Engage in power struggles and build your crew’s reputation. Salvage and steal to survive and endure a ruthless universe. And above all, do anything you can to get that next job.
This sci-fi tabletop roleplaying game takes you to the grimy blue-collar future of a universe filled with risk, but also opportunity. DEATH IN SPACE presents a vision of space where technology is broken and dirty, and society is harsh and desperate. The player characters make up a crew with their own spacecraft or station, and take on the jobs they can find, in order to earn some well-needed bucks and get ahead in the power struggles of the stellar system.
The people making this game are Christian Plogfors and Carl Niblaeus of Stockholm Kartell. With this Kickstarter, we hope to get the funds to print the core book for the game, which should contain everything you need to start playing. We want to continue making material for the game after the game is out, in the form of adventures and other material to use in your game.
Here's a preview of what we hope the standard edition of the book will look like (the holographic foil is stretchgoal-dependent):
DEATH IN SPACE has its roots in the OSR scene, and follows similar design principles. In terms of setting and tone, inspiration comes primarily from the gritty science fiction of films like Outland and Prospect, classic westerns and the grimy future of early 80’s science fiction movies.
It is a game about adventure and uncertain journeys out into the darkness of space, it is about you and your crew making a home of your spacecraft or station, in tough competition with everyone else, and most of all, it is about enduring in an abandoned frontier system where your only hope of surviving is to take any contract you can find, sometimes having to put your fate in your enemies' hands.
There are a lot of great and inspiring games out there. In terms of rules and approach, we have found inspiration in some form, large or small, in for example the following games (alphabetically listed): Coriolis, Into the Odd, Knave, Mothership, Mutant Year Zero, MÖRK BORG, Offworlders, Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, Mutant (1989 edition), Traveller. Out of these, MÖRK BORG, Knave and Coriolis deserve a special mention.
Most of the inspiration for the tone and feel comes from movies and series. Some of these, that have inspired elements of the setting in one way or another, are (alphabetically listed): 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Fistful of Dollars, Alien, Blade Runner, Escape from New York, The Expanse, Firefly, IO, Moon, Outland, Prospect, Sunshine, Total Recall, The Warriors.
Visually, much of the inspiration comes from abstract geometric art and design, and old computer interfaces and manuals.
In terms of music, one of our stretchgoals consists of a dedicated soundtrack for the game, by our musician collaborator Helium Kid Kanon. You can already listen to a preview of what that will sound like on Spotify (or scroll down to the stretchgoal list and listen immediately).
Our main goal is to print a durable book of excellent quality that is easy to use at the table. We aim for an offset printed book with a sewn binding and possibly some fancy extras, depending on which stretchgoals are funded.
The book should land at about 128 pages and measure 6 by 9 inches. You can choose from two cover versions: the standard cover, and a special edition, only available in the Kickstarter.
Regarding the covers, we plan for the special edition to be a cloth bound book, and the regular edition cover to be embellished with holographic foil (the silvery kind with reflecting colors), if we fund the corresponding stretchgoal (otherwise, the holographic parts will be a solid color). Apart from that, there are more possible upgrades to the book in stretchgoals. Basically, we don’t want to pull any punches, and will try to make this as nice a book as possible.
Contentwise, the core rulebook contains everything you need to start playing immediately:
Below are some preliminary spreads to give you a flavor of how the interior of the book will look like:
The rules of DEATH IN SPACE are intended to be easy to use and hack but also to support and introduce the setting through the rules. While inspired by OSR games, the primary intent is not to be fully compatible with the rulesets and modules of old, but rather to try to capture the quickness and simplicity of these rulesets, tweak them according to our preferences and add some setting flavor (however, the rules are still close enough to other OSR rulesets that material should be possible to use with some simple conversions).
The basic rule when you try to accomplish something, say force open an airlock, or resist the effects of strange radiation, is to roll a d20 modified by one of four ability values, the ability determined by the nature of the task. If you roll over a fixed difficulty, you succeed. Failing checks gives you void points that you can use to increase your chances the next time you attempt something. Beware of saving up too many though, that might result in some nasty consequences. Void points are also used to activate cosmic mutations, strange powers from the void.
