Darkness Visible: Espionage Campaigns for Stars Without Number is next up on the release list, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all. Ideally, I’d like to get it out in print and PDF by the end of July, but preparations for Gen Con might get in the way of that.
Darkness Visible will delve into the history of the enigmatic Mandate security organization known as the Perimeter, men and women dedicated to detecting and containing the threat of maltech on the frontier. These agencies have waned with the Scream and the Silence, but now that interstellar travel is returning to human space, they take up their ancient cause to defend their worlds against the scourge of unholy science. Together, they fight against rogue AIs, runaway bioweapons, uncontrolled replicant nanites, and the mad ambitions of tyrants who would rule worlds of gengineered human slaves.
The book deals with more than just Perimeter agencies, however, and provides guidelines and helps to creating sci-fi espionage scenarios and campaigns of many different flavors. GM tips are combined with “schemes”- table-ready plot outlines that allow a GM to drop in existing NPCs and MacGuffins to create plots and intrigue with minimal prep time. Need a motive for why a given NPC plans to betray the PCs? Flip to the “Betrayals” section, pick a scheme, and insert the pieces you already have.
In addition, tools are provided for creating the agencies that the PCs work for and the cabals and rival powers that they face. The GM can brew up the PCs’ agency before play begins, or the players can contribute, deciding what particular benefits they want their characters to gain by which “elements” they purchase for their agency. These elements then combine into a simple numeric framework of attributes that can be used to handle “off-screen” conflicts and skulduggery between agencies. Are your PCs ignoring the tension between the Gateway Intelligence Service and the mad cabal of maltech gengineers on Hutton? Let them. Just roll the dice a few times to find out what unkindnesses Gateway and Hutton have been inflicting on each other. When the players get back around to caring about it, they’ll find events have moved on since last they were involved.
As a takeway, here’s a sample page from Darkness Visible depicting the Armory element in its current state. An agency can purchase it in one of three levels, each of which gives an improving benefit to PCs and a boost to the agency’s “Resources” statistic. If the GM needs a plot complication related to the armory, the table below gives some quick inspiration, and it can also be used to reflect the successful outcome of gambits launched by a rival agency.