An icy fog with a dark intelligence emanates from the base of an ancient temple, long hidden by a jungle inhabited by strange and alien species. Villagers report an oncoming war legion of snake like livorians, while diminutive se’arids have been seen holding their dark, cabalistic rituals at night. Drakmahn raiding parties scourge the borders of the Kisrian Empire, burning and pillaging unchecked, as strange lights seen in the night skies herald an even greater danger from above. You sling your bow, sharpen your sword, load a round in an alien gun you barely comprehend and step out from the castle gate into the world.
You are an Interstellar Mercenary (I.S.M.), part of an elite team of hired killers and specialists in the service of the feudal Kisrian Empire. Ex-serial murderers, thieves, cyborgs, alien-hybrid creations, cyber-terrorists, disgraced royalty and cerebral warriors all have a place on the team provided the Empire deems your ‘talents’ useful enough. To further complicate matters each mercenary has their own hidden agenda or motivation for joining the I.S.M. which may ultimately bring down the Empire you were enlisted to protect.
“Never turn your back on my axes, they take offence easily” Vandor, the 4th mercenary.
Be warned, I.S.M. is not a game for casual gamers. You cannot sit down, throw a few dice, hope for the best, expecting lady luck to shine down on you. I.S.M. is closer to a combat and reality simulator than a game, while chance plays a part, as it does in real life, success in I.S.M. is dependant on strategic decision making both in and out of combat. Should I use my war hammer to try and hinder the armor on his sword arm or take my dagger out and go for a joint?; do I take that split second to step left before I strike and put an enemy in between me and the archer and risk getting hit?; will I sweep the enemies legs and put him on the ground or go for a reverse round house to finish him off? These are the kinds of questions you'll ask yourself - but don't take too long, or you'll miss the chance to make any decision at all.
Make no mistake though, I.S.M. is about fun. With life and death hanging in the balance, and knowing each decision you make has a real and logical consequence, will only suck you into the fascinating world of I.S.M. with characters and storylines that are rich in atmosphere, excitement, challenge and wonder. From the long-term satisfaction of successful campaigns lasting a dozen or more playing sessions, to the adrenaline rush of short action-packed missions spanning mere hours, I.S.M. has something to offer every player.
The logical, unobtrusive core rules offer extremely detailed and realistic game play, allowing you to visualize situations clearly, stimulating the imagination and aiding the strategic decision making of players. Play is not over complicated by unnecessary calculations or statistics. Each and every dice roll has a clear technical purpose representing a facet of real action, movement or combat, making play fast, intuitive and easy to learn. Over 25 years of game play testing and refinement set I.S.M. apart as an incredibly realistic and original role-playing game.
When choosing or designing your character you are not limited to generic humanoid character types. All ISM species and animals are 100% unique, there are no dwarfs, elves, orcs or trolls in sight. Instead, there are twenty unique and diverse playable species, each with its own history, culture, statistics and special traits. Randomness is kept out of character generation allowing your character to be developed in accordance with your imagination. There are no unrealistic and restrictive character classes and alignments. Each character’s species, history, physical traits, temperament and skill set can be determined completely by the player. There are no unnatural limits to natural progression, as in real life, and yet you will soon become well aware of your ever-present vulnerabilities.
Once you leave the safety of a castle or town, you must rely on your wits and skills to survive and succeed. To aid you in this there is a vast array of medieval, martial art and alien equipment and weaponry at the players’ disposal, with each weapon capable of numerous types of attack and defence. A basic sword alone has a variety of cuts, thrusts, pommel and hilt strikes (each causing different types and amounts of damage), grappling and parrying techniques. As with real weapons, each type of attack has a different effect on armor and your opponents flesh too. In addition, there are over fifty unarmed hand to hand moves and two unique alien martial art styles with their specific techniques and abilities.
“Sometimes I want to hear their bones break, I like the cracking sounds.” Roth, the 2nd mercenary.
There are no artificial armor classes for defense, armor and shields; all act realistically. A shield requires a successful skill test to use, and different armor types provide varying levels of protection against differing attacks. Counter techniques and attacks, realistic weapon ranges and initiative modifiers all enhance combat realism and underscore the need for careful, strategic fighting.
The I.S.M. Hit Endurance system introduces an array of realistic wounds and physical damage effects, dependent on the type and severity of attack. Broken limbs, cut tendons, internal bleeding, and blood loss all have specific and realistic effects on game play. For these reasons and many more, I.S.M. combat resolution provides a satisfying sense of realism, excitement and fun.
Another unique I.S.M. feature is Cerebral Efflux, which takes the place of conventional magic. Based entirely on telepathy and telekinesis, Cerebral Efflux is a powerful and versatile system limited only by the imagination of the players. This grounded system allows you to quickly manipulate matter, minds and flesh while still keeping cerebral warriors closely balanced with those that choose to rely solely on brawn.
I.S.M. is set primarily on a strange and dangerous planet Reindon, a world in turmoil, torn between the rival ambitions of two feuding human empires, while the native species lay their own plans for dominance, retribution and power. And, over all of this, an alien invasion has dawned, the harbinger of darkness for all.
The central I.S.M. empires and species have complex hierarchies, social structures, laws, religions, cultures and legends. The world you will inhabit is as beautiful as it is deadly. Dry, searing deserts and plains, frozen forests and mountains, steaming jungles and wide, grassy prairies teem with alien life and color. Advanced alien artefacts are rare and are eagerly scavenged by all, jealously guarded on a planet with a predominately medieval technological level. But things are changing, as the technologically advanced and mysterious Sah’lees scouting parties’ plan the resumption of their planetary invasion from the safety of the cold void of space.
Unique creatures to harness and ride into battle, unlimited skill trees, advanced weapon proficiency system for weapon specialists, alien flora and fauna along with skills to utilise their various properties ... the list could go on. Stop wasting time, focus your mind, grab a weapon, free your imagination and ready yourself to enter the world of I.S.M.
You are an InterStellar Mercenary - so go have fun, discover, conquer the enemy, rise up to the challenge but be very, very careful...