Category Archives: Stars Without Number

A retro-flavored sci-fi roleplaying game built for sandbox excitement.

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.

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!

Stars Without Number wins Three Castles Award

This past weekend, the festive doings of the North Texas RPG Con drew together a convocation of designers and players with a real love for old-school gaming. One of the features of the con was the Three Castles Award, which this year was judged by Dennis Sustare, Robert Kuntz, Sandy Petersen, Steve Marsh, and David “Zeb” Cook. If you’re as big a fan of the old ways as I am, you’ll recognize those names and the contributions they made to our hobby- I cut my gaming teeth thirty years ago on Moldvay/Cook D&D. Well, the competition was fierce- the award shortlist featured the mighty gaming chops of ASE1 – Anomalous Subsurface Environment by Patrick Wetmore, Realms of Crawling Chaos by Daniel Proctor & Michael Curtis, and the Tome of Adventure Design by Matt Finch & Bill Webb. But in the end, Stars Without Number got the nod. Even if one of the other worthy entrants had won, however, it would’ve been completely worth the effort just for the pleasure of having SWN read by some of the giants of the hobby.

Mandate Archive: The Imago Dei Now Out!

Paladins of the Long Silence

Not every synthetic mind is bent on mankind’s destruction. Some have a higher purpose, a nobler war to wage in the darkness between stars. Open this free supplement for the equally free Stars Without Number RPG to learn the truth about the enigmatic Imago Dei and their unending crusade to defend worlds ignorant of their very existence. As humanity is the image of God, so the Imago Dei is the shadow of His red right hand.

Aside from their little-known history, you’ll find specifications for their bleeding-edge ship hulls. Included are seven sample Imago Dei warships for your own campaign, whether found as derelict plunder, seized by fanatics, or threatening the PCs’ homeworld with the guns of a heretical Shepherd Fleet!

Get it now, at DriveThruRPG!

Mandate Archive Collection 2011 Now in Print!

For the benefit of those world-hopping freebooters who prefer their adventures in  unpowered formats, Sine Nomine Publishing offers you the convenient 50-page printout of the Mandate Archives Collection 2011, including all entries published this year. Within these pages, you’ll find…

  • Bannerjee Construction Solutions– Frontier space stations for those worlds with nothing but gumption, resolve, and a cheerful carelessness with human life!
  • The Bruxelles-class Battlecruiser– Stats and plot seeds for these ancient emissaries of the Terran Mandate’s will. Will you find one before your world’s enemies do?
  • The Cabals of Hydra Sector– A list of sinister conspiracies and dark cabals in Hydra Sector, along with detailed writeups of two organizations compatible with Darkness Visible!
  • The Dust– Nanite clouds from the Mandate’s latter days lie in wait in long-lost installations, along with details for randomly-generated pretech super-science!
  • Martial Arts– Want a campaign where lighting-handed unarmed warriors are a match for gunslinging space marines? Try out these ten martial arts styles and tips for creating your own!
  • The Qotah– For six centuries, these avian aliens have kept an honor-bound peace with humanity. Learn about their warlike culture and brooding integrity; is their word strong enough to bind the tempests of war?
  • The Red Sangha Mercenary Corps– Cursed from birth with bloodless calm, these Buddhist warrior-monks sell their implacable courage to support their world. What ends can drive an army without passions?

As a special bonus for those patient souls who have awaited a print format, this book also includes details on The Judicators– heirs to the ancient Bureau of Rectification and its ruthless policing of Mandate officaldom, these psychics wield a unique and subtle psionic discipline. Their arts allow them to use a victim’s own sense of guilt and duty to mold their choices, goading them on with the fires of their own burning shames.

You never know when the blind exertions of cosmic law might annihilate all traces of our advanced technology, so buy now and mock uncaring destiny with your foresight!

