Jun 27, 2018
After we returned to Earth from our trip amongst Stars Without Number, we sat down and discussed our feelings about the game. Read on to see whether Stars Without Number is the system for you to use in your next campaign!
One of the strengths of Stars Without Number is its robust galaxy creation system, which allows you to roll dice to determine where stars fall on a galaxy map, what a planet is like, and what goals and quests for the group are to be offered. We recommend Stars Without Number as a great GM’s tool, even if you don’t want to play the system. The randomization has the capability to produce, well, stars without number (and planets and people). There are also add-ons that we didn’t get to explore including things like transhumanism, AI and alien characters, and even adding magic to your sci-fi world. It truly is an old school treasure box of an RPG.
One of the faults of the randomized/ multi-quest options, was Marquez not realizing that the stakes of one of the missions was a lot more in line with the players sensibilities. Though there are opportunities for many different adventure options at the same time, maybe stick with one for a short form game like the one we played. But all missions that were rolled randomly were certainly interesting and compelling. The open world nature feels more attuned to long term play with friends.
The game tends to be about exploratory adventures rather than story-based adventures. If you want to visit weird worlds and meet interesting people who need help, this game is definitely for you. The options can seem a little daunting, but that’s all a part of the adventure.
We also found that the game has a steep difficulty curve for players. The monster statistics aren’t geared to player level, but instead remain the same no matter what the level of the characters. This provided an interesting playstyle but a consistently difficult one. This also makes the choice to avoid combat more of a valid decision for a party to make, unlike other games. It also makes death very easy, especially at lower levels. We eased up on that rule a little for narrative sake, and because we felt that the hardcore nature of the game wasn’t our style, but it definitely is worth exploring. The tone of the game-- being in a meat grinder of a world where you can die easily and you aren’t big time adventurers-- is super cool. Some of us weren’t about that, but Sally especially was excited because she felt it made every choice important and gave it weight.
Character creation was easy when provided with a guide, which the book handily does. The psychic class proved a little difficult because there are additional rules to go through. Your character having a background and a focus instead of a subclass allows you more variety in character creation, showcasing different personalities. A smoother multiclassing option opens up even more possibilities and was also much loved. The idea that a skill of 0 is required not to have a negative modifier makes sense, though is not inherently intuitive in play, especially in conversation with other similar, skill based RPG systems. It should also be mentioned the Tabletop Potluck crew were all very confused about how rolling HP works when you level up.
Ultimately, we here at Tabletop Potluck loved Stars Without Number, and recommend it if you want to go exploring in space. The full rules are available online for free here:
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/230009/Stars-Without-Number-Revised-Edition-Free-Version. Stay tuned listeners, for our next arc Bedlam Hall!