Category Archives: Stars Without Number

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

Darkness Visible Coming Soon

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.

New Cover for Mongoose SWN

Produced by the abundant talent of Jimmy Zhang, this cover will be adorning the new Mongoose Publishing edition of Stars Without Number when it launches in September. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to keep up with the Twitter feed, here are some of the important facts about the new edition.

  • The current Stars Without Number PDF available at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow will remain free for the foreseeable future.
  • The new edition will contain new rules for PC and NPC robots, AIs, and mechs in the Stars Without Number universe.
  • A new chapter has been added to help GMs create conflict-laden societies rooted in the history of their colony world.
  • The rest of the book is essentially unchanged from the current free version. The 40-odd additional pages are purely new content, not changes to any existing rules.
  • Mongoose SWN will run $40 in hardback only. The current free version print products will likely be discontinued.
  • There are no current plans for a Mongoose SWN PDF version, though that may change.

I’m really looking forward to seeing this expanded edition hit the market. Going from a modest PDF released at the end of November to a publishing deal, distribution, and a shiny new hardcover nine months later has been enormously gratifying, especially since I thought I’d be lucky to get so much as a few hundred downloads. Thanks to the support of generous fans and users, Sine Nomine has remained in the black for every month of 2011, and while the sums involved will never make me quit my day job, I can’t say I ever thought to actually turn a profit on this hobby. With your continued support, Sine Nomine will keep producing the kind of sandbox games and resources that I’ve had so much fun creating and sharing with you all.

Clippings: Ship Malfunctions and Mishaps

One of a series of little snippets offered here on the website to our attentive patronage.

1d8 Ship Malfunctions and Occasions of Distress
1 A surge of metadimensional energy on reentry into normal space blows out the ship’s life support recyclers. The crew needs to land somewhere breathable within a day or two or they’ll suffocate.
2 Severe radioactivity leak in the engine room. The ship needs to land or dock to repair it, but any space station or city will charge a huge sum for allowing a radioactive vessel to land.
3 One of the NPC crew finally snaps, desperate to get off the ship and onto a habitable world. They’re willing to kill if it gets them off the ship.
4 One of the NPC crew just happens to have brought aboard a serious, virulently contagious disease. The locals are likely to vaporize the craft as a prophylactic measure if its presence is discovered.
5 A life support filter has suffered a drastic failure- or sabotage?- and is now pumping toxins into the ship. (Physical Effect save every hour or lose 1d2 points of Con. At less than 3 Con, the victim is unconscious, and dies at 0 Con. Lost points are recovered at the rate of one per day.) The filter can be repaired, but a failed Tech/Astronautics roll means that vital components must be cannibalized from the spike drive.
6 A faulty distress beacon on the ship triggers briefly before being shut down, though it’s taken the ship’s comm system down with it. A ship with a higher-rated spike drive is accelerating to meet the PC’s ship. Is it a good Samaritan? A pirate?
7 A sudden drive failure provokes a misdrill, leaving the ship unable to move at the far edge of the system, dangerously close to a highly radioactive space station that appears to have been long-since abandoned. A call for help might bring aid from the inner system- or it might bring pirates.
8 A power grid overload has fused the navigation controls at full throttle. A manual shutdown would ruin the drive, but if it isn’t halted somehow the ship will dive directly into the system’s sun. Meanwhile, the overload appears to be traced to a bizarre alien artifact that seems to have been used by a prior owner to jury-rig the system.

Mandate Archive: The Qotah

The QotahThe Qotah were conquerors once, and frontier worlds were peeled of their humans so that the world-flocks could grow. But the Mandate Fleet broke them and extracted the Vow of Red Feathers, the pledge of peace that has held all through the Silence. But now these jewel-plumed hunters grow impatient, and some speak of the vow’s end. Is the frontier to face a furious sky once more?

Contained in this free Mandate Archive, you’ll find…
* The history, physiology, and alien mindset of the Qotah.
* The grim demands of the Kri and its check on their conquering ambitions.
* Plot seeds and capsule NPCs for quick insertion into any sci-fi game.
* Rules for Qotah PCs and guidelines on their play.


Now available in print!

It wasn’t your idea. It never has to be. You just do the job and collect your pay. There’s a big red hole in your credit after the wires you picked up at the stitcher. There’s a little red dot on the back of this man’s head. He’ll probably understand why you’re pulling the trigger. You? You’re just the prophet of someone else’s revelation. Forget it, offworlder. It’s Polychrome.

Learn all the dirty details and concrete truths of the megacorp-dominated world of Polychrome, where the cyberware is cheap and the lives are cheaper. In addition to the history and ruthless corp-controlled culture of this long-isolated world, GMs will find general resources for running a cyberpunk-fueled game in the twisted steel tunnels of the Warrens, chock-full of the system-neutral sandbox helps you’ve come to expect from Sine Nomine.  Adventure outline tools, quick reference sheets, new cyberware, and an included mini-adventure will ensure that this worldbook is all you’ll need to give your Stars Without Number game excitement with a mirrorshade sheen.

The Stars, Like Sand.

Try our free flagship product, Stars Without Number, a game of science-fiction adventure inspired by old-school gaming aesthetics. Quick and familiar game mechanics are supported by extensive tools, tables, and tips for creating unexplored stellar sectors, enigmatic aliens, ferocious xenomorphs, and scheming interstellar factions. Game masters can take advantage of one hundred sci-fi adventure seeds designed to interlock with a world generation system involving five dozen descriptive “world tags”, each fleshed out with examples of friends, enemies, places, things, and complications appropriate to the tag. Resource tables for random generation of names, NPCs, religions, political parties, architectural styles, and room furnishings excel in generating the kind of fast, smooth content that sandbox gaming demands. Pick Stars Without Number up at DriveThruRPG; now also available in perfect-bound and hardback print versions.

You can also have a look at our free line of game supplements in the Mandate Archive line of accessories. For those who wish to dare the seas of night in the service of their world, Skyward Steel holds the secrets of war in the silent heavens. And for those GMs who want to grab an adventure and go, Hard Light provides you with all you need to run several sessions of intrigue and exploration in the backwater system of Brightside with its hard-bitten novium miners and the enigmatic alien Sky Tombs.

Note, for the benefit of any conscientious print shop workers out there, that permission is explicitly granted for printing the PDF version of Stars Without Number for personal use.