 

Mandate Archive Collection and An Echo, Resounding

Heeding the plaintive cries of the estimable public, a softcover compilation of the free Mandate Archive PDFs is about to be sent off for print proofing. Those who prefer to have their materials in physical format may rejoice at the sublime ease of use which the codex provides. As a bonus for these patient souls, it will also include an exclusive Archive entry on the Judicators- the enigmatic heirs of the ancient Bureau of Rectification, once the remorseless internal security of the decadent Terran Mandate. Their specialized psionic abilities play off the victim’s darkest guilts and deepest social taboos, allowing the psychic to sense their expectations and control their actions through the spurs of shame and duty. Here’s a taste of the new discipline:

In Your Place        Level 1

The judicator has an instinctive awareness of the expectations of others around him. In ordinary social situations and when exchanging common courtesies, the judicator always knows precisely what social behavior is expected of him by his interlocutor, whether in action, appearance, or speech. He can even speak formulaic courtesies and make flawless small talk in languages he does not actually understand, instinctively making the sounds expected of him.

The judicator fails Culture checks related to common etiquette and ordinary behavior only on a natural 2 on the skil check, and can masquerade as a native member of any culture or social group, assuming his appearance makes it plausible. Activation of this power lasts for one conversation or social situation. If mastered, this power is permanently active.

 
Despite this brief detour to accommodate the format preferences of loyal readers, work on An Echo, Resounding continues apace. This guidebook contains great heaping piles of help for a Labyrinth Lord keen on adding domain management and mass combat rules to their campaign in the customary Sine Nomine style. The guide focuses on building domains into your campaign as a natural, organic part of the setting rather than a phenomenon that simply pops up at 9th level with a sheaf of fresh paperwork. These tools help you build city-states, princedoms, border baronies, and stubbornly independent allods into your campaign from the very start, using them throughout the game’s life to fuel new conflicts, new adventures, and new opportunities for your players to engage with your creations. Even those Labyrinth Lords with existing campaign worlds are shown how to retrofit the mechanics into their games, adding fresh life and activity into old favorites.

But the contents aren’t just for Labyrinth Lords. Players are introduced to Leadership abilities, special powers and knacks related to running a domain or fighting a pitched battle. Accomplished rulers start to acquire Leader levels after they reach a certain point in their heroic progression, their earned XP now raising their level in this parallel class.  As they grow in the arts of rulership, they acquire new abilities to aid their hard-pressed dominion or become more fearsome in the roil of a bloody battlefield. Behold a mighty fighter carve a red path through enemy legions, a master thief cut a general’s throat in the midst of his personal guard, or a dwarven clanmaster marshal his people to fashion wealth beyond the dreaming of less artful breeds. These levels can also be used to reflect the talents of less heroic rulers who yet retain a genius for battlefield command or the ordering of a state; the elderly general may have long since retired to his country estates and be hard-pressed to defend himself against a younger warrior, but put him in command of an army and may the gods have mercy on any foe that dares defy him.

Much of An Echo Resounding is finished, but the mechanical systems yet require the good sharp shaking that comes of careful playtesting. With luck, you’ll hear its onrushing hooves by the end of January.

Darkness Visible Now Available

Discover Sights of Woe

Rain-slick streets beneath an alien sky. Untraceable mail on a private terminal. A man in a shabby coat who is always watching. Poison in a glistening needle. From the distant ages of humanity’s dawn to the far end of the Silence, espionage changes only its tools. A useful lie is eternal.

With this book, GMs and players are equipped with everything they need to run campaigns of interstellar intrigue and covert action. New backgrounds, training packages and equipment options will kit out your starfaring spies, and the history and context of interstellar espionage will help you plan your adventures in a cosmos in dire need.

GMs are given special help in assembling an espionage campaign, with tools for the cooperative creation of enigmatic intelligence agencies and long-hidden Perimeter outposts. You’ll also find concrete, step-by-step techniques for building complex spy adventures and sinister plots, complete with detailed support material to keep your focus on the fun.

