The Godbound Kickstarter is Now Live

KS_TanHoSim_MAGICSPLASHThe Godbound Kickstarter is now live.

Godbound is a game of legendary heroes bound to the Words of Creation, budding demigods in a world that is crumbling around them. The chaos of the Former Empires has guttered down into a thousand years of slow decay, but now the Godbound have arisen to forge something more than an epitaph for a broken cosmos.

Godbound is built with a classic old-school framework, yet with Sine Nomine-style modifications to support truly mythic levels of power and influence. Familiar concepts are used to smooth the path to divinity and help GMs import material from existing old-school games to serve as challenges for PC heroes and building blocks for their own ideas. And of course, the whole thing is lavished with 40 pages of system-neutral Sine Nomine adventure creation tools and domain mechanisms to help a GM actually give a pantheon of demigods a genuinely challenging situation to handle.

Godbound is meant to give the GM and the players the tools they need to make their mythic heroism manageable. In its pages, you’ll find…

  • A complete game in one book, with everything necessary to fashion Godbound heroes and explore their impending legends. The deluxe version which backers will receive will also include rules for mortal heroes and themed Godbound, such as paragons of human capability, primordial shapeshifters, refugees from destiny, or elemental scions.
  • 25 Words of Creation and examples of the divine gifts they might grand those who bind them. Guidelines and details on how to create your own Words and gifts.
  • Low magic traditions to flavor mortal sorcerers, and the high secrets of theurgy to grace the mightiest of wizards and Godbound theurges.
  • Adventure creation tools that help you create interesting noble courts, ancient ruins, social challenges, and other obstacles with an eye toward giving even demigods a worthwhile challenge.
  • Flexible mechanics for creating major changes in the world by means of a Godbound’s powers and divine authority. Not only that, but tools and techniques for GMs to turn these changes into adventure grist and opportunities to challenge the PCs.
  • A lightweight domain system for handling the dueling of hostile nations, cabals, tribes, and cults, all arranged so as to interface smoothly with the heroics and powers of PC Godbound.
  • Monstrous foes fit to challenge the might of divinities, along with guides for converting existing old-school monsters into worthy opponents.
  • The example realm of Arcem, ready with foes and glories alike awaiting the mighty deeds of Godbound heroes.
  • Artifacts of divine might and how to create them, both for the GM and the PCs.

And that’s just what’s in the free version to be released in beta at the month’s end. At the end of the month, backers will get a draft of the deluxe version, which will be sold with an additional 40 pages that cover mortal heroes, themed Godbound, the supernatural martial arts known as Strifes, the clockworks and cybernetic augmentations of Vissio and the Bright Republic, the hulking theotechnical war machines known as Godwalkers, and more besides.

After four successful Kickstarters delivered either early or on-time, you can rest assured that Godbound is going to get finished. You can pledge right now and download the free beta 1.1 from the first backer-only update. I don’t launch a Kickstarter unless draft manuscripts are in place and ready to download, among other risk minimization techniques, so you’re going to get this book on time and to spec as long as I’m alive to deliver it by September’s end.

Starvation Cheap Kickstarter Now Live

JeffBrown_Cover_WebThe Starvation Cheap Kickstarter is now live. Within these 110 pages, you’ll find tools for sandbox military and mercenary campaigns for Stars Without Number, including a host of system-neutral tools that work handsomely with your own favorite sci-fi RPG. Between these covers, you’ll find…

