Review: Polychrome

Posted: 20 July 2011 in Reviews

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.

Inside Jobs

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.

Handling Investigations

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.

Resource Sheets

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.

Bad Blood

8 pages. An adventure on Polychrome which could leave the PCs richer and with a powerful contact, or dead in an alleyway somewhere.

Player Handouts

Two pages. One page is a data handout on the planet, and the other is a quick-reference sheet for hacking.

Reviewer’s Conclusions

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.

  1. Sine Nomine says:

    Thanks for giving the generous review, Andy. I can say that the post-apoc supplement for SWN is yet to be released. It’s “Other Dust”, and I’m still testing systems for it.Given the volume of material in it, I’m likely going to just throw in the 12 additional pages of basic systems it takes to turn it into a standalone book. The setting is Earth, 200 years after the Scream, and it covers mutations, post-apoc classes, scavenging, item building and repair, and interactions between assorted enclaves of survivors. It’s all designed to fit seamlessly with SWN for those GMs who want to use content from both books. I’m hoping to get it out by the end of the year.

    Incidentally, if you toss me a contact email through the addy on the Sine Nomine website, I’ll make sure you get review copies of the new stuff coming out.

    • andyslack says:

      You’re most welcome! I just call ’em the way I see ’em. Looking forward to the post-apoc book – PM on the way to you with contact details.

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