[SWN]Stars Without Number: OSR to get my new school fix.

edited June 2013 in The Sandbox
I'm in something of a GMing funk. I like some of the elements of Story Game style play. Motivations, bonuses for character drama, etc. But mechanicaly FATE leaves me cold, Cortex + gives me fits, and AW based games are fun if low on the tactical thinking. But that's okay. It's not the system that drives the plot, it's the players! So I sat down and thought, I need something: a. easy to use b. allows for some level of sandboxing c. has a reward mechnic for following character plot based motivations.

Mix in a bit me craving space action and curosity about the OSR movement and SWN being "Free" why not? Then I feel in love with SWN! It's amazing, I think it's a great light space game that scales up really well. The Faction mini game, the roll up system maps, wonderful! I can houserule as needed to up survivability in the early game but the danger of combat is a plus. I like combat to be deadly. Feature, not bug IMO.

Now that said, I plan on hacking the hell out of this system. I'm also going to pick up Other Dust for the mutant rules, mix in bits from the free updates and Transhuman Tech and Polychrome setting to get playrs really post/transhuman as the game gones on.

But first, an intro setting. I'm big on the idea of a lost colony rediscovering Spike Drives and rediscovering the rest of unexplored space. Filling out a Sector Map as they move along. Giving them clues to helping their homeworld survive. Alien tech, Pre-Scream catches, garden worlds filled with mutated monsters from terraforming gone wrong. You name it. All in the name of exploration and fun.

Is anyone else here messing with SWN? I saw a thread about it, but it's rather old. I'm curious if anyone has touched it recently.

Also, is anyone interested in a Google Plus Hangout session or two? Maybe ongoing game?

Comments

  • We've been playing it for the past few months. We're playing it without any house rules, although I think the GM has imported some trading rules from Traveller.

    This is going to sound weird, but it's the least adventurous game I've ever played and I'm loving it for that. We're all just entrepreneurs with a trading spaceship (the Instant Karma) who are just trying to make maintenance and mortgage payments while not skimping on the partner distributions. Our captain is a terrific rainmaker so we've made made out well enough hauling legit cargo, we can shy away from smuggling and mayhem. My character is the only one who can even shoot a gun, and I haven't yet pulled the trigger on it.

    We have a spreadsheet here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AiLFGLZnbIP9dE1QaE1NSlhuaFlHbV9IajJMVU9GYWc#gid=0
  • Ya. Especially with the new supliment Suns of Gold:

    http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/114950/Suns-of-Gold:-Merchant-Campaigns-for-Stars-Without-Number

    It has the updated merchant rules, roles, etc. Ya, a lot of my gaming isn't going to be about fighting. If the PC's can outthink a problem, or run away as needed, I'm not going to punish them for it. In fact I will reward them. Other Dust has a nice EXP system based more around goals than money. I might use that, or modify the existing EXP rules for 'goals + colony survival status'.

    Instant Karma, I like that. Man, I hope I can get some Culture Fans. I'd love to hear the Culture inspired ship names.
  • I'm currently running a Stars Without Number campaign via Google Hangouts. All the players are local but we use Google Hangouts anyway because we're part of the Southern California sprawl, two the players have children, one player lacks personal transportation, and we play really late at night (we start at 9pm). So it's easier to play from the comfort of our own individual homes.

    The tone of the game is a bit odd though because it start as a conversation about me running a Gothic game but set in space. You see, I'm known for being hugely inspired by Gothic literature and a fan of the Ravenloft D&D setting. So we started joking around about game concept we called Planet Ravenloft.

    Well the joking eventually turned into a serious discussion about me running a Gothic themed space adventure. My friend Colin suggested that I take a look at Stars Without Number. I instantly latched on to The Scream and The Silence events for the loosely sketched setting as isolating events and excellent catalyst for desperate and obsessive human behavior that characterizes my favorite Gothic tales.

    It’s important to note that I derive my inspiration from the early Gothic period (1760-1820) which largely includes works like The Castle of Otronto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, and just barely Frankenstein. That’s very different from the more Hammer Horror focused influences on settings like Ravenloft. In that early period the supernatural was not so much a direct threat as it was a source of omens of dark things to come or haunting reminders of things past. In many ways it’s much easier to adapt those themes to a non-supernatural environment like a Sci-Fi space adventure. And so I work from my favorite definition of The Gothic which comes from Chris Baldick’s introduction to The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales:

    “For the Gothic effect to be attained, a tale should combine a fearful sense of inheritance in time with a claustrophobic sense of enclosure in space, these two dimensions reinforcing one another to produce an impression of sickening descent into disintegration. This is, of course, too abstract a formula to capture the real accumulation of physical and historical associations by which we actually recognize the conventions of Gothic; so it may be translated into more concrete terms by noting that typically a Gothic tale will invoke the tyranny of the past (a family curse, the survival of archaic forms of despotism and of superstition) with such weight as to stifle the hopes of the present (the liberty of the heroine or hero) within the dead-end of physical incarceration (the dungeon, the locked room, or simply the confinements of a family house closing in upon itself). Even more concisely, although at the risk of losing an important series of connected meanings, we could just say that Gothic fiction is characteristically obsessed with old buildings as sites of human decay.”

