Blog Posts

Tables of “Take on Rules”

As part of the build process for my website, I am now extracting all of the tables that I’ve added to the website. You can find them at

I also shifted the top navigation, to consolidate the different “metadata” entry points into blogs: series, tables, tags.

Let’s Read “Stars without Number” - The History of Space

A part of my Let’s Read “Stars without Number” series. Go grab your free copy of SWN and join in.

For this section we’ll dive into The History of Space. Unlike prior chapters, the History of Space is very much a “fluff” chapter.

The default setting of Stars without Number is a far future age in which the sprawling, glorious domain of human space has been reduced to a scattering of squabbling powers and long-lost worlds. The ancient domain of humanity has shrunken with the collapse of the psi-powered Jump Gates that once stitched the remote regions of the frontier into the teeming worlds of the human core.

Now, almost six hundred years after the catastro- phe that ended the Golden Age of Man, new hope rises from the wreckage of a fallen empire.

“Stars without Number: Revised Deluxe Edition” by Kevin Crawford p121

That is all you need to know as a GM and player.

History Splash by Jeff Brown

But…if you are so inclined you can get a more detailed breakdown. The history connects Sine Nomine’s Other Dust cyberpunk post-apocalyptic setting to the Stars without Number universe.

The short chapter provides a quick survey of 1000 years; Several organizations and major events to carry forward into your campaign; The following Sector Creation chapter encodes some of these organizations in random tables.

All told I believe this expositional chapter’s purpose is to provide a small accessible introduction to the GM tools: the wheelhouse of all Sine Nomine products.

Next up…I’ll dive into the Sector Creation.

“The Riddles of the Hobbit” by Adam Roberts

Mist and fog covered hills as a backdrop for the book title and author name
The Riddles of the Hobbit by Adam Roberts (link to Worldcat)

As staff at an academic research library, I enjoy the perk of access to a wide array of books. I also enjoy the week after finals, when the library shift from a place packed with students carefully cramming for terms-end tests to an empty tomb of knowledge and memory.

During this past week after finals, driven in part by diving into the Adventures in Middle Earth I went looking to see what books on Tolkien I might find. Armed with a search result, I found the location in the stacks.

As expected, there were quite a few. I spent 30 minutes scanning, looking for serendipitous discoveries. One of the joys of the analogue is finding those things adjacent to that which you first sought. My bookshelves are a reflection of my shifting yet somewhat cyclical interests. They say a lot about me, in a riddling kind of way.

The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition by J.R.R. Tolkien and annotated by Douglas A. Anderson (link to Worldcat)

Having just read the The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition, ascendent again was my cyclical interest in Tolkien’s creation. And I found The Riddles of the Hobbit by Adam Roberts.

Flipping through the book, I found this one near the middle of the book:

My first is in blood and also in battle,
My second in oak and acorn and apple
My third and fourth are both the same
And can be found twice in refrain,
My second to last begins ending
And my ending begins last. What am I?

To be clear, as an academic book Riddles of the Hobbit has oodles of footnotes and references. Adam Roberts drills into the riddling theme of the Hobbit, Tolkien’s deep of love of riddling, and the Anglo-Saxon culture of riddling.

Adam Roberts sifts through The Hobbit’s “Riddles in the Dark” chapter and numerous sources. Roberts proposes that the answers to each riddle between Bilbo and Gollum are in fact themselves a riddle. And how could they not? Tolkien made a world and deep history so that he may craft a language. And that world and history are themselves pulled from Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology.

I am in awe of the concentration necessary to build such things. Certainly, in the years to come, we’ll see AI produce stories that echo this breadth of cultural history. Middle-earth is the sacred synthesis of one man’s deep devotion to mythology, religion, and language.

Tolkien is a bridge from the modern world to a past of myth, legend, and oral history. In reading scholarly references of Tolkien, I also learn of references to our older world. And add to an ever growing list of books and sources that I may one day get around to reading.

I leave you with an Old English “gnomic” poem, quoted by Adam Roberts:

A stream must mingle with the sea
And a mast stand tight when winds are free;
A sword be dear to humans still
And the wise serpent live in a hill;
A fish in water spread its race
And a king give gold from his lofty place;
An old hungry bear walk out on a heath
And a river fall over a hill without death.
An army united by unity stand
And truth be in man, and wisdom in his hand.
A wood cover the land with its courtly green boughs
And a hill be fresh green; and God in HIs house
The judger of deeds; and a door in a hall
Shall still be the widemouth that opens to all,
And the shield have a bow where the fingers can lock.
Birds shall speed up to heaven from every tall rock,
The salmon shall leap like the shot of a bow
And showers bring discomfort on worldlings below.
A thief still steal out on the darkest of nights
And the fiend live in fens full of misleading lights.

