Spotlight: Sine Nomine Publishing

A-Z 2014 SKevin Crawford and Sine Nomine Publishing have consistently produced high-grade roleplaying game material across several genres. Most of the products are based on or more or less compatible with the Labyrinth Lord rule set, which in turn means they are pretty portable across most old school games.

Settings and Rules Sets

Sine Nomine has several settings in the works: Red Tide Campaign Setting, Stars Without Number, Other Rust, and Spears of the Dawn (listed under Kickstarters, below).

Red Tide Setting

I think I first became aware of Sine Nomine when I was directed to get a copy of An Echo, Resounding: A Sourcebook for Lordship and War. This is a book set in Kevin’s Red Tide setting (as much as any setting) and provides excellent advice and rules for sandbox construction and demesne-level play. That is, a stark wilderness to be explored, full of ruins and lairs, with only a few bastions of civilization… and the facilities for carving out your own demesnes, be they city-states or full nations.

This led me to get Red Tide: Campaign Sourcebook and Sandbox Toolkit, which isn’t quite as focused on demesne-level play but provides complementary tools for sandbox construction. This includes expanding on the Stars Without Number tags system (also present in the Stars Without Number: Core Edition, which has another 40-some pages of content).

The setting itself is heavily influenced by Asian themes with some European influences mixed in. It is something of post-apocalyptic setting, or ‘current apocalypse’; the setting background consists largely of trying to survive the destruction of the world, though that can be shifted further to the background if it proves too bleak.

There are also several smaller (and often free) supplements supporting this setting, including The Crimson Pandect: A Handbook of Eldritch Lore (not free) and the Black Streams series (four smaller supplements for the Red Tide setting, all free).

Stars Without Number

Stars Without Number Cover
Stars Without Number Cover

Stars Without Number is a post-collapse spacefaring setting. I haven’t actually played in it or worked with it much, but what I have read looks consistent with Kevin’s quality of writing and attention to detail.

There are many supplements available for the Stars Without Number rules set and setting, but I admit I haven’t examined them.

Other Dust

The Other Dust setting is rules-compatible with Stars Without Number, but set on a broken, post-apocalyptic world. I’ve got it on my wishlist for when I want to look into that style of campaign and/or have the money and time to get it for the pleasure of reading. Again, there are sandbox tools in this product.


Kevin has run two of the smoothest Kickstarters to date. He comes into them with his product at least largely written and simply awaiting art (which, so far, has always been released into the public domain). Both projects delivered well ahead of schedule.

Straightforward projects, well-managed, delivered ahead of schedule with his normal grade of work. He’s on my shortlist of Kickstarter producers.

Spears of the Dawn

Spears of the Dawn Cover
Spears of the Dawn Cover

Spears of the Dawn is an African-inspired RPG setting based on the Stars Without Number system. Yet more sandbox tools are made available. From the product page at DriveThruRPG:

In the marketplace, flame-tongued griots recall the glories of dead heroes to set the people ablaze against their undying Eternal foes. In the palace, mighty warriors stride among pillars of carved ebony and bright jewels. Beneath the earth, daring adventurers plumb the mines of ancient kings, veins of gold shining in the flickering torchlight. And in the forest, masked ngangas utter the sorceries of their ancestors to break the bleak curses that witches have hurled upon their people.

In this complete game in a single volume, you’ll find…

  • A complete African-inspired campaign setting
  • Old-school compatible classes for ngangas, griots, and marabouts
  • New spells, magic items, and foes from African mythology
  • Focused GM tools for building sandbox campaigns
  • Tools for managing the background strife of restless kingdoms
  • Resource tables, unkeyed maps, adventure creation tools, and more!

Scarlet Heroes

Scarlet Heroes Cover
Scarlet Heroes Cover

Scarlet Heroes is different. This rules set provides a means to adapt old school games (or use the standalone system) so a single Player Character might be able to play through an adventure normally needing a full party. This is intended to make one-on-one play with GM and player possible.

I admit, I don’t know quite how this is expected to work. I didn’t have the opportunity to back this during the Kickstarter and have not yet bought a copy, so I haven’t read it.

Yet more sandbox tools, including a few score new tags as used in Stars Without Number and Red Tide Campaign Setting.

Closing Comments

Kevin Crawford is a prolific game designer who has yet to disappoint me. The work is consistently noticeably higher grade than I see from most small publishers, and even many of the larger publishers. He delivers.

I recommend Sine Nomine Publishing to anyone who enjoys old school play, especially if they favor sandbox play.


  1. Tom H.

    Scarlet Heroes PC mechanics in a nutshell:

    Heroes still take HP damage, but deal *HD* damage. Damage inflicted is reduced (an attack that “normally” does d6 damage inflicts 0-2 HP on heroes, 0-2 HD on opponents). Heroes have an automatic extra attack every round to clear out mobs of lower-level opponents.

    Saving throws are on a curve (2d8) instead of linear.

    Any save-or-die / succeed-or-fail-to-progress-in-the-adventure event can be converted into take-random-damage-plus-autosuccess, but every time the heroes use that option the amount of damage increases until the player can’t take it and fails the test. The medusa’s first glance won’t get you, but if you stick around long enough you’ll be joining the statue garden.

    4 core classes with stock abilities, then a fairly free-form skill system; bounded improvement in the skills pushes characters towards the kind of broad competence you expect from solo heroes.

    In the GM’s section, there’s another of Sine Nomine’s large set of tags which at first glance is both independent of and complementary to Red Tide’s set, dealing more with adventure theme / goal than site characteristics, and which ties into a 15-page system on running a sandbox for completely solo (self-GM) play.

    I’m waiting until I have my paper copy to run this, but I certainly want to run this for a pair of PCs; I just need to decide whether the themes of Red Tide suit my players or whether I should throw together a more stock sandbox.

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