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Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
 
$19.99
Average Rating:4.9 / 5
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Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
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Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Chris P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/17/2021 12:06:28

Just finished reading through the revised edition. Very much looking forward to running this for our group. Factions mechanic was a pleasant surprise. The author has done a great job tailoring this product to a sandbox style of play. The random tables are well designed and easy to use. The native setting is interesting and allows for an immense amount of variablility to play the kind of sci-fi game that your group wants. The transhuman chapter is a good example of this with a breakdown between hard and soft campaign options. Very well written and easy to follow. Arrtwork is fantastic.

I paid for the hardcover with premium colour. Printing was great, but there was a problem with the binding where some of the pages at the front of the book were detached. I contacted DriveThruRPG support and provided some pictures. I haven't purchased a lot from the site, and this was my first quality control issue. A replacement book was sent and the binding issue is gone.

Have to say that customer support has turned me into a DriveThruRPG super fan. Top marks for this company. They go the extra mile to ensure that customers are happy.

I've told my group about this title and we are all excited to give it a try. Would absolutely buy this again. Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2021 10:49:09

Originally poster here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/05/review-stars-without-number-revised.html See link for pictures of Print on Demand version.

A few years back I reviewed Kevin Crawford's Star Without Number. At the time I said: 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. Recently I went back over the game and still found it to be nearly perfect. But I had not played it all that much since then.

So on a whim really I picked up the newest Stars Without Number: Revised Edition and I figured I would grab the Print on Demand as well. I just go it in the main this past week.

Wow.

That is really the only way to describe it. Any of the reservations I had about the previous edition evaporated with this edition.

I am considering the PDF and the full-color Print on Demand version.

Written by Kevin Crawford, art by Jeff Brown, Christof Grobelski, Norah Khor, Aaron Lee, Joyce Maureira, Nick Ong, Grzegorz Pedrycz, Tan Ho Sim. And what fantastic art it is too! All pages are full color and each one is evocative and eyecatching. 324 pages.

Chapter 1 covers Character creation. We have seen this all before, but perfect for people new to RPGs or sci-fi fans new to the Classic 6 Attributes and level/class systems. The feel here is solid old-school and SWN:RE wears its old-school and OSR cred proudly. BUT they are also a new game with new design sensibilities. For example, character creation is broken down into easy steps.

You can determine your character's skills (and these can be from a number of sources). There are background packages that can be added to classes to give your character more depth and determine some of their skills. There are also training packages to further define your character.

The classes are the three "archetypes" that you can find in other games, The Expert, The Psychic, and The Warrior. This edition also has The Adventurer which does a little bit of all the above.

Character creation is a breeze and no one seems to die while doing it. There is even a quick character creation method on pages 26-27.

Chapter 2 covers Psionics. Psionics are rather central to the background fiction of the SWN:RE universe, so they get special placement. 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. 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 is the 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 its 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 its use in a variety of situations. What I like about these skills is they are a 2d6 roll resolution system and not a d20. Sure makes it feel a little like Traveller. TRhis chapter also covers all sorts of actions, like combat (regular d20 vs AC here) and Saving Throws; Physical, Evasive, and Mental. Hacking also dealt with here since it is most similar to a skill check.

This also covers Character advancement.

Chapter 4 details all the equipment you will need including the Technology 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 stones all the way up to energy weapons are discussed. AC is now ascending. What is really nice about this game is in addition to lasers, energy swords, and computers it also includes Cyberware, Drones, Vehicles, and "pre-Silence" artifacts.

Chapter 5 gives us Starships. Everything on size, type, and costs to ship-to-ship combat.

Chapter 6 covers the History of Space of the default campaign setting. Even if you don't use it there are some great ideas here.

Chapter 7 is Sector Creation 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 chapter is long, detailed and honestly, it makes me want to create worlds.

Chapter 8 covers Adventure Creation. You have characters, you have created all these worlds. Let's get them together.

Chapter 9 is the Xenobestiary. AKA the Monster Manual. Again we are given a lot of detail on how to make alien beasts and then a listing of several samples. Given the old-school nature of this game you could grab ANY old-school monster book for ideas. Yeah...doing Space Orcs could be boring, but Warhammer 40k has been doing them for so long and if you wanted to do them here, well the rules won't stop you. This chapter also 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.

Chapter 10, 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 11 is Game Master Resources. It talks about character death and when to roll for skills. How to build a galaxy and conversions from First Edition Star Without Number.

