Monday, August 1, 2016

Civilian Starships - Compatible with Stars Without Number!

Stellagama Publishing proudly presents:

Civilian Starships

Compatible with Stars Without Number!

The Stars Without Number(TM) science fiction role-playing game has a wonderfully simple starship design process based on installing Fittings into a few standard hull types, but the books lack a comprehensive list of basic ship designs for quick use by a GM or players. Given the assumed setting of most SWN games, it isn’t surprising that standard ship designs would not be common. Each world or small interstellar state would most likely have unique designs that meet their unique needs. However, we have found that it is often a lot easier to have some basic designs to start with that can be modified to fit a given situation rather than designing each ship from scratch every time. There are essentially no civilian designs for starships for SWN. This product hopes to help solve this problem.

During the design of these civilian ships, there were several additional Fittings that we felt would have helped us, so below the designs you will find a list of new Fittings, aimed at Civilian ships such as would be used by player characters. This product also details six “standard” ship designs created using the core rulebook and the Skyward Steel supplement, both available from SineNomine Publishing; additionally, there are six ship designs including new Fittings defined in this publication.

included are:

- Clarified starship operation cost rules.

- 6 civilian starship designs using core-book fittings.

- 6 new starship fittings.

- 6 civilian starships utilizing the new fittings.


Get it HERE!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Why is System Shock one of the greatest masterpieces in computer gaming?

Many people regard System Shock, first released in 1994 on floppy disks and re-released in a remastered CDROM version with better graphics and full-audio logs, as an excellent and memorable game. It has also inspired generations of newer games, as well as a host of imitations and spiritual successors. Why is so? In this article, I will try to outline the three main factors contributing to System Shock’s success - persistent non-linear world; immersion; and an excellent villain. I will also discuss its spiritual successors, focusing on the Bioshock and S.T.A.L.K.E.R series.

What are the three primary factors in System Shock’s timeless excellence?

1. Persistent non-linear world. In System Shock, you explore Citadel Station, a ten-level space station in Saturn orbit. You do start on level 1, but from then on you slowly unlock access to the other levels. So far - similar to most spaceborne survival-horror games. But in Citadel Station, you do not simply progress in a linear fashion from one level to another. Instead, you go back and forth between the various levels as you pursue you protracted battle with SHODAN, the rogue AI in charge. You will find yourself revisiting the very same levels, re-exploring them, and in many cases unlocking more parts of them which were inaccessible before. Unlike many games, System Shock’s designers did not arrange Citadel Station in a convenient sequence of levels appropriate to the plot’s progression. Instead, facilities and objects exist where they should be on the station, and you will have to backtrack and reach them where they are. The world is persistent and non-linear - leave a stim-patch on the floor in the very first room you start in, and you can return many hours later all the way from - say - level 8 to that room and pick it up. You are absolutely free to explore any area you have unlocked in any order you desire. Citadel is not a stage set for a pre-determined plot. Instead, it is a place.

2. Immersion. System Shock’s designers effectively used the limited graphical and engine tools available in 1994 to create a masterpiece of technological horror. Everything in the game works to build that atmosphere and experience. The station is a metallic, highly technological, sterile space. It is also falling apart. From malfunctioning and blinking neon lights to metallic wall panels, from loose wires to computer screens filled with static - the place is dead and dying. Everything in the game is technological, from crewmembers turned into horrific cyborgs by SHODAN, through mutants she formed by genetically-engineered viruses, to your implants and weapons. There is no magic and very little vegetation outside the hellish hothouses of the three remaining Groves. Almost no one alive who is not a mutant or a cyborg. This is pure technological horror, the result of science gone rogue.

Another element of immersion is the sense of paranoia this game instills in its player from a very early stage. The levels are non-linear in their design, and monsters respawn. Furthermore, the designers carefully placed enemies, especially the completely silent Cyborg Assassins and Invisible Mutants, in hidden nooks and crannies on the various levels. Danger can come at any time and from any direction. You always dread what might be creeping up on you from behind. Or what hides in some cubby-hall high on the wall of some dark room. You are afraid. You feel hunted. You will never really clean out Citadel. You are never the master of Citadel Station. That honor belongs to SHODAN.

3. Villain. A very major factor in System Shock’s success is SHODAN, the rogue AI in control of Citadel Station. She pulls all strings. She is always around, from her digital face on malfunctioning computer screens through her pixelated visage when you try to access a keypad she controls - to actively trying to hunt you, the lone Hacker. You cannot escape her. Most of this is scripted of course but effectively shows SHODAN setting up ambushes and sometimes sending an army of cyborgs and robots to stop you. She also taunts you and even interrupts the e-mails you get from your friends on Earth. SHODAN also has multiple contingency plans towards the end of crushing the Hacker and bringing Humanity to its knees. A perfect villain.

System Shock’s success spawned a good number of games inspired by its mechanics, atmosphere, or even some of its themes - from Deus Ex to Dead Space. Here I will discuss two games inspired in such a way, and their comparison to System Shock.

