Monday, October 22, 2018

A Look at Stars Without Number Revised Edition; Part 1

Captains Log: Stardate 96407.88

Just this last Friday I was preparing to write a review on Stars Withou Number Revised Edition by Kevin Crawford but when I got to the sector creation chapter I got really, really sidetracked. It took me about an hour to roll up my own sector and organize it into an excel spread sheet. Then I started looking around for a standard 8 by 10 hex sheet online and saw some unique ideas. This got my imagination going and I said screw it, I'm gonna make my own.

Here you can see my creation and use it for your own if desired. This 30 page pdf took me most of the weekend to create because I was also learning a new tool, Affinity Publisher. Now, I should mention that the document is not finished. For the most part it is complete but I still need to add layers for the map. That is one shortcomming of Affinity Publisher. Creating a layered pdf seems to not be an option.

Another option that I would have like to have seen is the ability to create text frames on a "Master" page and be able to edit each pages master text frame. Hopefully that makes sense. As an example, page 30 is the clean version of this master page. Pages 4-29 all have text in the upper right box that would have been much more simple to edit if the master page allowed a generic editable text frame on each page. This was the most tedious part of creating the document.

You might be asking yourself why is he talking about some publishing software. Thats because about a month ago I cancelled my subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud where I had access to all their tools. I now only have the photo suite of Adobe's tools. I was paying $50 a month to use 3 programs. Fuck that. Now I'm paying $10 a month and thats only because my wife needs Light Room. Otherwise I'd have canceled all of it. Now that I've found Affinity Serif, I'm looking at replacing photoshop with their version. It's a one time payment of $50 and you will still get updates to the software. Remember those 3 programs I said I use? Well, unfortunately Affinity Serif can only replace 2 of those for me at the moment. The last one that I need is a replacement for Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Anyway, back to the SWN sector map. I think I'm going to do this review in a slightly different manner. I'm going to look at the tools provided to the GM first. Then we will go back and look at the player options for the game. So obviously I'm going to start with the Sector Creation chapter. It's a really simple process and Kevin Crawford did an excellent job presenting it. The first step is to figure out how many star systems are in your sector. Roll a d10 and add it to 20. These are your star systems. I rolled a 6. Generally speaking each star system will have 1 major inhabited planet and that is all we are concerned with at this point. Next up we can roll d100 for two world tags and 2d6 for each of the remaing tags of atmosphere, temperature, biosphere, population, and tech level.

EDIT: I almost forgot one crucial step. We need to figure out where the stars are located. Roll a d8 for the column and a d10 for the row for each star. When I did this I came up with 7 duplicates so I just re-rolled until I had 26 unique locations.

Each tag has a short description so lets take a look at one of the worlds I created. If you would open the bookmarks tab on my pdf you can then click on "0501 SESH". The first tag you see there is STAR TYPE. I'll get to that a little later. Next up is Atmosphere: Breathable mix. "Breathable mix atmospheres can support human life without additional equipment or gengineered modification. Any world that has a human population in the millions or more almost certainly has a breathable mix atmosphere."

After that we have Biosphere: Human-miscible biosphere. "Human-miscible biospheres are those in which some substantial portion of the native life is biologically compatible with human nutritional needs. The local plants and animals may not be tasty or terribly nourishing, but they can support life without the serious importation of Terran crop seeds and livestock."

Following that is Temperature: Variable Warm, with temperate places. "Variable temperature worlds tend to show a greater distribution of climates than other worlds, either ranging from cold to temperate levels or temperate to hot levels. This may be a climate that changes world-wide when a long, slow orbit brings the planet into proximity with a stellar primary, or it might be a world that has substantially different climatic zones spread across its surface. The north pole of one world might be a sun-blasted desert that moderates to a cool, wet equator, or an icy world might be warmed here and there by complex channels of geothermally-heated subsurface rivers. Variable temperature worlds tend to have savage weather. The mixing of hot and cold air can send ferocious cyclones and raging hurricanes across the surface of the world, some large enough to consume most of a hemisphere."

