Ashen Stars

Ashen Stars CoverPlay the gritty reboot of your favorite science fiction TV series.

Winner of the 2012 Silver ENnie award for Best Setting, designed by RPG legend Robin D. Laws and powered by the GUMSHOE investigative roleplaying system.

Out here in the Bleed, you’re the closest thing there is to a higher authority. You’re Licensed Autonomous Zone Effectuators —”lasers” for short. You’re the seasoned freelancers that local leaders call whenever a situation is too tough, too baffling, or simply too weird for them to handle. It’s a dirty job, but it pays. And sometimes, you get to make a difference.

In Ashen Stars you take on the role of freelance troubleshooters and law enforcers operating in a remote sector of space called the Bleed. Amid the ashes of a devastating war that ended with a massive retreat by the Combine, you’ll solve mysteries, fix thorny problems, and explore strange corners of space — balancing the promise of a quick buck against the need to maintain a reputation that wins you lucrative contracts, and pays the upkeep on your ship and your cyber- and viroware enhancements.

Play one of seven species:2012ENnies_Silver

  • The eerily beautiful, nature-loving, emotion-fearing balla
  • The cybes, former humans radically altered by cybernetic and genetic science
  • The durugh, hunched, furtive ex-enemies of the Combine who can momentarily phase through solid matter.
  • The humans, adaptable, resourceful, and numerous.
  • The kch-thk, warrior locust people who migrate to new bodies when their old ones are destroyed.
  • The armadillo-like tavak, followers of a serene warrior ethic.
  • The vas mal, former near-omnisicent energy beings devolved by disaster into misshapen humanoid form.

Ashen Stars includes:

  • Extensive, streamlined rules for space combat
  • 14 different types of ship
  • A rogues gallery of NPC threats and hostile species
  • A short adventure to get you started in the Bleed.

Read reviews and sample chapters.

Stock #: PELGA01 Author: Robin D. Laws
Artist: Jérôme Huguenin, Chris Huth Pages: 298 pages, full colour hardback

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94 Responses to “Ashen Stars”

  1. […] novo cenário de Robin D. Laws (sim, o criador do sistema) para Gumshoe chama-se Ashen Stars (Estrelas Cinzentas – título provisório), um cenário que leva o sistema investigativo ao […]

  2. Tigger_Mk4 says:

    The pedigree of Robin & Pelgrane means I’m very excited abbut this.
    What I would say is that “extensive & streamlined” is an interesting statement ; Its both extensive AND streamlined ?
    Many folks have tried (“they tried and died” :-p) to do this, so if that can actually be pulled off that will be a big achievement, and Robin is one of those I’d suspect can manage it…but to quote the Ancient Greeks (? I think):”IF”.

    But don’t get me wrong, I’m really looking forward to seeing this.

  3. John says:

    What happened to the pre-order for this book? I’m looking forward to seeing the final product and running it at Gen Con.

  4. Stuart Bonham says:

    Just pre-ordered Ashen Stars, it just sounds great. Years ago I ran a homebrew called Galaxy Rangers, which had a similar premise but was weighed down with ridiculus rules (as all gamnes seemed to be at the time). With Gumshoe’s palyer focus and light-touch rules, Ashen Stars seesm to be right up my street! Can’t wait to get the book; already devouring the PDF!

  5. John Taber says:

    Hi Pelgrane: How long will the pre-order for Ashen Stars run? Will it go at least until Mon or Tues next week?


  6. […] I have no idea how I could have missed that, but quite a while back, Pelgrane Press opened the Ashen Stars pre-pre order phase. You’re probably asking yourself now what Ashen Stars and a pre-pre order […]

  7. […] Stargazer plays fanboy over the upcoming release of Robin D. Law’s new GUMSHOE-based game – Ashen Stars – over at Stargazer’s World. The details are quite cool. For about $45 USD you get a 300+ page hardbound book, a PDF copy, and your name in the credits! Check out Stargazer’s article and the details over at the Pelgrane Press web store. […]

  8. Gary Moore says:

    I have taken advantage of this. The PDF is a taster of what promises to be a brilliant new take on classic Space Opera, backed by a solid system (roleplay & atmosphere first, worry about dicerolling later)from the company run by people who actually give a dingo’s kidney about what gamers want.
    Havnt had time for indepth read (small child=no time)but miss out at your peril because Pelgrane just get better and better.

  9. Maggee says:

    Thank you! Now I can put this in my collection of games I have to play.

  10. Michael Schwartz says:

    When I originally read the playtest draft, three things occurred to me: first, Robin had outdone himself in his integration of classic space opera tropes; second, this would become my favorite space opera setting, replacing both Star Wars and Star Trek; and third, how seamlessly the GUMSHOE mechanics adapted to the most diverse genre that it thus far had attempted to tackle. Brilliant, in a word.

  11. Gary Moore says:

    Is it me or are the Kch Tck the coolest species? Any race whose drives include hunger tourism cant be bad.
    Explore strange new worlds, new civilisations…………..and eat them

  12. Stuart Bonham says:

    How about an Ashen Stars section on the forum?

