Sunday, September 17, 2017

Stars Without Number: Star Frontiers

The beta for Stars Without Number 2nd ed got me thinking back to my younger days, when Star Frontiers certified me as a lifelong gamer. I played D&D like everyone else, but it was SF that really hooked me. Yazirians and gyrojet pistols > elves and swords.

The setting was easy for 12-13 YO me to get into. Four species meeting up and being pals in a frontier region of space (although where were their homeworlds and why no routes to them???), sinister corporations, evil space pirates, and of course the utterly weird and menacing Sathar with their bioengineered terror weapons. You generally played "good guys" who made the galaxy a better place.

Hell yeah! Those Streel bastards won't get away with it!

The characters were cool, like flying battle-rage monkeys who had to wear sunglasses. You had laser pistols and gyrojet rifles and shock gloves and toxyrad gauges and stimdoses. You could reprogram robots, make primitive tools out of natural materials, cure diseases, hypnotize people...

But the rules are pretty clunky. Lots of whiffing, and drawn out fight scenes. You can take 60 damage, and a gyrojet pistol does 2d10. Z-Z-Z-Z...

But of course Stars Without Number offers a pretty tight little system for doin' stuff that would map pretty easily to a SF style game.

Part 1: The Map

The original SF map -- annoyingly filled in for the Zebulon book -- was expansive with a lot of blank spaces.

I love that you scan see the hole punches. I miss 3-hole-punched game books...
Look at all the uninhabited/unexplored systems on that map. It's a really good fit for a post-Scream kind of setting where maybe those systems have worlds that have since lost contact. For this map, it also explains why nobody's checked out that star halfway between Timeon and Prenglar. Well maybe they did, but after the Scream that world went feral, and the navigational info is five hundred years old. Let's put together an expedition to go see what's there!

So what I did to make my own was I looked around on the webs for numbered hexmaps, and I found a pretty excellent set of editable svgs to use as the base for my own map. It makes a pretty ginormous layout all put together, 52 x 34. With half-inch hexes it's four sheets of landscape US letter.

I came up with some worlds using a semi-random approach to the world tags. I knew I wanted a "trade hub" world in the middle (why would it be at the edges?) and used that as a starting point to place the known worlds and sketch out a map.

This is my first draft. It doesn't really fill the space yet, so I'm gonna probably move a few things around, add in a nebula or something, and maybe a big "void" with no stars in it that nobody's yet DARED to chart a route across. The major players, in any case, are the megacorporate world of Glint, the highly formalized and stratified empire at Corazon, and the asshats at Kago.

Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn suggests travel time of 1 ly per day. Knight Hawks contradicts it, saying jumps through the void are virtually instantaneous, but ships have to accelerate up to just below light speed in order to jump. I think in my version I'd say it's 48 hours out to the jump point as per baseline SWN, an instantaneous jump, then another 48 hours in-system. Astrogation difficulty depends on the distance and how current the nav info is.

I have stats for some of those unlabeled worlds. I think others will be either just filler or potential one-shot locations, like a secret base or a crash site.