Local Tech

The equipment section of Stars Without Number Revised mentions briefly that there could easily exist local variants of the listed equipment, or entirely new pieces of techno-goodness. With the skewered, sometimes post-apocalyptic tech distribution of the default SWN assumptions, it seems completely plausible that some worlds, or even sectors, wouldn’t conform entirely to the presented list. Some equipment might be better, some worse, some just a little different, marked by the imperfections of culture, material conditions and production methods that creates them.

One of the appeals of SWN is in its simplicity. So adding new or local variant tech shouldn’t introduce too many subsystems or fiddly rules. For all-out weapon stat orgies, there’s always Shadowrun or Traveller.

With that said, here are some (probably half-baked) ideas for local/sectoral tech variants.

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Bahrami Laser Technology

Laser weaponry in the Bahram Sector relies on ionized prismatic glass (‘prisglass’) to function properly, and the methods of creating this material is restricted to a few production spots. Thus the majority of laser weaponry makes do with less-durable substitutes. Laser weapons with genuine prisglass function as normal, but cost four times as much. Laser weapons that use substitute materials (‘subglass’) have a 1-in-20 chance of malfunctioning every time they fire (5-in-20 chance if using burst fire), requiring at least a Main Action and a Difficulty 8 Fix/Int check to get back in order. A malfunctioning subglass weapon can still fire, but if it malfunctions again, it explodes and deals 2d6 damage to the holder.

Yumati Heat-Suits

The burning world of Yumati demands much of its inhabitants, who labor under its brutal sun and within its searing atmosphere. Vacc suits built on Yumati are adapted to local circumstance. They function as normal vacc suits, with the follow modifications: They include sophisticated cooling technology and highly heat-resistant coating (if relevant, reduce damage from fire-based weaponry by 10). However, they are less adapted for zero-g environments, and the -2 penalty for cumbersomeness always applies.

Renozadan Shock Whips

On the harsh world of Renozad, electronic technology is rare, and often coveted. The shock whip is a weapon created to assist in the capture of such equipment. The resemble somewhat black-blue leather mesh whips with slightly oversized handles, connected to a power package worn on the wielder’s hip. Shock whips function as medium advanced weapons, with the follow modifications: They require a type A power cell (can function for two weeks on one such cell), and when they hit an opponent or when they deal Shock damage, the whip’s wielder can choose to forgo that damage and instead try to neutralize some of the target’s electronics by sending an overcharged electricity burst through the whip. This triggers an Evasion saving throw for the target. On a failure, a random piece of electronic equipment on the target is overcharged and ceases to function for one hour (or until fixed with a difficulty 10 Fix/Int check).

Canis Armor

The iconic armor of the elite commandos of House Lothar, Canis Armor has a great number of non-intrusive embellishments that suggest hound-like jaws, eyes, ears and claws. Canis Armor functions like a standard combat field uniform, but it provides the wearer with enhanced smell roughly equal to that of a trained hunting dog, albeit with a crispy electronic tinge. Canis Armor can usually not be bought on the open market.

Axe-Shield of Kor

The grand arena of Kor on the planet Samanis XI draws spectators from every corner of the sector, eager to see its famed gladiators fight to near-death in the ancient sands of the pits. The axe-shield is the most famous implement of this bloodsport, and resemble wickedly spiked crescents of bronze-colored material. They function as normal shields, but can, as an Instant Action, be changed into an elongated, axe-like weapon – in effect, a large advanced weapon. It takes an Instant Action to change back to shield configuration as well.

Just One Prop

I am currently running a game of Stars Without Number Revised and pilfering liberally from various Traveller modules and materials along the way. Most notably, the premise of the game revolves around the players being granted a ship and a letter of marque by a space-duke in a kickoff stolen from the magnificent Pirates of Drinax sandbox campaign from Mongoose. Obviously, they needed a sheet for their ship and their cargo, and obviously they needed to sign the letter of marque. Because of deliberately retrograde technology in certain areas of the campaign setting, letters of marque are still written and signed in ink by hand. I figured it’d make a fun opening scene to have them physically sign this scrap of paper containing the promise of riches and glory. Thus I made a mock-up of the letter, complete with the ducal coat of arms and lingo purloined from a historical source, and after the players had negotiated with the duke, I plopped it in front of them.

The actual signing of the letter took mere minutes, and purely functionally, we never strictly needed that piece of paper again. The text had been copied, and we all knew what had taken place in the fiction, after all. But they kept it, and ever since, the Letter of Marque has been sitting on the table, displaying the duke’s heraldry and the terms of his patronage. It’s become a part of the table setup, treated with the same respect and carefulness as a finely scribbled character sheet or map poster.

It’s easy, far too easy, to overburden players with physical handouts. I’ve learned this lesson bitterly. Props, including pieces of paper, tend to lose their efficacy when the table’s oversaturated with them, or when they genuinely superfluous or, at worst, distracting. So economize. If you want a prop, particularly if it’s a physical prop, make it just one, and make it count. ‘Adventurers Wanted’ notices from the local billboards are a dime a dozen and likely obsolete a few sessions later.

Letters of marque. The deed to a castle that’s the catalyst for the story. The bestiary they’re tasked to expand and revise. A blank hex map, begging to be filled. Something that’s tactile without constantly intruding. Something that can be glanced at for an immediate reminder of the campaign’s premise, something the player characters have a relationship with. My players might continue to serve their ducal patron – or they may join a court intrigue against him. Or they might defect. Or seek legal release from the agreement. I don’t know yet, which feels awesome.

But whatever the players choose to do, it’ll inform their relationship with and perception of that humble scrap of paper.