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Stars Without Number: Original Free Edition
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/08/2021 20:17:04

Originally Published here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/05/review-stars-without-number.html

Continuing my deep dive into the OSR-based SciFi games we naturally next come to Stars Without Number. This gem was released in 2011 and was written by Kevin Crawford and Sine Nomine Publishing. SWN is a big book, 254 pages filed with maps, sheets, a great index, but no OGL statement that I kind find. To me this book feels more like the work of hard sci-fi; like that Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein. Certainly it is epic in scope. There is more of a setting here than other OSR-flavored games, so if you like that, great, if not, well it seems easy enough to ignore.

Chapter 1 covers Character creation. We have seen this all before, but perfect for people new to RPGs or scifi fans new to the Classic 6 Attributes and level/class systems. The classes are the three "archetypes" that you can find in True20 and other games, The Expert, The Psychic and The Warrior. Each has their own advancement table and Hit Die. SWN assumes a 20 level career in case you were curious. Each class also gets their own saving throw tables. There are background packages which can be added to classes to give your character more depth and determines some of their skills. There are also training packages to further define your character. Character creation is a breeze and no one seems to die while doing it.

Chapter 2 covers Psionics. There are quite a lot of psionic powers detailed here. So first thing, if psionics are something you must have in your sci-fi game then please check this game out first. Powers as expected have point cost values. Psionic points always give the powers a different feel for me than magic, so this is another plus really. These powers are not merely reskinned spells, they have been redone to fit within the mythos of the game better.

Chapter 3 details all the equipment you will need including the Tech Level of the equipment. D&D would be tech level 1 (or so) while we are at TL 3. The game is set at TL 5 with some artifacts at TL 6. Time Lords are hanging out at 7 or 8 I would say. D20 Future and Traveller also use a similar mechanic, so if you want to see how they can also work, checking out those games is advisable. The standard batch of weapons and armor from sticks and stone all the way up to energy weapons are discussed. AC is descending by the way. What is really nice about this game is in addition to lasers, energy swords and computers it also includes Cyberware.

Chapter 4 is the Game Systems chapter. It includes the expected combat, but also a new twist on the skill checks with Target Numbers. Useful if you are using the skills as described here, but it's real utility comes in how flexible it can be. I would have to try it out more, but it's close enough to other skill + die roll + mods vs TN that I can see it's use in a variety of situations.

Chapter 5 covers the history of space of the default campaign setting. Even if you don't use it there are some great ideas here.

Chapter 6 is the Game Master Guide of the game. Deals with running the game and how and where to use skill checks.

Chapter 7 is World Generation which is just FULL of material for any game. While this game has a lot going for it, this is the real gem in my mind. This flows right into Chapter 8, Factions. Factions are important groups. Say a group of allied pirates or smugglers, a government or a band of plucky rebels. Several key factors when creating a faction are given and there is a huge list of sample factions. Chapter 9 discusses what sort of adventures you might be able to have. With Chapters 6 through 8 and all the details they give, running out of ideas is the least of your worries really.

Chapter 10 covers the creation of alien species. First the hows and whys of aliens are discussed; what to use, where and why to use them. Some of this is situated in the campaign setting, but there is some good advice here even if you plan on using your own background/campaign or not even have aliens. Plenty of traits are detailed and how they might combine. There are three alien races detailed. Naturally this flows into Chapter 11, Xenobestiary. AKA the Monster Manual. Again we are given a lot of detail on how make alien beasts and then a listing of several samples. Chapter 12 gives us Robots and Mechs. We have various traits detailed and then plenty of samples. Chapter 13 deals with societies. This might have felt better coming after Chapter 8 really. Chapter 14 has designer notes. I nice little treat to be honest. Chapter 15 deals with the Hydra Sector, or the "Known World" of this game. Instead of countries we have planets. Chapter 16 ends the book with scores of random tables. Create just about anything with a few rolls of the dice. There is a nice Index (sadly lacking in many books) and plenty of maps and blank sheets for characters, starships, and adventures.

Stars Without Number is big. It is a vast game with endless possibilities. If there is a sci-fi property out there chances are good that this game will be able to do it.

