By Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 2005, portions Copyright © 1993-2002

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This document is copyright, but you are encouraged to make copies and print-outs as needed. You may make modifications for your own use, but modified versions MUST NOT be distributed. If you find any of these files useful you are asked to register.

The first release of these rules was originally converted to HTML by Stefan Matthias Aust, to whom many thanks.

This copy of the rules has been split into several separate files. A version consisting of a single large file is also provided. These documents should be accompanied by several files including larger versions of the game tables and a short summary of the main rules for the use of players.



I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
Thomas Jefferson

Draw the blinds on yesterday and it's all so much scarier....
David Bowie

What will the future be like? Every generation has its own set of ideas and predictions. At the turn of this century most pundits thought that the mighty power of steam and electricity would usher in a new age of peace and prosperity. In the fifties the future was mostly seen as doom, gloom, and nuclear destruction. In the nineties we are obsessed with computers, and convinced that the future will revolve around information technology. Each of the earlier views was valid for its era; each was at least partially wrong. By looking at earlier guesses we may be able to discover what is wrong with our own vision of the future - and make even worse mistakes when we try to correct it!

Forgotten Futures is a role playing game based on these discarded possibilities; the futures that could never have been, and the pasts that might have led to them, as they were imagined by the authors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Role playing games (usually shortened to RPGs) are story-telling games. One player is the referee who runs the game, and has an idea of what is to happen in the story, while the other players run characters in the story. Characters are defined by a name, a description, and a list of characteristics (such as 'MIND') and skills (such as 'Marksman'). Players describe the actions of their characters, while the referee describes everyone and everything they encounter. This may sound like an impossible job for the referee, but it's easy if players are prepared to co-operate.

The Forgotten Futures rules work well when dealing with the activities of normal people, but don't easily stretch to deal with magic, superhuman powers, and the like. Some of the appendices deal with magic, exceptional characters, melodrama, and other matters that the core rules don't cover; mostly this is material that was originally written for one or another of the Forgotten Futures settings, but seems to have more general application.

One aspect of the Forgotten Futures rules may annoy players who prefer high levels of violence; it is easy to get hurt or killed in all forms of weapon-based combat, it takes a long time to recover if you are wounded, and most wounds require medical treatment. This seems more realistic than the systems offered by some other RPGs, in which a character can be shot three or four times and still come back for more. If you dislike this approach please feel free to amend the injury system, but please DO NOT distribute modified rules.

About This Release
Since the game was originally published as shareware in 1993 there have been ten on-line releases, printed versions from two publishers, and conversions to pdf and html format. In all this the actual rules have stayed much the same. This release isn't going to change that; it's mainly tidying things up a little, adding in material originally written for one or another of the game settings which seems more generally useful, fixing some errors, improving layout, and generally making things more user-friendly. Most of the new material is in the appendices, but a few changes appear elsewhere. Where it's important the change is pointed out, one way or another. But you can still use any version of the rules to run anything written for the game.

An important change is an acknowledgement of something that many referees will already know. In Forgotten Futures actions are resolved on a table which opposes "attacking" and "defending" skills, characteristics, or difficulty. Most referees find that they don't need to refer to the table after a game or two, since the rule behind it is extremely simple, and that it can even slow things down. This time around the text explains the rule, and a few references to the table have been changed so that they are applicable to both methods. The actual game mechanics - the values of skills etc., and the way that they interact - are unchanged. All of the material previously released or published for the game can be used without modification.

All of the illustrations used come from the Forgotten Futures CD-ROM or one or another of the game releases, or were created for use with this release of the rules. Most have been cropped, reduced in size, or modified in other ways.

