SF5 2

Stars Without Number, Revised (2017)

Stars Without Number (2010 originally, this is the revised edition from 2017) takes a love of random tables and uses it to create a vast galaxy, a hex crawl in space. Or, more accurately, gives you the tools to create your own. The goal is to create a rich sandbox galaxy, but only in the direction the players are metaphorically facing. After a little bit of basic prep, nested random tables allow you to dial in the necessary level of detail in the game world in real time, as the players are interfacing with it (instead of creating lots of material during downtime in hopes that players will find it).

You set the stage ahead of time, defining your galaxy, of which you’re really only concerned with a sliver, a grid of hexes eight wide by ten high called a sector, which you fill with solar systems and planets. Each solar system gets one planet of note, which is defined by a pair of randomly generated tags (from a table of one hundred) that set vibe. If you’re a seasoned GM, those two tags likely already started your brain forming potentially plot materials. If not, each tag comes with five categories of prompts, one for potential enemies, friends, complications, things and places for you to work with.

There’s more — fine grain detail for the starting world, then politics, factions and trade routes at the sector level. All the while, the text emphasizes all the different relationships and connections between the data points, encouraging you to start hanging stories on them and applying the random tables to adventure creation as well.

And there’s still more! Tables for aliens, creatures, robots. Then there’s the faction system, which basically allows the GM to solo-play the sector between sessions. The OSR system that powers everything is solid enough (it’s basically D&D), but the real beauty of Stars Without Numbers is as a toybox for the creation of interstellar sandboxes — it remains unmatched in both its depth and its potential application. It’s amazing.

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