Preparing a Short-Term “Stars without Number” Campaign


Preparing a brief Stars without Number: Revised Edition campaign.

update: I ran a few sessions in a new campaign.

Judd Karlman‘s “Daydreaming about Dragons” Episode 24: One GM and One Player struck me like a bolt of lightning. I have often run games for at least 4 players, usually 5, and sometimes 6 or more. Judd talked through the roses and thorns of gaming with a small group. Key was his observation that with a smaller group, you don't need as much time for a meaningful session.

I reached out to my son to see about striking up a game with him. He asked about playing with two other people. I agreed, and we're going to play a month-long Stars without Number: Revised Edition campaign.

In preparation for the winding down of my Tomb of Annihilation campaign, I've explored my “what next” campaigns. Hence my posts Situation Mining: It Begins in Graywall, Guess Who's Coming to Graywall, and my work on gm-notepad and gm-notepad-swn-free dataset.

A few weeks ago, I poked around building out Stars without Number sector. Using swnt command-line tool, I generated a sector. I had previously built a sector using Sectors without Number. I like Sectors without Number, but I find it easy to get lost in the labyrinth of modern web apps. In other words, I prefer my command-line tools.

With a partially fleshed out sector, I'm ready to throw my son and his friends into a campaign. But before we get started, I want to set expectations. I failed to do that when I ran my first Dungeon Crawl Classics game, and it soured the experience for one of the players. *They have since gone on to run lots of Dungeon Crawl Classics games, but only after a conversation.* I ended up writing up the following when I introduce Dungeon Crawl Classics: “We will be playing a Dungeon Crawl Classics character funnel. Each of you will have 4 fragile characters to start. The goal is to make it through the dungeon with at least one of them alive. In campaign play, the survivor(s) would be your character(s) in further adventures. It won’t be easy, and you should think of your characters as pawns. Don’t risk them all at once." Posted initially at Play Through of Nebin Pendlebrook's Perilous Pantry.

Introducing “Stars without Number”

“Stars without Number” builds on the old-school gaming tradition. You'll roll up characters. I'll give you a couple of initial directions you could go. But you make the choices. I won't provide an adventure path to follow, but instead, I expect that you'll go where your interests take you. In other words, you should have an agenda: own a starship, get rich, exhume a lost alien complex, or something else.

“Stars without Number” bakes in the assumption that alien artifacts and pre-apocalypse advanced technology exist. You want something cool? Use your know skill to research, or maybe connect with someone, or hack into some systems with your programming skills. Tell me what you want, and I'll create the adventure that challenges you.

Please understand the dangers of combat. Most weapons deal enough damage to incapacitate a 1st level character in one hit; That's when you start dying. Do some scouting to find a weakness or another way. Get the drop on your opponent and try to force morale checks. And be prepared to retreat. Most of all, do not assume you can beat your opposition. And please make sure you have some lazarus patches before you engage in bloodshed.

Your actions and choices will have consequences (both good and bad). Other factions will be advancing their own agendas off-screen, some may become your allies or enemies, while others carry on as if you didn't exist. And that off-screen could bleed into your screen. Perhaps two factions at war with each other will seek your help? Or maybe one seizes control of a planet that you were looking to explore. I don't know, let's play to find out.

That's my quick pitch for Stars without Number. You may also be interested in my Let's Read “Stars without Number” series.