The reek of blood and scorched steel fills the air. The city is burning under the remorseless fire of far guns, survivors cowering beneath the roots of their glassy towers. The streets are filled with the dead, their bodies made one with the broken road by the tread of the tanks and their scuttling infantry support. Soon the city will fall. It has already become a tomb.
Somewhere in that hell is a single data crystal with the technical specifications that might win the war. Somewhere in the burning wreckage of the Cetian enclave is the senator who can persuade her world to send its legions in aid. And somewhere over the river is the lieutenant who saved your life at Harshaw, his platoon pinned down and helpless as enemy tanks hammer his perimeter.
You have four teammates, a centaur gunbot, and a comm frequency to artillery HQ. You have four hours before the enemy's main forces surge into the streets. You have decisions to make. Who will live, who will die, and will you be there to see it?
Starvation Cheap is a military campaign supplement for the free Stars Without Number sci-fi tabletop role-playing game. It's written to provide the reader with all the tools they need for building a sandbox-style military campaign focused on planetary armies and mercenary legions. Everything from the construction of wars and vital military objectives down to the gritty details of building a battlefield adventure is provided in this 100+ page book.
While written for Stars Without Number, the great majority of the tools in this book are system-neutral, perfectly usable with the sci-fi game of your choice. Within these pages you'll find tools like...
- Details on the typical structure of a modern ground army. Ranks and roles are described, along with the pertinent details of military justice, the chain of command, and the various types of modern military units. GMs unfamiliar with military culture and flavor can use these pages to tighten up their game.
- Guides for creating planetary conflicts through War Tags, rolling up reasons for savage conflicts and assigning critical Vital Points that must be captured or overcome if a side is to be victorious.
- Building ground armies, dividing them into units, and dealing with the potential complications of sending modern laser rifles and gravtanks against spears and lostworlder jezails. Creating a mercenary legion? Everything you need is in here, too.
- Strategic mass combat rules for resolving these planetary wars with the armies and mercenary legions you've made. The rules are quick and streamlined, meant to give a fast outcome and focus on player involvement in offensive priorities and desperate defenses.
- GM tools for building battlefield missions and adventures, with the PCs thrown onto the field to achieve some grave task or die trying. These rules interface with the mass combat tools, making PC success in their objectives the crucial factor that tips a bitter defeat into a hard-won victory.
- Hardware, of course. Lots of merciless hardware, from self-propelled artillery guns to radioactive weaponry and semi-sentient landmines. The far future battlefield is a dangerous place to be.
Like the prior three campaign supplements I've written - Suns of Gold, Darkness Visible, and Skyward Steel - Starvation Cheap is built to make a GM's life easier. Whether you intend to run a full-fledged mercenary campaign in a sci-fi universe or simply throw in a bit of open warfare into a campaign with a different focus, Starvation Cheap will give you all the tools you need for the job.
Why This Kickstarter?
Starvation Cheap is my introduction to the inclusion of color art in my game books. While I've dabbled in color before, Starvation Cheap is the first supplement I've produced with a full color interior.
Color art is not cheap. The inevitable mistakes I make learning how to use it properly aren't cheap, either. Thus, I'm coming to my fans for help in financing the art and helping me learn how to use it well in my books. While I'm sure I'll have a vast amount of study and practice before me even at the end of this process, I need to start somewhere, and it's better to do that with a 110-page supplement than try to launch straight into a full-color game.
Thus, the funds earned by this Kickstarter will go into art purchases. I've already lined up an excellent stable of capable artists, including Jeff Brown, Lawrence Van Der Merwe, Mark Wester, and Enmanuel Martinez. If necessary, I'm able to add more to that number as the project progresses and I manage the art flow.
While the book is in its final draft, there's still room for edits and tweaks in response to backer feedback. There's even a pair of blank pages that I haven't quite decided how to fill; their ultimate use will hinge on backer suggestions.
What Are The Pledge Levels?
All backers will get their goods cheaper than retail. PDF backers will end up getting their files about $3 cheaper than they would if they'd waited for retail, in addition to getting immediate access to the book's draft file. Print backers will end up saving cash as well, as the $15 pledge plus book print costs will be $4-$5 less than the cost of ordering the book at retail, in addition to the instant beta access and the special recognition on the backer page.
Hounds of War will receive immediate access to the full draft beta for their $10, with the link provided in the first backer-only update. The game's text and draft layout are complete, so you can start reading and using this supplement from the very moment you pledge. Once the final PDF is ready, they'll be given codes to add it to their DriveThruRPG account, where they can freely download it later should goblins devour their hard disk.