The first is Bioshock - the official spiritual successor to System Shock - and its sequels. Bioshock, like System Shock, takes place in an abandoned and isolated technological location overrun by mutants and filled with dead people who left behind their audio logs. But here the similarity ends. Bioshock - in my humble opinion - failed to fully live up to the three factors I have described above.

First and foremost, its world is far more linear. Yes, you can walk around and explore a level. But once you finish a level, that’s it - you do not really come back. A level might be non-linear to a certain degree. The game itself is linear. This hurts Rapture’s sense of place and sets it as a series of locations conveniently stringed together in the order of the plot. Second, Bioshock’s overly-colorful art-deco world gets in the way of technological horror. Rapture is wonderful to behold - but this city, as well as many enemies residing in it, are more along the lines of grotesque monstrosity rather than the mind-numbing technological horror of Citadel. Combined with the magic inherent in the Plasmids, this reduces the game’s immersive focus. Finally, Bioshock’s villains do not repeat SHODAN’s success and hound the player far less. They are not everywhere. They do not really try to hunt you. They are not absolute masters of a domain in which you are a mere intruder.

The second is the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series, especially its most refined version - S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat. Its setting is an open series of areas around Pripyat, the Ukraine - and not a space-station or underwater city. However, it did manage to live up to two factors of System Shock’s success. It does lack a clear villain unless you consider the Zone a “villain” of sorts. However, it has two other things - a persistent non-linear world and immersion. 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R’s world is open. You might need to unlock some of the areas prior to entering them, but you do roam the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone quite freely, and you do backtrack in some cases. In Call of Pripyat, you do it very much - you eventually unlock three huge outdoor maps and can freely travel between all three once unlocked. You also move between them constantly as you pursue your military mission to find the fate of an expedition into the Zone’s very heart. Things in the Zone are where they should be; it is a place, not one long corridor used to tell a single plot. Furthermore, immersion is S.T.A.L.K.E.R’s biggest selling point. In place of System Shock’s technological horror, S.T.A.L.K.E.R provides an industrial post-apocalypse and carefully moves to build it up. The Zone is as sterile as Citadel. It lacks women, children, or old men. It lacks real homes as the Stalkers live in temporary shelters inside abandoned buildings, never rebuilding anything. It even lacks real food for the most part other than conserved foodstuffs brought from outside. There is life in the Zone, but it is mutated and inimical to Humanity. Inside the various bunkers under the Zone’s soil one can feel paranoia, maybe not as strong as that in System Shock, but enough to make you watch your back from mutants. Especially the invisible Bloodsuckers.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R also follows suit with System Shock’s “RPG elements. It lacks character stats and skills. You “build” your character - already an accomplished criminal, mercenary, or special-forces soldier - by gather equipment and artifacts, just like in System Shock.

Repeating System Shock’s success is difficult. But System Shock itself will now be rebuilt, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. The future looks “bright” - that is dark and horrible - for SHODAN!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Exapnded World Generation for Stars Without Number

Stellagama Publishing proudly presents:

Exapnded World Generation for Stars Without Number(TM)!

This rule supplement provides several expanded rules for more varied and nuanced world generation in Stars Without Number(TM), from taking into account the atmosphere's and biosphere's influence on the world's population to a plethora of new and expanded world tags.

Included are:
- Expanded generation tables for atmosphere, temperature, biosphere, population, and tech level.
- Expanded interaction between the various world characteristics, such as the atmosphere's influence on population or the population size's influence on the tech level.
- 14 new World Tags.
- Two examples of expanded world generation.

Get it HERE!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

From the Ashes - 2d6 Sci-Fi OGL death and rebirth rules!


Stellagama Publishing proudly presents:

From the Ashes!
Advanced injury, death, and resurrection rules for the 2d6 Sci-Fi OGL!

Death lurks among the stars, forever waiting for the unwary Player Character. From laser beams and bullets to the teeth of alien predators to the vacuum of space travel itself, death is, unfortunately, common in the far reaches of the cosmos. However, human (and alien) ingenuity pushes back at death and injury, with the constant progress of medicine. At high tech levels, deadly wounds and even death itself are no longer absolute: medicine can repair a broken body, replacing dead flesh and bone with plastic and steel, or alternatively re-growing dead tissues with advanced bio-medicine. This booklet details advanced technologies, from trauma medicine and trauma surgery available even at lower tech levels, to cyborg conversion replacing body parts with bio-mechanical systems and defying death, to advanced bio regeneration capable of bringing the death back from the very maw of death.

This product includes:
- Trauma surgery and recovering from deadly wounds - at a price!
- Less forgiving injury during character generation!
- Critical hits on personnel with gruesome effects!
- Cheat death by becoming a cyborg!
- Build yourself a new body with Bio-Regeneration!

