A downloadable game

Monolith is a science-fiction adventure game for one Game Master (GM) and at least one other player. Players act as daring adventurers exploring a vast & mysterious galaxy filled with weird aliens, lost civilizations, and ruthless factions.

  • Monolith was developed as a sci-fi hack of Yochai Gal’s Cairn, which is a hack of Into the Odd (by Chris McDowall) and Knave (by Ben Milton). 
  • Monolith was written by Adam Hensley and its text is licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0

Buy a Print Copy from Lulu ( $7.86 + shipping; Price is at-cost, meaning I don't make a profit.)



Note about print copy: I didn't use Lulu's suggested margins in their template. If the binding is tight and the gutter is crowded, I might revise the print document's size in future versions. Otherwise let me know how your print version turns out so I can make improvements in the future!

CategoryPhysical game
Rated 5.0 out of 5 stars
(39 total ratings)
GenreRole Playing
Tagsadventure-game, science-fantasy, Sci-fi, Tabletop role-playing game


Monolith.pdf 2 MB
Monolith_Korean.pdf 2 MB

Install instructions

Monolith: Full Release

This is the full release of Monolith. The game had been in an alpha state for a while as I worked through many of the elements of the game, and it’s finally at a point now where I feel good about releasing it as a version one.

Some of you might notice there’s been a bit of a visual re-work. I wanted to address my thinking behind this. This release of Monolith is designed to be printer-friendly and light on ink to make home printing easier. Because of that, the rationale behind this new design is focused on using as little ink as possible (within reason.) There is also minimal art. If there is enough interest in this version of the game, I will look into 1.) getting Monolith on Lulu, and possibly 2.) creating a deluxe print version with more art, color, and design styling intended for print-on-demand. That second point might take a while, though, because it will require a redesign.

I’ve reworked several systems, including starships & starship combat, advanced combat options, added vices and complications, and expanded the background tables from D4 to D6.

I apologize a thousand times for any typos, errors, etc. I do this without an editor and I’m pretty awful at that part, so I’m constantly catching mistakes. Feel free to DM me on itch, discord, wherever if you catch something. I suspect there will be many more small updates in the future, but this version of the game is feeling stable enough to me to be considered ready for release.

Next on my to-do list is expanding backgrounds to D20, and possibly adding more to augmentations and talents.

This is an ongoing personal project that I just do for fun, and I hope you all enjoy!

Development log


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This is amazing! All the wonderful inspiration in the tables... It's enough to build a whole campaign around on a whim, and have it be different everytime.

Thanks for taking the time to say that, means a lot!

The pleasure is all mine. I've been trying to make a good, comprehensive, insipiring RPG of my own for... quite some time. But this... Monolith's implied setting is rich and full of inspiration, up there with Electric Bastion.


This is really great! I love the simplicity of Cairn but am more into sci-fi, so this is perfect. I hoping to run a game soon but I’m also considering using it for a little web dev project (at least a character sheet and random table roller, could become a small VTT later). Is there a plain text version of the game? I started copying from the PDF into a markdown file but wouldn’t mind skipping some of that work, if a file like that already exists.


Unfortunatly I have yet to tackle that particular beast of a text/markdown file. It will be something I do…eventually. 😅


Hey Adam, greetings from Ukraine. My name is Alexander from M87* Games! We are the first  TTRPG publishing in Ukraine, mainly focusing on indie and niche games, something unique and exciting. We just localized Cairn in Ukrainian, and I thought bringing in some sci-fi twist would be cool. So are you interested in doing a Ukrainian localization for Monolith? I also thought about the Cairn Adventurer's Guide. Please let me know!

Hey Alexander! Absolutely. We already did a Korean translation. Feel free to message me or get in touch on Discord and we can talk.

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Wow! This game is exactly what I didn't know I was looking for! It's really excellent thank you for making it for free.

A small observation: there is no (dedicated) space on the character sheet for Background (unless I'm missing something...). It could also use a spot for cred, non-slot gear (I made a psionic with a candy bar and adrenaline injection, but no room on the sheet to write it). It could also use a spot for description and results for the rollable character tables (psionic has old cover identity and neural ramifications, but nowhere in the sheet to write them).

All these are easily solvable with a separate sheet or a diy char sheet, but thought I'd point it out.

Amazing work though! Thanks again :)


Thanks a bunch! Those are good suggestions, I need to redo the character sheet and I’ll definitely keep those ideas in mind. 