  • Details on the typical structure of a modern ground army. Ranks and roles are described, along with the pertinent details of military justice, the chain of command, and the various types of modern military units. GMs unfamiliar with military culture and flavor can use these pages to tighten up their game.
  • Guides for creating planetary conflicts through War Tags, rolling up reasons for savage conflicts and assigning critical Vital Points that must be captured or overcome if a side is to be victorious.
  • Building ground armies, dividing them into units, and dealing with the potential complications of sending modern laser rifles and gravtanks against spears and lostworlder jezails. Creating a mercenary legion? Everything you need is in here, too.
  • Strategic mass combat rules for resolving these planetary wars with the armies and mercenary legions you’ve made. The rules are quick and streamlined, meant to give a fast outcome and focus on player involvement in offensive priorities and desperate defenses.
  • GM tools for building battlefield missions and adventures, with the PCs thrown onto the field to achieve some grave task or die trying. These rules interface with the mass combat tools, making PC success in their objectives the crucial factor that tips a bitter defeat into a hard-won victory.
  • Hardware, of course. Lots of merciless hardware, from self-propelled artillery guns to radioactive weaponry and semi-sentient landmines. The far future battlefield is a dangerous place to be.

And you can read it right now. Just pledge and download the complete beta from the first backer-only update. I’m doing Starvation Cheap with the same techniques I’ve used for my prior three successful Kickstarters, so I have every anticipation that I’ll be dishing up the final product as briskly and efficiently as I did the last three times.

Silent Legions Kickstarter Final Week

CoverWebAfter merciless and unflinching toil, the dark portents of Silent Legions are nigh unto completion, as is its Kickstarter.

It is an absolute marketing scandal that I have not put this up earlier, but I plead general exhaustion and a nervelessness of my fingers, given the prep-work already invested in the game.  For a mere $10 pledge, backers can immediately download the full-text beta from the link in the first project update, while getting the final PDF once it’s released. As long-time Sine Nomine KS backers know, I never start a Kickstarter campaign without a complete manuscript, so you can have due faith that this will come together gracefully.

And what is in it, you ask?

  • Rules for old-school-compatible modern Lovecraftian horror gaming. While a stand-alone game, Silent Legions is compatible with Stars Without Number, Other Dust, and Spears of the Dawn, and can be used comfortably with any other game of similar basic mechanics.
  • Tools for building your own Lovecraftian Mythos. Instead of recycling familiar tentacled horrors, the guides in this book help you create your own abominable pantheon of elder gods, alien races, hideous magic, blasphemous tomes, and thrice-accursed cults. Your players will never know what ate them.
  • Sixty adventure tags similar to those in my other games, all designed to support a sandbox horror investigation style of play. Structure your campaign for maximum freedom, allowing your players to discover the unspeakable truths of your setting on their own terms- assuming they survive.
  • Extensive adventure generation tools for assembling quick “adventure templates” that interlock with the adventure tags to create fast content for a GM.
  • Everything written in the customary Sine Nomine style, one which strives to make the material as generally-applicable as possible. Even if you don’t favor OSR-flavored rules, you’ll be able to use the vast majority of this book with your own horror game of choice.

So go forth and apprehend the hideous truth! Pledge now, for the tardy will pay a terrible price!

(Probably about twice as much for PDF buyers, or around $10 more for print purchases at retail. I make no representations about immortal souls.)

Recent Labors and Silent Legions

With the successful completion and delivery of the Scarlet Heroes Kickstarter and the release of Dead Names for Stars Without Number, I’ve been chiefly occupied in catching my breath. Well, there’s also been the very successful SWN Bundle of Holding offer that went up last month, and the Engines of Babylon gear-book that I wrote for it that should be hitting DTRPG later this month.

As Languorous Harbingers learned last March, I’ve also been working on a new SWN-compatible game of modern Lovecraftian horror, Silent Legions. The high-end backers of my last Kickstarter got the draft of the first few score pages of the game, and I’ve been hammering pitilessly on the next section ever since. It’s a particularly tricky piece of work, because Silent Legions is built to be a sandbox horror game. Instead of simply using traditional Lovecraftian gods and abominations, GMs are given the tools to create their own unique Mythos and their own hideous cosmic truths for the luckless investigators to discover.