My only complaint is a non-existent OGL declaration. Can you do a game like this without one? Maybe, but I would not want to. Plus it makes the game's utility a little less for me.

The game is beautiful and there is so much going on with it that it would take me a number of games with it just to get the right feeling for it. The overall feel I get with this game is that it is the perfect child of Basic D&D and Traveller. So much of what made both of those games so great is here.

Is Stars Without Number perfect? No, not really. But it is really, really damn close and even from a short distance I could not tell it apart from a perfect game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Original Free Edition
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Worlds Without Number
by Joshua W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/07/2021 10:11:40

Angel's Citadel has reviewed Worlds Without Number. Go check it out here: https://angelscitadel.com/2021/05/07/review-worlds-without-number/

TL;DR - Highly recommend if you are a fan of fantasy and are looking for a toolbox to help your own game or a solid original world offering with a simple roleplaying system suitable for a sandbox game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
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Worlds Without Number
by Leo R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/30/2021 00:35:01

Kevin has done it again. The Crawfordian take on fantasy sandbox RPG, flexible enough to be applied to a vast amount of genres and playstyles. The mechanics are crisp and concise, being compatible with the B/X editions of D&D, but without the restrictions concerning character concepts. A must read for the working GM, regardless of if they want to run a sandbox or more of a story arch game. If I had to chose only one fantasy rpg book for the rest of my life, it would be this tome.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
by Nicholas H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2021 22:43:30

If you're a GM that needs some help in terms of worldbuilding, this needs to be in your toolbox. Combine this with SWN, you can create REALLY in-depth adventures. Thank you Kevin!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
by Louis P. S. L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/03/2021 05:07:24

Recently DM'ed a couple of one shots for a few friends and I have to say this is one of the most fun RPG systems I have played in a long while. It is super fun for anyone looking into a more sandboxy-style of play.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
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Worlds Without Number
by Marco Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2021 17:09:08

Worlds Without Number is a great system and I am not aware of any other book that is so helpful with worldbuilding. It is definitely worth picking up just for that even if you will be using a different rule system to play in. As for the rules, I really like the mesh of OSR spirit with more modern streamlining. The only thing that annoys me a bit is that the classes in the deluxe version are not simply called Beastmaster or Skinshifter but Llaigisian Beastmaster or Darian Skinshifter. That makes them harder to spot while scanning the contents as I will not play in the Latter Earth and hence not remember where they are from. Also the chapter is called "Arts of the Gyre" which is way more vague than it needed to be. But let us be honest, if this is the most annoying thing in a 400 page long book, that makes it a pretty good book!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
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Worlds Without Number
by Marcus H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/29/2021 09:40:50

For a GM the difficulty of an RPG comes from two primary factors. The first is how difficult the rules are to use and the second is how hard it is to get content to run for the game. Some RPGs provide content in the form of Adventure Paths or published sandbox campaigns. Worlds Without Number attempts to guide the GM into how to create content themselves and will be useful for any GM running a fantasy campaign. Even published adventures expect a certain level of improvisulization and content creation from the GM.

WWN also comes with a complete RPG system. The author has been making and remaking this system since 2010. It is a d20 OSR inspired combat system with a Traveler 2d6 skill system. Characters are defined by their Background, Class, and Foci (feats). Characters are human or human like by default, if their race/species has mechanical significants they can take a foci at level 1 to represent that. There are 22 foci race options. This game is more about the decisions before and setting up a combat than what specific things you do in combat. The rules reflect that. While combat is thin on tactical depth (and therefore runs fast), there is rules for major projects, crafting items, and magical workings along with exploration rules and many foci are specifically about social interation. This is not the kind of RPG where you spend 1-3 hours in a combat each session.

The Deluxe edition increases your class combinations to 81 and includes rules for increasing the baseline power level of your campaign. Heroic characters are more like action heroes than regular skilled people. They take on greater odds with less risk. Legates are high fantasy mythic characters. The Legate rules can be used at the beginning of a campaign or as epic level progression for Heroic or Regular campaigns.

This is one of the best RPGs.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
by Steven Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/23/2021 15:16:00

Elegant and in-depth, WWN's tools and rules have given me a rich world and 3 months (so far!) of dense, terrific weekends. My table found it easy to pick up and intuitive to explore - and I can always stay a step ahead of them with so much sandbox advice inside. No other book has such a rich suite for creating and thinking about content instead of just playing it out.

