Saturday, March 13, 2021

#StayAtHome: Suldokar's Wake, Periodical Release Issue #1


Suldokar's Wake is a science fiction RPG by Christian Mehrstam, the creator of Whitehack. Readers may know about Whitehack: it is a brief, extremely flexible reconstruction of a d20 RPG. Whitehack introduced one of the favorite features appropriated without attribution by Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: the advantage/disadvantage mechanic, referred to as double roll/half roll in the mechanics of Whitehack and Suldokar's Wake.

What we have here, in Suldokar's Wake, Periodical Release Issue #1: Aeonic Evil Returns is Mehrstam making something explicit that he believes is implicit with many RPGs. It is typical with many RPGs to release a core book or players' guide, followed by "supplements". So many, many RPGs are in fact serial publications. Christian Mehrstam decided to intentionally release an RPG as a serial product with a number of issues. It's an experiment to see what happens when you get intentional about this publication format.

The first issue pictured above is a gazetteer of sorts. There is a brief explanation of the publication strategy, a description of what you need to play, some content about design philosophy, information about dice mechanics used in the game, and then about 40 pages of setting description. That is followed by some explanation of mapping conventions used in the game, and a glossary of mechanical terms and in-world words.

The setting is interesting. It has a lot in common with Numenera, except that the author has taken the effort to present a coherent history of the world, something lacking in Numenera. The parts of the world hang together here, because the author chose to present a world with a history. It is a long history, with the rise and fall of human and non-human civilizations. There is a time abyss, such as we often see in fantasy and science fantasy, but it has concrete elements that hang together in a coherent way that leaves one wanting more information, while walking away with the impression that there is plenty of space for GMs to write new content for the game. 

Back to the setting. Post-scarcity, long-gone ancient civilizations, and recently fallen starfaring civilizations. Human(ish) people, aliens, droids, solid-light holograms. An isolated planet, stargates no longer functioning. Crashed starships and generation ships. A planetary holointelligence. Pervasive nanotechnology, much of it gone wild. A subterranean world, with another planetary intelligence, this time fungal. Ruins to explore and pillage. Makers (replicators) no longer very programmable, with reproduction templates that can manufacture many goods while rendering the land around them barren: the makers strip resources from their immediate environment to construct their valuable products.  

There is a lot to work with here. I read a lot of Numenera into this, but there are certainly other influences including Babylon 5, especially with all the hints of an ancient Shadow evil that is about to return, and STALKER, with people delving to recover inexplicable alien artifacts. 

My edition of the product is 80 pages. The editing is spotty, but that's what happens when you buy a print on demand book right after its release.

You could run this game setting with Numenera, Fate, or Mutant Year Zero but if you are patient (as I was over the last couple of years) there was the promise of supplements. These supplements now exist:

  • Issue #2: Anatomy of  Zira-Kaan Character has the rules for character creation (this is a light d20 system, with some intrinsic weirdness based on the author's interests) in 128 pages.
  • Issue #3: Rules of Inverted Reality has the game mechanics in 128 pages.
  • Issue #4: Depths of Devnull is huge. It clocks in at 330 pages, has all the rules and resources for GMs, as well as a 50 page adventure.
  • Issue #5: The Screen That Wasn't is a 19 page optional that summarizes all the key rules. Think of it as a GM screen in booklet form. 

Links to order any of the books can be found at the Suldokar's Wake blog.

I'll be starting in on Issue #2 tonight. I ordered Issues #4 and 5 earlier this week, and look forward to their arrival!


  1. I look forward to your next review of this very interesting experiment. I'm particularly curious about the 50 page adventure as it might tell us how one may run this world without drowning one's players in esoteric jargon, which Issue #1 contains quite a bit of.

  2. Thanks for stopping by! I am about a third of the way into Issue #2, and about to read the "Generating [Characters] From Scratch" spread. There is some jargon, and I find myself going back to the glossaries in Issue #1, and to the explanation of inverted roll mechanics in Issue #3. We'll see how this goes!