This is hard, because handling the kind of extemporization that a sandbox requires is very difficult when the ad hoc material needs to hang together in a mystery. Most GMs worth their viking hat can run a random dungeon crawl if you hand them a blank map and a fistful of encounters, traps, and novelties. A random occult investigation is harder to confect out of a stack of NPCs, a sinister plot, and an eldritch MacGuffin.

Silent Legions tries to get around this issue by re-balancing the use of prep time for the GM. The comparatively commodious free time a GM has between sessions is structured toward the creation of adventure templates and regional sites of interest. The sites of interest are studded with Enemies, Friends, Secrets, Places, Schemes, and other elements familiar to those used to my tag systems, each one fleshed out lightly in a sentence or two by the GM. Then the adventure templates set down on top of that site, providing slots for the specific elements to fill.

For example, the adventure might need an Enemy pursuing a Scheme to culminate in a Place. The template was constructed with placeholders for these figures, with clues and timelines and all the fiddly little details of an investigative adventure sorted out during the convenient downtime between sessions. Then, when material is suddenly needed in play, the GM just takes out the template, fills the slots with the elements in the site, and takes five minutes to run some sandpaper over the rough spots in the join. Voila; the GM now has an evening’s adventure suitable for wherever the PCs find themselves.

Getting the Tags for the sites correct and building the template generation tools to be sufficiently crisp and versatile are both large challenges, and they’ve been consuming my time lately. Still, if all goes well, I’m hoping to Kickstart this effort at the start of November. You can expect to see more glimpses of the work in progress as I advance to the final draft that I’ll need before I can KS it in my usual manner.

Scarlet Heroes Kickstarter Now Live

After months of toil and the heroic efforts of my talented artists, the Scarlet Heroes Kickstarter is now live. The game of one-on-one old-school adventure is now ready to be backed, downloaded, and played.

Backers who pledge for the game will be able to immediately download the layout and text-complete PDF. As soon as you pledge, you’ll be able to download the game and start reading- and start playing shortly thereafter. The rules are as compact as you can expect from a Sine Nomine game, but it’s also fleshed out with plenty of system-neutral helps and tools for building adventures and spinning out some solo play.

These Kickstarters can be fearfully stressful things, so I can’t really understand how anyone would want to start one without actually having finished everything they could possibly do before they started taking money. I’ve done everything I can, and thanks to the agile pens of Luigi Castellani, Nate Furman, Dyson Logos, Ian MacLean, Earl Geier, Joyce Maureira, David L. Johnson, Eric Lofgren, and Miguel Santos I’ve been able to get 42 out of 62 illustrations complete before the KS has even started. Their hard work is impressive- and fast.

So fire it up and give it a try with your spouse, kid, or friend who’s curious about old-school RPGs. It can be tough to find the time to pull together a full gaming group these days, so Scarlet Heroes is here to make your gaming a little more amenable to your available time.

Classes in Scarlet Heroes

Scarlet Heroes is a stand-alone game, but it’s also intended to be capable of functioning as an overlay on top of your own favorite OSR game. Given that purpose, it’s got to have classes that can map neatly to the OSR standards.

Scarlet Heroes offers four classes- the classic Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, and Thief. Each class starts with a fixed number of hit points- 8 for Fighters, 6 for Clerics, and 4 for Magic-Users and Thieves, gaining half that many for each further level, all of these numbers modified by Constitution modifiers as is customary. Each class has its own attack bonus progression, with Fighters fastest, Clerics and Thieves about half as fast, and Magic-Users less than a third as rapid. Class weapon restrictions do not exist as such; instead, classes other than Fighters are capped in how large the damage die of their weapon can be. Clerics, for example, are capped at 1d6; even if they pick up a greatsword, they’re still not going to be able to roll more than 1d6 for the damage die. Fighters have no cap, Thieves are capped at 1d8, and Magic-Users are limited to 1d4. By the same token, there’s no hard bar against armor for any class, though Magic-Users can’t cast spells while armored and Thieves can’t use their special archetype trait for movement or stealth checks while wearing anything heavier than leather.

