Tweaks in “Worlds without Number” to the “Stars without Number” Engine

Refinements to the Sine Nomine engine

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A red-caped figure, with spear in hand and back facing the viewer, stands on a tower.  The figure looks upon a waterfall and stone citadel.
“Worlds without Number: A Role Playing Game by Kevin Crawford” beta 0.18 cover image

I’ve been digging through Worlds without Number and there are changes that might make sense to port to Stars without Number: Revised Edition .

There’s an expected change in the skill list; The Worlds without Number skill list is more of a fantasy flavor.

There’s also a change to the Warrior that reflects characters not having access to higher tech and higher damage weapons. Class Ability: Killing Blow Whenever a Warrior inflicts damage with any attack, spell, or special ability they may add half their character level, rounded up, to the damage done. This damage is also added to any Shock they may inflict. I wonder if this is something to add to base SWN 📖 ?

On a quick read through, WWN 📖 includes three areas of change:

Worlds without Number has a plethora of new classes, both partial and full. There’s also a treasure trove of tables and procedures to help flesh out a Referee’s game. Both of those are beyond the scope of this blog post.

Foci

WWN adds a few Foci that I think are ready to port over to SWN .

Dealmaker

You have an uncanny ability to sniff out traders and find good deals, licit or otherwise. Even those who might not normally be disposed to bargain with you can sometimes be persuaded to pause and negotiate, if you have something they want.

Level 1: Gain Trade as a bonus skill. With a half hour of effort you can find a buyer or seller for any good or service that can be traded in the community, legal or otherwise. Finding a marginally possible service, like an assassin willing and able to target a king, or some specific precious ancient artifact, may require an adventure if the GM allows it at all.

Level 2: Once per session, target a sentient who is not just then trying to kill you or your allies and make a request of it that it can comprehend. If it’s at all plausible for it to make such terms, it will do so for a price or favor it thinks you can grant, though the price for significant favors might be dear.

Worlds without Number (Beta 0.18) p24

Developed Attribute

Your hero has a remarkable degree of development to one or more of their attributes. This may be derived from an eldritch bloodline, native brilliance, or sheer, stubborn determination. This Focus cannot be taken by heroes with the Mage or Partial Mage classes.

Level 1: Choose an attribute; its modifier is increased by +1, up to a maximum of +3. The actual score does not change, but the modifier increases, and may increase again if later advancement improves the attribute enough. You can choose this Focus more than once to improve different attributes.

Worlds without Number (Beta 0.18) p24

Impostor

You are exceedingly skilled at presenting yourself as something you are not, including disguises, voice mimicry, and lightning-fast wardrobe changes. Some impostors rely on the acting skills of Perform, while others lean more to the nefarious tricks of Sneak.

Level 1: Gain Perform or Sneak as a bonus skill. Once per scene, reroll any failed skill check or saving throw related to maintaining an imposture or disguise. Create one false identity of no great social importance; you can flawlessly pretend to be that person, such that only extremely persuasive proof can connect you with it. You can change this identity with a week’s worth of effort in building a new one.

Level 2: You can alter your clothing and armor such that a single Main Action lets you swap between any of three chosen appearances. In addition to your original false identity, you can establish a new false identity in each city or significant community you spend at least a week in.

Worlds without Number (Beta 0.18) p25

Lucky

Some fund of remarkable luck has preserved your life at least once in the past, and continues to give you an edge in otherwise hopeless situations. This luck does not favor the already-blessed; this Focus can only be taken by a PC with at least one attribute modifier of -1 or less.

Level 1: Once per week, a blow or effect that would otherwise have killed, mortally wounded, or rendered helpless the PC somehow fails to connect or affect them. The PC makes any rolls related to games of chance twice, taking the better roll.

Level 2: Once per session, in a situation of need or peril, the PC can trust to their luck and roll 1d6. On a 2 or more, something fortunate will happen to further their goal, provide an escape from immediate peril, or otherwise give them an advantage they need, if not immediate victory. On a 1, the situation will immediately grow much worse, as the GM sees fit.

Worlds without Number (Beta 0.18) p25

Polymath

You have a passing acquaintance with a vast variety of practical skills and pastimes. Note that the phantom skill levels granted by this Focus don’t stack with normal skill levels or give a skill purchase discount.

Level 1: Gain any one bonus skill. You never take the -1 penalty for attempting a skill check untrained, and you can attempt even those skills that would be impossible for an untutored person to essay. You never suffer the -2 hit penalty for lacking an appropriate combat skill.

Level 2: Once per day, you can remember some trick relevant to the task you are attempting, allowing you to roll a check as if you had level-2 skill in it.

