Starset: The Great Dimming is a grimdark tabletop role-playing game focused on tension, strategy, and hope. After a tremendously successful global Kickstarter in 2023, Starset is set to launch across the world, ushering in a new era of sci-fi role-playing. Starset uses an original dice pool system where dice are both characters' health and means of completing actions. This powerful dichotomy, coupled with simultaneous skill resolution and a dark take on humanity's future makes Starset an intensely tactical, survival-based TTRPG.
Starset is born out of a realization that post-COVID, huge portions of the young adult community are disconnected from peers. While we don't face destruction from a collapsing Oort Cloud, college students and young adults exist in self-imposed isolation by adapting closed-off habits. We fail to create meaningful connection with strong community. Starset aims to bring this generation hope.
Despite its grimdark setting, Starset is ultimately focused on hope. Players are challenged to consider where their hope comes from, both in the game and in their own lives. Starset is a dark universe, but in many ways our own can be as well. Players explore what it means to find hope in community, in loyalty, in perseverance, and in God. And, ideally, they can experience hope via genuine community as they play with friends and family around their game table.
Ultimately, fostering community is the purpose of each Hoodwink game. We are a global community of over 500 gamers in over 14 different countries, working together to expand a circle of community to those still disconnected.
Less than a millennium in the future, megaconglomerates, ancient aristocracies, and the political hegemon known as the Supreme Republic of Man sprawl humanity across the solar system. Mankind has stumbled and sacrificed its way toward the stars only to touch the Kuiper Belt and see the stars beyond dimming. The Oort Cloud collapses, and humanity will never leave its home.
Centuries of expansion carve human touch on every corner of the solar system. Across the years, powerful organizations vied for the hope of unlocking the solar system's wealth first. Competition ruined their hopes and sabotage obliterated their ventures, culminating in threats of open war.
Humanity therefore agreed to bow to a joint power - the Supreme Republic of Man (SRM). A Supreme Senate elected by each citizen of the solar system would dictate order. Such a broad need for consensus, however, results in only eight edicts protecting its citizens in the fifty years since the SRM's inception. The power vaccuum of the ensuing neo-anarchy allows powerful factions to dole justice via might in their spheres of influence. Edicts forbid war, but loopholes abound for networks of assassins to theatrically dispose of one another in the public eye - much to the public's enjoyment.
The solar system ultimately is huge, and your life is small. You are a simple citizen caught in the blasting light of titans - warring merchant princes whose wealth goes beyond recorded history, fanatical secular cultists who see you as a flesh machine, cunningly ambitious politicians, jealous and murderous entertainers, and poisonous church leaders of bloated faiths.
To survive is victory. To achieve notoriety is death. To hope is to dream.
If you're interested in playing this setting with your favorite RPG system, check out the Starset Universe Manual. The Universe Manual introduces all these intricate details and history through easy-to-reference sections you can use to create a Starset campaign in any system.
The technology of Starset is based as nearly as can be on real trends in space exploration and warfare. Colonies across the system struggle for basic necessities like food, water, and healthy gravity. Outside of earth, only the most lavished aristocrats live in comfort. The rest simply relish the technology that makes their life possible.
No science fiction game is complete without space travel, and Starset tackles the task in gruesome realism. Each of Starset's over 20 starships is based on meticulous research and artfully rendered by Ryan Thompson Harmon. Each ship's design tackles the same issues faced by modern space programs: heat distribution, weight, fuel, gravity, and cargo capacity.
Starset spaceships particularly are different from mainstream sci-fi. Using research by the Center for Space Policy & Strategy and the Department of Defense, the Hoodwink Team developed systems of space travel and warfare far closer to reality than almost any other sci-fi system available. Spaceships are not sexy - they are fragile and tedious hulks of steel and code. Space combat is often lethal to all parties, and the technology involves a combination of railguns, thermal lasers, and satellites to precisely outmaneuver and destroy enemy vessels.
Players may learn to operate speeder bikes or hover barges with little consequence, but poor command of a spaceship can have monolithic consequences on the solar system at large. To any character who does learn to pilot a starship, however, the whole expanse of the solar system will be available. A network of space stations known as the Trellis is capable of launching vessels from key hubs around the solar system and dampen the inertia of ships travelling at fractions of the speed of light into unreached corners of space.
The Game System
The tension of Starset's lore manifests in its original d6 dice pool mechanics. Players gain a pool of dice at the start of their turn equal to their vitality and may spend these dice to perform actions. Players roll against their own skills, which are modified based on the difficulty of the task.
Players may roll up to 5 dice per action and may perform as many actions as they desire until their dice pool is empty. This creates a tricky action economy. Players may attempt many frantic actions with few dice each - and therefore low likelihood of success - or may perform only one or two actions with surer odds.
Any actions that target others, such as attacks, resolve at the end of the target's turn. This gives nearly everyone else in the situation a chance to help or inhibit the action, incentivizing players' full attention and careful planning. Even combat is ultimately just a re-application of this skill mechanic, with weapons granting extra dice to players' rolls. Combat, then, is not simply a turn-by-turn slog - it is a careful application of skills and strategy.
Lastly, characters' dice pool also serves as their health. As characters suffer damage or incur fatigue, characters start their turns with fewer and fewer dice. In trying situations, then, players are forced to reckon with the risk of pushing forward despite diminishing chances of success, or surrendering and slinking back to pitiful obscurity.
Want to get started quickly? Download the Starset Player Guide to quickly maneuver only character creation rules and brief summaries of core gameplay.
Before making these decisions, though, players create characters. To create a character, players choose which phase of life their character will begin in:
Combat, in the thick of some illicit battle
Common, an everyday person struggling to live life
Exploration, an adventurer in the wild by choice or necessity
Mercenary, a hired smuggler or gun serving a greater master
Slave, a prisoner under the ownership of solar system's industry
Players then roll in their phase and resolve semi-randomized events where they will be forced to make life decisions. These decisions determine starting skills, equipment, faction relations, and other starting keywords. The number of decisions made determines the character's age. Certain choices also prompt players to move into new phases of life, threading together a character's backstory and linking it to important in-game mechanics.
But each decision carries risk. While a character's past can be a blessing, it can also be their downfall. Characters can die during character creation - in numerous ways. To successfully create a character means the character is already tested by the crucible of the future and found worthy... for now.
Whether you're in Singapore, Seattle, or somewhere we haven't reached yet, we hope you will join us. There are adventures to be had among the stars and fellow adventurers waiting just next door. When you buy one of our games, you're getting more than a book. You're getting at ticket to invite someone into conversation and a means of offering hope to someone who might feel forgotten.