Other Titles

The Guide to Larry Niven's Ringworld (by Kevin Stein)

I picked this book up because of the eye catching cover and the fact that I am, at heart, a "compleatist" (especially where Niven's Known Space works are concerned). Note: none of the paintings on the cover show up anywhere else, and that's a shame.

The book seems, at some level, tied into Tsunami's Ringworld computer adventure games, because the timeline of Known Space lists the events of the game Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch (see below) as being the most recent. The introduction to the book was written by Larry Niven, but the preponderance of small errors (such as saying that a General Product No. 2 hull is a 90-meter sphere instead of a wasp-waisted needle) leads me to believe that he had nothing to do with the editing. Indeed, the introduction makes no specific reference to the work of Mr. Stein at all. It gives a fair introduction to Niven's Known Space Universe (focused on Ringworld, naturally), and the internal art ranges from the beautiful (especially a portrait of a Kzin with a variable knife, and a two page drawing of a Kzinti Battlecruiser) to the pallid, one of the worst being the drawings of Slavers & Tnuctipun that make them look like refugees from a Japanese manga.

I'd give it 2 out of 5 stars; for the compleatist only. I recommend searching out the Ringworld RPG for more accurate background on Known Space (in fact, in places the book almost has the flavor of a 'generic' Niven/Ringworld RPG sourcebook). The only virtue it posesses at this point is the fact that that it is still (presumably) in print, unlike the Ringworld RPG (though, maybe with the publishing of THE RINGWORLD THRONE in the next year or so, that will change...)

Cover image from Gamers.com

The Ringworld Role-Playing Game: A Re-appraisal

  • The Ringworld RPG
  • The Ringworld Companion (Supplement to the Ringworld RPG) by John Hewitt, Lynn Willis, Sandy Petersen et. al. Chaosium Games c1984
  • Review and commentary by Mike Czaplinski

This game was released as part of Chaosiums 'literary' games line, which also included Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, and Hawkmoon; all games based on the literary worlds of famous authors and duly liscenced by Chaosium. All share the same game mechanics (adapted from the company's popular Runequest fantasy RPG) and featured extensive background essays and bibliographies to help prospective GM's get 'in the mood' for running the game.

The background essays for Ringworld were no exception. In fact, they were probably the most extensive and well-written of anything I've ever read in any RPG; John Hewitt's essays on the Kzin and the Man-Kzin wars impressed Niven himself so much that he used (and I presume still uses) them as the 'writer bible' for the MAN-KZIN WARS Shared Universe anthology series (see the introduction to Volume I of the series).

However, for all the background material and the basic playability of the game system, Ringworld did not fare well in the marketplace. I think this is because people thought it would be a 'full' SF RPG that included rules for starship construction and combat, as well as a system for generating planetary systems. Rather, the focus of the game and rules was on parties of characters exploring the Ringworld itself, which (despite its vast size and the richness of the existing material) limited the options of a GM who may have wanted to run a campaign based on Niven's Known Space stories but didn't necessesarily want to truck his players off to the Ringworld.

Though an enterprising GM could have adapted the planetary generation and starship rules from some other game, ultimately I think the majority of people who bought Ringworld used the background essays and some of the game-mechanics for races like the Puppeteer or the Kzin by adapting them to their pre-existing SF RPG campaigns.

Which is a rather a shame; the Chaosium philosophy of RPG's has always been to stress character interaction and intelligent play over combat and dice throwing, so philosophically, the game was eminently compatible with Niven's universe. But, because of the richness of Niven's universe, perhaps there was no way a game based on his works could 'get away' with focusing on just one (albeit rich) aspect of it, and if there is any fault in the game, it is that there is a great gap between the rich star-spanning background essays and the ability of the GM to bring that background to life using solely the rules provided in the basic game.

