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Stars/Worlds Without Number (General Thread)

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Instead of "x in 6" chances for random events, I prefer "1 in x".
You also get a range of different probabilities, but it's easier to remember what you're actually rolling. With a rule of "something always happens on 1", you can also roll in the open or let the players roll, and everyone knows immediately what the result will mean without having to explain it.
I like X-in-6 here because changing X results in a linear change in the chance of success, and it’s simple. You make 4 traps, so the chance is 4-in-6.

Another idea might be to use it as a penalty to a luck saving throw. That would roughly simulate that higher HD creatures are better at avoiding danger, and it buffs traps a bit. 🤔
 
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kenada

Legend
Supporter
Fair enough! Ultimately the intentionality of what you're trying to get out of it is most important-- so in terms of event frequency and timing, if the numbers make sense for the kinds of output you want, then that's what really matters. Personally then, I think it sounds like its in the phase where its very ready for playtesting at your table!
I appreciate the feedback. It forced me to look at the math of events. I agree it feels a little weird to have events happening all the time when you look at longer spans of time. I’m probably going to switch to a d16 table (and I even have a d16!), but I’m not 100% certain yet.

I also wonder if this approach could be adapted to event checks in dungeons. The only complication is that the chance can vary depending on what the PCs are doing. You could have separate tables for that, but it seems like it would be a lot of work too. More to think about. 🤔
 
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Yora

Legend
I just realized today that I never got the revised edition of Stars Without Number and still had the original 2010 pdf. (I never underatood why SWN was so praised.) Looking over it now, this all seems really familiar after having dug deeply into WWN. Anyone familiar with both of them and knows what the major similarities and differences are mechanically?
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I wish I could answer the question, but I’m not all that familiar with SWN. I’ve heard that the revised edition is supposed to be fairly compatible. Speaking of SWN, there’s a Kickstarter for an offset print version. It’s not going to make revisions to the rules, but it will include some errata. It’ll also be nice and high quality like the offset print WWN book.

⁂​

So my point isn’t to say “I don’t know” or to link the SWN Kickstarter. I came across a small snag while updating the B/X waterborne adventuring rules for my wilderness exploration procedure. For river travel, going with or against the current modifies how fast you travel. Rather than be a multiplier, it’s adds or subtracts from your movement rate. That doesn’t play nicely with my time-based approach.

It’s easy to derive a formula [48 ÷ (48 ÷ t ± (1d6 + 6))], but that’s pretty ugly. It’s an edge case, but it annoys me. What I’m thinking of doing instead is have you track the affect of the river separately.

For example, suppose traveling downstream has a time cost of 4. That means, if you do nothing, the river will move you a hex in four hours. If your mode of movement has a time cost of 2, then you travel a hex in two hours. To determine how many hexes you have traveled, you add the progresses together. For example, after 2 hours you would be 1.5 hexes away. After 4 hours, 3 hexes.

This is all equivalent to plugging everything into the formula, but it should be way easier to run at the table. I just need to devise a nice table of time costs for going upstream and downstream.

I’d like to say this is a theoretical concern, but my PCs have been traveling upriver quite a bit lately. I’ve been winging it, but now that I have put together a system, I want to actually use it.
 

Yora

Legend
I looked at it some more, and SWN revised seems to be basically the same system as WWN. And quite a number of things I found peculiar about WWN turn out to be directly copied over from SWNr, where they seem much more fitting.
I mentioned how having a Healer in the party makes the interesting rules for nonmagical recovery seem somewhat pointless, but it makes a lot more sense in a game where psychic powers are not a default assumption for all campaigns. In fantasy, healing magic is basically always assumed to be part of the game. Or the henchkeeper focus, which seems hugely underwhelming compared to retainers in B/X. Spotted quite a number of small things like those.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I found a post on reddit by Kevin Crawford comparing characters between the two systems. It’s a default assumption that characters are healed at full before an encounter, and the two systems do it differently. Healer is meant to replace easy access to pharmaceuticals (and psionics).

Honestly, it feels weird. After our first big fight, the healer was able to patch everyone up without problem. Actually, she got the barbarian up straight away during the fight. It felt very similar to Pathfinder 2e, which is a system focused on tactical combat. I’m not sure how the death rules would ever come into play except when the Healer goes down.

I know that System Strain (rather than hit points) is supposed to be the limiter that provides attrition. Along with the resting rules, it’s not exactly easy to get it back. That should encourage the PCs to be careful, but I don’t know yet. We’re still pretty early into the campaign, and the PCs haven’t really set off out into the wilds fully yet.