    Whenever I’m stuck for ideas while creating a planet I return to this definition. The “tyranny of the past” on my planets are often cultural traditions that predate The Scream or were survival techniques adopted just after The Scream that are no longer necessary. One challenge I often run into is that The Silence lasted 600 years. That’s roughly 6 to 10 generations. That means that this “weight that stifles the hopes of the present” can not be just the rash actions of a single person. The “madness” so to speak must have become an encultured tradition supported by many people and passed down from father to son, mother to daughter. The phrase I adopted to describe this phenomenon was, “When your civilization collapses and you fail to notice, bad things happen to your culture.” In many ways this makes Udolpho Sector a more frightening place, as whole civilizations embrace and celebrate destructive and oppressive behaviors.

    In play, at least one of my players has found the “weight that stifles the hopes of the present” almost too much to bare. He has expressed worry over returning to his character’s home planet for fear of learning what dark secret underlies “his” people. He has expressed concern that there seemed to be no good people in the Sector. I was quick to point out that there are lots of good people, there are just no good people with power. But I admit that this has lead to a sense that there is no safe harbor. Indeed it as if the whole Sector has become a "dead-end of physical incarceration "

    While I lament his growing anxiety, I will count this a success for the project as a whole.

    So, anyway, that's what I'm doing with SWN.

    Jesse
  • O.o That may be a bit too extreme for me and my group. Glad that Google + Hangout is working for you.
  • I'm not so worried about the Silence. The 600 years is a rough amount of time for any major rebuilding of the old trade lanes and reopening of exploration. As with how SWN handles things in broad strokes I think that some worlds might have started before the exact 600 year date, but since there were such varied 'restarts' after the colapse of space faring culture it would have been messy. 600 years of false starts, internal strife, lack of technology, and general rebuilding of social/economical base to make intersteller travel viable again.
  • As another player in Jesse's game I am really enjoying playing my space corsair who to all appearances doesn't care yet keeps getting involving in like everything to try and fix it for the better (generally with a liberal application of energy weapons).

    Currently I am working on raising a space pirate fleet crewed by all the downtrodden people of the sector so we can start storming some Gothic Castles with torches so to speak.

    If the sector is a dead end of physical incarceration, I am the one planning the prison break.

    - Colin
  • edited June 2013
    My base idea is to take the adventure Hard Light and turn it on it's ear. I'm calling the idea (in early stages only) Harder Light. The idea is the system the PCs start in has been cut off for 600 years. The Red Giant the and remaining few planetoids and last gas giant in the system are fought over by Solar tribes and micro nations who need the needed hydrocarbons and raw material to survive. Basically they've been living as space subsistance scavengers and farms for centuries.

    (So yes, I would have to flesh out the Hard Light Solar system for this to work.)

    One of the sources of resources has been the Star Tombs, but due to the dangerous nature of them, and the risks invovled raiding one the micro nations have avoided them thus far. But after a disasterous loss of a Gas Farming ship the leader of the PC's colony allows them to take a old cruiser and try raiding a Tomb or 3 in hopes they find something useful to save the colony. (Especially from hostile rivals and pirates.)

    Eventually in the 1-3 level range they find a pretech explorer ship with a functional spike drive and unlock the rest of the univrese. Will they bring trade back to their homeland? Will they try and bring outsiders in? Can they stave off the carpet baggers? Etc.

    Either that or I'll run Hard Light as is and go one from there.
  • If the sector is a dead end of physical incarceration, I am the one planning the prison break
    Which in my opinion, is precisely the point.

    Jesse

  • I hope to have fun rolling up a new sector map. I hope I can drill down to system and fill out outposts, research centers, and orbital stations.

  • In play, at least one of my players has found the “weight that stifles the hopes of the present” almost too much to bare. He has expressed worry over returning to his character’s home planet for fear of learning what dark secret underlies “his” people. He has expressed concern that there seemed to be no good people in the Sector. I was quick to point out that there are lots of good people, there are just no good people with power. But I admit that this has lead to a sense that there is no safe harbor. Indeed it as if the whole Sector has become a "dead-end of physical incarceration "

    While I lament his growing anxiety, I will count this a success for the project as a whole.
    The game is about as not-him as I can imagine. Until you have Doc Savage's Gorilla companion flying space-galleons against Pulp Galactus, Morgan weeps.

    I am pleased.
  • Hmm. Now comes the fun of recruiting.
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