Arcane Game Lore

Game continuity is key.

Stars Without Number, without comparison

In the course of producing a quarterly sci-fi fan magazine ( ) myself and another editor discussed doing some conversion articles. In the first year of publication the magazine was pretty much dedicated to our favorite Sci Fi RPG even though we do not intend for it to be exclusive to one game mechanic. It was suggested by Tom that we clean up a series of blog posts where the blogger had kit bashed a conversion of D&D 4.0 to the Star Frontiers setting. This would have had a lot of positives: the D20 mechanics remain the 900 lb. gorilla in the RPG market, D&D 4.0 is owned by the people that licensed us and encouraging use of their system couldn’t hurt, and D20 mechanics at the base of D&D 4.0 are immensely popular. The downside side is that it was looking like I was going to be the one to spearhead the conversion efforts and I’ve grown to hate D20 and D&D 4.0 has its critics and its looking to become unsupported by Wizards as they move toward a 5th edition with D&D Next. I bit the bullet and dove into the 4.0 conversion material since I owned many of the 4.0 rule books and had played that edition of the game. It didn’t take long before I came to the conclusion that the work to do a D&D 4.0 conversion would be too complicated and was not really worth pursuing. The truth is that the original blogger who had begun the conversion had gone in directions with it that I felt required complete rewrites and I was not that interested in completely rewriting from the ground up for a system I no longer liked.

Enter Stars Without Number. About the time I came to the conclusion that I would not pursue a 4.0 conversion of STar Frontiers someone recommended Star Without Number to me. What surprised me is that I fell in love with this system when I actually don’t like D20 mechanics. Stars Without Number is a retro clone of Basic and Expert D&D re-skinned for Sci fi. As a document the rule book is geared toward sand box style gaming and because of this it has a lot of support material for game masters. It’s offered as a free edition and a pay edition. The free edition is a complete game and can be played once download. The rule set seems to be well supported with several other campaign books and some modules. Some of the support material is free and some must be purchased.

The differences between the free and for profit editions is the free edition lacks robots and mecha rules, otherwise you get everything else. Robots can be ignored to try out the game and not everyone has a taste for mecha in their game. One major plus is that the core rule book (both free and for profit) includes the space ship rules, in fact the space ships are an extension of the player character equipment list not a separate section altogether. Building a ship is simple and straight forward and star ship combat is handled in the same way as a gun fight or hand to hand melee.

The real value of the rule book is all the support material for running a sandbox style game. Even if your style is not sand box all of those tables and charts are of great value to any GM. Particularly the rules for simulating organizations and governments in the setting in a living and evolving way.

Having worked on converting it to the Star Frontiers setting I gained a deep appreciation for this rule system and have dropped the money for more of its support material. Look for a series of articles converting the Star Frontiers setting to the Stars Without Number rules in issues of The Frontier Explorer beginning in the Fall of 2013.


Categorised as: General

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