The classes are designed to be thematically loose, the better to provide quick mechanical representation for a wide range of concepts. The Thief class, for example, is intended to cover all “skill heroes”, who rely on a particular set of non-magical skills to make their mark. A paladin could be represented by a Fighter or by a Cleric depending on the nature of their focus- or the hero could just multiclass, taking a dash of clerical abilities to complement his pious hewing.

Of course, GMs don’t necessarily have to adapt other classes into Scarlet Heroes. Classes from other OSR games can actually be dropped directly into the system with only trivial changes. Their existing THAC0 can be used to determine their attack bonus, and they can keep their hit points, descending armor class, and class abilities without change. The only real addition necessary is to give them a Fray die, an automatic damage die they can roll against inferior foes each round. Most classes would simply get a d6 Fray die, while Fighter-type classes would smite with a mighty d8, and Magic-User types blast with a d4 that can affect even powerful enemies.

Of course, these are just the high points of character creation. If you’d like a more detailed, look, here’s the full 12-page character generation chapter in its current pre-proof state. As you can surmise, the book is very close to completion. I’ve been deeply impressed with the speed and reliability of my artists, as they’ve already managed to finish 2/3rds of the book’s art before I’ve even started the Kickstarter. There’s a distinct chance that their lightning-fast pens will have the art done for this book before the campaign ends at the end of February. I’m eager to see what they can do.

Scarlet Heroes Character Creation Chapter


Scarlet Heroes and Traits

One of Scarlet Heroes‘ biggest changes from standard OSR gaming rules is the introduction of traits. Traits are intended to assume all the functions normally covered by skills in other games, along with adding more distinction and mechanical variety to the classic four-class character generation system.

A trait is a brief phrase describing something about the hero’s background, relationships, or innate qualities. “Escaped mine slave”, for example, or “Constantly watchful”, or “Drunken ex-guardsman”, or “Friend to a city magistrate”. Traits are measured on a scale of 1 to 3, with more points indicating more investment and importance in that quality. Every hero gets three points to spend on traits at the start of the game, plus a couple more to reflect certain racial abilities or native aptitudes if playing a demihuman.

Traits don’t come with explicit mechanical effects. You may have a “Tireless endurance: 3” but it doesn’t give you a hit point bonus. Instead, they’re cues for the GM to let them know what your hero is good at, and the kinds of things they should automatically be able to do without a roll. If your character is a Pirate: 3, then she should be able to handle a boat, drink bad rum, clamber over rigging, and identify port-city fences without having to strain herself. The only time she should be rolling her Pirate trait is when she’s pulling off some feat that would challenge even an exceptionally salty dog.

For occasions of greater difficulty, traits are used in conjunction with checks. Whenever the hero wants to accomplish something unusually difficult, they roll 2d8, add their highest relevant attribute modifier, and add their highest relevant trait. If the total is equal or greater than the check’s difficulty, they succeed. If it’s less, then things don’t work out so smoothly for the hero.

Checks take the place of many of the sub-systems found in classic OSR mechanics. Bending bars/lifting gates is a check. Saving throws are checks, albeit with the character’s level added too. Even thief skills are checks, though that ties into the thief class’ special ability.

The thief class provided in Scarlet Heroes is something of a catch-all class meant for those heroes who rely on guile and expertise more than sorcerous power or heavy weaponry. At first level, a thief picks a trait to be their archetype. It might be something as straightforward as “Adventuring Thief” with the classic OSR bundle of abilities, or it might be “Academic Tomb-Robber”, “Grizzled Woodsman”, “Streetwise Guard Captain”, or any other archetype that suits. The thief automatically gets 3 points in that archetype- and each time they advance a level, that focus gains one more point, even above the usual trait cap of three points.