The player characters are all part of a crew with their own spacecraft or space-station, their sanctuary in a dangerous universe. Characters are generated in a quick randomized fashion, making it quick to make a new one when (not if) your character suffers an accident. With a list of 60+ modules that provide new possibilities, the players can successively customize their ship or station and really make it their home and base of their adventures. If your ship or gear should break, you can repair it as soon as you collect the necessary spare parts. In case you encounter rivals on your travels, the rules for spacecraft confrontations determine the outcome and whether you can avoid being boarded.
DEATH IN SPACE focuses on the Tenebris system—a system of planets and objects revolving around the star Tenebris. It is a stellar system ravaged by war and strife, where a greed-fueled mining for precious gems ended in a conflict that laid waste to the intricate trade networks that ensured technological production. With no new parts to find, almost every single object built today, from weapon to spacecraft, is put together from discarded, salvaged or stolen parts. Nothing is new.
As if rebuilding the system after the war was not enough, there are reports from stargazing cosmologists that the universe has stopped expanding, and that it has instead begun collapsing at an accelerating rate. The news that civilization is at its end have created a sense of hopelessness and disorder, and in many sectors of the system former vassals have taken this chance to seize control from distant rulers.
In the heart of the Tenebris system is the Iron Ring—a huge, ring-like structure surrounding the moon Inauro like a belt of metal. This is the center of activity in the Tenebris system, and here miners and salvagers huddle in cramped living quarters, waiting for their next contract and a chance to earn some much needed money. In other parts of the Ring, far from the bustling market-places and common areas, there are dark, empty sectors, where shady types hide from attention.
Among the people of the Iron Ring, cryptic rumors are spreading about a void accelerating the collapse. A void that whispers strange sentences to the unlucky through the ever present thick static noise that grows stronger and stronger as you travel towards the edge of civilization. A void that infects and corrupts and imbues their bodies with odd powers.
In the middle of all this are the player characters: hard-working explorers and laborers hoping for a big score.
Christian Plogfors. When he is not writing for DEATH IN SPACE, Christian spends the rest of his time on the layout and graphics for the game. He has been designing worlds for computer games for 18 years, now as a senior level designer, and has contributed to games such as Battlefield, Mirror’s Edge and Star Wars Battlefront. When relaxing, he likes to write material for his Into the Odd hack Into the Jungle. He has also contributed with material and layout for the Night Yeast zine.
Carl Niblaeus. While almost every sentence of the game has been dissected by both Carl and Christian, Carl has had the last word on much of the language in the book. In the RPG world, Carl has contributed to MÖRK BORG zine Feretory, the Night Yeast zine, and released one or two old school modules before that. He also helps running the so-called Old School Corner (“Old School-hörnan”) at GothCon, Sweden’s largest RPG con. There he referees his own and others’ creations. Outside of RPGs, Carl has a PhD in astroparticle physics, and has spent many years researching the underpinnings of our own universe. In DEATH IN SPACE, this knowledge is used to inspire the creation of another.
Apart from us there are a number of collaborators who provide invaluable assistance in making the game.
Johan Nohr. As one half of the team behind MÖRK BORG, Johan should be well-known to many in our audience. With MÖRK BORG, he works tirelessly to make it look as great as it does, and we are very happy to have him onboard. In DEATH IN SPACE, Johan has worked with the illustrations, adding touches to give them a more personal feel.
Mattias Astenvald. Mattias is an artist located in Uppsala, Sweden, working in the digital gaming industry. For our game, he helps make reality of our spacecraft and we hope to make use of his great skills as much as we can.
Gabriel Herrin. Seattle-based graphic designer and animator. Gabriel did some work on the movie Prospect, which is one of the big sources of inspiration for DEATH IN SPACE, so we're really happy have him onboard. He will help us make company logos for the map poster. Check out more of his stuff here.
Stockholm Kartell is a creative coven of writers, designers and idiots. A group of friends who play and sometimes make games together.
You get the regular book in print and all unlocked stretch goals in print and digital form.
You get the Kickstarter exclusive special edition book in print and all unlocked stretch goals in print and digital form.
For those of you who want the game in digital form.
You get two copies of the book in print, one with the standard cover and one with the Kickstarter exclusive special edition cover. You also get all unlocked stretch goals in print and digital form.
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