Let's Read “Worlds without Number: Tales of the Latter Earth”

Framing Expectations of Genre and System

A caped figure with long spear in hand stands atop a stone pillar overlooking the top of a waterfall.  In the distance they look to a city nestled up near a cavernous hollow.
A part of my series. Go grab your copy of Worlds without Number 🔍 and join in. I’ll be reading through the paid version; however Worlds without Number: Free Edition 🔍 contains many of the same chapters.

In this chapter, Kevin Crawford 🔍 frames Worlds without Number; building from the Dying Earth 🔍 genre. I highly recommend Gene Wolfe 🔍’s The Book of the New Sun 🔍 series and Jack Vance 🔍’s Dying Earth Saga 🔍. Both are exemplars in the Dying Earth genre.


The stars gutter and the skies fade and the earth grows weary with years. Ages of men and of Outsiders have ascended and been forgotten, and only the bones of their cities and the dust of their dreams remain upon this tired world. The Legacy of their laws is woven deep now, the edicts of dead gods and fallen sorcerer-kings made to trace patterns of power we no longer understand. We are heirs to their unseen empires.
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Worlds without Number implies a Fantasy 🔍 genre layered on top of decaying Science Fiction 🔍 genre; This echoes the older incarnations of Dungeons and Dragons 🔍 in the years where Fantasy and Science Fiction comingled as Science Fantasy 🔍.

Heroes of a Twilight Age

What Do You Do in this Game?

The characters in Worlds without Number are assumed to be budding adventurers, men and women who have particular talents suitable to a life of daring exploration, bloody battles, or ruthless intrigue. They are skilled and capable practitioners of their particular specialties, but all of them are acutely mortal, and a too-ready recourse to their blades is likely to get them killed early in their career.
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Heed this warning. But also understand that in this character danger lies creativity.

This section goes on to frame expectations and does some world building. The expectations are that your characters will have goals. Not codified like Burning Wheel Gold 🔍, but instead telegraphed through play.

Kevin Crawford then lays out some of what your characters might expect:

  • Exploration
  • Intrigue
  • Desperate fights

All under the back drop of a far future post-collapse setting. Where Outsider lords, sorcerer-kings, and fell beasts haunt the lands; some of those lands long modified by Outsider lords to suit alien habitat.

In other words, this is a strange world.

How Does This Game Play?

Worlds without Number is based on an Old School Renaissance 🔍 rules chassis strongly inspired by the classic gaming books of Gary Gygax 🔍, Dave Arneson 🔍, Tom Moldvay 🔍, and Zeb Cook 🔍. The roots of this system date back to the very earliest days of the hobby. There are millions of people worldwide who understand the basic outline of the system, and this enormous well of familiarity is one of the main reasons it was chosen as a base.

The system in Worlds without Number has received years of effective use and playtesting in the form of its compatible sci-fi sister game, Stars without Number: Revised Edition 🔍, and I’m confident that the great majority of readers will find it a perfectly solid, playable, effective framework for their sword and sorcery adventures. Even so, I understand that a good many readers will have their own preferences in game systems, and may have a different rule system in mind for running their campaigns.

This is perfectly reasonable, because ultimately, Worlds without Number is more about supporting a style of gaming than a particular system. This game is built from the ground up to support the Game Master (GM 🔍) in running a “sandbox” style of campaign, one where the thrust of the action is entirely dependent on the ambitions and goals of the players. The tools in this book are built to support this play style no matter what game system is being used.

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Did you read that? Worlds without Number builds on and from Stars without Number: Revised Edition; And spoiler, the rules are compatible and interoperable. What does that mean? If you want Psionics in your Fantasy, use Worlds without Number as the base and add the Psychics from Stars without Number: Revised Edition. Did someone say Dark Sun 🔍?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This section goes into framing sandbox-style tabletop gaming; There is no story arc or prewritten plot, instead Worlds without Number encourages focusing on the Player Characters (PCs 🔍) goals and ambitions. And Worlds without Number provides tools to support the GM.

In my short-lived A Grain of Truth in the World of Ardu campaign, I used the sandbox tools from the beta edition. They really do help reduce the workload of presenting a vibrant world in which the PCs interact.

I’ve been running Campaign: New Vistas in the Thel Sector using the sandbox support for Stars without Number: Revised Edition and these tools really help.But we’ll get to those in future going to be a future chapter.

If you want to run a story arc using Worlds without Number, it’ll work just fine.


Thanks for reading along. Up next, I’ll be working my way through the Character Creation chapter.