100% compatible with the 2d6 Science-Fiction OGL Rules!
100% compatible with the Cepheus Engine Core Rules!


Get it HERE!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Coming July 1st from Stellagama Publishing: From the Ashes!


Coming July 1st from Stellagama Publishing:

From the Ashes!
Advanced injury, death, and resurrection rules for the 2d6 Sci-Fi OGL!

Death lurks among the stars, forever waiting for the unwary Player Character. From laser beams and bullets to the teeth of alien predators to the vacuum of space travel itself, death is, unfortunately, common in the far reaches of the cosmos. However, human (and alien) ingenuity pushes back at death and injury, with the constant progress of medicine. At high tech levels, deadly wounds and even death itself are no longer absolute: medicine can repair a broken body, replacing dead flesh and bone with plastic and steel, or alternatively re-growing dead tissues with advanced bio-medicine. This booklet details advanced technologies, from trauma medicine and trauma surgery available even at lower tech levels, to cyborg conversion replacing body parts with bio-mechanical systems and defying death, to advanced bio regeneration capable of bringing the death back from the very maw of death.

This product will include:
- Trauma surgery and recovering from deadly wounds - at a price!
- Less forgiving injury during character generation!
- Critical hits on personnel with gruesome effects!
- Cheat death by becoming a cyborg!
- Build yourself a new body with Bio-Regeneration!

100% compatible with the 2d6 Science-Fiction OGL Rules!

Friday, June 17, 2016

White Box Rogues for Swords & Wizardry: White Box

Stellagama Publishing proudly presents: White Box Rogues!

Gold glitters in the coffers of noblemen and in the hoards of dragons. Vast riches exchange hands in the bazaars of the city. Gems of untold value adorn the dead lying in their crypts. All of these, and more, call for the cunning merchant, or even the mighty swordsman, to take them by mercantile or martial prowess. They also call to the cutpurse, the burglar, the footpad – in short, their glitter summons the thief from the shadows, to lay their grubby hands on such fabulous treasures and take them, usually with their owners none the wiser. Similarly, the intrigues of nobles often devolve into cloak and dagger affairs, with emphasis on the dagger and the poison dart; into this world of conspiracy and deceit, steps the assassin, perhaps held on retainer by some corrupt noble to fell their rivals, or perhaps a murderer for hire.

Myth and legend, as well as more modern fantasy literature and even contemporary film and digital media, include – side by side with knights, wizards, and holy men – also thieves, rogues, and assassins. From Hermes the god of thieves (among other things) to the Merry Men who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, from a Halfling hired to burgle a dragon's den to a lone, cynical urban master-thief caught in schemes of ancient gods – the life of such criminals is a life of adventure, danger, and a potential to gain wealth beyond the lout's wild dreams. This product caters to this mythical and fantastic archetype by presenting an Assassin class and a Thief class to the Sword & Wizardry: White Box™ game, with additional expanded and clarified rules for stealth and for trafficking on the Black Market, as well as some of the tools of the trade of such outlaws and scoundrels.

The supplement includes:
- Expanded and clarified stealth and loot-fencing rules
- Assassin character class
- Thief character class
- New weapons fit for rogues!

Fully compatible with Swords and Wizardry™: White Box, and highly compatible with a wide range of older-school games.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Coming this Summer from Stellagama Publishing: The Plague Ship!

Coming this August from Stellagama Publishing - The Plague Ship!

© Fotosearch.com – www.fotosearch.com
The Medium Transport “Koschei” silently hurtles through space at an odd trajectory, transmitting a garbled distress signal. Its engines are offline, its reactor in minimal power settings, and lights flicker erratically from its viewports. What has happened to the “Koschei”? From where did it jump, and why did it fall silent? The intrepid heroes – brave Star Marines, unlucky salvagers, or perhaps hapless colonists carried into cryo-storage on board the ship itself – will have to investigate this deadly mystery, laser in hand and with an eye always watching the corners. For the Plague Ship “Koshcei” bears dark horror, ready to corrupt and devour any who cross their paths with it.

This short horror adventure, designed for the White Star(TM) sci-fi role-playing game, is intended for 4-8 characters of levels 1-3, of varied classes. It confronts the player characters with alien horrors from stars unknown on board a derelict starship which once carried colonists to distant worlds, but which was infected and infested on the way. Prepare your trusty laser, and watch your back!

This is an adventure I really enjoy writing - horror, exploration, and colonial marines! What's not to like!

Included:
  • Full deck plans for a Medium Transport with detachable cargo pods
  • Open-ended spaceborne horror adventure. The players decide what to do with the infested ship
  • 5 new monsters - xenoparasite-infested mutants, mutated biomass, and a maintenance drone
  • New weapons - flamethrowers (!), heavy lasers, dartguns, and gas grenades
  • Play as colonial marines! Or as shipboard survivors; or as salvagers
  • 3 page-long printable handouts for your players' reading pleasure

Stars Without Number version also in the works!