Regarding Henchkeeper, I still don’t think it’s a replacement for retainers. The henchmen you acquire requires less attention to keep loyal — they’re loyal by default unless you abuse them or put them in dangerous situations. The intro to the focus even says as much. You can still acquire henchmen normally, but you have to pay them and make it worth their while.

Of course, there are no rules for that. I’ve been working on a mod of OSE for my group that adapts it into WWN, and I’ve stumbled across a few things that are missing or minimally specified. WWN spends a pages discussing all the different types of armor and weapons, but it tells you nothing about adventuring gear. What’s the capacity of a cart? Where are the stats for the ships (it mentions ship speed in the exploration section, but only for one kind)?

The wilderness adventuring procedure is anemic. Waterborne adventuring is an afterthought. There are no rules for splash weapons (and the grenade rules in SWN seem to specialized for flasks of acid or burning oil). There aren’t even rules for traps. It discusses small traps in the Trapmaker focus but never defines what a small trap is.

I suppose I’m being nitpicky, but it feels like WWN is designed for a particular kind of sandbox (one that is adventure-driven rather than exploration-driven). I’m managing to fill in the gaps, but it’d be nice if I could use it as-is. It says something about the system that I’m willing to do as much hacking as I am when I basically wasn’t with PF2 in spite of having more investment with that system as a group.
 

Yora

Legend
Even with WWN looking like a great fantasy game the system is looking even more fun for space campaigns.

The Snap Attack action in WWN looks interesting, but moving your attack to a point earlier in the round for a -4 penalty doesn't seem to useful in a fantasy campaign where weapons deal 1d6 or 1d8 damage, and many monsters they encounter have 4 hit dice and more.
But in a space game, where ranged weapons with 2d8 or more damage are common, and most enemies will be expected to be average soldiers or criminals, the ability to skip the initiative order for a -4 attack roll penalty sounds like a really fun option.

Imagine you are going to meet a small criminal for information, and as you approch him a bounty hounter steps out on the street, gets highest initiative, and raises his rifle.
Snap Attack! You skip ahead and quick draw your pistol (part of the Main Action to attack) to shot the bounty hunter or at least distract him while the criminal gets to cover. The criminal could easily get killed in one hit, and you might also be able to kill the bounty hunter in one hit.
Now for extra fun, the GM can also shout Snap Attack! Instead of you shoting first before the bounty hunter, he turns around to shot at you, and you both shoot at each other similtaneously.
Also remember, warriors have the ability to turn a miss into a hit once per scene. (Both in Stars and in Worlds.) Combined with Snap Attack, that makes pure Warrior a really interesting choice compared to partial Warrior, who doesn't get it.

A moderately interesting option in fantasy, but something I'd try to use all the time in a space game.

Shock damage now also seems much more worthwhile. Melee weapons are no longer the default attack that often deals more damage than the ranged weapons. It's now the unusual way to fight that also deals much less damage. Knowing that an ene,y charing you with a blade will hurt you no matter what makes it a lot more threatening. And a more interesting option than to keep shoting at an enemy who shots from behind cover. Cause a distraction and then one guy charges him with a sword.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
How are crafting difficulties supposed to work? You can make the item without having to roll if it relates to your background, but you have to roll for it otherwise. For example, an item that would be made by a specialist is a difficulty 11. If you try to make a masterwork version of that, what’s the difficulty? Is it 10, and if you fail you get a normal version (at 20× the cost of making a normal one)?

My inclination is to require you to beat the base difficulty and treat it as 10 or +3 (whichever is higher). Anyone else have ideas?
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Wow. It’s been quite a while since I last got to run. Schedules have been a mess, but we finally got to play today. We got to try my exploration rules at the very end of the session. There was some confusion regarding exploration activities (because we have tried so many different approaches), but the costs were very intuitive. I was able to figure out quickly that they were about six hours out from town. They asked about trying to Avoid Monsters, but that would make it twice as long. They didn’t want to take more than a day, so they headed straight back. They found a deed this session, so they’re going to go looking for it next session, which should engage more of the exploration stuff I did.

As for WWN itself, I’m really happy with the adventure that the tools generated. In spite of generating “just” a twenty room dungeon, it provided three sessions of play for us. There were some interesting factions, and the problems they had to solve weren’t things I would have devised normally. For example, the only way to get into the mage’s sanctum (an iterum) was to be “part of her story”, so they wrote themselves into the diary they found. I had no planned solution, but I loved that. The strange treasure I generated also proved highly entertaining, and a decent reaction roll (which I am doing as the PC’s rolling Cha/Connect rather than my rolling 2d6 plus their Charisma) resulted in a very entertaining encounter with the mage’s remnant (a flesh golem converted and tweaked from OSE).

