My latest venture into the wonder that is Stars Without Number is Polychrome, a combination of world writeup, cyberpunk supplement, and adventure pack.
A Killing Colour in the Sky
4 pages. This gives a capsule history and statistics for the planet Polychrome, which is one of the less-visited worlds in the sample sector given in the Stars Without Number rulebook.
Polychrome is a world poisoned by alien biotoxins, and the survivors live underground, ignorant of the true reason why their world was destroyed, or who did so. Few of them have the energy or interest to enquire, but perhaps the PCs will.
Political power on Polychrome requires the control on one or more nanofabbers, the automated factories producing the cybernetic implants which improve chances of surviving the constant exposure to traces of insidious biotoxins.
The Feel of the City
3 pages. This does what it says on the tin; it explains, briefly, the lifestyles of the various classes and the general layout and feel of The Warrens, Polychrome’s capital. Capsule descriptions for 9 NPCs and 10 locations are also included.
Megacorps and the Council
2 pages. This describes the eight main corporations forming the Council (the 9th seat being the chairperson, who has little real power), and 10 sample NPCs the players might encounter if their adventures take them into the circles of power.
2 pages. A bunch of adventure seeds tailored to the planet, with tables for which friends, enemies, bit players, valuable things, and complications will be involved.
One page. The cyberpunk genre is focussed more on solving mysteries than most SF, and this page introduces a grittier approach to that, built on the idea that somewhere, there is a NPC who knows what the players want to find out, and that NPC will tell them for a price. There’s a table for NPC motivations, which you can use to work out that price; then the PCs have to decide whether they are willing to do what the NPC wants. I like this, and may appropriate it for other urban adventures.
3 pages. Rules for creating new identities, stealing funds, finding information, or editing records.
Combat on Polychrome
3 pages. These are more about what you can do and carry, and what happens if you overachieve in either area, than about variant combat rules, which is fine by me. There are also some new NPC statblocks for likely opponents.
Psionics on Polychrome
One page. What it’s like being a psion native to Polychrome.
Cyberware on Polychrome
3 pages. Additional types of cyberware; reduced costs due to the planetary dependence on this technology.
3 pages. I always look forward to these in Kevin Crawford’s work. This time we get:
- NPC resources. Tables for NPCs; how they know the PCs, their names, their motivations, quirks, where to find them, and who they are really working for.
- Tables for quick answers to common questions. Suddenly something happens, what’s in the room, what megacorp is behind this, what’s that building, what security is there.
- NPC statblocks, cost of lifestyle and services, locks, security and environmental perils.
8 pages. An adventure on Polychrome which could leave the PCs richer and with a powerful contact, or dead in an alleyway somewhere.
Two pages. One page is a data handout on the planet, and the other is a quick-reference sheet for hacking.
In a sense, this is the cyberpunk and/or post-apocalyptic genre book for SWN. Corrupt and venal megacorporations; an embittered underclass of cyber-enhanced criminals; an uninhabitable wilderness full of ruined cities; it’s all here.
Cyberpunk isn’t really my thing, but I could see Polychrome as a useful world in a number of campaigns – it’s a good place to go to get wired and tooled up, once the PCs learn of its existence and figure out a way to get there. As ever with SWN, there are a number of GM tools worth adopting in other settings.