Space Station 13 (often shortened as SS13) is a role-playing game and general role-playing system, with detailed atmospherics, DNA mechanics, and botanical simulation. Created in the BYOND engine, the SS13 community has produced a variety of servers, each one modifying the base code to suit their needs. While this leads to every server having different features, some barely resembling the original game, most servers have a number of things in common.
Most servers take place on a space station, during an ordinary shift. At the beginning of each shift/round, players are assigned a role aboard the station, including but not limited to: leading the station's crew as command, maintaining the station as an engineer, or providing meals as the station's cook. On top of this, a handful of players are chosen at the start of every shift to play an antagonist role, giving each shift a level of uncertainty and variety.
The original version of Space Station 13 was developed in 2003 by one person, known by the alias "Exadv1". Over the following years, Exadv1 would slowly stop development on SS13, meanwhile distributing the game's code to a number of associates, leading it to be uploaded to the internet in 2006. Soon after, members of the Something Awful forums noticed the game and began hosting a server of their own, known as "Goonstation" (from "goon", a nickname used by Something Awful users to refer to one another). Goonstation was the largest server made during this time, both in player-base and underlying code, as the Something Awful community developed a number of new features for use on Goonstation, as well as optimizing much of the preexisting code.
In 2010, Goonstation's code would be released to the public. This led to SS13's rise in popularity, and a number of communities would create SS13 servers, using Goonstation's code as a catalyst for their own code-bases. Among these are /tg/station, created by 4chan's /tg/ board, Yogstation, created by the Yogscast community, Paradise Station, created by users from the SS13 community, and CM Station, a primarily combat-focused community.
A number of attempts have been made to recreate SS13 by porting it to an engine other than BYOND, however few have made significant progress.
As stated previously, every round of Space Station 13 begins players being assigned jobs on the station, which they are expected to perform to the best of their ability in order to keep the place running. However, antagonist roles will be assigned as well, to disrupt the shift and provide conflict.
Every server is operated differently, and this is made most apparent by each server's role-play level. Most servers will clearly define a role-play level in the BYOND client, from either LRP, MRP, or HRP.
- LRP: Short for Low Role-Play, these servers focus on the mechanics of the game first-and-foremost, and tend to have a relaxed or even joking atmosphere to them.
- MRP: Short for Medium Role-Play, these servers tend to focus on role-play insofar as it adds to a player's experience.
- HRP: Short for High Role-Play, these servers focus solely on role-play, with players being encouraged to develop a character over simply engaging with the game-space around them.
Normal roles in SS13 are generally split up into departments. Common departments include command, security, engineering, science, medical, and service.
- Command: Directs the station and its crew to ensure a safe and efficient shift. Usually contains a captain and a head of personnel.
- Security: Ensures the station is safe from threats both external and internal. Usually involves a warden and several security officers.
- Engineering: Repairs damage to the station. Usually composed of a head engineer and several engineers and atmospheric technicians.
- Science: Researches new materials and lifeforms. Usually contains a research director and several scientists and roboticists.
- Medical: Cares for any injuries or illness that may occur on the station. Usually involves a chief medical officer and several doctors.
- Service: Provides essential services to the station. Can involve a janitor, chef, clown, bartender, and more.
Players who are not assigned a job will typically take the role of a civilian living aboard the station, but can be assigned a job through a number of methods.
There are a number of antagonist (or "antag") roles present on most servers. These roles will usually focus on either stealth or aggression, depending on the role a player receives and the randomized objectives assigned to them.
Among the common stealth-focused roles are traitor, cultist, and changeling. The approach a stealth-focused antagonist takes will vary depending on the player, as well as on what standard of role-play a given station is set to, as LRP servers will encourage finishing objectives through bold action, while HRP encourage players to use cunning to get ahead.
- Traitors: Usually tasked with stealing valuable items from the station and/or killing specific crew-members.
- Cultists: Tasked with summoning a demon to attack the station.
- Changelings: Shape-shifting creatures tasked with stealing DNA from the crew without arousing suspicion.
As for aggression-focused roles, the common roles tend to include nuclear operative, revolutionary, and wizard. These roles will usually have fewer approaches in achieving their goal, since they are generally focused on direct combat or evasion of security.
- Nuclear operative: Tasked with breaking onto the station and activating a nuclear bomb.
- Revolutionaries: Tasked with convincing the station's crew to join an armed revolution against command.
- Wizard: Typically tasked with stealing from crew or assassinating crew-members, but with a number of spells to aid them.