In my experience of RPG's, there are some games that are 'just too cool to play'; games that have a wonderful premise or excellent background that people love conceptually but can never actually get around to playing, either because the game mechanics aren't there or the game itself just doesn't provide enough support for a GM. Ringworld, alas, is one of those games. This does not mean you should not snap it up at any chance: if you're a hardcore gamer, you'll find that it's an excellent game (within the expectations I set forth previously). If you're a die-hard Niven fan, you'll find the background essays to be as valuable as anything ever found in a Slaver Stasis Box for shedding light onto the history of Known Space and of the Ringworld in particular (although the game makes a point of not answering the question of 'Who built the damn thing, anyway?'; I guess we'll have to wait for THE RINGWORLD THRONE for that one...).

More information about the Role Playing Game can be found at Eric Max Fancis's site.

Ringworld Computer Games

  • Return to Ringworld by Tsunami Media
  • This game is a sequel to Revenge of the Patriarch
  • Ringworld, Revenge of the Patriarch by Tsunami Media.
  • Review and commentary by Gary A. Legate Jr., Aiken, SC, USA 
  • Cover art provided by Dave Grimm

This title can be downloaded from Abdandonware Websites like these.

(Note: Known Space takes no responsibility for the legality of these sites.)

It can be run under Windows using free DOS emulators, such as DOSBox

I acquired this game for the IBM Compatible computer back in 1993, and after three years I still get enjoyment from playing the game, just as he enjoyed reading Larry Niven's Ringworld over and over.

To play this game you will need at least a 386SX 16Mhz or faster with 590 Kb free memory and 10Mb free hard disk space, DOS ver 5.0 or higher, VGA with 256 colors, and a mouse, or a modern PC or Mac and DOSBox. A sound card is optional, although I really recommend that you use one with this game.

The game itself is an interactive story, where you control one of the main characters. The interaction is much like SIERRA's King's Quest series although instead of a menu bar at the top of the screen you simply right click on your mouse anywhere on the screen to cause the menu to appear. Although the graphics are not up to todays standards, they are still quite beautiful and were impressive up until two years ago. Unlike most interactive games, this one is more like a story. When I first played the game I felt as though I were reading a sequel to Ringworld Engineers but I was able to interact with the characters.

While not wanting to give anything away (yes, after three years some of us have games we still haven't played yet!) I will tell you a little of the story.

The game opens with a conversation between the Patriarch of Kzin and his Fleet Admiral. After many years the Patriarch has learned the truth about the Puppeteers "meddling" in the first Man-Kzin war. He has decided to attack the Puppeteers with the new Hyperdrive II ships that have been developed. He also orders Chmee and his family to be wiped out, for he feels that Chmee's disappearance indicates that he is a traitor and is in league with the Puppeteers.

Enter Quin, a 200 year old human mercenary who is a long time friend of Louis Wu. He shows up at Chmee's estate to warn him after receiving a "just in case I disappear" letter from Louis Wu. His arrival coincides with that of the Fleet Admiral who intends to carry out the murder of Chmee's family. Now the game starts.

For those of you who have played the game but are stumped at a problem you may ask me for hints or advice by E-mailing me. I've been known to have a soft heart, but be warned, I used to be a teacher and may answer your question with another question!(g)

The third game in the series was to be titled Ringworld: Within ARM's Reach

(This was never actually released despite IaachCapt's campaign, which unfortunately fell on deaf ears at Tsunami media - Nesssus).


The Halo series are games for Microsoft's Xbox and Xbox 360 game consoles, with versions for the PC following about 18 months later. The Halo games are first person shooters with the added ability to use vehicles in the game.

The Halo itself refers to an orbital ring which encircles the planet where all the action takes place. The games have been in development for several years by Bungie Software and are some of the most popular game series for the Xbox.

Gameplay is generally good. If you like first person shooters, you should be right at home.

Microsoft haven't asked Larry's permission to use the "Ringworld" concept for the game, but who wants to spend years in a courtroom trying to establish a copyright on the concept of a large ring habitat?

Eric Max Francis has pointed out that the Ring more closely resembles an Iain M. Banks' Orbital from his Culture series of novels than an actual "Ringworld" around a star.