Article, Hard-Space Hustle

What is Hard-Space Hustle?

After thinking of what I wanted the Tiny Game Engine to be I had to decide what game I wanted to socket it into to test it out. I had been craving a grungy sci-fi game but couldn’t think of a system I wanted to run it with so that seemed the obvious choice to go forward with TGE!

The more I thought about it conceptually, the more I realized I just wanted to play and tell stories like I’d watched in Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop and, while talking with a friend, he used the phrase “Shonen Space Anime” to describe them and that was all I needed. I re-watched Bebop and Outlaw Star, and then the movie Redline. Taking suggestions from Twitter I also watched Dirty Pair Flash, parts of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 and Z.O.E. Dolores, I.

It’s all came together to inform a game about found families living on the edges of society but in space. The idea is that the crew will always be hungry, always be in trouble, and always be in it together, even when they are at each other’s throats.

The game emphasizes the desire to not fit in with regular society, forging your own path through the stars and trying to make it work. You don’t accumulate riches, that’s for the working types, and things don’t always go to plan, but you’re always dancing to your own rhythm, and that’s what really matters.

The System

Hard-Space Hustle uses the Tiny Game Engine which, at it’s core, is the following:

Dice Mechanic

The basic thrust is, you roll your Characteristic Die + your Skill Die and if it’s total is higher than the total of the Difficulty Dice you roll at the same time, you succeed and roll an Outcome Die to see how well you do!

Your dice can be Sized Up or Sized Down based on special effects or environmental benefits or hindrances and if you roll doubles on your good dice or difficulty dice you generate Boons and Fumbles which also carry special effects but that’s the basic version of it.


Hard-Space Hustle uses a Job system. You can bounce around between Jobs as you level up, but you only get the Job Ability from your first one. Each Job gives you a set of skills, some gear, and an ability that greatly changes how your character interacts with the world and system.

For instance, with the Troubleshooter Job your character’s pride and reputation give them added abilities. When their reputation is on the line they cannot fail with their chosen skill, but the stress of the situation takes it’s toll on them. The Support Job can bumble around and encounter unchallenged so long as they don’t overtly engage with the opposing side, freeing them up to accomplish other goals without being attacked.

Each job also adds a special tool to the GM Toolkit which changes the setting or introduces new, expanded mechanics. The Speed Demon adds expanded racing rules and the Master adds mystical weaponry to the universe.

GM Toolkit

The GM Toolkit in Hard-Space Hustle are a set of special rules and prompts to help tell the story intended by the system. Imagine it like more in-depth GM Moves from a PBtA game. Some of them will just be hint or tips to remember, others will be codified rules, for example: What do do when someone fails and how to keep the group hungry and looking for work without everything feeling like a grind.

The World

You will be free to create your own custom setting in Hard-Space Heroes, or borrow wholesale from your favorite shonen space anime, but there will be a canon setting in the game.

It is all still in flux so this may change but so far this is what we have in the setting:


Our home planet was, yes, more or less destroyed. Not by some cataclysm or great war, but by overuse and disregard for conservation. The planet is mostly an unlivable scrapyard, the people living there forming small villages among the rubble and scrapping what’s left of the planet to sell to whoever touches down on the surface for whatever reason. Most people have written Earth off… If anyone wanted to repair the environment and clean up the waters, they could, we terraformed every solid rock in the system, after all. Problem is: There’s no profit in it. We’ve drained Earth of everything of value and left it to rot.

There are some home planet purists who are working to reclaim the planet, but most ignore them as bleeding hearts or sentimental nutcases.


Jokingly referred to as Earth II, Mars is the new cultural hub in the system. It’s the most populated of all the planets, and the most like what we would consider Earth-like. There are sprawling cities, rural farmlands, rivers, lakes, even an ocean. It’s a bit cooler than Earth but otherwise you can treat it as normal.


There are no faster-than-light capable human ships, but travel between planets are facilitated by Aether Gates that fold time and space between the planets of the Sol System. They are highly regulated and it’s hard for anyone with a record to use them, thus pirates are generally limited to work around whatever planet they are based on, though they can make the months-long trip between planets if they so choose. When you take a gate, you, ostensibly, teleport ship and all to the new location. It takes a bit to safely adjust from the effects so you’re not allowed to use the gates more than once every 12 hours or else your atoms might forget where they belong.

There are a handful of these gates around every planet, though less around the more remote areas like Mercury or the Asteroid Belt.

The System Gate

There is one gate, out past Pluto, not constructed by humans. Aliens tend to be sparse in the Sol System but they have placed a System Gate at the edges of human space. This is the only gate capable of sending ships to other solar systems in our galaxy. The aliens of the galaxy will be discussed more in-depth in a later article.

I hope to have a playtest document up for other people to read and play soon, but until then, please listen along and give feedback!