We also had a very funny moment at the end of the session when the barbarian leveled up and tried rolling for her hit points. She got 1, 1, 2 on 3d6. Her hit points went up by 1. 🤣
 



Yora

Legend
This link seems to be broken and I couldn’t find the article with a quick search. Possible to get an updated link?
I forgot that I had linked the file when I cleaned up my online files.
I think it would be this one. I wrote that at a note for players in a specific campaign as a quick heads up for notable differences. There might be some changes to the actual rules that I forgot I made, and I id leave out some things I don't plan on using, but I think it's still a decent summary.
 

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kenada

Legend
Supporter
Had an interesting conversation with a couple of my players after this week’s board-gaming session. They mentioned being a bit apprehensive about the town ruins “dungeon” we just wrapped up because they thought it was going to have a ton of political stuff, and they just wanted to kill some monsters. I’d put multiple challenges in there though (combat, exploration, investigation, social), and that gave it enough depth that they didn’t feel like that was something they had to deal with if they didn’t want to do that.

They also commented on the adventure itself. They were taken completely by surprise when they learned that only those who were narratively important to the creator’s story could enter the iterum. I don’t even remember which table I rolled on to generate that, but the advice to embrace incongruous results is probably some of the best the book has to offer. Anyway, one of the players mentioned being a bit exasperated after they learned that, but then he’s like: her diary (which they had) is her story (and then they wrote themselves into it).

Next session, they’re going to start investigating the deed, which will takes them towards where I plan to drop Halls of the Blood King. I’m really looking forward to seeing how WWN handles a converted OSE adventure. Given how things have gone so far, I’m expecting it to go pretty well (meaning getting to experience very interesting and entertaining PC antics as they deal with the strange situations and people in the adventure).
 

Yora

Legend
I think the biggest difference between WWN and OSE would be in the rate at which characters level up. OSE has a pretty clear system while WWN does not. But since adventures for these games generally don't assume that characters will gain several levels between the start and the end like a good number of larger d20 adventures, that really shouldn't ever become an issue.

The main difference in character abilities are the skills in WWN. But I think they only provide an alternative way to do certain things. They don't give characters new powers to do things that OSE characters couldn't.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I think the biggest difference between WWN and OSE would be in the rate at which characters level up. OSE has a pretty clear system while WWN does not. But since adventures for these games generally don't assume that characters will gain several levels between the start and the end like a good number of larger d20 adventures, that really shouldn't ever become an issue.
I think it’d be more tricky if I were trying to run a modern D&D adventure rather than something targeted at a B/X-compatible system. My expectation is converting the creatures over will be easy. I expect most of the work will be fixing the adventure itself, which I’d need regardless.

Halls of the Blood King is time-limited, but it’s written and keyed like it’s a site-based adventure. It uses the events table to help move NPCs around, but it feels like it will be too rigid. I’m thinking of adding schedules and using a party planning structure for the events in the Great Hall.

This is an area where I find WWN is actually pretty lacking. I like the stuff for creating exploration challenges, but the investigation and social challenge sections are pretty lacking or just bad (or at least antithetical to sandbox play).

The main difference in character abilities are the skills in WWN. But I think they only provide an alternative way to do certain things. They don't give characters new powers to do things that OSE characters couldn't.
WWN characters are generally more capable their B/X counterparts, or so WWN claims. I’m hoping (and expect) that’s true, though Halls of the Blood King doesn’t seem like an adventure where you can be successful by trying to kill everything or everyone you meet.

No one is the party even has a magic weapon. They did find some ancient salvage last session, but I don’t think a modified weapon would count as “magical”. If it were necessary, the priest could use her magic, but they wouldn’t be able to rest and recover (because of the adventure’s time limit).
 


kenada

Legend
Supporter
That might all be true. But I was only talking about the comparison between WWN and OSE.
Ah. Maybe I misunderstood your post. I think your assessment is fair. I’m going to go a bit more into my thoughts on differences since I’m actually running a version of OSE I hacked into WWN. This isn’t necessarily in response to your post (more like prompted by it).

What I’ve found hacking OSE into WWN is that WWN is pretty lacking as an exploration-based game. Stuff’s just missing to make that work, or it’s incomplete. For example, I’d expect the Dolmenwood hex crawl to run worse under WWN because WWN’s exploration rules are incomplete to missing. I’d expect adventures with a strong exploration component to suffer problems to varying degrees. That’s also why I’ve been referring to it a story-driven sandbox game.

Aside from that, the equipment chapter is also pretty lacking. It wastes a lot of space discussing different armors, but it says nothing about what various bits of adventuring gear do. Can you light oil and throw it? How does splash damage work? I know SWN has rules for grenades, but I ended pulling from 3e on splash damage. I want splash damage to feel like D&D, so no saving throws after attacking a spot.

