Saturday, August 10, 2013

Brief Review of Stars Without Number Supplements, etc.

I took advantage of the "Christmas in July" sale at RPGNow, probably spending a bit more money than I probably should have. But, hey, it's a sale, right? The more you spend the more you save! I'll keep telling myself that, at least.

In any case, I finally picked up the print version of Sine Nomine Publishing's Stars Without Number Core Edition, which I've wanted for some time, but I also purchased two supplements: Skyward Steel and Suns of Gold. Skyward Steel provides additional rules and setting information for interstellar naval campaigns, and Suns of Gold does the same, but for merchant campaigns.

These slim volumes are supplemental to Stars Without Number, and provide a ton of content despite a relatively low page count. In each case,, as with Stars Without Number, there are a ton of useful tables to help the GM put together a campaign relatively quickly. Each also provides the same post-apocalyptic setting/history set forth in the core game, but from the perspective of its particular focus. What happened to space navies, and what happened to interstellar trade?

I must note, here, that (once again) +Kevin Crawford's work on these books is really amazing. I am especially impressed by his advice for developing campaigns in particular genres. For example, a merchant campaign could take on a "space truckers" theme, with players navigating between star systems, moving cargo, passengers, and the like, legally or not, always chasing the next cargo and the next payoff. Crawford describes it this way:

One of the most popular forms of merchant campaign is the classic “space trucker” model, where the PCs are just small traders trying to make a living carrying goods from world to world. They may not even own their own spaceship and might be constantly pressed to make enough money to pay off the loan installments. They may strike it rich on a deal now and then, but the money usually slips through their hands without fundamentally changing their lives. (Suns of Gold, p. 56)

This makes me think about Firefly, about the Millennium Falcon, and, sadly enough, about BJ and the Bear and various iterations of Smoky and the Bandit. That would be a weird mashup, to be sure, but fun.

What strikes me most about what follows is how well the author seems to understand the sorts of situations and choices that will confront the players and GM of such a campaign. He suggests what might happen, and what the players might want as the campaign develops, and how, mechanically, the GM can deal with the evolving situation. His advice is useful and easy to read, and, as is the case with the rest of this line of products (from what I've seen, at least) Crawford has a very detailed but flexible vision. The implied setting is well-developed and interesting, but you needed feel tied to it. And these supplements just provide new ways to express your own interests, and a few rules/mechanics to manage the particular focus of the campaign. They are not stand-alone systems, but bolt-on modules to be attached to the SWN Core rules.

If you haven't checked out Stars Without Number, you should. It's a neat system. I especially like the 2d6 skills mechanic. The PDFs are relatively cheap, and the POD versions are nice looking. I enjoy having them at hand, and not just on-screen. These supplements to SWN are useful additions, and provide a lot of flexibility for GMs who are trying to put together their own space-based campaigns. There also are supplements for cyberpunk (Polychrome) and espionage (Darkness Visible), for anyone interested in adding those sort of things to their campaigns. I've also noticed that Sine Nomine has a metric fuckton of free campaign materials, including adventures, up on the RPGNow site. So, picking up SWN or Other Dust or whatever other game you might want to play means you also will be able to get additional, useful materials, right away and at no additional cost. As an added bonus, Stars Without Number also has a free version, so you don't even need to purchase the core book to play it. Nice!

So, if you haven't done so, pick up some stuff from Sine Nomine. I don't think you'll be disappointed. The products of of good quality and good value.

Oh, and another cool thing: I also picked up a hardcopy of Nova Praxis, a FATE-system-based game which I reviewed in an earlier blog post. The physical book is very nice. I'm one of those very few people who doesn't own an iPad, it seems, so I appreciate having the print edition. It's just as pretty as the enhanced PDF, but with the added bonus of me not having to sit at my computer or laptop in order to read it. I even picked up an extra, to pass along to a friend. It's not cheap, mind you, but it's very, very nice.

Just to be clear, I've been doing a few reviews on this blog, but I never seem to say that anything sucks, and that you shouldn't buy it. At some point, I suppose I'll post a negative review of something. So far, though, it seems like I'm buying things that I like, so it's pretty difficult to accomplish.