Chapter 12 covers newer material, namely Transhuman stories. Or what I call the Altered Carbon chapter. The ability to move on to new bodies.

Chapter 13 has my undivided attention since it is Space Magic. That's right magic and wizards in space. Not psionics, but real arcane magic.

Chapter 14 covers heroic characters. These are not your Traveller grunts or even characters from Star Frontiers, these are your Luke Skywalkers, your Buck Rogers, and more.

Chapter 15 is True Artificial Intelligence.

Chapter 16 covers Societies.

Chapter 17 gives us Mechs.

There is also a fantastic Index (sadly lacking in many books).

SWN:RE ups the game in every possible way over SWN:1st Ed.

Print on Demand

I said this book was gorgeous and I meant it. The print-on-demand copy I got is sturdy and heavy. It is also the closest thing I have seen to offset printing in a POD product. You would have to look hard to tell difference.

I described the previous version as "nearly perfect." Reading through this version I am only left to say that is one pretty much is perfect. It does everything a sci-fi game should. I mentally slot different sci-fi stories, tropes, and ideas in while reading through it and I could not find something that didn't have a fit somewhere.

I have read a lot of sci-fi games this month, but this is one of the very best.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
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
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Forest R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/21/2021 08:30:00

Once again kevin Crawford not only exceeds but blows away all of my expectations. this game and indeed all of his work is impressive. Stars without Number Revised Edition is my "go to" Science Fiction Game. I am waiting to see his next release.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Matthew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2020 16:38:29

What is there to say? A game that does everything that D&D is supposed to do, but better, and makes running sandboxes easy - IN SPACE. I could recount everything that is good about this, one of my favorite RPG systems, but I feel like it's praised endlessly by everyone who plays it, and I'd just be a broken record.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Spencer C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/30/2020 14:48:14

Been playing RPGs for 36 years including many, now, classic space faring games. This is the best I've encountered. Both to run and play. The rules are straightforward and clear to understand. You can teach a group in a single sitting all they really need to know to get going. Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Alessandro F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/09/2020 14:45:49

A very well written sci-fi rpg which is rich in content and game master resources. Its strength is flexibility, you could easily adapt the system to any kind of setting and it would work just fine. Character creation may feel a little bit shallow, but it still manages to be just enough for making a lot of concepts work.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Lucas D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/22/2020 05:32:50

What's there to say that others haven't already? It's a well designed game coupled with straight up amazing GM tools. The revised edition only improves upon the already great core.

The on-foot stuff is solid, if nothing special. It's what you would expect from OSR-in-space. The combat is brief and deadly, and best avoided or circumvented somehow. Psykers are pretty cool. The lethality won't work for every group, but the provided "heroic" rules tone it down, while still keeping things quite deadly.

I'm yet to find better mechanics for space combat. SWN gives everyone something to do, and and makes spaceship combat a genuinely tactical and cooperative experience.

Overall - worth getting, and a steal at this price. It's very suitable for sandboxy, exploration campaigns, and even if you decide to use a different system, the stellar system generation tools will still be useful.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Scott S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/29/2020 06:30:33

SWN is my favorite RPG system. It's flexible to be used for any Sci-fi setting or amalgamation of settings. I've ran it off and on for years and now with the pandemic, my group is playing the system via Roll20. There is a great deal of community support for the product line as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Anthony L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/04/2020 19:51:28

//BLUF: Stars Without Number: Revised Edition is an elegant and straightforward RPG complete with outstanding GM tools and exceptional flexibility. I highly recommend it. The Deluxe printed version would be well-worth the price even if it didn't include the excellent bonus material.//

Kevin Crawford's Stars Without Number: Revised Edition is, in a word, elegant. The presentation is straightforward and clear. The systems are robust yet simple and easy to learn for those familiar with D&D 5e. Kevin's GM advice is actually helpful, assisted by extensive roll tables that reduce the stress and burnout of GM prep. Topics are thoughfully organized and laid out in sections that begin and end on the top and bottom of the page (or the adjacent page);-- I can only imagine how difficult that must have been to organize and edit, but it is much more pleasant to read and reference than the other RPGs I have. Whenever I read this book, it's almost like I can hear Radiohead's "Everything In It's Right Place" playing in my head. (OK not really but you get my point.)

