Learning to use Affinity Publisher

Sep 13, 2019

Progress has slowed a bit as I have been making the transition of importing Star Rats from a Word document to Affinity Publisher. I've never used this program before, but they have amazing tutorials and incredibly helpful customer service. Using Affinity Publisher will allow me to add some features that are difficult to add using Word and most importantly allow me to add full-bleed artwork to the PDF. I don't know about you, but I like my artwork bloody!

My design goals with Star Rats

Aug 22, 2019

Nearing the end... or is it the middle of the end? Anyways, with the end no longer being a fairy tale myth and now something that may actually be seen in the wild... I sat down and thought over my design goals that I wrote at the start of this project, they have been edited a bit from their original, back when this game was called Space Brew and I had never heard of Maze Rats, but the overall push has stayed the same.

1. Keep the Maze Rats ethos. Ideally the two games will be 100% compatible and feel like the same world but at different times. Use many similar but different layout and typography choices to keep the Maze Rats theming.

2. Keep it short. The more you say, the more likely the game will not align with what the players need and want from the game. Give the GM everything they need to run the game confidently, but no more than that. Keep the page count low, with each page, each sentence, evocative and jammed pack with useful atmosphere or game mechanisms.

3. Lots of blank space. Do not be overly dogmatic. Leave space for the GM to create their own universe and diverge significantly from the look and feel of the game. Give them space to be creative, but include enough information to be atmospheric and have the universe feel big. Ideally, they are seeing a huge and detailed universe through a cardboard tube. They see a small amount with the promise that more exists outside of their view.

4. Layout is king. Everything must be easy to read and easy to reference. Good layout takes preference over content.

Overall I think I have stayed true to these design goals, at the same time I see places where I think I can do better and make some tweaks.

With point number 4. I have been reading an excellent book on design called The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams (no, not 'that' Robin Williams) and have a large list of other resources to devour after this one. I'm also in the process of transitioning from using Word to using Affinity Publisher software. Lots to learn and I am enjoying every minute of it!

The Barbarians of the Ruined Earth

Jul 28, 2019

For those of you who need more science fantasy in your life, be sure to check out the Barbarians of the Ruined Earth Kickstarter. A fantasy post-apocalyptic RPG inspired by Thundarr the Barbarian, Mad Max: Fury Road and a little Pirates of Dark Water. It has some amazing looking post-apocalyptic art and is based on the Black Hack ruleset which I am a big fan of.

Space Combat: Technology you can understand

Jun 25, 2019

In science fiction stories, what can sensors detect and what can they not detect?

In most cases, the answer is simple: Whatever the plot wants them to detect. Detect individual lifeforms? Detect a person's breathing? No problem! Except when it is a problem. In long-running series, it is not uncommon to see the capabilities of fantastic technology fluctuate wildly to fit whatever the story needed for that moment.

How can a character rely on and use a tool that they do not know what it does, or how it does what it does? Maze Rats is built on thinking up creative solutions to problems. The farther you move away from real life or well-established settings the harder that is to do.

To address that issue, Star Rats’ current technology level is set to roughly twenty minutes in the future. Aliens and robots wander crowded streets, starships are almost common, but the technology in wide use is not that different from what we see around us now. Instead of using sensors, starships use radar. Instead of tractor beams, harpoon cannons.

Space Combat: Everybody is invited!

Jun 17, 2019

Space combat is a difficult thing to get right. For one thing, how do you make space combat fun for characters who are not pilots and not designed for space combat?

First, let’s lower the bar for entry. In Star Rats, there is only one path that deals directly with space travel. Void jockey. A character with void jockey is skilled at piloting AND repairing starships, but anyone can attempt it. Added to this, the attack bonus used to wield a blade, or a pistol is the same used to fire a starship’s weapons. This way almost anyone can jump into the gunner’s seat. What if you do not have a free gunner seat available? Simple, put on a space suit and grab your laser pistol. It won’t do as much damage as a starship weapon, but just like peppering a car engine with a shotgun, you ARE going to do damage.

What about characters who really don’t care for space battles? They don’t want to be a pilot, they don’t want to fix stuff, or shoot ships. All they wanna do is crack skulls. That is okay. Boarding enemy ships is almost ridiculously easy.

But if all else fails, make it quick.

Space combat is easy to get wrong and I am not so arrogant to think I have a foolproof solution, so if all this fails, starships have low hull ratings so at least space combat should be over quick.

The Rat's Nest

Jun 11, 2019

Today is an exciting day! Today we open the new Star Rat's Discord! Come join us and have fun. If you have questions about Star Rats I am available and might have answers. Click the link above or the logo to the right to join.

WizardThiefFighter gains over 400 patreons!

Jun 8, 2019


The amazing, all around awesome person and talented writer-artist extraordinaire Luka Rejec has hit a well-deserved milestone today, reaching over 400 patreons. Let's keep good things happening for him and keep good things happening to yourself by signing up on his patreon here! I think he says it best when he describes his approach as "Concept heavy, rules-light, full metal."

His recently Kickstarted Ultraviolet Grasslands is a spectacular looking RPG that I can't wait to receive my copy of. Described as a science fantasy Marco Polo-style voyage across a weird, old world and often compared to being a science fantasy Oregon Trail in book form. Go sign up for his patreon now to see more and make sure you don't miss out!

Fungus Fun

Jun 2, 2019

As a big fan of everything fungus, I am looking forward to Alex Clements and Shuyi Zhang's Fungi of the Far Realms on Kickstarter right now. Meant as a tabletop role-playing game supplement and illustrated encyclopedia filled with fictional mushrooms. Along with the added bonus that it is written in a way that it can serve as an in-game handout to players. As far as I am concerned, fungi will always be science fantasy to me. Look at them, they are the closest thing we have to aliens here on planet Earth. Except for maybe the deep ones found at the bottom of oceans, but we don't talk about them...

The Kickstarter has been well over 100% funded and has 9 days to go. Go there now and make your pledge!

Robot Goblin's review of the Mutants of Ixx is spot on

May 27, 2019

Robot Goblin put up a review of Karl Stjernberg's Mutants of Ixx that is worth a read.

To sum it up Robotic Goblin said:
Stjernberg's post-apocalyptic game fits on two sheets of paper.
Is it worth $2 USD? F*ck yes.


I bought it in a heartbeat and am looking forward to playing. In fact, whenever I see Karl Stjernberg's name and the words "new" and "for sale" I am already reaching for my wallet. If you like post-apocalyptic games start reaching for your credit card now.

Perfecting Monsters

May 25, 2019


Star Rats is a modern science fantasy RPG, but with a crazy gonzo spirit. As I developed the monsters I kept asking myself, "Would this fit on a pulpy science fiction cover?" If the answer was yes, I knew I was on the right track. If not, then it was time to scrap the monster and start over. I scrapped a lot of monsters to get to this current list, but it has been worth it.

Changes are underway

May 17, 2019

As you may have noticed a lot of changes are going on and things look pretty crazy. Please bear with me. As Star Rats The Science Fantasy Hack gets closer to its final version I felt it was time to update the site and make it look nice... but first, I'm gonna make it look real messy!
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