Let's Read “Codex of the Black Sun” - Black Stars Uncounted


A part of my Let’s Read “Codex of the Black Sun” series. Go grab your copy of Codex of the Black Sun and join in.

Codex of the Black Sun’s first chapter, Black Stars Uncounted, discusses mixing sorcery into sci-fi. The opening paragraph frames the entire conversation of the book: What are the considerations for adding sorcery to your Stars without Number’s campaign?

There has always been a strain of sorcery in science fiction. Whether the thinly-veiled magic of space monks with laser swords, the once-serious belief in psychic powers and untapped human mental abilities, or the inevitable compromises with known physical reality necessary to allow faster-than-light space travel, there has always been a niche for the impossible. Only the most rigorous, diamond-hard sci-fi is entirely free of witchery, and that often for no longer than it takes for scientific discovery to leapfrog the text’s assumptions.
“Codex of the Black Sun: Interstellar Sorcery and Magic for Stars without Number” by Kevin Crawford p3

How to Use this Book

Codex of the Black Sun positions itself as a suite of optional components to add to your game. Kevin Crawford discusses creating a new campaign or adding to an existing campaign.

For new campaigns, consider how magic fits into the fabric of the sector. Think through the background: where is it learned? How pervasive is it? What are general perceptions? Then put it in motion: factions, root of conflict, and/or antagonist(s).

For existing campaigns, consider the task of folding sorcery into the sector. Some far and distant location, isolated, may have preserved the tradition and you can slowly incorporate sorcery into your game. Or, perhaps a retrofit; It has always been lingering just on the edges, and the players have stumbled onto those edges.

Regardless, Codex of the Black Sun encourages a conversation with the players to understand how they view sorcery in their sci-fi.

Eldritch Flavors

Codex of the Black Sun dives into 3 well traveled sci-sorcery genres:

  • Sword and Planet - pulp science fantasy (Barsoom)
  • Space Fantasy - conventional sci-fi with magic (Star Wars-ish)
  • Stree Magic - cybernetics and combat wizards (Shadowrun)

Throughout Codex of the Black Sun, Kevin Crawford discusses how each component might fit with these genres.

To get your thoughts flowing, Codex of the Black Sun provides random table sections for framing each genre. Let’s roll for each genre.

Table 1: Sword & Planet Campaign Framing
Topic Response
How do people relate to magic? It’s a curse borne by unwilling mages
Who most often employs magic? Defiant rebels against great powers
Why isn’t magic yet more widespread? Its rules keep subtly changing over time
How consistent is the tone? Total; every place has the pulp flavoring
Who rules the setting? Shadow entities of godlike hungers
Common tropes Personal loyalties are critically important
Table 2: Space Fantasy Campaign Framing
Topic Response
How do people relate to magic? It's a common tool, like any other tool
Who most often employs magic? Priests of a particular ancient faith
Why isn’t magic yet more widespread? Tech is more reliable and cheaper to use
How consistent is the tone? Universal; the whole galaxy is like this
Who rules the setting? There is no hegemonic power center
Common tropes There are good and wicked magic groups
Table 3: Stree Magic Campaign Framing
Topic Response
How do people relate to magic? Likely fatal to users, but a source of power
Who most often employs magic? Fixers who hire deniable sorcery assets
Why isn’t magic yet more widespread? The corps tame and contol most of it
How consistent is the tone? Most people live cyber-noir lives
Who rules the setting? Armies with vestigial states attached
Common tropes Powerful entities hire deniable agents

The first chapter of Codex of the Black Sun frames introducing sorcery into your Stars without Number game, providing context and commentary to get you started.

Next time, I’ll be reading the “Seeds of Stranger Fruit” chapter.