Sweet. I've been looking for a decent sci-fi system and my group has just fallen in love with Into the Odd type games. I think this has a certain level of added crunch that a good sci-fi game needs. I'm super impressed 😁

Thanks for sharing this lovely game system Adam, its so straight forward mechanically with the right amount of fun/weird content. I'm excitedly working towards running a game in September when our dnd 5e game concludes. I did want to share a simple Google sheets I put together for quick ship building with you (generates stats and all). It's nothing too fancy/polished, only if you were interested or had improvements you wanted to offer, could also be useful for others running this game?


Thank you for the kind words! I’d love to see what you made. Feel free to message me here and I’m also active on the Cairn discord!

Just use the dropdowns and all should update, minus fuel QTY.  I also added ranges for some of the weapons, not sure if they make sense or balance, but its a start!



This is a great game system. I've been using it to run the Mothership module, Gradient Descent. It works beautifully, even with converting rules across on the fly. My players are loving the very colourful characters that the tables generate.

That’s awesome! Thanks for letting me know. Gradient Decent is awesome. I really need to work on a MoShip conversion guide at some point. 


Man, what a wonderful project! Thank you for sharing with us! It's been a lot of fun shooting this with my group! Feature-packed simplicity! Greatness work!

Thank you 🙏  Glad to hear you’re enjoying it. Beware the voidsquid!


hello! I’m thinking of running Gradient Descent using Monolith. Are you aware of anyone who has done so? Has anyone shared stat conversions from Mothership? Cheers! 

That sounds awesome! I don’t know if anyone has run it with Monolith, but I think it should work pretty well. I own Gradient Descent and think it’s a really cool module. I should look at making a conversion guide from MoShip to Monolith too. Usually my process is to convert things to neutral language first, based on the original stats/intent, then stat for Monolith based on the description. Let me know if you need help converting—I’m also active on the Cairn and NSR Cauldron discords. 

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I am running a Monolith campaign using Gradient Descent! Virtually everything in GD is system agnostic, with the exception of Sanity stat (we're using Willpower) and Stress (we're using Fatigue). We opted to not track the Bends stat introduced by GD—it is a cool mechanic though!

It's easy to adapt the Sample Bestiary in Monolith to the encounters in GD, but I recommend going through the Armory section and creating a couple variations of the different encounter types ahead of time.

Awesome to hear it’s running well! I’ve been running a sandbox campaign using a lot of MoShip modules and it’s been smooth sailing so far. 

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Sincerely everything I’ve ever wanted out of a science fiction game. I’ve said it before but I’ve been running the heck out of it and I’m still finding new bits that make me smile.

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Glad to hear that! The lulu print is up now too. 


Ordered a copy yesterday!

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Thank you so much for making this available to all of us, Adam. I love the Psionics. I love everything about Monolith really. Haha.

Happy to hear it! Thanks for the comment.

This is an incredible work, Adam.

Very nice!  Any chance of a print edition?


Yes! I need to find some time to sit down and look through how Lulu works, and get that all set up. Hopefully sometime in the first half of this year.

Cool, looking forward.


Very cool, thank you!


Enjoy! 🤘


Hi, first of all, I love this project, and thanks for sharing, for free even!

But I do have some criticism:

  • Please add bookmarks to the PDF. It’s trivially easy to do, and makes the PDF much more usable.
  • The table of contents is a bit messy. Some chapters aren’t listed (Complications, Armory), some are grouped under a new name (Travel Procedures, Factions, NPCs & Bestiary).
  • Please update the version number whenever you update the file. It’s what, the third revision now?, all of them marked as “Version 1.0 | December 2022”.

Appreciate the support. I'll add these to my to-do list. Please bear in mind this is a one person show, and free, and I have a very busy life outside of my TTRPG hobbies so these kinds of QOL updates will be great to add to my list of future goals.


Of course, and I do appreciate the time you’ve clearly put into this project. Please keep in mind, however, that adding bookmarks really just takes minutes. I do it myself on the PDFs I have that lack them (that’s how I noticed the discrepancies in the table of contents, by the way).

Have a nice day!


Hello! It says Monolith was updated yesterday (26 December). What changed?

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Mostly typos, along with critical damage in starship combat, some wording in corruption/hollowing, and added a few things to starship parts. I'll post a devlog soon when a few more little things are tweaked that hopefully details all of the updates!

Thank you!


Any existing character sheet? Either in PDF format or as a google sheet?


There’s a character sheet at the back but I will look at getting a PDF single page version in the near future 👍


That's what I get for speaking before reading every page 😂 thanks, this is great.


Would you be able to add bookmarks to the PDF? Usability is greatly improved with them.


