well as scientific concepts like redshift, gravitational lensing, and a diagram of the Hubble Space Telescope.

If you play as the GM, you’ll be given story options to choose from, depending on choices the players make as well as guidance for roleplaying NPCs. The GM also receives additional background information about the setting or circumstances which they can choose to dole out to players at their discretion.

The game is intended for between four and seven characters, and typically lasts between three and four hours. If you’ve ever wanted to be the savior of the universe, or if you’re just looking for a sneaky way to make science class a little more engaging, check out the free game, The Lost Universe, NASA’s first ever tabletop roleplaying game.

Revisit Alex Rogan, the gamer who started it all in The Last Starfighter, available from Universal Pictures.

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