SWN: Prismatic Spray
Prismatic Spray is a Stars Without Number (Revised) game using the Codex of the Black Sun supplement.
- 1 Setting
- 2 Characters
- 3 Character Creation
- 4 Style and Posting
It's been 15 years since the Third Great Metastorm subsided, since the State of Grace was defeated, since the Prism arrived from their distant star.
The Lieges of the Real are ascendant after the war, academic Arcanists who promise a return to a more civilized age of magic and good government.
The Mountain lurks in the shadows, fallen Sunblades who have pledged their magical guns to bounty hunting and criminality while holding to a heartless code.
The Prism stands poised to break the old cycles. Self-created synthetic beings with strict discipline and seemingly endless resources, their transhuman potential and striking fashion sense inspires and frightens humanity and posthumanity alike.
Moresnet still remembers its fight for freedom with the help of the bygone Iris Arrows, champions of the later Weave, and wonders what's become of them now...
Prismatic Spray Sector
This is only a local map - now that the Metastorm's subsided, there are always further places to come from or seek out star maps to.
Some Notable Worlds
- The engineered gardens of Amity are overseen by the grand magical academy of the Lieges of the Real, drawing students and social climbers from across the sector.
- The asteroid habitats of Evergreen have turned a shattered planet into a rich trade hub and popular refuge from interplanetary chaos.
- The floating islands of Hanseong see nomadic Harpies and other cyber-magical societies bickering high above the toxic cloud sea that buried the surface.
- The defeated world of Grace has been blockaded by the Prism, banning all passage on or off the populous former suzerain-planet of the State of Grace.
- The ocean planet of Aeaea hosts surface platforms and itinerant sailors, but the reclusive Nereid group-mind is most active in the gleaming world beneath the waves.
- The bubble cities of Vuor have at last ended their bitter civil war, leaving the new generation to piece something together from the wreckage.
- The frigid desert of Stoke powers massive industrial complexes from its underground canyon cities, manufacturing best-quality tech with artifact machinery.
- The gas giant of Cirfant fuels the sector, and the greed of its ruling families and pirate vassals, with its irreplaceable web of floating dioxis distilleries.
- The Gaolers of Tayn keep their own company, and the sector breathes a sigh of relief.
Notes from Chargen
One inspiration for Vuor was Yugoslavia and its spomenici architecture, working to define a new shared culture that escapes previous divisions among and between the bubble cities. They developed war magic to try to minimize collateral damage in their cramped and irreplaceable habitats. They used to provide elite troops to the State of Grace. A fate-based religion might be a fatalist response to persistent war, a new religious movement inspired by the unification culture, or a tradition carried on from one of the seed cultures of the bubble cities.
Cirfant is a gas giant populated by Cloud Cities, and there's probably moon bases and space stations in the system, too. Rival families of hydraulic nobility scheming for advantage and barely keeping pirate fleets inside the tent by giving them stipends and honors. It's very inspired by the first act of Return of the Jedi, especially the campy costumed and puppeteered villains bringing them out on a skiff to be executed - but not before they taunt the so-called "heroes" one last time!! I'm sure they have ritual combat beam-fencing traditions, practical anti/pro-piracy measures, and a rebellious underclass running the mines. TOS episode The Cloud Minders was also on my mind when I rolled the tags.
A hotshot thrillseeker without magic or psi might be from Evergreen. The sense in my notes is kinda like a European impression of JFK-era America: they came off well after a damaging war, there's both big wealthy cities and rural billboard malt shop towns (or asteroid habitats), they like games and casinos and amusement parks, the past is over, you can always just get on the highway and enjoy the open road, there's a Lynchian underbelly to the comfort and prosperity, their self-image is unimpeachably innocent and can never do or suffer wrong, everyone there is a narcissistic lunatic who thinks they're the protagonist of history, etc.
I imagine Prismatics as colorful, otherworldly, almost planar or elemental beings who might really come around on organic life after they try pancakes and have a musical number or two. ("begin producing more pancakes at once, my pets!") Prismatic PCs are probably detached from the hierarchy in some way: long-term scouting mission, semi-approved quest for knowledge, crash-landed, got sick of all the fighting and stopped clocking in for work but haven't actually quit yet, openly in rebellion, etc.