Choosers of the Slain pledge a mere $15 for the same benefits as a Hound of War, plus name credits on the book's backer support page, plus at-cost codes for ordering the softcover print version of the supplement in either standard or premium color from DriveThruRPG. Note that you will need to pay printing and shipping costs when you order the book. The standard-color print ought to cost about $6.60 plus shipping, and the premium-color version should be around $15.70 plus shipping.
Why not directly ship the books to you, increasing the pledge required to cover the cost? Because sadly, nobody knows what the final cost will be. With the treacherous uncertainty of shipping costs, it is all too easy for a Kickstarter's profit margin to be consumed by a surprise rate increase between the campaign and the final shipping. By leaving the money in your pocket until you decide you actually want the book, you have the freedom to get the book when you want it, how you want it, at a price that won't hinder the campaign's success.
Even more than that, OneBookshelf is a professional company with years of proven excellence in printing and delivering RPGs to buyers. They have printing affiliates both in Britain and America, allowing cheap shipping to European and Canadian buyers that would be impossible were they shipped directly from me in the US. If something goes wrong with your shipment, they can be relied upon to fix things up in a crisp, professional way. There will be no sudden catastrophes in fulfillment and no companies suddenly vanishing as soon as problems arise in shipping. OBS can handle the job as it deserves to be handled.
What Are The Stretch Goals?
At $4,000 I'll adjust things to create a hardcover print option for the book as well, for those backers who prefer to order something in sturdier boards. All print-level backers will get at-cost codes for these versions as well as the softcovers. The print costs for hardcovers should be about $5 more than for the softcover.
At $6,000 I'll release all the art from this project for free personal and commercial use by other people and publishers. One of the reasons the art costs for Starvation Cheap are stiff is because I'm buying full image rights from the artists. Indie RPG publishing has been very good to me, and I want to help other creators get their own products out before the public as cheaply and easily as is possible. Free art is a major tool for helping them get there.
At $8,000 I'll take the time and effort to recut the book for .epub and .mobi files in no-art versions that play nicely with ebook readers. Some people really like their books in this format, so if this level proves the interest, I'll see to it that these file formats are folded into the PDF.
These are all the stretch goals planned for the campaign. While I love your money very much, I love executing Kickstarters properly even more, and so I'm not going to sabotage a successful campaign by blindly promising the moon and t-shirts as soon as we hit $8,001.
Why Should You Trust Me?
Because I'm really good at running Kickstarters and have a proven track record of early delivery.
Seriously. Here's my Spears of the Dawn campaign: 435 backers, early delivery. Here's the one for Scarlet Heroes: 1,001 backers, early delivery. And last November I started one up for Silent Legions: 1,109 backers and again, early delivery. I am very good at running small, tight Kickstarters that focus exclusively on a single deliverable book with aggressive project management of the process.
Thousands of pledges have gotten exactly what they were pledged for, when they were to get it, if not earlier. Not only have I never run a late Kickstarter, I've never run one where the main book wasn't delivered at least a month early. I see no reason why Starvation Cheap should deviate from this course.
If you'd like to read a full write-up of my Kickstart development process and the project management involved, you can download this freebie from DriveThruRPG and get a point-by-point description of the process.
Risks and challenges
Sine Nomine Publishing is a one-man enterprise, and so it's vulnerable to anything that renders me hors de combat. While I'm in sound physical and mental health, I've tried to mitigate this risk as much as possible by completing the book's text and draft layout before I started this Kickstarter. Even if I'm run over by a milk truck, you'll still have a playable PDF that you can download immediately from the link in the first backer update.
The other major risk has to do with the art provision for the book. I've never worked on a serious color book project before, so I'm learning all sorts of things the hard way, including the recruiting of a new stable of artists to handle the work. Problems will inevitably arise as I work through the process, but I've given myself enough lead time and enough starting artists to accommodate even very slow production. While I should have ample time, if I somehow get to mid-November* without the slots filled on the layout, I can simply reach in and convert those slots to text sidebars with more writing pertinent to the page's topic. It would be sub-optimal and so I prefer to avoid it, but it would ensure that the book hits the promised deadline.
Those are the two major risks associated with the product. Conventional Kickstarter risks of fulfillment and printing are virtually nonexistent for this fulfillment model, as OneBookshelf's DriveThruRPG front end will be handling the printing and shipping on an at-cost basis for print-level backers. You never give me the money for printing or shipping, so I can't blow it on snack cakes and cheap wine, and in the unlikely case that DriveThruRPG is struck by a meteor between now and December I have sufficient financial reserves to simply refund any plausible number of backers the $5 difference in pledge levels.
(* Why mid-November? Because a book requires at least six weeks in lead time in order to ensure clean print proofs before I can start handing out print codes. If I let it run any later, I risk being unable to get the book delivered on time.)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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