Example of Play

The easiest way to understand an RPG is to see it played. In this example Bert is the referee; he's using these rules and a game background which assumes that the American Civil War ended in the formation of separate Confederate and Union nations. Eric is playing Captain Kirk T. James of the Confederate Zeppelin Squadron, Judy is Ella Mae Hickey, apparently a resourceful Southern belle but actually a resourceful Yankee spy, and Aaron is reporter Horace Mandeville of the Times (that's the London Times for American readers). They are heading towards a mysterious South American plateau, on the trail of the missing British explorer Professor Challenger (see Forgotten Futures III), but there have been problems:
BertThe airship is starting to rock from side to side, and pitching up and down in the cross winds from the hurricane.
Eric I'll try to steer towards the eye of the storm. We'll drift with it until it ends.
Bert How do you know where the eye is?
Eric In this hemisphere storms spin anticlockwise. If I veer to the left, sorry, I mean port, while moving with the wind, I should go towards the eye. (Eric isn't sure, but it sounds plausible and is the sort of thing a real pilot would know. Bert isn't sure either, but knows that 'Kirk' should understand these things.)
Bert Make your 'Pilot' roll, difficulty six.
Eric (Rolls dice and consults table) No problemo. Gritting my teeth, I wrestle with the wheel and force the dirigible to its new heading.
Aaron I pick up my pocket phono-recorder, slip in a new wax cylinder, and describe the captain's desperate duel with the elements.
Bert Good idea, except you're still feeling airsick in the aft cabin and don't know what he's doing.
Aaron I'll dictate a mood piece about airsickness instead. Let's see, how many different synonyms for the word "vomit" can I use... (starts to write list)
Judy Ugh. Don't read it out loud.
Bert Definitely not.
Judy Once we're moving with the wind there should be less turbulence.
Bert Yes, after a few minutes things seem to be getting quieter.
Judy Kirk cut his head when the windscreen broke, didn't he?
Bert You weren't in the control room, but yes he did.
Judy Then I'll go forward and bandage Kirk's wounds.
Bert I suppose he calls for your help through the speaking tube? Otherwise you wouldn't know. (Bert suggests this to keep the game moving. Players usually do better if their characters are together.)
Eric Yes, as soon as things calm down enough to let go of the wheel for a few seconds.
Aaron In that case I should feel better, so I'll tag along.
Bert Roll for luck, to be there at the right time difficulty three. (Aaron rolls a 2, a success) OK, you get up and stagger forward in time to meet her.
Judy I bat my eyelashes and ask him to carry my first aid kit.
Aaron (speaking as Horace) Delighted to help, Miss Hickey.
Bert You reach the bridge. Kirk is still at the wheel, and his forehead and arm are obviously badly gashed.
Judy (as Ella Mae) Mah hero, you've saved us all!
Eric (as Kirk) Shucks, it was nothing ma'am.
Aaron (mimes speaking to recorder) Headline, Heroic But Modest Captain Defies Wounds In Hurricane Drama. Subhead, Southern Belle Angel Of Mercy. First paragraph: Captain Kirk T. James of the Confederate Zeppelin squadron today denied.. blah, blah, for a few paragraphs.
Judy While he dictates I'll bandage the wounds.
Bert Make a First Aid roll, difficulty four as he's lost a lot of blood.
Eric Hey, I thought you said it was just cuts and bruises.
Bert You didn't get her help straight away, and you've been bleeding for quite a while. It's now a flesh wound. (In this game prompt First Aid stops wounds getting worse, untreated wounds sometimes lead to additional damage. Some recovery time, and optionally the help of a doctor, is needed to restore health.)
Judy Oh mah hero, let me tend to these awful cuts. (Rolls dice successfully)
Eric Shucks, Ma'am, it's only a flesh wound. Ah feel better already.
Bert Apart from bandages around your head and your left arm in a sling. You'll be walking wounded for at least a week.
Eric Ouch.
Judy When I pack my first aid kit afterwards I'll use my spy camera to take a picture of the maps on the bridge.
Bert The camera concealed in your hat? It's the first chance you've had to use it, isn't it?
Judy Uh-oh. Yes, it is. I have a bad feeling about this...
Bert There's a loud whirring click, and the artificial flower at the front flaps out of the way, like the door of a cuckoo clock. The lens pops out on a concertina bellows and clicks, then retracts again. It takes two seconds.
Eric Wow, really subtle. Do I notice this? (Eric - the player - knows that Judy's character is a spy, but Kirk - his character - is unaware of Ella Mae's real identity. A little schizophrenia is sometimes needed in an RPG)
Bert Roll to notice. You too, Aaron. Difficulty six, I think, since her back is turned.
Eric (Rolls dice) Rats - missed it.
Bert Drowned out by the noise of the wind, perhaps.
Aaron (rolls dice) Using my Detective skill I spot it, I think. (Horace is a reporter, so this skill - improved observational abilities - is naturally very useful)
Bert Yes. What are you going to do about it?
Aaron Nothing for now. It confirms what I thought when I saw her near the Marconi transmitter yesterday. I'll wait until we land, then try to get her to talk. An interview with a beautiful Yankee spy should sell a lot of papers!
Bert Good thinking. Now, you seem to be in fairly clear air, and something big has just flown past the windscreen.
Judy Another Zeppelin?
Bert You're not too sure, but it looked like a pterodactyl....
In this example male players took male roles, and the female player took a female role. This is advisable if they feel uncomfortable playing a character of the opposite sex, but there is no other reason why players shouldn't run characters of different sexes, races, nationalities, or even species. The referee needs to take on a wide variety of roles, which will probably take in all of the above as a campaign progresses. At a few points in these rules it has been convenient to use the term "him" or "her" when describing something that is equally applicable to either sex. This is not meant to imply that either sex should be excluded from any activity. However, in historically accurate settings women may find themselved disadvantaged to some extent.