It doesn’t take long before that thief-hero is getting bonuses of +5 or +6 in their specialty, while other stealthy heroes are limited to +3. Thieves rapidly become almost supernatural in their talents, capable of overcoming challenges and beating difficulties that other classes would have almost no chance of handling. In Scarlet Heroes, if a master thief wants to infiltrate the Temple of the Frog, the Temple of the Frog is going to get infiltrated. The question then is what the thief is going to do once he’s inside.

Together, traits and checks are meant to streamline things for the GM and player while still giving the hero some mechanical distinctions from others of the same class. For some people, it’s always been enough to just decide that your fighter was a blacksmith’s son and let it go at that. Others have preferred more elaborate skill systems such as those found in 2nd edition AD&D or the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. Traits serve as a bridge between these two preferences, and a set of automatic hooks to let the GM know what parts of a character’s past and present are most important to the hero.

This talk of the thief class brings up questions of how Scarlet Heroes‘ class system is meant to overlay on top of another game. Next time, I’ll discuss ways in which the four classes provided by the game can be used as quick templates for more exotic professions- or how those professions can be brought in entirely to import new classes from other OSR games.

Scarlet Heroes As An Overlay

One of my favorite parts of writing OSR material is the sheer flexibility of the framework. Fans of the genre might argue over which of our favorite systems does a particular thing better, or which rules might suit us best, but when it comes down to it there’s very little in the genre that can’t be made to work with all the rest. Any GM savvy enough to know that there’s a difference between B/X and AD&D is savvy enough to do conversions on the fly. People swap parts from different systems in and out without batting an eye.

I kept this in mind when I was building Scarlet Heroes. The game is stand-alone and requires nothing but the 128-page core book for play, but it needs to be able to stretch. Let’s be honest- most of the people who might get this book already have a favorite system. They like that system and they’re going to keep playing that system. So what do I offer them that’s going to be useful, that’s going to really help them get more mileage out of the material they already have and love? I need to offer them an overlay, something they can lay down on top of their existing system to open up a fresh style of play.

Scarlet Heroes relies mainly on reinterpreting standard old-school stats to produce a different play dynamic at the table. The most fundamental changes are in the way it treats damage differently for PCs and NPCs and the way in which it reads damage dice.

In Scarlet Heroes, damage dice are rolled exactly as you would expect for an old-school game. Swords do 1d8, fireballs do Wizard-d6, dragon claws do 2d6, and so forth. Unlike in standard OSR games, however, the dice are read differently. A die that rolls a 1 does no damage, 2-5 inflicts one point, 6-9 inflicts two points, and 10 or more inflicts four points of damage. Thus, a 1d4 dagger might inflict 0 or 1 points, while a 1d10 polearm could inflict as many as 4 points.

These points are subtracted from the hit points of PCs- and from the hit dice of NPCs. A mighty-thewed fighter who swings well with that polearm could do up to 4 hit dice of damage to his target, hewing down an ogre in a single stroke. Against a mob of enemies with comparable ACs, that same blow might lay out four common bandits, or a fistful of wretched kobolds.

This damage differential turns even a 1st level PC into a fearsome engine of destruction. A 1st level fighter in Scarlet Heroes with 8 hit points can now endure eight blows from most weapons and every time he strikes he’s laying low at least one or two petty foes. Heroes can now handle the kind of combat situations that would normally require a party of several adventurers to survive, simply because they’re taking much less punishment and dishing out far more pain.

Of course, this isn’t the only adjustment in Scarlet Heroes, and other tweaks such as the Fray die, heroic initiative, character traits, and Defying Death all combine to give a properly Conan-esque patina to any hero. But these adjustments all fit smoothly into the play of most other OSR systems. As the Kickstarter launch draws nearer, I’ll be talking more about these tweaks- and about the GM tools the book provides for generating the kind of excitement such heroes deserve.

A Crimson Hour Draws Nigh….