Worlds without Number (Beta 0.18) p25

In addtion to the above Foci, there’s also Nullifier, Poisoner, Rider, Spirit Familiar, Trapmaster, Valiant Defender, Wayfinder, and Whirlwind Assault. Some of the Foci reskin SWN foci.

Combat

WWN adds two notable actions:

Shatter a Shield (Main Action)

To shatter a shield, the attacker must be using an axe, a mace, a Focus-improved unarmed attack, or some other crushing or hewing attack. The maneuver requires a suc- cessful hit roll and then an opposed Str/Stab skill check between the attacker and the defender, with the defender gaining a +1 bonus on their check. No damage is done, but if the attacker wins then the shield will be broken. Magical shields cannot be broken this way. Patching a damaged shield takes a scene’s work and Craft-0 skill.

Worlds without Number (Beta 0.18) p44

Screen an Ally (Move Action)

The PC physically blocks opponents from attacking a chosen ally who is within ten feet. Until the PC’s next turn, enemies who wish to make a melee or ranged attack against the screened ally must succeed in a successful Str or Dex-based opposed skill check against the PC using the combat skill applicable to their weapon; on a failure, the attack roll is automatically directed toward the screening PC, who ends up adjacent to their ally.

A PC can screen against a number of attackers in one round equal to their combat skill; thus, Stab-2 lets them block two attackers. PCs with level-0 or worse combat skills can’t effectively screen. Multiple PCs can try to screen the same ally; in such a case, the attacker’s skill check is compared against all blockers and the lowest-rolling successful blocker is attacked. PCs can only screen against foes and attacks they could plausibly physically block.

Worlds without Number (Beta 0.18) p45

In addition to the new actions, Shields bring significant utility.

Someone using a shield may ignore the first instance of Shock damage for the round. Shields provide a base armor of 13 or 14 (depending on size). If your armor is better than that, then you get a +1 AC 📖 for using a shield.

You may also use your shield as part of dual-wielding attack. In dual-wielding, you pick one of your weapons. It gets a -1 to hit, but +2 to damage. If you use it for dual-wielding, you lose the AC bonus and Shock reduction until the start of your next turn.

Opposition

Complimentary to the Morale score, WWN adds an Instinct score.

Instinct Check

The Instinct check is the game’s way of helping a GM take this situational chaos into account. Whenever an Instinct check is triggered, the GM rolls a 1d10. If the number rolled is equal or less than a combatant’s Instinct score, measured from 1 to 10, they do something impulsive, short-sighted, instinctual, or otherwise less-than-tactically-sound.

When to Make an Instinct Check

As a general guide, a GM 📖 might make an Instinct check for a creature whenever any of the situations below are applicable, or any time the GM thinks the creature might be confused or indecisive.

  • The second round of combat for mobs and undisciplined fighters. The creature could think clearly before starting the fray, but the fear and exhilaration of mortal combat might confuse it.
  • The creature has just had to make a Morale check for any reason. Terror might cloud its thoughts.
  • The enemy just did something confusing or disorienting. When the situation is strange, the creature might fall back on instinct.
  • The enemy did something to enrage or directly intimidate it. Fury or terror might force bad decisions.
  • The creature is presented with something it desires, such as dropped food, hurled money, or other inducements. It might go after the bait instead of the battle if it seems safe to do so.
Worlds without Number (Beta 0.18) p132

WWN provides a table of instinctual responses for the following categories:

  • Non-Combatant Humans
  • Combat-Trained Humans
  • Sorcerers or Other Spellcasters
  • Ordinary Predatory Beasts
  • Viciously Violent Beasts
  • Trained Servitor Beasts
  • Automatons
  • Insects and Semi-Mindless Beasts
  • Beings of Arrogant Might
  • Hateful and Sadistic Sentients
  • Undead Creatures

The following table, shows the possible instinctive responses of Non-Combatant Humans.

Table 215: Worlds without Number Instinct for Non-Combatant Humans
d6Action
1Stand immobile in confusion and fear
2Punch or kick a foe instead of using a weapon
3Cringe, taking the Total Defense action
4Panic and make a Morale check
5Shout threats or pleas, but don’t attack
6Reposition to get close to the nearest ally

As a Referee, what I like about these Instinct tables is that I can lean on some dice rolls to determine the responses of NPCs 📖 . In a way, I expect that the instinctive response procedures will help create more unexpected in-game results.

Conclusion

Worlds without Number builds on . In addition to the above changes, WWN provides several new classes and partial classes; Which highlights the modularity of Sine Nomine’s core system.

As I’ve looked at the player facing rules and the referee facing rules, SWN and WWN have become my go to system. The rules are straight forward, yet robust. From the player perspective, there’s a lot of customization. And from the Referee’s perspective, the system is light weight while running a game and provides excellent support for expanding the campaign between sessions.