A tenure-seeking Liege would be fun, and a great excuse to seek out/study/loot magical lore in the cosmos! I think of them sorta like the institutionalized Jedi Order, but more like your Ars Magica, Order of Hermes type institution with different traditions and specialties. They're also very heavily about Oxbridge and the Ivies as engines and reinforcers of the elite and the status quo. Aeaea and Hanseong are within Amity's sphere of influence and send many students there for magical and administrative training with the Lieges.
The Mountain (Montagnards?) are a dishonored and sorta Boba Fett-y one who use revolvers as their sacred weapon. Moresnetes are forever grateful to the Iris Arrows, an old Sunblade order and allies whose archer adepts (like magical International Brigades) helped free their planet from local tyranny after the Scream, but they don't know what's become of them now.
Rectifiers have a big presence across the sector, manifesting in different local traditions, especially among posthuman-curious cultures like Hanseong and Aeaea. On top of body-shaping for fun and profit, they've been healers for generations, including in the recent war. A large contingent of Rectifiers have aligned themselves with the Prism as a symbol of transhuman possibility, making the Lieges' monocles pop out.
In this sector, Pacters are an old, old tradition of magic that had powerful users before the Scream, but were supplanted by more accessible styles like the Arcanists and Rectifiers. The old tyrants of Moresnet were Pacters, and they left a lot of their great works and freed servants behind when they were toppled - mostly benign Shadow devotion is in the air in a way it's not on other worlds, even wizard-city Amity, although there are always dangerous ones.
A Moresnet Gazetteer
32 million people, breathable atmosphere, hybrid biosphere, temperate-to-warm climate, TL4. Relatively isolated from the wider sector due to metadimensional "bad weather."
- Picture humid air, three moons in the sky, rocky coastlines and volcanic islands, jungles dense with hybrid ecosystems and nonhuman others, pastel-colored settlements connected by silent maglev train, cloaked sages meeting with hard-hatted technicians in a rural factory courtyard, revelers holding fans and colorful glass cups to feel the bass-heavy music at a festival, teens in padded armor practicing stick fighting under their teacher's eye, and megalithic pretech installations looming on the horizon.
- The common language is Wika, which grew from Filipino Sign Language, and many other signed and oral languages are used at the community level. It is considered polite to sign or use text in public settings, out of consideration for language variation and widespread deafness. Filipino names are typical.
- Moresnet has no central government. Communes and convocations representing dozens to hundred-thousands of people are a vehicle for collective decision making, resource management, and mutual aid. Trade syndicates emerge from individual factories and workshops, regional communes from villages and settlements, city assemblies from neighborhoods, and so on into the night. Conflict between communes is usually resolved without serious violence. The communal system has been widely established on the planet for about two centuries, after several governments of varying levels of tyranny were dismantled.
- Magic and psionics are widely-known (with misconceptions: like ska musicians, or mayors), and it’s not difficult to find training by joining the appropriate commune-school. Like deafness, MES is generally seen as a different way of experiencing the world, not a mysterious gift or curse. Individuals have a right to their own magic, but like other valuable skills, there is a strong sense of community obligation. In bygone days, magicians were associated with martial rebels and tyrants, but the modern stereotype is of a performer or creative type. Psychics have consistently been seen as disciplined community workers: telepathy, healing, and disaster preparedness for example.
- Jungles, river caves, and the hidden corners of cities have hosted magical beings called Shadows (and sometimes their mortal followers) since the time of the Weave. Not all Shadows are malevolent, but they usually aren’t part of public life. Some communes and individuals have long-established patron or guardian Shadows, or other ritualized relationships. Others ask strong fighters and canny magicians to clear out the cruel spirits that bedevil them.
These are some Wika terms used on Moresnet, especially along the Oryang river near Sabungan.
- A bachelorette ginoo.
- A village, district, or neighborhood-level assembly; a voluntary local commune.
- A luxury river and coastal watercraft with mostly-decorative sails; a yacht.
- datu (masculine) or dian (feminine)
- A ginoo who leads other ginoo.
- A powerful spirit that can be beseeched for magic.
- A god, if especially mighty.
- A person of noble status recognized by others.
- A celestial diwata, the bringer of rain. Ex-husband of Oryang.
