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$3,021 pledged of $4,000 goal
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By John D Kennedy
$3,021 pledged of $4,000 goal
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About this project

A sci-fi roleplaying game
A sci-fi roleplaying game
Anita Cole, leader of the 5 Star Cadre
Anita Cole, leader of the 5 Star Cadre

Pulsars is a tabletop role playing game set in a universe where dedicated soldiers gain access to powered suits of armor that grant them strange and phenomenal abilities. These soldiers, known as Pulsars, take on the forces of the great Enemy and his minions in a struggle to protect the galaxy.

In the game, you are a member of the Pulsar Corps: a line of galactic defenders who are humanity's best chance for survival in a war that has waged for over a century. As a Pulsar, you are given a Suit, an amazing piece of technology that allows for one person to stand against a legion of foes and increases their physical and mental abilities. The Suit will exemplify whatever made you exceptional before, turning you into an epic level defender of the galaxy. 

A warrior becomes even faster and stronger, their weapons become more accurate. A crime scene investigator has their Suit hardwired directly into their brain, allowing them to analyze evidence found at a crime scene instantaneously as well as having multiple databases downloaded into their brain for information. A field surgeon may have a suit that automatically sterilizes the environment and can produce simple compounds to aid in healing wounds, or generate the tools needed to treat broken bones. 

Though the Suits give their bearers great powers, the threats they face are massive and deadly, and despite the Pulsar Corps best efforts they have been forced to fall back to the last of the Free Zones, areas that are free of Enemy control. Billions of people have become refugees due to the Enemy's relentless conquest of the galaxy, and each Pulsar knows that they are facing a losing war, and hope that something will break the stalemate and lead them to victory.

This becomes evident in the form of Strain. Strain is the mental and physical stresses that a Pulsar undergoes throughout their life, and can manifest as personality quirks, fears, or in the form of physical addictions; both to their powers and to external substances. In the world of Pulsars, you are playing someone gifted with incredible powers. But with great powers can come great vulnerability, and you will come to understand the stresses your character goes through over the course of play.

The game is not meant to trivialize those who deal with PTSD and depression throughout their daily lives. It is meant to give those who live with these conditions and outlet to express themselves as well as allow other players some insight into what is going on. The Pulsars are superhumans fighting heroically to save their Zones from the Enemy, and yet the Long War is a conflict without end, and despite their best efforts the Pulsars have lost so much ground to the Enemy. This fight is not one without hope, but it is easy to feel hopeless. This is a struggle that Pulsars must face every time they put on the Suit. 

The Pulsar system is a d6 based game system where you need to roll a 5+ on a die to score a success. Skills give you more dice to roll to try to score a 5+, while specializations lower the target number you need for some actions. Pulsars is meant to have a simple yet sturdy system behind it to allow for players to be able to accomplish what they wish to do in the game while still leaving it a rules light system.

The most important aspect of the game is the Wager System, which allows for players and the Storyteller to both have narrative control over a scene. In Pulsars, a player who is trying to make a skill check may make a wager against the number of successes they will roll. This allows them to add a number of qualifiers to their action based on whether it is a success.

Here is an example of how Pulsars plays out at the gaming table. 

The GM has set the scene – four Pulsars have joined together to investigate reports of the dead rising from their graves in a small town on a small planet in one of the Free Zones. Our group includes Anita, a Pulsar of the Defender Corp who is leading a team into the town to check it out. John, who made an Investigative Pulsar, Ryan, who is playing a Mercy Pulsar, and Ben, an Explorer Pulsar, make up the rest of the team.

Anita: John, I’m going to use my action to Order you to Investigate. Since I am your commanding officer in this situation, that will give you 2 bonus dice to roll for your check. 

John: Okay, that’s great. I’m going to approach the old farm where the incident occurred. Between my Investigate skill and Anita’s bonus, I’ll be able to roll 5d6, and since I’m specialized I get success on 4 or higher. So I’m going to Wager that I’ll get 3 successes. 

GM: What are you trying to gain? 

John: I’d like to wager that I’ll discover if the dead really are coming back to life, where they are coming from, and what is causing it. 

