Review: The Dust

Posted: 20 April 2011 in Reviews

This is another 7-page free downloadable supplement for Stars Without Number, which sheds light on lost Terran Mandate technology.

This partly fills the niche occupied by the Ancients and their artefacts in Classic Traveller; rare, possibly unique, devices which can no longer be built.

The titular Dust is a nanite communications and surveillance medium, formerly common on core Mandate worlds. The supplement first explains the final days of the Mandate, during which the Dust seemed like a good idea to those in power; then, the powers available to the Dust at various densities, ranging from haze, through fog and cloud, until finally it reaches storm proportions. Dust storms are capable of the same sorts of activities carried out by the nanite swarms in the recent remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, or the smoke monster in Lost.

The document then moves on to a more general discussion of late Mandate technology, Tech 5 and up in the game. It begins this by explaining why such technology is so weird-looking, then provides random tables to determine its appearance, method of control, how it outputs data and manipulates matter, and some interesting side effects caused by age or improper use.

As an example, I created a late Mandate repair kit by this method. It’s a tube with a grip on one side, decorated with smooth, curved surfaces, which adjusts machinery using focalised sonics. It’s activated by pressing a button, presents its readouts as coloured dials, but the user bleeds slightly from all their pores after using it. That should worry the PCs.

A dozen examples of Mandate technology follow, with a brief discussion of the dangers of trying to sell it.

Another entertaining expansion for the Stars Without Number setting, and you can’t argue with the price.


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