- A bookkeeper and bet fixer who happens to be a spirit medium. Unsullied umpires of the cock festival since forever.
- One of Moresnet's three moons; the silver moon.
- A celestial diwata, veiled and silver. Goddess of Revolution, the Hunt, and Combat, among other domains.
- A river south of Mei Marajan.
- The diwata of the river. Ex-wife of Habagat.
- Red. A warrior: red is a dye reserved for fighters.
- The favored cock in a fight.
- Literally "white," contextually "unpainted." Someone who has neither tattoos nor red garments.
- The unfavored cock in a fight.
- A wide-brimmed straw or rattan hat that comes to a point. Popular with farmers and fashionistas alike.
- siya, kanya, kanyang
- A third-person singular pronoun. Kristos and others use it.
- He/him/his | She/her/hers | They/them/their | Siya/kanya/kanyang
- A ginger-based chicken stew popular during the cock festival. It's heavenly over rice.
A Hanseong Gazetteer
Hanseong is in the tradition of floating island archipelagos suspended over a "lost continent" cloud sea. Big inspirations are the game/setting Inverse World and an incredible zine called the Doodle Factory in the Skies. Sometime between the Scream and now, someone's technomagical terraforming project got all screwed up, and now stuff floats. It's difficult to just zip around in a standard gravflyer (what with the energy currents), so local forms of flight are more widely used. I think there's an inner orbit of larger islands that've been made more culturally legible to offworlders, maybe even locked into place or surrounding a stable mountain whose peak pierces the clouds, and then increasingly further-flung outer orbits where the worldlets and their cultures get real strange: checkerboard sky castles with warring bishops and their mercenaries, floating junkyards, lost vampire prisons. Brave/stupid treasure hunters and archaeologists can wear a pressure mask and dip below the clouds to dig through ancient ruins, like Weave-era settlements or the Statue of Liberty halfway sticking out of a beach.
Sedentary islands and nomadic groups have their own practices, but there are overarching cultural norms, including that people use cybernetics and Rectifier (or Biopsion) body augmentation to fulfill their social roles, which aren't static throughout life. I don't wanna write a whole anthropology before the players even visit, but I'm picturing The Left Hand of Darkness, and for that matter lots of LeGuin's Hainish and Earthsea books. Harpies are people who travel often between islands as couriers, messengers, and explorers, which is why they have wings, and keen eyes to pierce the clouds and see danger and opportunity at a distance. Not coincidentally, Hanseongin who leave the planet to seek their fortune on further islands are usually Harpies. There are other broad and niche roles: Shepherds with drone control implants, Delvers who breathe toxic air freely, various warriors and sectarians with retractable claws and beam cannons. And of course your caregivers and farmers and doctors and technicians and teachers, who might augment their bodies to more durable, patient, careful, or tender.
Hanseong is officially a protectorate of Amity and the Lieges of the Real - they were close enough for regular travel during the Metastorm. The Lieges take students for prestigious and high-quality magical and administrative training, which has been impacting Hanseong cultures as their ideas filter back, especially on the more sedentary inner islands. They would like to translate Hanseongin cultures (and resources) into a form more legible to their way of understanding and controlling the world - the Real.
Tone and Genre
Prismatic Spray is space fantasy! There's room for different styles on different planets, but here are some rules of thumb:
- Space travel is relatively accessible. Individuals and small groups can acquire spacecraft of their own, not only merchants and trading companies.
- Worlds that are fully cut off from the wider sector are uncommon. The overall tech level is usually high, even aside from psi and magic. Most systems have their own culture, but shared interstellar cultures exist; empires and magical orders have come and gone.
- Spellcasters often exist in formal groups with a known presence in the sector, even if they're small or scattered. Like Jedi, worldly people broadly know what magic and magicians are. Sunblades always have an order, but Arcanists and Magisters have teachers and schools of thought as well.
- Earth does not loom large in most peoples' imagination. Humanity and posthumanity has grown in new directions, including the possibility of deep physical changes through magic and tech, and encounters with fully nonhuman Shadows and now AI. A lot has happened since the Scream.
- Think: possibilities, curiosity, escaping cycles, making something new with what you've been given. And laser swords.