I'll highlight a few of SWN's best features (Caveat: I haven't GM'd SWN yet. Not for lack of trying. Probably won't get to until my group's Shadowrun 4e and D&D 5e campaigns end):

  • System: This is my first OSR game. I've played and/or GM'd D&D 5e and Shadownrun 4e (yuck). SWN uses the swingy D20 (+ attack bonus) for combat and more reliable 2D6 (+SKILL) for skill checks. I suspect this will help establish how dangerous and unpredictable combat can be while mitigating D&D's most annoying problem: highly specialized characters failing D20 skill checks that they're supposed to be good at. There's also no advantage/disadvantage mechanic (in the rampant D&D way), which I think is too impactful on success/fail probabilities for how common it comes up. In other words, SWN is similar enough to other systems to be quickly learned while avoiding some of other systems' pitfalls.
  • Classes / Character Creation: The D&D crowd has a Pavlovian response to teased classes and sub-classes. Who am I to judge?-- I've have like 7 D&D books. For what it's worth, Kevin's character classes are comparatively lean, and, as a GM and player, I think I will like this change of pace. Though it's too early to tell, I suspect there will be less pressure to min-max. Psionic abilities seem more balanced to me (excepting perhaps telekinesis, which seems underpowered). Maybe the game will feel less like a puzzle to solve (mechanically) and more like a RPG? Again, too early to tell and obviously group dependent. Kevin's character creation guide is easy to follow and should be pretty easy to explain to people.
  • GM Tools: If you've read anything about this book, you know how good the GM roll tables are. Since OSR RPG worlds don't revolve around the player characters, the GM doesn't have to fiddle with enounter difficulty and challenge ratings (which I really found tedious about DMing D&D 5e). 'Nuff said.
  • Faction System: People really like the faction system as a way of animating the major organizations in your sector. Perhaps they are on to something. To be honest, I can't tell whether I'll like it until I try it out (hopefully soon). It's not really like anything I've tried before as a GM. Seems interesting though.
  • Flexibility: The Deluxe edition has transhumanism, space magic, and mechs along with all the free edition content (drones, ship combat, hacking, etc.). If there's a sci-fi trope or setting you want to try, it's probably in this book in one way or another. You can have a hacker in your party without it feeling like he/she is playing a totally different game from everyone else.

If it helps characterize how I feel about this book, I read the free PDF edition first and bought the Deluxe POD version just to support the creator, even though I don't see myself running a transhuman or space magic campaign (some the unique Deluxe content) anytime soon.

One comment on the POD version. My copy arrived in excellent condition (at least as well as RPG books ever do). The binding seems strong although I'm not sure how well it will hold up to abuse (it's in that gray zone where I'm just not sure how it will hold up-- could be no problem at all). My only minor complaint about the Deluxe POD version is that the margins on the outside of the page should probably be smaller so there's more space for text on the inside of the page. As it stands now, the text on the inside of the page curves towards the binding. It's totally readable and nothing is cut-off, but it is annoying and seems like something easy to fix.

If you're reading this, Kevin, write more adventure modules for SWN! Hard Light is awesome and I'm lazy. Cue the 'take my money' meme.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Jason D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/12/2020 09:54:09

I am typically not a huge fan of OSR rulesets, but I will say SWN defies that genre and comes up with something familiar yet unique. For sandbox sci-fi RPGs, Stars Without Number ranks at the top or very nearly so. 100% recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Glenn H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/18/2020 13:08:07

Updated:
I'm leaving my original review below because i think by leaving it, along with the resolution helps highlight DriveThru's great service. After leaving my original review, I opened a ticket with DriveThru and provided a picture of the binding on the copy I had received. They responded within an hour, and with no questions asked, indicated that they would send a replacement. I just received the replacement, and the quality of the binding is much better, it's nice and tight without any gaps or looseness. I'm much happier with this copy. Still a tiny bit steep for a book, but I've really wanted this one for a while.

Original review: I had this on my wishlist for a long time before finally buying it because, let's be honest, $79.99 is really expensive for a book. But I liked what I saw in the free version, and I really prefer physical books to electronic versions. But I am really disappointed in the binding job. I'm torn about leaving a bad review. The game and the book's content both merit a 5-star review. However, the binding job on this book I'd consider subpar for a $29.99 book, let alone $79.99. I've ordered a handful or so print on demand books from DriveThru and from LuLu, and I feel I've been happy with most of those. But this was really bad. I doubt the binding is going to hold up for a single read through, let alone the wear and tear from travelling and use during gaming sessions.

If you're contemplating this, and you're buying the PDF, go for it. It's a terrific game, and the content and layout is superb. But I'd strongly advise steering clear of the $79.99 version.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Philip M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/05/2019 11:20:23

I think any RPG can be graded on its a) mechanics, b) setting, and c) utility and SWN Revised delivers each.