The biggest place where I deviated was using my exploration procedure, but I also changed how XP works. I use both individual and group goals. Individual goals are decided at the start of the session. Group goals are decided at the end. You gain 3 XP at the end of the session if you complete an individual goal (player decides), 1 XP each other Pc’s goal you help complete (player decides), and 3 XP for completing the group goal (group decides). To gain a new level, spend XP equal to six times the next level. This can be done only at the end of a session.

I also replaced reaction rolls with a Cha/Convince skill check against the reaction table, and I based retainers on Cha/Lead instead of having a Charisma-based table. The retainer’s reaction to your offer is based on a Cha/Convince skill check versus the reaction table from OSE. As a rule of thumb, I want players making these rolls instead of having me roll stuff behind the screen that’s modified by their stats. That also helps keep them engaged and gives added value to their skills, and it helps reduce the number of similar but arbitrarily different mechanics.

Anyway, going through the process of hacking OSE is what prompted my questions over the last few pages. I kept running into stuff that was missing bits or lacked clarity once one dialed down the verbosity.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I think the Expert as a character class and defining a number of skills that are very much useful within society, but not adventuring says stuff about what SWN/WWN expect play to entail. That adventuring and exploration are important, but not nearly intended to be the whole game.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I think the Expert as a character class and defining a number of skills that are very much useful within society, but not adventuring says stuff about what SWN/WWN expect play to entail. That adventuring and exploration are important, but not nearly intended to be the whole game.
Which makes the investigation and social challenges sections all the more disappointing. For social challenges in particular, it could use some advice on designing factions in the adventure (versus those that are part of the faction mini-game) and how to make their presence interesting. That can include the usual factions in the dungeon setup in OSR games, but it should also extend to the peoples and groups that are created while rolling up tags and synthesizing them into e.g., court intrigue. All it really gives is some questions to ask yourself when designing NPCs. The investigation stuff is a pure railroad, which I feel has no place in an otherwise sandbox-oriented game.

I’d also argue that social skills should always be rolled against the reaction table (or the PbtA result ladder of 6−, 7–9, 10+) and never against a fixed difficulty. That gives the GM easily guidelines for how to respond. If your advice is, “The difficulty is privately set by you based on the quality of their offering versus the magnitude of their demand,” but then you go on to say, “A failed social negotiation should almost never end in a simple flat refusal. There should always be some way forward for the PCs, and some evident means of improving their case,” then making the roll is almost pointless. It’s framed as task resolution, but it’s not. At least with rolling against the reaction table, you’re transparently treating it as a prompt.
 

Yora

Legend
I am finding myself in the position that I got an idea for a campaign element that will require some custom content for characters. Which I think might be interesting to discuss as a genreral topic here.

In my specific case now, I got an idea to make it that all spellcasters belong to a single tradition inspired by the warlock (the one really cool thing in D&D 5th). That seems fairly easy to do with the WWN mage. Arts and spells already use a similar format for spells (might be more than a coincidence), and the new Sorcerer tradition can simply be a comnination of various High Magic and Necromancy arts and spells. This is really quick and dirty and can be done in an hour. Nice.

But the idea also really invites the existence of demon hunters to fight demons and sorcerers, and they would have to do so without making use of spells. In OSE for example, making a simple custom variant of fighter with four anti-magic abilities would be enough to do the job.But for WWN, this is a bit more involved.
I think a good starting point would be to make it a spell-less mage tradition, like the healer or vowed. This would allow for both Warrior/DH and Expert/DH, which I think is quite cool. Two character archetypes for the price of one.
Healers get one fixed art plus seven customizable ones, and vowed get three fixed arts and seven customizable ones at 10th level. Probably a good idea to keep it at that, and go with 1+7 as well. But here it gets challenging. If you have 8 arts to customize your character, how many arts does the tradition need in total? I guess 12 would be good, but if you can freely choose when to take them, and it's really just for one or two campaigns, maybe 10 would also work. But then the next question. Even if I can come up with 10 arts that are counter-magic without looking like casting spells, how strong should each one be?

Magic Resitance: Character gets a bonus to all Magic saves. How much? +1? +2? Should it increase with level?
Break Spell: Character can make another save against a spell. A Main, On Turn, or Instant action? Commit effort for the scene or day? Limited to once per scene or not?

There's a lot of variables, but unlike d20 games, there's not a great amount of existing abilities that you can slightly tweak and reskin to have something comparable.

Do you have any thoughts on how to approach this?
 

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