Languages are mostly by planet. Planets and cultures not on the starting map also have languages. Here are some standouts:
- Gracious, the language of the former State of Grace, is still widely used in the Hodler, Nitobe, Gauntlett, and Auld systems.
- Aerial Cirfant is used by noble houses, dioxis traders, and social climbers of the Lagrange system; Terrestrial Cirfant is used by its miners, laborers, rebels, and the pirates of its own and other worlds, including the Mountain.
- The Lieges of the Real promote the use of Novesperanto in their sphere, which presently includes the Zamenhof, Anacreon, and Seok systems.
- The Nereids of Aeaea use a post-linguistic telepathy among themselves, but their travelers can apparently understand any language.
- Less centralized worlds have more local languages. Vuor has a few (no majority), Hanseong has several (majority Hano), Evergreen has many (majority Gracious).
- Iris, an ancient academic language useful for discussing magic, communicating with elder Shadows, and describing colors in vivid detail.
- Docker, a countercultural amalgam language mixing Novesperanto, Gracious, Terrestrial Cirfant, and others used by workers in spaceports (docks) and on the working ships of the sectors.
- Screech, a physical language used by the Harpy couriers of Hanseong which can only be fully spoken while in flight, but which has some 'grounded' movement and posture forms used to communicate surreptitiously when around 'grounders'.
- Graceful, an emotive/metaphor physical language considered highest culture by the suzerains of Grace. One has to attend special schools to learn it, and those fluent in it are in demand with aristocrats within Grace's hegemony and nearby Cirfant.
- Wika, the sign language of Moresnet.
- If you pick a new language, name it and say who uses it.
Language Rules Free Throw Zone
Every PC knows Novesperanto, the interstellar auxiliary and technical language known by worldly people on all planets, and also knows their native language(s): we'll assume 1 for the following numbers, but it's more for some people.
- If you have Know/Connect-0, you know those ones, plus one more. (3 languages total)
- If you have Know/Connect-1, you know those ones, plus three more. (5 languages total)
- If you have Know/Connect-2, you know those ones, plus six more. (8 languages total)
You may leave a number of languages up to your skill rating undefined and declare that you know them when they arise during play.
If you have Know Magic-0, you also know Iris.
Caption gloves are an accessibility tool developed on Moresnet to help signers and non-signers communicate. This somewhat stylish system of elbow-length gloves and rings produces holographic closed captioning between the wearer's arms. The text is produced by either signing in Wika or "typing" in the air as if on a TL4 Novesperanto keyboard. Caption gloves function as the translator torc on page 70-71, but cost only 50 credits or AFB.
The Novesperanto auxiliary calendar (sometimes called Auxdate), used for comparing standardized time across worlds, is divided into 13 28-day months with 4 weeks of 7 24-hour days each, 364 days total. Isn't that convenient? You would notate "the 20th day of the 10th month in the 15th year" as 15.10.20. Auxdate is typically used as numbers only.
Era 4 began with the subsiding of the Third Great Metastorm, but this was only recognized after the defeat of the State of Grace.
- Ji-Ho Cloud Hopper 17, merchant and pilot, HP 15/15 | System Shock 0 | AC 14 | Initiative +2, low-light/thermal vision, Expert Ability 1/1
- Lami Haidor, Sword Prodigy, HP 21/21 | System Shock 0 | AC 19 | Initiative +2, Warrior Ability 1/1
- Uwais, Chosen Pacter of UltraViolet, HP 11/11 | System Strain 0/10 | AC 17 | Initiative +0/+1(Space Combat) | Spell Casts: L1: 4/5 L2: 2/2
- Trajan Venswell, Arcanist of the Lieges, HP 10/10 | System Shock 0 | AC 10/17 (PSF) | Initiative +0 | Spell Casts: L1: 2/2 L2: 1/1
- Theleth, Rectifier Vessel of Will, HP 16/16 | System Shock 0 | AC 11 | Initiative +1 | Spell Casts: L1: 5/5 L2: 2/2
- Flame-of-Burnt-Brandy, (teleporting robut), HP 13/13 | System Shock N/A | AC 13 | Initiative +0 | Effort 5/5, Processing 3/3
All Things Held In Common
- 0 credits
- 0 Anarchist Fun Bucks
- 0 black betting pearls
- Stored at Outer Sanctum:
- Stored on the ship:
Hanseongin Merchant Shuttle
- Speed: 3
- Armor: 0
- Hit Points: 15
- Crew: 1/10
- AC: 11
- Power: 4 (3 free)
- Mass: 7 (0 free)
- Hardpoints: 1 (1 free)
- Hull Type: Shuttle
- Amphibious Operation
- System Drive
- Shiptender Compatible
- Cargo, 10 tons
- Smuggler's Hold, 200 kg
- Base Price: 208,000 credits
- Six-Month Maintenance: 10,400 credits (due 15.13.1)
As per the 2E/Revised rulebook (Page 4), with these changes.