GM: Go ahead and roll. 

John rolls the dice and comes up with 2,3,4,5,1. Only 2 successes. 

GM: You wagered 3 but only came up with 2 successes. 

John: Yeah. That means I get a Complication? I'd still like to use my 2 successes to investigate the dead and discover what is causing it. 

GM: You do. After investigating the farmhouse you find traces of the dead in the form of decaying skin cells they've left behind. If you had to make a good guess, you would say these are the Reanimators of Ra'al who have been working out of the nearby family plot. Unfortunately, your sensors have been broadcasting pretty loudly, which means they may know you are in the area. 

Ryan: Dang, I was afraid of this. 

Ben: I have experience dealing with the Reanimators in my Free Zone. My Zone contains many Military buildings and so they add a free Specialization in combat towards Reanimators for my team mates.

Anita: Sweet!


John: So what about my complication? 


GM: I’m glad you asked. As you wrap up your investigation you see that the leader of the Reanimators, Zaiis, is standing at the entrance to the barn with a troop of reanimates, their groaning screeches and cries letting you know that there was more than just the family buried in that plot.

The Reanimators of Ra'al are one of many villainous factions contained in the book.
The Reanimators of Ra'al are one of many villainous factions contained in the book.

When someone joins the Pulsars, they are gifted with a Suit that is designed to help them with their role in the Corps. The Suit is not just a uniform or a mere piece of equipment but rather thousands of years of cybernetics, miniaturized computers, and fusion reactors combined into a sophisticated machine that boosts the Pulsar's abilities beyond what is humanely possible. Suits are unique, and many are relics from past conflicts and have developed special significance in society. While anyone can go down to the store to purchase a fine suit for dining in, no one can replace the respect and nobility placed on someone who wears one of these powered Suits. 

This Pulsar's Suit is designed for combat efficiency
This Pulsar's Suit is designed for combat efficiency
 

A Suit is almost irreplaceable, as the technology or resources needed to manufacture the more powerful Suits has either been lost or depleted. As such, many Suits are old heirlooms handed down through families or organizations, and many have been repaired so many times they do not look like their originals. 

In Pulsars, players can choose to be from one of five Corps that work together to police the many Free Zones of the galaxy. 

  • The Defender Corps, which is made up of soldiers and warriors fighting on the front lines to keep the galaxy safe.
  • The Investigator Corps, who use their powers to investigate the many crimes and mysteries of the universe.
  • The Mercy Corps, who use their powers to fix aqueducts, repair generators, and work to make life more bearable in the Free Zones.
  • The Explorer Corps, who travel the cosmos and explore the ruins of ancient civilizations in hopes of preserving their past and finding anything that can be used to defeat the Enemy
  • The Diplomatic Corps, whose Suits aid them in dealing with people and allow them to predict and manipulate other people by analyzing their emotions and what they are saying. 

Another important mechanic in Pulsars is the Zone that the player's Pulsar is defending. The Free Zones are the last sectors of the galaxy where there is almost no Enemy presence, though they still must deal with daily struggles such as overpopulation, food shortages, diminishing resources, and diplomatic tensions. The Zone can be the place where the Pulsar was born, a place they grew up in, or perhaps just a sector of space that they have been assigned to protect.

What makes Zones important is that they give the character a reason to keep fighting. They are important to the emotional health of the Pulsar and can help reduce the amount of Strain they take, as well as providing them with crucial resources or abilities that help them out in play. But just like any other resources, Zones must be protected, as the Enemy's forces will do their best to corrupt or destroy them.

An example of this is the Free Zone of Neo Orleans, where the Pulsar Anita Cole hails from. A floating O'Neil style station just off the Orleans star, Neo Orleans has a vibrant history and cultural heritage hailing from old Earth and the North American state of New Orleans. 

For Anita, it is her home. While there, she lowers the number of successes she needs to reduce her Strain by 1, and as long as she remains the Zone's protector she is well connected with the Stellar Republic's military, making it easier for her to call in resources.

