Okay, so yesterday I came across this indiegogo RPG game project called Hulks & Horrors. The idea is to take the Old School D&D rules (such as the justly maligned THAC0) and turn it into a sort of "dungeons in space" science fiction game. Well, if you've been reading some of my other posts you'll know that I'll have no truck with this OSR nonsense. However, the overall concept got me thinking a bit.
Back when I was more of a board game and miniatures type, I loved the Games Workshop miniatures board game "Space Hulk". One player takes a squad or two of veteran space marines in heavy assault armor, the other a horde of aliens. The setting is a "hulk" or abandoned (but not uninhabited!) spaceship. There are various mission scenarios using a map made up of room and corridor tiles which link together like puzzle pieces. Anyway, you can look it up on the Intertoobz for more details. It's a very cool game.
So, what if you took a good set of rules (not OSR/THAC0 crap) and did a Space Hulk type game centered around missions into dangerous "dungeon" settings such as space ship hulks, space stations, space colonies, and indoor/underground planetside facilities. I think that would make for a great game for one-shot or short duration scenarios. You could, of course, link that sort of thing together with some sort of overarching story line if you wanted. For rules I would probably either just grab d20 Future or maybe BESM. I also have the old Traveler rules from way back, but you'd have to change the character generation to allow people some choice in skills. Albedo is also very cool set of rules, but maybe a bit too hard science and setting-specific for a "hulks" game.
Anyway, for background I'd postulate that the Warhammer 40,000 universe finally broke out into a massive interstellar bar brawl involving everyone all at once. However, the constant massive activity of large fleets through the warp and use of previously forbidden mega-weapons caused rifts in the inter-dimensional barriers. Ships and even entire fleets went into the warp and most didn't come back. Rifts near solar systems swallowed planets, moons, suns, and entire systems. Demons and demonic miasma emerged, ravaging inhabited planets and infesting uninhabited ones. The wars ground to a halt due to the general shortage of ships and need to battle the demons on the homefronts.
After a few decades years the sharp drop in spaceship travel through the warp allowed the universe to heal itself and most of the rifts closed up. The less affected planets began to return to normal, but other were still locked in a life-or-death struggle with pockets of demons, cultists, undead, etc. Still others had fallen entirely to the forces of evil and become hell planets. Then the missing ships began to reappear. All were infested hulks, their crews either replaced by creatures of the warp or turned into unspeakable monstrosities. However the hulks often still contained valuable cargo and equipment and a rare few even carried priceless items and information from previously unknown dimensions. The barriers between this one and the known warp were not the only ones which had been breached.
Thus governments and private groups are now busily engaged in searching hulks in space, battling horrors on "contested" worlds, and making descents into hell planets.