- Roll 4d6 drop lowest for attributes, arranged as you like.
- Instead of rolling HP at level 1, set your first d6 to 6 and modify with Constitution as normal. When you reroll HP on level up, continue using 6 in place of that first d6. Reroll further hit dice that roll 1.
- All PCs know Novesperanto, the auxiliary and technical language of the old Weave. You also know the language(s) of your home culture(s). You may know additional languages as per page 24.
You can spend one of your starting foci to play a posthuman character, like a Harpy or Nereid, or a nonhuman Prismatic AI.
Adaptable folk who live on many different worlds. Humans may or may not modify themselves with magic, cybernetics, or gengineering, but more often as individuals than whole cultures. They effectively have one extra focus to spend however they like.
Winged folk from Hanseong who live among diverse and squabbling floating islands. In their home societies, wings are given to travelers, messengers, and explorers. Harpies can fly under normal gravity conditions with their move action and never take more than 1d4 falling damage while conscious. They have integral low-light and thermal vision, as per Panspectral Optics cyberware.
Sea-dwelling folk from Aeaea who are connected to a powerful psychic group-entity in their home ocean. They prize their collective and rarely travel alone, but some have the urge to leave. Nereids can breathe and move freely underwater as well as on land. They can naturally communicate telepathically with one willing person per scene, as per Telepathy-1: Transmit Thought. They are automatically aware when their minds are targeted by psi or magic.
Purpose-built synthetic minds from the Prism who move their core between bodies. They take colors as their names, which reflect their personality and function within the stratified Prism. Some Prismatics desert their posts, or even rebel against their own makers, to "protect organic life" and "pursue peace and love," if you can believe that. True AI are created as per Revised Edition page 285. Choose Jack or Synth (page 257) as your starting armature.
Available classes are (Arcane) Expert, (Arcane) Warrior, Psychic, Arcanist, Magister (any), Sunblade, Yama King, and Adventurer (combining any of the above). Note that Arcane Expert and Arcane Warrior are exactly the same as the core versions of those classes, just with the option to choose Arcane Foci to represent minor magical talents.
Prismatic characters are True AI, or may be Adventurers with Partial AI and Partial Expert, Warrior, Psychic, or Arcanist.
What's Your Deal?
Write about 150 words of backstory. It can be a bit more or less. It's usually more fun to expand and improvise once we start playing and know the world, anyway. Think about goals, wants, and open questions. Concise doesn't have to mean humble or mundane origins!
This game will adapt the advancement system from The Black Hack, in which the party gains an Experience each time something specific happens in play. Characters level up once they have Experiences equal to the new level. These things count as a defining Experience:
- Defeating a powerful ‘named’ enemy either in combat or by thwarting their schemes.
- Discovering the entrance - or a newer, deeper level - of a ‘dungeon’ or lair and beginning to exploring it.
- Recovering a unique artifact such as an arcanotech device, notable starship, or Weave-era installation.
- Overcoming, disabling, or surviving a deadly and powerful threat such as a magical trap or enemy capture.
- Completing a mission for someone else.
- Achieving a defined goal, shared or personal, of the characters.
Style and Posting
- When taking action, post both what you want to do and how you want to do it. The Wyzard wrote a great guide to this here.
- Aim for concise posts that focus on things that other people can see and respond to. Inner monologues and flashbacks aren't verboten, but try reframing them as things that are said or done out loud.
- Be bold! To do it, do it! Play to find out what happens! Take action and narrate up to the point that you don't know what happens next. Avoid if-then instructions. If you're not sure whether the group will want to do something that affects everyone, ask in the OOC thread first - but if it fits, plunge ahead and drive the action forward.