Zone creation is meant to be a collaborative process between the players, allowing for them to make their Zones either adjacent to each other or pooling their points together and making a larger Zone with multiple Pulsars protecting it. This is what binds a Cadre together, as they must rely upon teamwork and their allies to protect their Zones.

The Enemy
The Enemy

In Pulsars, you will see many references to the Enemy, alternatively known as the Great Enemy or Zarr. Though he has a real name, thanks to propaganda and the public's image of him they now view him simply as the Enemy. He is the one that the Newsnet broadcasts horrific stories about, and he has become as much a fairy tale used to frighten children as he is a real, terrible threat. 

The Enemy's motives are secret, and will be revealed throughout the course of the Meta Fiction Game, but three things are clear about him: He is massive in size, diabolically cunning in nature, and possesses the ability to warp reality around him. Few know the truth about him, and those who do know keep those secrets to themselves.

The Enemy's advance has been stopped for now thanks to the efforts of the 7th Legion, who managed to trap the Enemy inside of a black hole. Due to the strange forces that power him, the Enemy is not dead but appears to be clawing his way out of the singularity's clasp, something that is impossible to explain according to science and yet appears to be happening. No one knows how much longer the enemy will stay trapped.

To help players and backers better understand the history of Pulsars and understand the origins of the Long War and the Enemy, we are running a special Meta Fiction Game throughout the course of the campaign! Every backer will get their own custom piece of fiction that will arrive in their inbox. These small pieces of fiction are part of a greater story known as the Last Flight of the Saladin, a deep space patrol vessel that was present when the Fracture formed and struggled to get back home. Players of the game will take their pieces of fiction and plug them together with other pieces of fiction to form the greater story. There will be holes in the story if backers do not contribute to the game, but that will be part of the fun in putting together a manuscript based on missing pieces and trying to decipher it's true meanings. Regardless if the project meets its funding goal or if enough pieces have been unlocked, the entirety of the story will be published online for free at the end of the campaign so players can see what the story is in full detail and see how close they were to completing it. The first pieces of fiction will go out at 10 P.M. on October 1st, 2015

STRETCH GOALS

Our funding goal of $4,000 is based around what we will need to complete our art order and pay for layout (courtesy of Eloy Lasanta and Third Eye Games) but if we meet that amount, we have stretch goals in mind for Pulsars!

  • At $5,200, we will create the Traveler's Guide to the Free Zones, a PDF that goes into detail about the Free Zones and why they are the center stage for many of the adventures in Pulsars. It will also expand upon the mechanics of the game, and provide storytelling advice for GMs new to Pulsars.
  • At $6,500 we will be increasing the amount we pay to our artists and writers working on the project and expand on some of the written material for the game. We have some amazing talent working with us on this game, and at this level we will be able to increase what we are already paying them. 
  • At $8,000 we will be upgrading all of the artwork in the game to color art. While there are many places where black and white artwork captures the feel and aesthetic we are going for, there are others where color artwork will help grab the feel of the science fiction universe that Pulsars takes place in. Please note that by increasing our artwork to color this may delay the release of the book by an additional two months.
  • At $10,000, we will be printing the first Pulsars comic as written by Ryan Schoon. He has many amazing ideas for this comic and has long been a fan of science fiction and of the works that have inspired Pulsars. This comic will be released as a PDF to all backers. 

Smug Pug Games is the brainchild of me, John D. Kennedy. I have worked in the tabletop game industry for over ten years, and I've worked for a variety of companies such as Third Eye Games, FASA Games, Modiphius Entertainment, Kenzerco, and Onyx Path Publishing.

I love role playing games. I love the way they make players think and feel. I love how they are more than just slinging dice around the table and declaring how you attack things with a sword. While gaming does not make up my entire life, it has been a huge part in shaping who I am and the lives of my friends and family. Pulsars is a setting that I have had in my mind for longer than I can remember but only really started to make itself clearly designed thanks to the help of Ryan Schoon and Ben Woerner. Working with them I have created a game that shows some of the worlds I've been daydreaming about and gives the players the agency to be a hero, fight for their home, and take on battleships and win.