Game Requirements

To use this system you'll need two six-sided dice (preferably two per player), copies of the character record form and a few tables, and some pens and paper. A calculator is occasionally useful. Lead or plastic figures can be used to represent characters, but they are not essential. Players may want their own copies of this file, on disk or as a printout, but everything they really need to know is in
the Summary Rules

Game Terms

Most role playing games incorporate specialised terms. Forgotten Futures uses some, as well as a few abbreviations and contractions, as follows:
1D6Roll one dice (one die if you feel pedantic)
2D6Roll two dice and add the numbers
BODYA characteristic, often abbreviated as B.
MINDA characteristic, often abbreviated as M.
SOULA characteristic, often abbreviated as S.
EffectNumerical rating used to calculate the damage caused by weapons and other forms of attack.
Average of..Add two numbers (eg characteristics) and divide by two. Round UP if the result is a fraction. Usually abbreviated as Av, e.g.AvB&S
Half of..Divide a number (usually a characteristic) by two and round UP. Usually shown as /2, e.g.B/2, 1D6/2
Half average..Some skills are based on half the average of two characteristics. Add the characteristics, then divide by 4, then round up. e.g.AvB&S/2
+1Add 1 to a dice roll or other number.
+2Add 2 to a dice roll or other number.
-1Subtract 1 from a dice roll or other number.
-2Subtract 2 from a dice roll or other number.
2+, 3+, etc.2 or more, 3 or more, etc.
RoundA flexible period of time during which all PCs and NPCs can perform actions. In combat a round is a few seconds, in other situations it might be a few minutes or hours.
Optional RuleThis means exactly what it sounds like; something that can be tacked onto the game if you want to use it, but isn't essential for play. Usually optional rules add extra realism, but make life harder for players or the referee, or involve complexities which you may wish to avoid. Most of the appendices are optional rules.
FFForgotten Futures (what else?)
FF I, II, etc.Forgotten Futures I, II, etc.


All of the following helped with useful ideas and information, or made valuable suggestions on changes to these rules: Mike Birchill, John Clute, Jack Cohen, Mike Cule, John Dallman, Matt Goodman, Colin Greenland, Tim Illingworth, Dave Langford, Hugh Mascetti, Phil Masters, Mavis, Bernie Peake, Ashley Pollard, Roger Robinson, Brian Stableford, Charles Stross, Alex Stewart, and Ken & Jo Walton.

Numerous playtesters helped to develop the system or commented on its flaws. There are too many to name, my thanks to all.

Finally, literally dozens of people were helpful, supportive, and/or sympathetic to the ideas of this game, or encouraged its development. Again there are too many to name.

Continue to Characters And Rules

Revised and converted to HTML 23/4/98, Revised and updated 1/2005 - If you have any queries or comments on these rules please contact the author.