We found the tabletop nerds (affectionate) at NASA

Inspired by science, powered by dice, two of the leads of The Lost Universe talk NASA’s first TTRPG.

We found the tabletop nerds (affectionate) at NASA
Credit: NASA

When NASA released its first tabletop roleplaying game module, The Lost Universe on Monday, March 4, the internet immediately jumped on it. TTRPG Twitter started creating streams, people solicited games from mutuals, and everyone—yours truly included—wondered… where in Spacejammer did this just-off-D20 module come from? 

Here at Rascal, we believe in the power of sending emails, so yours truly sent NASA an email asking a couple questions, and two days later, we had booked interviews with the lead designer, Christina Mitchell, a nerd who happens to work in the NASA communications department, and Elizabeth Tammi, one of the lead outreach specialists for the Hubble Space Telescope mission. 

And now you, dear reader, can get the skinny on how, and why, NASA decided to try its hand at rolling the old bones. It’s very charming. 

Lin Codega: Can you introduce yourselves and talk about your experience with tabletop roleplaying games? 

Christina Mitchell: I've been at NASA for about three and a half years now. I myself love tabletop roleplaying games. And my primary job is multimedia production coordination.

Elizabeth Tammi: I started with NASA as an intern back in summer 2019 and then in summer 2020 joined full time as the social media lead and outreach specialist for the Hubble Space Telescope mission.

Codega: I would love some background on this project. Was this primarily a communications project or a Hubble project? 

Mitchell: I started the project. I had the thought one day pop into my head… “Hey, it would make a lot of sense if NASA did tabletop.” So, being a little more general in the Office of Communications, I went first to management and I was like, “Hey, I have this wild idea, what do you think?" 

They were like, “okay, pitch it to a mission.” We decided that Hubble would be the best mission to pitch it to. Myself and a couple of others went and pitched it to Hubble and they were all in. From there we started developing.

Tammi: Yeah, so I'm on the Hubble team and Christina and her colleagues presented this idea. I think everyone on the Hubble team thought that this would be a really unique and creative way to reach an audience that we think there's a lot of overlap with and also to find a fun new way to share Hubble science and NASA science. Hubble's been around for over three decades, so we've got a lot of cool stuff. So it seems like a good mission to kick off this RPG project.