Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Stars Without Number Revised Edition initial impressions

 Back in 2017, Kevin Crawford of Sine Nomine Publishing put out a revised version of Stars Without Number. I hadn't played SWN since Justin's old Panoply Sector game (which he ran at the tail end of his Vaults of Ur campaign), so I never checked out the revised version until just recently. I got invited to a play-by-post game using SWN Revised, so downloaded the free version from DriveThru and made a character (actually remade my old PC from Justin's game, Dr. Zoltana, xenoarchaeologist). 

So I've really only looked through the game enough to make my character. This is not a full review. Just some initial impressions. 

SWN Revised keeps the basic chassis of SWN. It's pretty much BX D&D for characters and combat, but with a 2d6 resolution skill system tacked on. And lots of sci fi tech. 

The revision does a few things that impressed me. There's a new fourth character class, the Adventurer. An adventurer combines half of two of the other classes. So you can be part Warrior, part Expert (as I made Zoltana), part Warrior, part Psychic, or part Expert, part Psychic. 

Backgrounds seem pretty similar to what I remember, giving you some extra skills related to your training outside of your class. And if you risk it and get lucky, it can also boost your ability scores. Each background provides 1 skill for free, and you can either choose two more from a small selection of skills, or roll three times on the skill list or the Growth Table which have chances for +1 to any stat of your choice, +2 to a physical stat, or +2 to a mental stat, a set skill, or a skill of your choice.

There are focuses (foci as Crawford calls them) which are like 3E feats, with two tiers. They provide a lot of customization options for characters, and aren't overly complex in implementation. Many also provide a level in a skill.

But so far, the most impressive improvement to the rules has been how Crawford redesigned the skills. In SWN-R, each skill's name is a simple verb. And they cover a wide area, and different ability modifiers can be added depending on the situation (much like 5E's often ignored rule on skill/tool use rolls). The combat skills (shoot, punch, stab) add to d20 rolls to hit in combat, but can also be used with the normal 2d6 in other non-combat situations. Exert, the general physical/athletics skill, can also be used in combat for throwing attacks or I assume wrestling and the like. 

So far, I'm liking what's been done to the rules. It feels more streamlined, and even more customizable to fit nearly any character concept.


  1. It is a great game. I had a blast running a rev. SWN Campaign.

  2. Looks pretty good so far. The other new player and I have come to agreement with the existing players of how we joined their crew, but the GM hasn't kicked us off yet.

    The original edition was a blast to play, so I'm expecting a good campaign. I've been in the ref's PbP 5E game for a few years now and it's a lot of fun.