Welcome to the first installment of Retro Rockets, a series detailing pulp-SF rocket ships for your d20 campaigns.
Science fiction pulps were heavy on the "fiction" and light on the "science." Man’s first ventures into orbit and beyond were still decades away, and many of the things that we now know about space travel were merely theories at the time. The writers of the pulps concentrated on bringing readers fast-paced adventure tales, liberally seasoned with things that sounded vaguely scientific, to give the stories a futuristic sheen. To today’s audience, phrases like "atomic ray pistol" "electro suits" and "radio rangers" sound absurd, but to the pulp reader of the time, they were full of wonder and possibility.
One of the first jobs that a Game Master running a pulp SF campaign will have to do is to communicate these sorts of expectations to the players. 21st century players will have to willingly suspend their disbelief, and go with the feel of things. Sure, we now know that there is no use for aerodynamics in outer space.... but you know what? It doesn’t matter. Wings and fins on a starship look cool.... and maneuvers like banking,
power dives and barrel rolls are exciting.
These rocket ships are written up as vehicles, using the standard Modern D20 vehicle format. Game masters wishing to use the Future SRD can adapt the vessel with that system’s starship rules – although, as presented in the pulps, these ships are universally treated more like traditional aircraft than starships.