MECHANICS: Straight forward. Simple enough to grasp and run with them at the table, but complex enough to have variety and tactical opportunities. The skill system is spot on for me (this revised edition has fewer skills) in terms of how it works (roll 2d6 + mods) and what experts look like (roll 3 or 4d6 and take the 2 highest.) Character design has enough choice within it that you can create a unique person with choices that matter at the table. Retaining the d20 in combat is brilliant - making those moments of high drama more statistically "swingy." Best space combat I've seen and solid psionics rules as well. LOVE the advancement system. I also love how attributes are far less important than in say D&D5E.

SETTING: A+ This is the sci fi game I want to play. The motivation to get credits is crystal clear and tangible: upgrade and maintain your ship. The fallen disaspora of humanity is a wonderful backdrop - re-discovering mankinds lost empire and plundering it for tech works great. The scarcity effecting most systems is drama-inducing and I've yet to see a player not almost instantly get it and fall into the groove of things. I can't do it justice - worth a read.

UTILITY: Goes above and beyond. So many generator charts for plots, names, personalities, planets... amazing advice for GMs. Clearly and entertainingly presented. This cannot be overstated - the design and presentation of this material is... and I do not use this word lightly... perfect. This is a game that puts the GM and players first - calling out what is intended and then how you can hack it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Michael C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/22/2019 08:38:37

This is the single best Sci-Fi system I've ever read. It successfully bolts together D&D 3d6 characteristics and d20 combat with Traveller's skill system. The real killer feature is the extensive, yet approachable set of "generators" that allow you as a GM to "wing it" and generate planets etc. quickly on the fly. The Faction system (a metagame used to generate realistic plot hooks) is stunning in it's depth and simplicity and is usable in any sci-fi rpg - worth the entrance fee for that alone.

The best bit is, there are many different supplements focussing on different types of campaign so you only need to pay for the ones that inspire you or your players. Spies, merchants, mercenaries, naval ships on a "five year mission" - all are possible, and one reasonably priced supplement away. Even Magic rules can be added in if you want to go full "Starfinder" or "Warhammer 40,000".

The starship mechanics and skill system are compatible enough with Traveller's (without copying them) to allow you to easily play SWN in the Third Imperium searching for "Twilight's Peak" - if that's what you want.

Wonderful job Kevin. I cannot recommend this higher.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Zach B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/11/2019 20:48:07

I love this game. Here are a few reasons:

  • I love OSR (Old School Renaissance) games, but my players are used to more modern games where characters have options to customize with mechanics. SWN manages to be firmly OSR (rulings not rules, deadly combat, emphasis on creative solutions, yada yada) but gives players just enough options to scratch that itch.
  • The GM Tools are awesome
  • Easy to prep! I LOVE prepping SWN sessions; the tables provide so much inspiration. And if you need to improv on the spot, it's SO EASY to create an NPC stat block and the encounter tables are easy to use on the fly.
  • Easy to get this game to the table when I can just send my players a link to the FREE rules.
  • Rules-light (OSR FTW), but has enough (easy to understand) systems so you feel covered when a player tries one of the more common SciFi tropes (hacking, space combat, modding guns, adding cyberware, etc)
  • Easy to house rule
  • A lot of supplemental material to build on
  • Compatible with a number of OSR content: re-flavor your favourite B/X dungeon when your players unexpectedly decide to explore those alien ruins.
  • Built to run sandboxes, and run them well (but, of course, you could totally run a more "linear" game very easily)
  • This has more to do with sandbox style, but, as the GM, I am just as surprised and delighted as the players by what each new session reveals about the Sector, its planets, and the people (and aliens) that inhabit it.

The "base" game is great for debt runner, space opera, hard scifi, gritty scifi, etc. It has a section for running heroic scifi, transhuman campaigns, or science fantasy (check out "The Codex of the Black Sun" for magic and magic classes). If you're a GM, get this game just for the system neutral tools.

Again, I love the OSR, and this game captures the OSR spirit while not feeling like just a B/X retroclone. It has a number of modern touches that make it appeal to players that want character mechanics, skill checks, and a clear resolution mechanic. For the GM, it makes it super easy to create interesting situations for our players to stride, stumble, and bumble into; and its systems give you a nice backstop to referee from, but not so much that you're prevented from making rulings or keeping the fiction flowing.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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