Stars Without Number: Characters & Not A Review

Wherein your humble scribe presents a group of characters for Stars Without Number. These characters are all 1st level, were granted maximum HP, and have a bare minimum of equipment. They were all created by the book, with 3d6 for stats, more often than not in order.

What do a mercenary, a con artist, and a psychic healer have in common? Wanderlust and an eye for adventure, that’s what! All natives of Bragan IX, this group of old friends have returned to their homeworld for a reunion of sorts, and thus reunited seek their fortunes in limitless space.

Kara Starr / Human Warrior (Soldier/Mercenary) 1
STR 15 INT 9 WIS 12 DEX 14 CON 11 CHR 8
HP 8 AC 4 Credits 150
Business-0, Combat/Projectile Weapons-1, Combat/Unarmed-1, Culture/Bragan IX-0, Culture/Traveller-0, Tactics-1
Woven Body Armor, Revolver, SMG

Delfino Mars / Human Expert (Con Artist/Criminal) 1
STR 8 INT 14 WIS 12 DEX 13 CON 10 CHR 17
HP 6 AC 5 Credits 415
Business-0, Combat/Primitive-0, Culture/Criminal-1, Culture/Bragan IX-0, Gambling-0, Perception-0, Persuade-1, Security-0, Stealth-1
Woven Body Armor, Semi-Auto Pistol, Knife (2)

Vance Di Coromere / Human Psychic (Noble/Healer) 1
STR 6 INT 14 WIS 18 DEX 14 CON 14 CHR 13
HP 4 AC 4 Credits 325
Combat/Primitive-0, Culture/Bragan IX-0, Culture/Traveller-0, Leadership-0, Perception-0, Persuade-0, Tech/Psitech-0, Tech/Medical-0
Psychic Powers: Biopsionics-1 (Primary), Telepathy-1 (Secondary)
Psi Power Points: 3
Woven Body Armor, Sword, Knife, Lazarus Patch (5)

Definitely Not A Review

This is not a review of Stars Without Number, but I thought I’d make a few points.

  • Character creation is pretty darn fast in SWN, despite the handful of extra steps that it adds to the classic D&D-style process.
  • Character creation is decidedly not random, at least not in comparison to Traveller. You’re pretty much in control of who you’re going to play here. Whether this is a good thing or not depends on what you want from your RPG experience.
  • I’m not entirely sure why I’d play SWN instead of Traveller, but the game seems quite solid on my brief skimming of the rules.
  • That said, I find myself oddly ill-at-ease with the two distinct task resolution systems present in the game. I’m not a “one task system or die!” kind of guy, but having a d20 system for combat (and the similar, but not exactly so D&D-style saving throws) and a 2d6 system for skills – where both are modified by the same numbers (skill levels, attribute bonuses) feels off to me. I’m sure it works fine in play, but it’s not quite copacetic in my head. I really don’t know why this bothers me. It might just be something in the air.
  • I haven’t read the Faction rules yet, and those may well be the thing that makes SWN preferable to Traveller for some purposes and playstyles.
  • The plethora of random tables makes SWN worth downloading regardless of anything else.

In the end, Stars Without Number seems like an interesting blend of D&D and Traveller. And though in my mind it doesn’t replace Traveller, I can see where it would have significant appeal for anyone already familiar with old school D&D (or any of the retroclones thereof) who either didn’t have access to, or didn’t have interest in, the big daddy of scifi games. If that’s you, this may be the game for you. And if not, it’s still worth the bandwidth to download.

Print Friendly

0 thoughts on “Stars Without Number: Characters & Not A Review

  1. G-Man

    I checked out the download. Really liked the “Veteran’s Luck” ability for the warrior class. Not sure I’ve seen something like that before.

    What was your opinion of the planetary generation system?

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      I liked “Veteran’s Luck” as well. It and the “Like A Charm” special ability that Experts get are nice little “replacements” for Psi powers. It seems like a good way to handle such things.

      The planetary generation system is interesting. It’s very Traveller, without the different aspects directly affecting one another. It’s faster that way, but I’m afraid it might lead to some less believable worlds (e.g., a world with a highly corrosive atmosphere that still has a huge population). Still, reconciling those kind of unlikely worlds can be a lot of fun. And, of course, the author addresses this right there in the text, so it’s not like it’s an unacknowledged weakness.

      I really like the “world tag” part, though (even though there’s a typo that tells you to roll percentile dice when the tables themselves are set up for a 1d6/1d10 approach). The tags provide a nice push towards making each world more than just a UPP 🙂

      Now I’ll throw the same question back to you, G-Man. What did you think of the world generation stuff?

      1. G-man

        Well, I was always a fan of the Traveller approach wherein characteristics (like atmosphere) influence other characteristics (like population), which influence Law Level, etc.

        The SWN approach, however, has a cool ‘pulp’ feel with such interesting tidbits as ‘zombies’ and ‘floating cities’ to further flesh out your planets. One side note: the chances of having a breathable atmosphere on your ‘planet of interest’ are pretty damn high–again, adding more of a ‘pulp’ feel, but moving less away from the scientific.

        1. the venomous pao Post author

          You know, I think you may have just flipped the light switch for me, G-Man, by pointing out the pulp factor in SWN. I think I was reading it too much as a Traveller game and not enough as a pulp game and that was what was holding me back.

          I cut my teeth on “the Traveller way” and always enjoyed the logic in those world design rules. They made sense and all. But the pulp feel in SWN is a nice touch. I’ll keep that spirit in my head as I look through the game more.

          Thanks, amigo!

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      You’re more than welcome. And do let me say that I deeply respect the work that went into SWN. It’s a very impressive package that I think (despite any sense to the contrary in the main post) is an excellent addition to the SFRPG canon. And though I don’t see it replacing Traveller for lil’ ol’ grognard me, I do hope to give it a spin at some point. Cheers to you for making it available to us silly geeks! 🙂