Own Your Game System

Provided by Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

In a prior post I linked to an unpublished version of this blogpost. I since updated both this post and that prior post

As I start thinking about what next, I look towards systems. I’m more and more interested in running from an open system. My father in-law purchased a Windows computer, and found that he didn’t have administrator rights to his machine. In essence, he didn’t own the right to the computer he bought. He would be forever behold to the owners of the operating system.

I find this anethema to my senses. The computer revolution put affordable machines of mass production into the hands of the general populus. As operating system providers tighten their grasp, they begin to quash the capability of the public to produce. Software developers are approaching the point of leasing the tools used to create software.
A system that has clear rules for legally sharing and extending the game.

Paizo invested heavily in 3rd Edition. When Wizards of the Coast announced 4th Edition, Paizo blazed a trail and created Pathfinder, leveraging 3rd Edition’s open content. Through this effort, Paizo seemingly floated the larger role-playing community as Wizards of the Coast floundered with their Game System License (GSL) and an edition oft reviled as a deviation from D&D.

Goodman Games, a company that cut its teeth creating 3rd Edition adventures saw the writing on the wall, and abandoned 4th Edition to create Dungeon Crawl Classics.

I’m not saying that I’m looking to create more published and sellable material, but in choosing an open system, I have the option to more easily develop, release, and sell content for that system. By choosing an open system, I am also assured that future players will have continued legal access to the base rules.

Look to Powered by the Apocalypse games. Apocalypse World unleashed a massive ground swell of games. The success of Dungeon World likely demonstrated a feasibility and path for many other aspiring game developers to build from a common chassis and release their vision.

And then we have the explosion of clones based on the prior D&D editions.


I may pine to engage with the robust design of Burning Wheel, but it is a closed system. Copyright protects the specific language used to describe rules and systems, however you I may describe a set of rules in my own words without referencing the system and not infringe on another’s copyright. But for my hobby, that I have on occassion monetized, I’d prefer to operate within a safe harbor. I’m looking to own the operating system of the table top RPGs that I choose to play.

I also want to make sure that the system I’m choosing is one that my current game group supports; And is something accessible to new comers.

Simple rules that meets the desired play style of the table.

Dreams of Adventure: Classes

I did some reworking of open game content. I wanted to put this up to start committing to my OSR amalgam.

update: Originally, this had an additional tag but upon reading Luka Rejec’s A Bad Turn of Words: Fantasy Heartbreaker, I’m expunging that tag. Thank you Luka for writing your piece. Your voice in the RPG seen is valued, and I’m glad to support your RPG efforts. Way more than academically veiled “bad-wrong-fun” essays.

One of the advantages of using a set of build scripts for my website is that I can setup data files. The following class tables are stored in a structured data format. I can then use templates to ensure consistency, or produce alternate renderings. HTML tables are ugly affairs.

I have yet to re-work the math into an ascending format. As it is, the rolling procedure is to roll under target numbers. I personally find that quite elegant, however, it runs a bit contrary to the modern game sensibilities. It also requires a bit of language gymnastics to explain penalties and bonuses.

The Classes:

There are three basic character classes in the game: the Deft, Strong, and Wise. Each class reflects a general approach to solving problems.

Reading Character Class Tables

  • Level: character’s relative experience. Higher level characters are often more competent and have greater means at their disposal than lower level characters.
  • XP: total number of Experience Points (XP) required to raise a level.
  • AV (Attack Value): character’s ability to successfully attack foes in combat.
  • HD (Hit Dice): number of d6s to roll for hit points. Players re-roll their characters’ HD each level to obtain a number of hit points (HP). If the hit points for your character’s new level are lower than their previous level’s hit points, you may keep the result from the previous level.
  • ST (Saving Throw): character’s ability to avoid hazards and nasty things.
  • Groups: number of groups that the character receives a mechanical benefit from.
  • Slots: the total number of active class features the character has for that level.
  • Raises: total number of times character increases one attribute by one point.


