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Stars Without Number

Publisher Description

The year is 3200 and mankind’s empire lies in ashes.

The Jump Gates fell six hundred years ago, severing the links between the myriad worlds of the human diaspora.


Stars Without Number, Revised Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

As an "old school" RPG, Stars Without Numbers character creation includes a healthy amount of randomness, much of which will be familiar to older Dungeons and Dragons fans.

You begin by rolling 3d6 six times, to generate your six attributes (which are the same as in D&D: Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha).  You can then replace one with a 14, and assign the rolls however you want.  Unlike D&D though, SWN attributes give lower bonuses: an 18 in an attribute only gives a +2 bonus (vs. +4 in D&D), while a 14-17 gives a +1.

Next, you pick your character's background (eg. Criminal, Merchant, Noble, Spacer), which provides a free skill and either a choice of two other skills, or three random rolls (for either skills or attribute increases).  Skills start at level 0, and if a character acquires the same skill twice, they instead gain it at a higher level (with 4 being the highest possible).

After that, you pick a class. There are three core classes to choose from: Experts (who can reroll a failed skill check), Psychics (who gain psychic powers), or Warriors (who can reroll a failed attack).  You can also "multi-class" by choosing a fourth class, Adventurer, which let's you get partial benefits from two of the other classes.

Next character get to pick a Focus, or two if they are an  Expert or Warrior.  Focuses provide a benefit under certain conditions (some combat, some not), similar to feats in Dungeons and Dragons. Most also provide a bonus skill.  For example, the Assassin focus provides the Stealth skill, let's you conceal a weapon under your clothes, and then let's your produce it to make a surprise attack (which can't miss).

Finally you roll your character's hit points and choose their starting equipment.  To determine hit points you roll add your Con modifier, and 2 if you are a Warrior (or Partial Warrior), to a single d6.  This makes starting SWN characters somewhat fragile (just like old school D&D characters).

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

As a skill-based system, whenever a character wishes to accomplish something outside of combat, they must make a skill check.  To do this they roll 2d6, then add their skill level and relevant ability modifier (with unskilled checks suffering a -1 penalty).  If the result is higher than the target number for the task (set by the GM) the action succeeds.

Psychic powers are organized into disciplines (eg. Telepathy, Biosionics), with each discipline having its own associated skill; to trigger them the player must make an appropriate skill check.  Raising a psychic skill to a higher level also unlocks further powers (which vary by discipline).

In another throwback to early Dungeons and Dragons, Stars Without Number also utilizes Saving Throws, only instead of Fortitude/Reflex/Will, SWN has Physical/Evasion/Mental.  Saves are made to avoid damage of a specified type (eg. a Physical save is made when a character is poisoned).  To make a save a player must roll 15 or higher on a d20 (after modifiers, eg. from attributes).

Combat [ edit ]

Similar to Dungeons and Dragons, Stars Without Number organizes combat into 6-second rounds.  However, in SWN initiative is recalculated every round, making for more dynamic fights (but also a bit more work).  Groups that want to keep things simpler can instead opt to have the PC with the highest Dex roll for the entire group, and then the GM does the same with the the highest Dex NPC.

In each round a character can take a single Main action (eg. attack, apply first aid), a single Move action, and any number of "On Turn" actions (eg. dropping something) and "Instant" actions (eg. many psychic powers). To make an attack the player rolls d20, and adds modifiers that are based on their level, weapon skill, and related attribute ... as well as circumstantial modifiers for things like cover. If the result equals or exceeds the target's Armor Class, it hits.

Just as in D&D, on a successful hit a weapon applies its damage (eg. 1d6 for a laser pistol, 2d12 for a Distortion Cannon).  Unlike D&D however, some weapons have "shock damage", which always applies, even if the attack misses.  For instance, a knife automatically deals at least one damage, even on a miss, unless the target has at least 16 AC).

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