Thanks for the suggestion, great idea. I'll add that to my list for a future update.

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Great! Also, pg. 34 Group Debt - table says d20, but there are only 12 results

Entry 3 of this table:

Until the debt is paid, all credits you (earn) are legal property of PEACHBOY™

The word in parenthesis is missing. Let me know if you would like me to point out any future minor errors if I find them - don't want to nag you :)

Appreciate it! Feel free to PM me any errors you find. I’ve been working on going through and cleaning things up more!


Really nice contribution, nice clean layout. Would go well with some restrained b&w line art, or stipple point (like what I see in some Mothership 1e artwork).

Q) With XP & Carousing, does that mean I can earn XP "twice" on the same credits? i.e. get XP from selling some treasure for credits, then spending those on Carousing, for more XP?

Talents are a nice idea, I would probably be lazy and link it to level progression (reminds me of WH Dark Heresy leveling).

I like the 2d6 generator for Planets - looking forward to more generators for both larger scale (systems) and smaller scale (cities).

Would love to expand the Faction section - more generators like the Planet section?

I really like the Faction Goal Progression part, seems simple but still useful, especially the note around player interference in that goal progression - that would be a great trigger for designing adventures, reviewing goal progression/regression.

As a fan of ItO - thank you for sharing, I enjoyed reading this. I'll keep an eye on this game.

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Hey there! Thanks for the comment.

XP & Carousing: The way I intended it to work is you get the XP once for recovering treasure/earning credits. When you find a treasure and sell it, you get credits (and then the XP)...when you earn money from a job and/or return to a safe-haven with plain old credits (maybe say cred-sticks or similar fictional objects) you, again, get the credits and XP. Then the option to "carouse" offers PCs the chance to double-dip. They can "waste" that money on a good time and get more XP, but they won't have that money to spend on useful tools, ship upgrades, weapons, etc. So it's intentionally a trade-off they have to decide between. Ultimately, that's just how I'm suggesting to rule it. Nothing will break if you decide to alter how/when players are awarded XP!

Talents: Thanks! I got the idea for those from Knave-knacks, and some other bloggers sharing similar ideas for ItO "abilities". Linking them to level is a valid way to go. I personally like to make things as "foreground growth" focused as possible, like the bastionland blog has talked about. Meaning, I'd maybe use PC levels as a pre-req, but ultimately requiring a training/brain-mod-chip/narrative experience be the "trigger" for players acquiring a talent. Again you can figure out what works best for your table.

More generators for planets, factions, etc. would be awesome. Thanks for that suggestion. I have some notes somewhere to eventually work on that, but it might be a ways out. If you're into more faction rules/progression, myrules are essentially lifted and tweaked from Mausritter. Xenio has a great blog post about ItO factions too! (https://xenio.bearblog.dev/factions-updated/) And yeah, the idea is that players have agency when it comes to interfering with factions (or not interfering, and then facing the consequences of a living galaxy.)

Thanks for your support and I hope this was helpful! You (and anyone else) can always reach out on Discord (I'm on the Cairn and NSR channels) with any other questions.


Lovely layout. Is there a method for randomly generating the Astro-Navigation charts?


Thanks so much! There are currently no methods for generating charts. It's something I'd like to expand upon eventually - the space travel and starship stuff was definitely the hardest part of this. 

A good way to approach it might be to generate astro-nav routes the same way you might do point crawls in other games. And then the travel lanes/routes might be a mix of direct (when possible), or avoiding hazards like asteroid fields, political zones, etc. I think in most cases any point could connect to just about any other point, but including gaps in the routes the PCs have access to can be a good challenge. And it gives them something to spend credits on if they are really into having the most convenient routes and updated star charts.


This is good feedback, thanks!


This is it, folks. No better science fiction game out there. Take it to the bank.


One of the best Cairn hack ever seen, one of the best Sci-Fi rpg ever seen.

Actually, I fall in love with this game; go ahead man, PLEASE! :D

Love to hear that! Update is coming soon. 


this is looking fantastic! love the coloring and elegant layout too

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any plans for a physical release?


If there was enough interest at some point I think that would be really cool! After I get the next update out I’ll have to start looking into options on how best to do that. 🙂


I would be very interested in a physical release!



This is exactly what I have been looking for! Super excited for future updates.

I love hearing that, thanks for your support!


The ultimate ItO SWN port. I can't wait for the full version!

What a cool comment! Thanks for saying that. I hope others who love the Into the Odd style of play and SWN/Sci-fi settings will get some use out of this.