  13. Jay says:

    I preordered it today. Sounds great. Can’t wait to read through it.

  14. Terry Perdue says:


  15. DTrpg says:

    Nailed it – Just nailed it. I read through this book like it was a good novel. I’ve never called an RPG rulebook a page turner, but here it is! Great setting, engaging to read, and a smooth and polished system. Robin Laws continues to impress, and after seeing the final layout PDF, I have to say that Pelgrane has outdone themselves with this game. I cannot wait to have the physical thing in my hands (and the hands of my players!)

  16. Gary Moore says:

    Im going to big up the Pelgrane Posse.
    I have my PDF and I cannot say just how impressed I am with both the content, style and layout. Yet another beautifully written evolution of Gumshoe with a unique take on the genre, written by one of the best authors in the industry.
    On looks alone it puts products from other bigger companies to shame. I have a sense that I really have got my monies worth (and I hav’nt got the hardcopy yet) For a small publisher Pelgrane can flex some serious creative muscle.
    The bar hasnt just been raised, its in a geo stationery orbit

  17. Ron says:

    Argh– science fiction/space opera by Robin Laws? I may as well just send Pelgrane my credit card…

    This makes what– the third or fourth system that I’m going to be telling my RPers we’re going to have to try.

    Lovely, folks, I look forward to it.

  18. Ron says:

    Purchased and receipt received. I now eagerly await my download instructions and any offer regarding Dead Rock Seven.

  19. Ron Heintz says:

    I am on my second read-through of the PDF and as usual, Pelgrane’s commitment to quality and the true foundation of modern roleplaying– that is, storytelling– shines through.

    From Munchausen through Dying Earth to the Ashen Stars, I am always pleased and impressed by the care and heart that Pelgrane puts into its products: well done, yet again.

    • Simon Rogers says:

      Thank you very much, but we cannot take credit for Munchausen which was produced by the excellent James Wallis of Hogshead Publishing.

      • Ron Heintz says:

        Right you are, and my error that the mists of time have obscured the memory– another Brit product, so I suppose it’s my experience of the quality from over the pond.

        Nonetheless, my lauds for your latest and your previous still stand. Many of the core concepts of Ashen Stars are something to which my play groups have intuitively striven over the years, but it is gratifying to see them actually codified in the Gumshoe system. Stars” General Skills– and some of its mordant humour– are also redolent with the mechanics of Dying Earth (and now Skullduggery, I would imagine, though I am not yet familiar with that one).

        Some of the sly references both to the TV and RPG tropes of the past and present, and those who enjoy or employ them, also make this a terrific read. It joins about 5 other RPG books that I would take out just for an admiring chuckle or knowing nod.

  20. Ron Heintz says:

    For prospective GMs:

    Another comment that I would put forth is that the book is an excellent primer for GMs that would like pointers about customisation of home campaigns– this one, or any other, even for different systems.

    I tend to always customise to suit my play group: for example, game balance has always been more important to me internally rather than externally. By that I mean that the players around the table need to see that they have a potential to equally contribute to the success and enjoyment of the session, and that the choice of character type or role does not inherntly give them an advantage or disadvantage vis a vis the other players. It is much more simple to balance their group’s chances versus the NPCs, since the player characters are, after all, the stars of the show.

    Ashen Stars supports this sort of catering to the play group immensely. The character creation “team gestalt method” ensures that the requisite skills will be present in the group, for both the Investigation (Gumshoe) mechanic and “adventure action” related (General) mechanic, while still allowing the players to specify their stronger and weaker suits. Individualisation does not suffer, bu tplot will not bog down even if one is simply running a shelf product unaltered, because the skills will be there.

    Even more important for storytelling, is the inversion from the usual dynamic of background generation. Instead of a character being forced to fit the mold of a cyclopaedia of fact regarding the culture, the bare bones are summarised in a very succinct fashion. The player is then invited to episodically reveal more about his or her version of the culture and species, in a snapshot manner, as they actually play the character in various game situations. Since they are they actor establishing the role, the only consensus necessary is with the GM, for pivotal issues that may impinge on the story, and, possibly, with other players of the same species, if any. Even there, guidelines are suggested.

    In other words, the story emphasis is shifted away from the players reacting to a grand opus formulated by the GM, accompanied by a series of appendices of data. Instead, it becomes a communal storytelling fiat where the players’ skills determine both proactive and reactive results in situations. Also, the players’ roleplaying invests them with a huge ownership of the story and even the broader aspects of the background flavour, colour and depth. The advice to the GM prevents this from inadvertently allowing player choice to derail the stories– though it also empowers and encourages the GM to allow for quick revision, alteration or “tweaking” of story elements in order to resonate with player portrayals and decisions.

    The preceding only hints at the clever and useful GM tools presented: it’s worth buying the book even if space opera is not your cuppa at all.

