Stars Without Number: Core Edition now in PDF

The whirling presses of Mongoose Publishing now swiftly usher Stars Without Number to friendly local gaming stores throughout the globe. This new Core Edition provides a typo-cleaned copy of the current free PDF, but in consideration to the loyal fans, over forty pages of fresh new content has been added to the book, material exclusive to the Core Edition. These piping-hot additions include…

  • Rules and historical information on AIs and robots, including AI player characters. Assemble your artificial heroes with a point-buy character creation system and an array of armature hulls for them to use. Included information covers non-sentient guard bots and expert systems as well!
  • Rules and the historical context for mechs ranging from almost human-sized powered suits to hulking heavy assault mechs to the enigmatic psychic war machines that were the ancient psimechs. Strap in for those special occasions that call for the really big guns. Nine sample mechs are included, along with a design system for creating your own.
  • Society creation guidelines and generation tables to help GMs flesh out their worlds with vibrant, living cultures and their ages-old conflicts. Every culture comes with built-in struggles to fuel adventures on that world and give GMs a quick and easy hook for pulling in the players

For those GMs and players who prefer the electronic simplicity of a PDF, Sine Nomine is making available an electronic version of the book at DriveThruRPG. Grab it now, and revel in that new PDF smell.

Mandate Archive: Bruxelles-class Battlecruiser

An Iron Ghost from a Dead Age…

The Bruxelles-class battlecruiser was one of the mainstays of the ancient Terran Mandate, a regular sentinel along the ragged borders of the core and the deep colonial wilderness of the frontier. Its fearsome guns brought peace to squabbling worlds and rebuked raiders and alien interlopers with radioactive fire. When the Scream washed over the human empire, countless Bruxelles-class ships were left lost and isolated on the fringes of human space. Many died in vain attempts to get back to Old Terra, but a few such corpses still linger in the dark between worlds, waiting for some reckless soul to drag them back to a bright and terrible life.

This free Mandate Archive gives you the details on the Bruxelles class of battlecruiser- its history, function, standard crew complements, and statistics. A half-dozen plot seeds are also provided, each one revolving around this ancient engine of war. Finally, several examples of pretech ship weaponry are given with which to terrify the feeble heirs of the Mandate’s lost glory. Grab it now at DriveThruRPG!

Clippings: Interstellar Trade

Interplanetary commerce is an old standby for sci-fi adventures, and many GMs are going to run into a situation where the PCs want to make a buck moving cargo from world to world. Eventually, I plan to put out a sourcebook for trade campaigns in the same vein as Skyward Steel does naval themes, but some GMs need useful information right now, and the GM’s guide trade section in the core rulebook isn’t enough. Here are a few guidelines that can help.

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Clippings: Do Espionage Games and Sandboxes Mix?

Espionage isn’t usually a genre that leaps to mind when considering sandbox games. The baseline espionage adventure is built around a complicated plot, multiple NPCs with their own motivations, the obfuscation of truths, and the misdirection of PCs. Even the most adventurously athletic spy stories require a context, and that context is usually something complex and only partly-visible to the players. Compounding this, most PCs in an espionage-based campaign are either government agents or somehow affiliated with a controlling organization. How do government operatives tasked with specific missions fit into a sandbox gaming style? On the face of it, they’ve got no influence over the jobs they’re given to handle and no practical ability to bow out of the organization without defeating the entire point of running an espionage campaign.

Continue reading Clippings: Do Espionage Games and Sandboxes Mix?

Clippings: Other Dust and Item Creation

The upcoming standalone Other Dust is a post-apocalyptic game set in the ashes of Terra after the cataclysmic destruction unleashed by the Scream. It has been two hundred years since the Mandate fell in dust and radioactive flames, and now the PCs are among the handful of savages, scroungers, and hard-bitten survivalists who struggle to make something better out of the welter of chaos and nanomutation that infests humanity’s birthplace. While the basic game system of Other Dust is identical to that of Stars Without Number, the genre requires a few supplementary rules to help cover situations common to such a desperate situation. Aside from hunting and foraging guidelines and rules for starvation, thirst, and nanoinfection, equipment is much more important in a post-apocalyptic setting than in the default space-operatic world of Stars Without Number.

In a savage hellscape of radiation and cannibal mutants, you don’t just buy a new spear when your old one is broken in the guts of a runaway warbot armature. Reliable vendors of reloaded ammunition and refurbished power armor are also in short supply. Some of the richest or most secure Enclaves might have such peddlers, and it might be that you’ve got enough food or technology to convince them to part with their wares, but often as not you’re going to need to either salvage your gear from your enemies, get it from grateful allies, or build it yourself. Below the cut, you’ll find an the current draft rules for scroungers and survivalists who want to put together their own gear.

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Clippings: Intrasolar Campaigns

Some GMs might want to run Stars Without Number in a setting that doesn’t have faster-than-light drives, perhaps to run a campaign set within Earth’s own solar system or to emulate a different setting focused around a single star. Here’s one way of tweaking SWN’s spaceships and system generation techniques to fit them into such a world.

Take out a blank sheet of hex paper. You can find hex-paper generators online easily if you’d like to print out your own. Put the system’s star at the center of the paper. Then roll 1d6 to determine a hex facing, with 1 being the face at the top of the hex. Place the first planet in that direction, one or more hexes away from the star. Then shift one hex-face to the right and place the next planet out along that direction from the star, working clockwise until you have placed all the planets at a proportional distance from the system primary. If you’re emulating the Sol system, you’ll probably have to compress some distances to fit the inner and outer planets all on the same hex map.