I can say with certainty this is the definitive system for fantasy roleplay for my table, and I'd recommend it fully to anyone.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
by River R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/22/2021 10:22:45

Worlds Without Number is the latest flagship release from Sine Nomine, a long-awaited fantasy sister to the fantastic Stars Without Number game.

Although on the surface "SWN for fantasy" it might seem like a simple and viable enough product pitch, in truth, Kevin Crawford had quite the challenge ahead of him when writing this - how do you match (let alone surpass) the level of quality people have come to expect out of the Sine Nomine books, and how do you make it a viable alternative over the countless existing fantasy OSR products already out there (given that SWN was at least somewhat unique as a sci-fi offering)?

And yet, the man has once again delivered - clocking in at just shy of 400 pages (and 340-or-so for the free version), WWN is a marvelous book, featuring the familiar, captivating style of writing, clean and functional layout, great art, versatile game rules, and of course, the thing that Mr. Crawford has built his brand on, the Game Master tools and advice.

The first few chapters of the book are distinctly player-facing, covering character creation, equipment, magic and basic game rules - concepts that should be readily familiar to any RPG player (especially those of the D&D or OSR background), though with some interesting twists and clever implementation here and there. While Sine Nomine games are hardly at the forefront of character customization minutia, between the classes themselves, foci, backgrounds and magic traditions, there's enough to cover a broad range of character archetypes, especially if you consider the class options in the back portion of the Deluxe Edition of the book. Not only that, the options are very well balanced against one another, so your mages will never get so out of control that they no longer have a need for other party members, and multiclass adventurers' versatility will only do so much in the face of a dedicated warrior or expert.

Next up is a chapter that covers the game's default setting of the Latter Earth and the region of Gyre, itself set in the unrecognizably far future of the Terran Mandate and Earth as seen in Stars Without Number and Other Dust, evoking fantasy works such as Jack Vance's Dying Earth or the Numenera RPG from Monte Cook - fret not however, the author is very upfront that it is more than okay to disregard it and run the game using something else, be it a world of your own creation (which we'll get to in moment, for that this where the bulk of this book lies) or one brought over from another fantasy RPG entirely. Nonetheless, the presentation of the Gyre and its nations is pretty sharp, and the region supports a variety of classic playstyles and genres, from dungeon-crawling to pulp sword & sorcery to steampunk to court intrigue to domain play, and serves as a solid example of the kind of adventuring and storytelling WWN is built to accomodate.

Finally, we get to the meat and potatoes of Worlds Without Number, the GM's section - covering everything from the basics of creating a campaign and its associated setting, to constructing world facets such as geography, history, nations, societies, governments, religions, locations, creatures and factions - all with state-of-the-art guidelines, advice and rolling tables that people have come to expect from Kevin Crawford. If you liked the huge list of world tags and associated worldbuilding and adventure element ideas in Stars Without Number, there's even more waiting for you here, broken up by category, letting you flesh out adventures and plotlines concerning anything from a wizard's ruined archive to a local religion undergoing an internal schism. And it's not just the ingredients that you get, but solid procedures on how to put them all together into coherent prep that you can bring to a session and run with confidence.

It's also worth pointing out just how considerate Kevin Crawford is of the primary target audience for this book - the GM, a person with limited time, energy and creativity, constantly pointing out how all these tools are best used with clear intent and campaign needs in mind; while it might seem obvious enough, being cognizant of it can tremendously help build good habits and prevent the ever-frustrating situation of spending time and effort on planning an adventure or some section of the world that ends up going to waste.

Of course, being explicitly aimed at sandbox style of play, WWN also comes with systems both player- and GM-facing for facilitating things at a level and scope that goes beyond dungeon- or hexcrawling - with major project rules for players (which might seem familiar to Godbound players, and can be easily backported to SWN with a little tweaking) and the return of the fantastic faction turn, there's plenty to help make the world itself come alive, and allow the players to meaningfully impact it without relying entirely on GM fiat to do so.