Ben Woerner, by day, is a mild-mannered husband, father, and marketing manager for his family’s business. By night he’s a game designer. Having run games for over a quarter century he finally began to design them. In August of 2014, he published World of Dew, a samurai noir roleplaying game and sequel to John Wick’s Blood & Honor. He’s also written for John Wick Presents in Blood & Honor and Wield, as well writing for Call of Catthulhu.

He just published the first supplement to World of Dew called The Sound of Water. It is full of chapters from some of the industry’s hottest authors and artists. After that he’s thinkin’ of moseying over to the Old West for a bit, and then later download his avatar into a cyberpunk world. Maybe one day he’ll get to write about magical kung-fu kids who can save the world. He’s a big fan of mitigated success and aspects in game design. He is an even bigger fan of his soccer playing daughter (she’s a keeper), his gruff, adorable, little man, and the loveliest of all women, his wife, Emily.

Email: wwunderwerks@gmail.com if you would like to contact him about past or current projects.

 Ryan is the lead writer for Caelestis Designs, creators of the Edara: A Steampunk Renaissance game line. Ryan has also written for many hit RPGs, including Apocalypse Prevention, Inc 2nd Edition and Fragged Empire, as well as the upcoming card game Strife. He is also part of the Independent Game Developers Network, a collective group that works together to bring a wider focus onto indie games like this one. In addition to Pulsars, Ryan's next big releases are The Faces of Thedas companion for the Dragon Age RPG by Green Ronin and The Traveler's Guide to Edara, a campaign setting. You can find him on Twitter @LoreMasterRyan

Christopher Dunn is a freelance illustrator currently located in Indianapolis, Indiana. He graduated in 2008 from Indiana University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art & Illustration. Chris works in traditional mediums, focusing on pencils and inks. His early professional work includes promotional events for Game Stop, United Way of Central Indiana, Herron School of Fine Art, and more. Chris’ artwork ranges from pin up’s to graphic noir work. Chris started the convention circuit in 2010, promoting his art work at various Comic, Horror and Gaming shows.

Add Ons

For backers who are looking to add more to their pledge, we are also offering a list of additional books and products. 

  • A set of six D6 dice with the Pulsars logo. $10
  • Custom Pulsars T-Shirts (Price withheld until design finalized)
  • Additional softcover copy of core book $25
  • Additional hardcover copy of the core book $35
  • Limited Edition Prints of the Pulsars cover artwork by Tony Parker $10
  • A PDF copy of Galaxy's Most Wanted, the criminal database to the Pulsars Universe. $10

Risks and challenges

With each project, there are always risks and challenges. The biggest risks that can happen to our project are:

1. Increase in costs for artwork and layout. We have factored in the costs of artwork into our campaign and we have a plan to cover the increased costs should they increase.

2. Failure to meet our delivery date of May 1st, 2016. This may be due to increasing the size of the book, increasing the number of art pieces needed for the book, and making sure we can fulfill the other aspects of the game. We are very confident we can make our launch date, but sometimes unforeseen circumstances may delay our delivery date.

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    Explorer

    A PDF Copy of Pulsars plus a PDF copy of Galaxy's Most Wanted, a supplement that expands on the types of villains the Enemy employs in his armies.

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    Hero of the Free Zones

    A physical copy of Pulsars, all unlocked PDFs, and a Pulsar and Freezone are named by you and inserted into the history of the game. Backers will get to work with our writers to design your character and their role in the story of Pulsars.

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    A hardcover copy of Pulsars, the Galaxy's most Wanted PDF, and custom Pulsar dice.

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    Stellar Centurion

    In addition to a PDF and soft cover copy of Pulsar we will work with you and our artist to have a custom Pulsar drawn for you and given a special place in the game. We will work with you to create a backstory, role, and have your character's deeds affect the events in the story.

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    Hero to the Corps

    Backers receive one softcover copy of the game, four codes for PDF copies of Pulsars, and I will run a game of Pulsars for a gaming group up to six people over Google Hangouts or Skype! I will work to schedule a 4-6 hour game for your group's convenience.

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Funding period

- (31 days)