Next, draw in major systems features, such as asteroid belts, deep-space stations, and other decorative bits. Don’t worry about moons or orbital stations for now.

Finally, take a 3×5 card for each planet, deep-space station, or other “place” of importance in the system. Note down any moons or orbital stations in close proximity to that location. You can also use this card to note down any special navigational features or conditions to watch out for. The players will be consulting these cards during the game, so don’t write down any Secret GM Info on them; you can save that for your own notes.

Hard sci-fi fans will at this point be scowling over the two-dimensionality of the map, plus the fact that the planets are in a fixed position rather than orbiting at different periods around the sun. Depending on your degree of dedication, you can make up period tables for each of the planets and progress their orbits as game time advances, but in a practical sense, this is unlikely to give you a lot of benefit at the game table. It’s easier to just treat the positions as generalized abstractions and assume that they average out to a median travel time for the PCs.

Once you’ve drawn up the system map, just use the existing starship writeups. Each level of “spike drive” lets a ship cross 1 hex of the map in a length of time appropriate for your campaign setting- two days is a good baseline. A single load of fuel allows two acceleration/deceleration cycles, which allows a ship to eventually reach any single point in the system and return to its origin. If it changes course mid-flight, however, it’s going to have to find fuel at its eventual destination. Traveling to moons, orbital stations, and other near-space areas is treated under the “regions” section of spaceship movement, and uses no appreciable fuel. For spaceship combat, ships with stronger drives have better maneuverability, so the Phase rules for spaceship combat are retained, but simply treated as differences in agility.

Clippings: Printable Covers

A lot of people are very keen on the existing covers for Stars Without Number. With them in mind, I’ve arranged to provide the covers in a more usable format than that provided in the free PDF. Just click here for a two-page PDF containing high-resolution print-ready versions of the front and back covers of the book. Laminate them, print them onto large stickers, savagely colonize your existing RPG collection with the inexorable, uncountable Stars, or otherwise wield this PDF as you think best.

Clippings: Dungeons Without Number

Want to run a fantasy-based game with Stars Without Number? Most of the time, it’s simplicity itself. Just have the players pick setting-appropriate backgrounds, remix a few training packages, and use the equipment and monster lists from your favorite retroclone. But what about magic? The Psychic class can cover a lot of magical terrain, but there are many settings that involve very different types of sorcery that require their own systems. The simplest way to handle this involves grabbing your favorite retroclone and peeling the Cleric and Magic-User classes out of it.

Clerics: Give them an Expert’s attack bonus, saving throws, and hit dice. Their class skills are the same as a Psychic, and for a training package they can pick up to four skills, up to two of which can be non-class skills. They gain two additional skill points each level. They Turn Undead and use spells in the same way as given in the retroclone being used. They can use any armor, shields, and any blunt weapon.

Magic-Users: Give them a Psychic’s attack bonus, saving throws, and hit dice. Their class skills are the same as an Expert’s, and for a training package they can pick up to four skills, one of which can be a non-class skill. They gain three additional skill points each level. They can use spells in the same way as given in the retroclone being used. They cannot wear armor or shields, and can use only those weapons given for magic-users in the source retroclone.

But what’s this? You want a different flavor of magic-user? One with an ability to cast magic that hinges on physical strain and the ability to channel awful eldritch powers? Try these variant Mage rules on for size, then.

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Hard Light and Printing

A question recently came up regarding printing copies of the Stars Without Number adventure Hard Light, available at DriveThruRPG for a truly nominal price. Print copies of Hard Light are available at Lulu, but those customers who’ve bought PDFs of the adventure are free to make print copies of it for personal use. For those Office Depot souls who insist on absolute proof that the PDF has been legitimately acquired, the customer’s name should appear in the watermarking in the page corner of the file.

Why isn’t this print copy available at DriveThruRPG? Largely because Hard Light was my first foray into laying out a product for print as well as PDF, and the end result, while it produced a fine Lulu copy, was not viable for POD from DriveThruRPG/RPGNow’s printer Lightning Source. In order to make it available at DTRPG, I’d have to lay the thing out again with the right margins. and I haven’t the time to see to it. But for those who won’t have it if it’s not in hardcopy, Lulu can fix you right up with 38 pages of sinister intrigue, alien tombs, and murderous stellar radiation.

25% Off Everything

Until 10 AM on August 1st, it’s Christmas in July at DriveThruRPG. Every Sine Nomine product is 25% off, including POD print items. For those of you who don’t care to wait for the Mongoose edition and its bonus content coming out in September, you can swoop in and grab yourself a shiny Stars Without Number hardback for all of twenty dollars. Is there some other place you can get 210 pages of sci-fi RPG goodness in a lustrous hardcover format for twenty dollars? Perhaps, but they have not left their address with me, so I am forced to forge ahead on that path without assistance.

Also keep in mind the chance to snatch up such items as Red Tide for your fantasy gaming and Labyrinth Lord exertions, also ringing in at twenty dollars for a hardback with included PDF. Or grab yourself some tools for computer hacking and new cyberware in Polychrome. Whatever you choose, now’s the time to grab it, because you won’t see another sale like this for a long time to come.