Relying on training and wits, deft characters are often (but not limited to) burglars, skulks, ninjas, spies, mountebanks, street rats, or assassins.

The Deft

The Deft Progression
Level XP HD AV ST Slots Groups Raises
1 0 1 10 7 1 2 0
2 1,500 2 11 8 1 2 1
3 3,000 2+1 11 9 1 3 1
4 6,000 3 12 10 2 3 2
5 12,000 3+1 13 11 2 4 2
6 24,000 4 13 12 2 4 3
7 48,000 4+1 13 13 3 5 3
8 96,000 5 14 14 3 5 4
9 192,000 5+1 14 15 3 6 4
10 384,000 6 15 16 4 6 5
11+ +300000/level 6 15 16 4 6 5

Class Features

Combat Versatility

When properly equipped and rolling for a task or an attack that is in line with your vocation, you roll with advantage.

In addition, when you have “combat leverage” (i.e. +2 AV and +2 damage) and your vocation group is relevant to the situation, you may forgo rolling with advantage, if you do so, and hit, you deal double damage.

For example, a duellist might do this in a duel, and an assassin might do it when striking from the shadows.

Inspired Slot Attunement

Your inspired slots reflect your character’s unique skill, training, or even equipment. You may attempt extraordinary feats of skill, training, or even luck that are related to your inspired slot – nigh impossible feats require a check, otherwise they succeed without a check. Talk with the Referee to agree upon a usage on a per situation basis.

Each active slot is usable once per day. When the Deft character gains a slot, they choose two slots, describing each with a brief descriptor. One slot is active, the other is inactive. Activating an inactive slot requires a day of practice and deactivating an active slot.

Some ideas: faithful pet, resist pain, mother’s longsword, silver tongue, detect lie, light sleeper, trick shots, martial arts, acrobatics… Use other games for inspiration.

Light Armor Preference

You may not use Combat Versatility nor any Inspired Slot Attunements if you are wearing a shield or armor heavier than studded leather.

Two-Weapon Training

When fighting with two weapons, you gain +1 damage and +1 AC. Note: Two weapons do not grant any extra attacks.

Favor Finesse Weapons

Unless you have an appropriate active slot form Inspired Slot Attunement, you receive a -2 AV penalty for all attacks with two-handed melee weapons.

Relying on physical and combat prowess, strong characters make excellent cavaliers, skalds, brigands, and berserkers.

The Strong

The Strong Progression
Level XP HD AV ST Slots Groups Raises
1 0 1+2 11 5 1 2 0
2 2,500 2+1 11 6 1 2 1
3 4,000 3 12 7 1 2 1
4 8,000 4 13 8 2 3 2
5 16,000 5 13 9 2 3 2
6 32,000 6 14 10 2 3 3
7 64,000 7 15 11 3 4 3
8 128,000 8 15 12 3 4 4
9 256,000 9 16 13 3 4 4
10 512,000 10 17 14 4 5 5
11+ +300000/level 10 17 14 4 5 5

Class Features

Combat Machine

When one of your attacks reduces an opponent to zero or negative hit points, you may immediately make another attack with that weapon on an opponent.

Augmented Combat Slots

In addition to the basic combat options, you have access to more potent combat options – Only one combat option may be used per round. When you gain a Strong slot, choose one of the following options:

  1. Protective: As a standard action, you may protect an adjacent character until the start of your next turn. Anyone attacking the adjacent character must make a saving throw or instead target you.
  2. Brutish: As part of a successful melee attack, you may push your opponent backwards ten feet (save negates) and move into the space formerly occupied by that opponent.
  3. Tenacious: With a successful dexterity roll, you can cling to and climb huge opponents (e.g. dragons, purple worms, sneaky hydras, etc.). While hanging on you gain double combat leverage (+4 AV and +4 damage). Re-rolls may be required at the Referee’s discretion.
  4. Frenzied: As a standard action you can work yourself into a battle frenzy. While frenzying you gain +2 AV and +2 damage in melee, but -3 AC. When the battle is over, you must save or for another round must continue attacking the closest creature.
  5. Tactical: With a small verbal instruction, you grant ally a +4 AV bonus until the end of combat. You may use this ability once per combat.
  6. Inspiring: With a small verbal declaration, you grant all allies close by (15 foot radius) +1 AV, +1 MT, and +1 ST. Instead of bolstering your allies, you may instill fear in your enemies, giving them -1 AV, -1 MT, and -1 ST. These effects last until the end of combat. You may use this ability once per combat.
  7. Versatile: Instead of moving, you may make a one-handed melee attack and a one-handed ranged attack.
  8. Cunning: You may spend the round parrying and looking for an opening to attack. During a round spent parrying, you gain +2 AC. On the following round you may choose to either continue parrying or attack with combat leverage – double combat leverage (+4 AV and damage) if you spent 1 round parrying and triple combat leverage (+6 AV and damage) if you spent two consecutive rounds parrying. In any round you spend parrying, if you take damage, you lose your opportunity and gain no combat leverage the following round.
  9. Terrifying: When you charge an opponent that has HD equal to half or less than your HD (rounded up), that opponent must make a morale check or be routed.
  10. Defensive: You gain +1 AC.
  11. Durable: Once per combat, when you would take damage, you may sacrifice an item in hand (or a hand itself) to reduce that damage by 1d6 HP.

