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Stars Without Number (March 2019)

Stars Without Number (March 2019)

Monday 27 December 2021
In December 2021, as our last offer of the year, we revived the March 2019 Stars Without Number Revised Bundle with the 2017 Revised Edition of Stars Without Number, Kevin Crawford’s sandbox SFRPG from Sine Nomine Publishing.

Stars Without Number is partly inspired by Moldvay-Mentzer B/X D&D, but its support line has evolved to become compatible with, well, everything. Stars champions the Old School Revival tradition of “sandbox” emergent storytelling. In an SWN game there is no campaign arc or storyline. You start with a reasonably detailed world, a group of player characters, and their motivations and ambitions. The campaign consists of what those PCs undertake and how they succeed or fail.

At the end of each session the Gamemaster asks the players what they’re planning next time, then turns to SWN‘s adventure creation templates and cooks up a scenario. Many random tables, world generators, and “tags” make that process so smooth, the PCs can just go, without plot rails. The players bring the goals, and Stars Without Number gives the GM system-free tools to build paths to those goals: worldbuilding resources for planets and star sectors — guns, cyberware, starships, and psionics — adventure seeds and guidelines for integrating them with the worlds — and domain rules for experienced characters who want to set up their own colony, trading business, psychic academy, mercenary band, or (if things have gone well) their own private planet.

Stars Without Number has found a growing community, especially through its popular crowdfunding campaigns — and let’s take a moment to praise Kevin Crawford as a cham-peeeen Kickstarter master. He’s run nine campaigns and delivered every one, get this, every one of them on time or early. It’s because, as Kevin says, “I’ve known when to stop promising and when to start working.”

In an August 2015 RPG.net “Failstarter” forum post Kevin described his step-by-step process, which he called “by no means easy, but conceptually very simple”: Complete the manuscript to final-edit condition, lay it out, and line up artists before launch; offer no physical goods except the book, “and that via at-cost codes from DriveThruRPG and not you personally printing and mailing it”; offer no stretch goals that require further creative work; and spend no funds on anything but project expenses until everything ships.

This “simple” process served Kevin well in the August 2017 Kickstarter for Stars Without Number Revised Edition. Even as its total surpassed his previous campaigns, he showed iron nerve. His final stretch goal: “At $50,000, I will be extremely grateful to you all and have the wisdom to refrain from offering further stretch goals.” The campaign topped out at $192K from 3,143 backers.

The SWN Revised rulebook improves the typography and layout, sharpens character creation to permit more individualized heroes, revamps space combat, and adds 40 new world tags plus tools for transhuman sf campaigns, space-operatic heroes, stellar wizardry, artificial intelligences, and sf society-building. “I have been careful to keep it compatible with the existing material for the game,” says Kevin, “so you should be able to use original-edition supplements with minimal fuss. Rather than changing the bones of the system, I have instead added material to help GMs and entertain players, expanding the scope of the game.”

See for yourself. Following his own example from the first edition, Kevin released a free basic version of SWN Revised on DriveThruRPG. The Deluxe version in this offer adds lots of extra stuff.

Speaking of “extra stuff,” for this revival we brought forward Suns of Gold and Skyward Steel from the original October 2013 SWN Bundle and added them to this lineup. If you purchased this offer during its March 2019 run (as the “More SWN Bundle”), you received both new titles automatically on your Wizard’s Cabinet download page and in your DriveThruRPG Library. When you buy a Bundle of Holding early, you never worry about missing a title added later — even much later.

There were three titles in this revived offer’s Starter Collection (retail value $32) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks, including the complete Stars Without Number Revised rulebook (retail price $20); Sixteen Stars (popular sf scene backdrops); and the SWN Revised GM Screen.

This revival’s Bonus Collection added five more titles worth an additional $48, including the supplement Dead Names: Lost Races and Forgotten Ruins and four system-neutral campaign sourcebooks: Starvation Cheap (ground warfare and mercenary campaigns); Skyward Steel (the Stellar Navy); Suns of Gold (merchants and traders); and Polychrome (cyberpunk).

Ten percent of each payment (after gateway fees) for this Stars Without Number revival was donated to the charity designated by Kevin Crawford, Benzie Food Partners, a food bank serving Kevin’s home county in Honor, Michigan.  

Stars Without Number resources