Look inside to find…

  • The history of interstellar spying in the Stars Without Number universe.
  • Details of the hideous maltech cults that threaten the very future of humanity.
  • A system for cooperatively creating intelligence agencies for your campaign and handling exploits against their nefarious rivals.
  • 36 new tags for flavoring your cults, all of which can be used as world tags as well.
  • Over 200 new adventure seeds, each one keyed to a different aspect of an espionage agency.
  • NPC, scheme, and method tables for fleshing out conspiracies and dark plots.

Get it now at DriveThruRPG!

Darkness Visible proofs and New Work….

Now that Darkness Visible has been entrusted to the tender hands of Lightning Source and I have another week or so to wait for the printed proofs, I can start work on the next project.

An Echo, Resounding will provide the tools and resources to help a GM run princely domains and sweeping mass combats under Labyrinth Lord rules. While specifically set in the devil-haunted world of the Red Tide, the tools in this book are applicable to almost any old-school game or retroclone. An initial chapter helps the GM build a sandbox region that both provides immediate outlets for adventure and embeds the necessary framework for future political machinations. Rather than having to suddenly retrofit everything in as soon as the PCs start to show an interest in influencing the local powers, these tools let the GM build those elements right into the sandbox. PCs that want to lead a village to victory over its oppressors or who are suddenly placed at the head of a city-state’s ragged militia can now effortlessly step into place without forcing a sudden rush of ad-hoc judgment calls and improvisations by the GM.

Many old-school domain management systems focus on simulating the strict details of a fantasy fief- gold income, population, peasant morale, food supplies, and other specifics. While this is a perfectly natural approach, An Echo, Resounding instead abstracts the fundamental elements of a domain into Military, Wealth, and Social values. These totals rise and fall depending on the types of locations held by the domain and the sort of special resources or advantages the PCs can bring to their homes. These totals are then used to support Assets, which reflect the military units, unique traditions, temples, schools, and other specific resources the domain has at its disposal. Outside threats and conflicts between domains then become focused on these Assets and the locations that support them. Struggles become specific, and every clash or sudden peril from the wilderness becomes a ready-made adventure hook for the redoubtable rulers. In addition to these domain rules, a mass combat system is provided that can flex to accommodate heroic PCs, massed troops, and special monstrous foes all on the same battlefield.

An Echo, Resounding is going to require extensive playtesting on the appropriate balance of location values and asset costs, so keep an eye on this space for playtest invitations over the course of the next month. And fear not, Stars Without Number fans; the lessons and playtesting data drawn from An Echo, Resounding are going to be directly useful for the project to follow; Other Dust, the standalone SWN-compatible game covering the post-apocalyptic savagery of Terra in the wake of Scream’s horrific devastation.

Darkness Visible Coming This Month

The sinister secrets of interstellar espionage are set to be revealed at the end of the month, as Darkness Visible makes its PDF and print debut on DriveThruRPG. Guidelines and tools are provided for forging your own campaign of star-spanning intrigue and trans-solar spies, complete with specific mechanics for generating both the agencies that employ these daring covert operatives and the vicious cabals that threaten all they hold dear.

In the customary Sine Nomine style, it is not counted satisfactory to simply give you dozens of pages of practical advice and specific pointers for emulating dashing interstellar agents. No, it is not enough. Darkness Visible provides page after page of specific, focused tools to produce concrete results for your game, along with step-by-step instructions for using them to generate the content you need.

You need a spy agency for your players? Follow these steps to build one. Your players want to break into a maximum-security prison satellite to kidnap an alien framed for war crimes? Take this template and fill it in from these tables. You need to dish up an adventure full of double-dealing and hidden actors but have no idea how to support the players’ investigation attempts? Use this adventure structure, lift the challenge rules from this chapter, and prepare these things for the session. Darkness Visible gives you the direct, specific guidance you need to get the job done.

Darkness Visible is written for the Stars Without Number role-playing game, but the guides and tools it uses are system-neutral and compatible with a vast swath of science-fiction settings. Expect it by the end of October.