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Human Contact — a hard SF roleplaying game about humans's video poster

A roleplaying game of true science fiction about what and who we are. Inspired by Iain M. Banks' Culture and Ursula K. LeGuin's Ekumen. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on November 6, 2010.

A roleplaying game of true science fiction about what and who we are. Inspired by Iain M. Banks' Culture and Ursula K. LeGuin's Ekumen.

About this project

Download the free preview edition!

Tweet about this Kickstarter project with the hashtag #HumanContact and I'll send you a PDF of Alone, a preview I did for players at PAX East, about the black ops anthropologists that a Contactor sends in when it's too risky to openly declare their presence.

Shock:Human Contact is a roleplaying game of serious science fiction based on the rules of Shock: Social Science Fiction (

Human Contact started as a response to Star Trek, but wound up heavily inspired by Ian M. Banks’ Culture novels, Use of Weapons and Player of Games; Vernor Vinge’s Deepness in the Sky; Ursula Le Guin's Ekumen stories, Left Hand of Darkness and The Telling; and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

It's about what happens when a rationalist, free, democratic society explores its universe and finds others that have different values than it has. It deals with those interactions on both a personal and societal level.

The Academy: a transhuman society of rationalists. Democratic, meritocratic, and scientific, with a mandate to discover new civilizations, languages, and forms of humanity.

Academics: Living for centuries, driven by curiosity, and given fantastic technological powers, they find themselves engaging across the Galaxy with the same tools as all other humans: hate, love, desire, jealousy, and compassion.

Contactors: Institution-starcraft — the Academy's first outreach to new forms of human, mobile anthropological centers of study and thought. Contactors emerge from a wormhole called a Bridge and insert themselves into local cultures, learning their languages and customs. Contactors may arrive in the middle of a cultural cataclysm. Sometimes they can't risk direct contact. They send three Envoys — black ops anthropologists — to ready the colony for the slingshot return of the Contactor craft seven years later. If the Envoys fail, they will cause irreparable damage to the society. If they succeed too well, their hosts will have been transformed and the culture will be lost anyway.

The book
Shock:Human Contact will be 150-200 pages long with both color and black & white illustrations. It will contain information about the Academy, its methods, laws, and technologies. But that's just so you know what's going on. It also will include techniques for creating new colonies, their cultures, their languages, their technologies, their ways of life.

Human Contact will have several color illustrations by concept artist Alex Drummond ( as well as a number of my own black & white illustrations. Alex's art has a solidity that the game needs to describe the scope of worlds, artifacts, and anatomy while carrying a level of abstraction that will encourage imagination on the part of the players. A large chunk of these Kickstarter funds are going right to his very modest fee. Many publishers pay the creators last, but I think this is perverse. By donating, you're helping to pay Alex, the creator of his illustrations, directly.

The Shock: ( rules upon which Human Contact is based are built around making real science fiction about radical differences from the world that we know.

Human Contact focuses the Shock: rules to enhance players' relationships with their characters and build a coherent world and society that the players will come back to every week. Your society evolves every episode — sometimes painfully, always interestingly.

The Kickstarter funds for this project are to make sure I can make this book with the production values it deserves.

  • Illustrations by concept artist Alex Drummond — about 1/3 of the Kickstarter goal
  • Printing and shipping 100 copies of the approximately 150-200 page book with color & black and white illustrations. — about 2/3 of the Kickstarter goal

These are far from the only costs for making a book like this. There's no design, writing, editing, typesetting, or other illustration included in this cost, and the print volume is relatively low to keep upfront costs down. My primary concern on the Kickstarter is having enough to make the book beautiful and evocative while making sure I can pay my illustrator first.

I'm hoping to premiere Human Contact at the Dreamation game convention in February, 2011. I look forward to meeting you and making new people, new worlds, and new civilizations!

You might want to know more about Kodrek. Here's the original blog post, though it's gotten to be a more solid game since.


Vincent Baker has just written an Apocalypse World ( character playbook exclusively for Human Contact backers! Back at any of the listed levels and I'll send you out a PDF for the Quarantine! (

It's gone when the Kickstarter's gone, so move quick!


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    93 backers

    At $10, you'll get a PDF of the final game before it's even at the presses! I'm not sure what the eventual price of the PDF will be, but it'll certainly be more than ten bucks. I'll also send unfinished versions out to Kickstarters as the book reaches certain milestones!

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    25 backers All gone!

    If you pledge just $25, I'll send you a signed copy of the final game text along with the PDF for easy searching. The book alone will go for something like $30 when complete, so combined with the PDF, this is a damn good deal. Limited numbers!

  • You selected
    Pledge $33 or more

    58 backers

    Print & PDF pre-order, plus developmental PDFs along the way, just like the $25 level, but at the street value, with free shipping. If there are still copies left at $25, do that one instead!

  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    21 backers

    If you pledge $50, I'll send you not only the PDF and a signed copy of the game, but also a set of four booklets to share with all your players, giving a brief explanation of the Academy and the galaxy that holds it.

  • You selected
    Pledge $53 or more

    20 backers

    Shock:Bundle! The same as the $33 level, but with a copy of Shock:Social Science Fiction as well!

  • You selected
    Pledge $70 or more

    6 backers

    Shock:Bundle, but with the four setting books from the $50 level!

  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    16 backers

    If you send me $100 or more, it means you really want Human Contact to happen. In appreciation, along with the goodies from the other giving levels, I'll send you a handmade Kodrek set, along with a ludological/anthropological paper describing the game, by MektehShr Phon, an anthropologist member of the Contactor Rn-Zjaphe, just returned from the remains of the Kotaht Archipelago.

    Kodrek is a board game, called the "Man's Game" in Kotaht. It is played for money in rowdy bars among men, whether they be male or female. The objective of the three-player game is to fling one of the other two Craft off the board, splitting the ante of the loser between them. It plays in as many rounds as you have coins to spend on, and a round takes fifteen or twenty minutes. Play it with pennies for fun, quarters for intensity, or Toleks for authenticity!


Funding period

- (32 days)