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Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by J C S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/11/2024 12:05:58

I ran a whole campaign of this, and I love it. Everything about this system is great. A stripped-down straightforward d20/2d6 system that will be familiar enough to folks coming from other games, but still entirely its own. Has enough variety to sustain a number of different character concepts, even though it only has 4 core classes. For anyone wanting more complexity, psionics act like spellcasting in other games, giving the min-maxers a giant rabbit hole of possibilities to go down.

My only quibbles ever were wanting more, just a little more actual-game crunch. I wanted something simpler than Starfinder and the like, but crunchier than the simpler one-shot or story games like Mothership. Something that really sustains campaign-level play, similar to D&D, with characters continuing to grow in power and influence. With characters who can reasonably survive a whole campaign.

(There's genre limits to this, of course, since sci-fi heroes are always intrinsically going to be more power-level-capped than fantasy heroes who essentially become demigods at higher levels. Unless you're explicitly playing science fantasy, having some limits to player power DO make it feel more sci-fi.)

The GM tools are amazing, and it has a whole big crunchy solo game for DMs to play to track faction progress in your background setting. Tools for generating interesting planets, stations, whole galaxies. I can't praise them enough. Really, he set the standard for amazing GM tools, and I know plenty of people just use the GM section from this book for their sci-fi games, without ever trying the system itself. If you're running sci-fi, I think it's worth picking up for that alone.

This was also Crawford's first Without Number game, and both later ones (Worlds without Number [fantasy] and Cities without Number [cyberpunk]) took everything great from this game and expanded on it. Especially CWN feels like it reaches the "crunch" ideal I was hoping for the whole time in my SWN campaign--crunchier than story games like the Sprawl but not as complicated or unplayable as something like Shadowrun. So anything lacking here, which is not much, is improved later in further iterations on the system. And yet all three remain fully compatible, where you can literally play a WWN fantasy character in a SWN sci-fi game, if your setting allows for some fantasy elements.

SWN also makes up for it's low crunch by being imminently moddable. I ran a Mothership module in it and just tacked the Stress and Panic system right on top of the standard SWN system, and it worked like a charm. If there's something you want to change or update, it's easy. If you don't like the starship combat rules, you could easily change them out for ones from a system you like better. So the simplicity is also a powerful feature, not just a bug / deficiency.

Overall it's great, and a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to get a sci-fi campaign going. I recommend it heartily.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
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