Victor’s Cunning

When you deliver the killing blow to a creature, you may claim and hold a single power of that enemy (as derived from the enemy’s keyword):

  • A special attack or trick
  • A substance extracted from a monster’s body
  • A supernatural ability, transferred somehow through the act of killing

The specifics of the claimed power is on a per situation agreement between you and the Referee. You may claim and hold one monster at a time. For each claim you may use this power a number of times equal to the character’s level.

Martial Prowess

Strong characters gain additional benefits for high strength and constitution. For strength 13+ you gain +1 melee damage, and for 16+, you gain +1 AV. For constitution 13+ you gain +1 HP, and for 16+ you gain another +1 HP.

Combat Reflexes

You may make a number of opportunity attacks equal to your level.

Combat Training

You may use, without penalty, any armor and any weapon.

Combat Savvy

You gain a +4 saving throw (ST) bonus against special melee attacks.

Physical Resiliency

You gain + 1 saving throw (ST) bonus against poison and death.

Relying on training and wits, deft characters are often (but not limited to) burglars, skulks, ninjas, spies, mountebanks, street rats, or assassins.

The Wise

The Wise Progression
Level XP HD AV ST Slots Groups Raises
1 0 1+1 10 6 1 2 0
2 2,500 2 11 7 1 2 1
3 5,000 2+1 11 8 2 2 1
4 10,000 3 11 9 2 3 2
5 20,000 4 12 10 3 3 2
6 40,000 4+1 12 11 3 3 3
7 80,000 5 12 12 4 4 3
8 160,000 6 13 13 4 4 4
9 320,000 6+1 13 14 5 4 4
10 640,000 7 13 15 5 5 5
11+ +320000/level 7 13 15 5 5 5

Class Features

Combat Versatility

You have miraculous powers; They could be magic or sciences that appears to be magical. Your vocation describes how you perform these miracles (i.e. song, conjurations, prayers, ritual, spells, pacts, etc.)

Each miracle is written with a few words (e.g. Excellent Prismatic Spray; Hand of God; Servant of Wind; Demon Scourge; Unstable Concoctions; Healing Touch; Infernal Pact etc.). A single miracle can have different manifestations. The details of each manifestation is established through agreement with the Referee.

Invoking a miracle is taxing; based on the desired effect, miracle wording, vocation, and prior precedence the Referee decides the HP cost (between 1 and 14 HP) and any additional costs. You may negotiate a lower HP cost by sacrificing rare reagents, extending the casting time, taking on a drawback, etc. You may never attempt a miracle that could drop you below 0 HP (see Magic and Miracles for more details).

When you gain a miracle slot choose two miracles; One is active and the other inactive. You may swap out inactive miracle for an active miracle by spending a day of studying, concentrating, and preparing.

You gain one extra inactive miracle slot for a wisdom score above 13, and two for a wisdom score 16 above.

Altered Physiology

You recover hit points at twice the normal rate. However, you never regain hit points from spells, medicine, or skilled treatment.

Light Armor Preference

You receive a -2 AV penalty when using two-handed melee weapons or missile weapons. This penalty does not apply when you use a quarterstaff, crossbow, or musket. While wearing shields or armor heavier than leather (AC 2), your miracles cost double the hit points.

Magic Resilience

You Gain +2 saving throw (ST) against magic and mind influencing abilities.