After long months of unsleeping labor, Scarlet Heroes is almost ready for its impending Kickstart. Once the last ten pages of layout is complete and the sure hand of Eric Lofgren has been given the cover art topic, the project will be sufficiently close to completion for a timely kickstart execution.

So what is Scarlet Heroes? In brief, it’s a 128-page standalone RPG built to allow you to use classic OSR game material for single player/single GM gaming sessions. You can run this material with Scarlet Heroes or you can import certain mechanics from the game into your own favorite OSR system to allow for ultra-small-group sessions.

So who needs Scarlet Heroes? If you’ve ever been in a situation where you wanted to show a friend some old-school gaming goodness or share the fun with your spouse or your kid, you know that it’s not always practical to get an entire group together to give them an intro session. Even when you have a standing group, sometimes only one or two of them can make it to the game, and you’ve already played out your boardgame collection. When these situations come to hand, just grab your copy of Scarlet Heroes, pick out your favorite classic module, and go from zero to gaming in five minutes flat.

“But Kevin,” I hear you say, “being a canny, experienced, and extremely handsome GM of the sort that loves Sine Nomine products, I already have a large library of techniques for making solo-PC OSR games survivable!” And I’m sure you do. I’m sure I could hand you Keep on the Borderlands and you’d be able to figure out some way to make it survivable by a single 1st level B/X thief. But don’t you have more enjoyable uses for your time? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just grab some old-school content, call up a friend, and just game right there on the spot with no prep needed? Like so many of my other books, Scarlet Heroes works to give you the support you need to put your creativity and energy into the things that are most fun for you and your players.

In the weeks between now and the February start of the Kickstarter, I’ll be showing you some of the tools and resources I’ve packed into the book. But just to tip off a few of them…

  • Scarlet Heroes is based on the Red Tide campaign setting, but is built to accommodate more traditional worlds.
  • Save your pencil lead; use standard OSR attributes and statistics from existing products without needing to change numbers or adapt them to Scarlet Heroes rules.
  • Relish a piping-hot bestiary focused on Southeast Asian monsters and foes. Why? Because not only does it fit with the Red Tide setting, you already have several thousand stat blocks for Euro-flavored enemies.
  • You liked adventure tags in Stars Without Number? You liked them in Red Tide? Well have sixty more of them, divided between urban, wilderness, and dungeon tags.
  • Rules and tools for 100% solo, GM-less adventuring, mixing your own creative interpretations with the tables to give your hero an adventure at any time- or help you build the framework for your own creations.

Stay tuned. There’s more coming.

Suns of Gold Now Available

Suns of Gold is now available at DriveThruRPG, serviceable for all your reckless space-mercantile needs.

They are merchants, thieves, grifters, saviors and worse. They roam the untamed void to bring the wealth of foreign worlds to their customers, trading in the treasures of half a hundred worlds for the sake of riches beyond human imagination. You will find them in dirty starport dives, in the palaces of lostworlder kings, and in the gleaming towers of their corporate palaces. They are the far traders, and the treasures of the sky are theirs for the taking.

In this supplement to the free Stars Without Number sci-fi RPG, you’ll find all that you need to add classic mercantile adventures to your campaign. Whether a doughty crew of adventurers just trying to keep their battered ship flying or a cabal of aspiring merchant princes who seek the control of whole sectors, the tools in this book provide a GM with everything necessary to plot a course for profit. Within these pages, you’ll find…

  • Rules for buying and selling cargo between the far-flung planets
  • Guidelines for building interstellar business empires and planetary holdings
  • Trade tags and tools for giving mercantile flavor to your campaign worlds
  • Adventure templates for quickly generating a session’s entertainment
  • Guides on how to establish new colony worlds to rule and exploit for profit
  • Tips and advice for running mercantile campaigns at your own table

Suns of Gold will give you everything you need to handle the commercial ambitions of your players, from short-run cargo hauls to interstellar trade empires. Unleash the forces of fearless avarice in your campaign, and seek the wealth of the skies!