Being a Sine Nomine-family OSR game, Worlds Without Number easily lends itself to bringing forth content from games both old and new that fall into those categories with little effort required, be it B/X D&D, Old School Essentials, Stars Without Number or Wolves of God, be they monsters, spells or magic items, though each of these contain additional guidelines and considerations in their respective sections.

Lastly, the Deluxe Edition portion of the book contains additional classes for fulfilling various character concepts (druids, paladins, psions, duelists, etc.), heroic and Legate character rules for enabling even more powerful characters dealing with even greater threats and affairs, and additional Game Master tools concerning Iterums (WWN jargon for any kind of alternate dimension or plane of existence), architecture creation, as well as fractal adventure seeds and other tables for inserting further twists and texture to one's adventures and NPCs.

Overall, the book is simply stellar - the one major overarching issue with it that I have lie in the writing, which does rely on some fantasy tropes that are considered dated in some circles and are rooted in racist and imperialist ideas, with words such as 'savage', 'tribal' and 'primitive' being used pretty liberally, and it's really not a great look, especially in the year 2021 - it's not the absolute worst, but it's not good either, and deserves being pointed out.

I still do highly recommend the book, even if you aren't interested in playing or running WWN itself - you can grab the free version of the book and easily supercharge any fantasy campaign you might find yourself running, and it's very hard to go wrong there.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
by Robert J W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/19/2021 15:26:54

As with every Sine Nomine product, Worlds Without Number focuses overwhelmingly on the person at the session who needs the most support: the Gamemaster. If you embrace its myriad tables, you'll make worlds, adventures, NPCs, and monsters that surprise you, shaking you out of your well-worn habits.

On the player side, you get mix-and-match classes to build a variety of concepts, as well as item crafting, domain management, and long-term project rules that encourage proactivity and ambition. Any game can tell a story about heroes who change the world, but not all of them lay such a clear, enticing trail of systems that empower that sort of play.

The Deluxe Edition adds six extra partial classes (Edit: Five partial and one full class) for more concepts, heroic rules for amped up PCs, and the Legate rules that supercharge your party with a wink-and-nod to fans of Godbound. There are some additional GM tools there too, a few of which give you neat ways to twist or question your content to extract new insights.

Enthusiastically recommended. The free version is more than enough if you're skeptical or price sensitive, and allows every player to have a personal rules reference. But don't sleep on the Deluxe Edition if you like what you see.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
by William C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/19/2021 14:20:49

This book is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Its the perfect bridge between old school essentials and stream lined play. I love it. Its already being used to help flesh out my own fantasy world. What a resource.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
by Benjamin B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/17/2021 14:08:38

This RPG is amazing. Somehow, Kevin Crawford took all that was great about Stars Without Numbers and improved it for a fantasy setting. This is going to become my go-to gaming system.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
by Jonathan K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/17/2021 08:58:03

Worlds without Number serves dual purposes as both an excellent OSR game and a fantastic source of system neutral tools for fantasy games. It does a lot of things well, but most impressive, in my mind, is the way that it handles mages and magic. In WWN, mages get a few, extremely powerful yet unwieldy spells they can cast per day. This means that mages have to be clever and must plan with their team if they wish to get the full value from their powers. Moreover, Warriors and Experts feel great to play as they completely dominate their respective niches. Classes also walk the fine line between having enough features to make them distinct and fun but not so many that the game becomes focused on character building instead of adventure. On the front of Gamemaster tools, the Tags system that Kevin Crawford introduces is brillient. There are hundreds in WWN and all are jam-packed with inspiration and useful information. There are a bunch of other useful tables too. Overall, WWN is one of the best RPGs to launch in recent memory, and I suspect it will become my main RPG for OSR and fantasy gaming.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds Without Number
by Joseph W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/17/2021 06:05:54

KC has hit it out of the park again - fantastic GM tools, simple yet flexible system, and an engaging writing style bring together a fantastic addition to the OSR scene and fantasy RPGs in general!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex of the New Earth: Cult of the Still Lady
by CD F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2021 11:10:00

This is Science Fantasy within the OSR Sci-Fi RPG Stars Without Number. It prefigures his later Codex of the Black Sun which really gets into Space Wizardry. A great antagonist for your players or a great background for a player to use in assembling their character.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex of the New Earth: Cult of the Still Lady
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