    Speaking as someone that as been GMing and devising scenario materials since “Chainmail” and the old D&D “blue box”, I’d highly recommend this book for new and old GMs alike: it will either confirm and expand upon what you already knew, and give you a lot of new ways to provide evocative entertainment, or, if its concepts are new, may be an epiphany that increases both your and your play group’s pleasure immensely.

  21. […] Part Time Gods Ashen Stars Book of Unremitting Horror Fear Itself Quack in the Box Sundered Skies Necropolis Hellfrost This […]

  22. […] been busy doing more work! I’ve had my nose to the grindstone working on illustrations for Ashen Stars, Robin D. Laws and Pelgrane Press‘s just-released game of interstellar […]

  23. […] Laws’ Ashen Stars, his space opera setting for the GUMSHOE […]

  24. Kit Kindred says:

    When is this likely to ship?

  25. […] of the comprehensive Stellar Horizons, and I'm looking forward to the science fiction/horror Ashen Stars and Cthonian Stars/Void (the latter will use its own […]

  26. gary moore says:

    I have my book which arrived as i left 4 work. I havnt been this excited since i bought my d&d basic boxed set in 86!

  27. Neil Ford says:

    Any news when this will be going in to distribution? I have store credit with its and Dead Rock Seven’s name on it.

    – Neil.

  28. Michael Kirkbride says:

    My Nursery Edition hardback arrived today. It’s well-nigh perfect. Pelgrane and Mr. Laws continue to leave me in awe with their quality output.

  29. […] and might be working with or for someone else lurking in the system. Kevin sends warnings to the United Earth Authority and the Olvar Star […]

  30. […] Part-Time Gods Cthulhutech Ashen Stars […]

  31. […] Part-Time Gods Cthulhutech Ashen Stars […]

  32. […] Doyle thanks Jasmine for saving him from possible electrocution, and he invites her to join a Brotherhood of Illumination protest against the U.E.M. presence in New Quebec. Richmond and company later regroup at their […]

  33. […] celebrate the UK release of the dead-tree version of Ashen Stars, Leisure Games have teamed up with Pelgrane Press to run some demo games at Concrete Cow on 17 […]

  34. […] por último, me ha llegado por fin el Ashen Stars con la firmilla de Robin D. Laws. ¡Otra firma más para mi […]

  35. […] detailed "future history" of games such as Stellar Horizons and Ashen Stars is similar to that of "Vortex." (I took a class on the topic back in college.) In these […]

  36. […] is of limited help as he tries to untangle the web of smuggling, illicit affairs, religious factions, and Synth activism around Doyle's murder. He and Richmond's plan to rob the casino is […]

  37. […] ponad 300 stron podręcznik główny w twardej oprawie możecie kupić w sklepie wydawnictwa za $44.95, a wkrótce także w lokalnych sklepach z […]

  38. […] For more information on Ashen Stars and GUMSHOE check here. […]

  39. Kallisto73 says:

    We have been playing this for several weeks now and completed 2 adventures and are now on Dead Rock Seven. And I have to tell you, we are having great fun.
    Thanks for this!

  40. […] Ashen Stars is a wonderful space opera rpg by Pelgrane Press, based on the GUMSHOE system. I had the pleasure to create the game’s published setting map (a part of the Galaxy called “The Bleed”) based on a sketch by Robin D. Laws. […]

  41. […] Ashen Stars is a wonderful space opera rpg by Pelgrane Press, based on the GUMSHOE system. I had the pleasure to create the game’s published setting map (a part of the Galaxy called “The Bleed”) based on a sketch by Robin D. Laws. […]

  42. […] burly Ru'ulok, who the Black Box Security Co. agent believes is motivated purely by profit. Investigator Tariq wisely monitors communications and tries to sense the motivations of the […]

  43. […] Ashen Stars (Pelgrane Press) – gra określana przez autorów jako „gritty space opera”, w których wywodzący się z różnych oryginalnych ras bohaterowie graczy tworzą grupę kosmicznych licencjonowanych lecz niezależnych specjalistów do rozwiązywania wszelakich problemów. Gra oparta jest o mechanikę GUMSHOE znaną chyba najlepiej z Trial of Cthulhu. […]

  44. […] Files RPG Scion Ashen Stars Ashen Stars: Terra Nova Dungeons & Dragons Al-Qadim Dark Sun Planescape Remnants Spycraft Mage: […]

  45. […] all rolled into one awesome setting. I’d also intended to grab a copy of Dead Rock Seven for Ashen Stars, but ended up ordering that online – very interested to see more adventures in the […]

  46. The lone wanderer says:

    Just got my print version of ashen stars… So fracking happy going to assemble the crew and play Saturday. Wish a the noob GM luck XD

  47. Ron says:

    Best wishes; let us know how it went. :) And welcome to GMing; it’s the most important job for systems that use GMs. As well, in this system, collaborative story-telling can really be emphasized, if you wish, rather than makin git all the GM’s job.

    Re start-ups: when we started playing, months ago, I opted for a “pilot” episode, by the end of which we had established how the crew procured its ship (and its financing debts). We were able to segue that neatly into the first scenario.

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