Category Archives: Games

Games and books by Sine Nomine Publishing.

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.

Continue reading Clippings: Dungeons Without Number

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.

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.