Moving on to Population: Outpost. "Outposts are rarely composed of more than a few hundred or few thousand colonists at the most. Outposts are either very new colonies that have not have the requisite time to grow or they are uncolonized worlds that just happen to have a naval or corporate base on the surface."

Here we can also see the most common Tech Level: TL4; modern postech. "Tech level 4 worlds are the most common in human space, and their technical expertise is the baseline for modern post Silence “postech”. These worlds can create spike drives rated up to drive-3, fusion power plants, grav vehicles, simple energy weapons, and medicines that extend human life to a hundred years of vigorous good health. They can manage sophisticated gengineering on simple life forms, and some tech level 4 worlds have even attempted to improve the genetic structures of human life itself."

And of course my favorite part about Sesh, World Tags: Pleasure World of Beastmasters. Each of the world tags has a short description and some inspirational plot hooks. "Beastmasters: The natives have extremely close bonds with the local fauna, possibly having special means of communication and control through tech or gengineering. Local animal life plays a major role in their society, industry, or warfare, and new kinds of beasts may be bred to suit their purposes. Pleasure World: This world provides delights either rare or impermissible elsewhere. Matchless local beauty, stunningly gengineered natives, a wide variety of local drugs, carnal pleasures unacceptable on other worlds, or some other rare delight is readily available here. Most worlds are fully aware of the value of their offerings, and the prices they demand can be in credits or in less tangible recompense."

I really enjoyed making 26 worlds for this document but I needed slightly more. What kind of star did these worlds orbit? Seeing nothing in the book I decided to make my own 2d6 table for this.

Star Types roll 2d6
Binary Stars (roll again to find out type)
Red Giant
Red Dwarf
Yellow Dwarf
White Star
Blue Giant
Variable Star (roll again to find out type)

I'm almost done with sector creation now. Well, essentially I'm done. The only thing left is to fill in the details of each planet. As you can see on my pdf that I didn't fill in the bottom section. This is because I will fill it in as players explore those worlds. It makes more sense to me to do it this way. Perhaps the players will have some influence on details of these planets or other star system details. Within the Sector Creation chapter there is a section on Additional System Points of Interest. This will help flesh out the details of the individual star systems. It includes topics such as adding other worlds and other points of interest, as well as random tables for each topic.

Next time I'm going to take a look at Factions so stay tuned!

P.S.  Please feel free to criticize and comment on the blog about the pdf. I would appreciate any feedback and suggestions. Also, please go over to John Polack's Mr. Mean Speaks Youtube channel. I hear he's going to do a new video on the game Faith 2.0 soon.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tales from the Loop post game thoughts

This past Friday I was blessed with the opportunity of running some friends through Tales from the Loop: Roleplaying in the 80's that never was. The game turned out great in my mind and I had a blast running this for The RPG Brewery. The players were fantastic and they all got on board the train. I devised this mystery myself and just thought I'd share my notes with everyone. At first I made a different mystery that was more Lost Boys themed but I quickly scrapped that as I wanted more of a Halloween themed adventure. Luckily the game got posponed and I had time to come up with another idea. I'm so glad that happened eventhough it sucked because I was really hyped to run the game two weeks ago.

If you haven't seen the video yet, I suggest you go watch it here on Youtube. The basic premise of the game was the 1982 classic Poltergeist movie written by Steven Speilberg. Overall I'd say the game went fairly well. I planned for 3 clue scenes but the third one wasn't needed. I did think the game could have gone a little more smoothly but that might just be my own perception. The players said they enjoyed it so it was a success in my books. There was one image near the end of the game that couldn't be seen in the video because we did it all theatre of the mind so VTT's were not used and Skype can't do screen sharing. The players had just crossed through the portal and as they turned around to look at their envrionment they see a tribe of native american warriors on horseback charging straight at them.

If I were to run it again I'd shorten the name of the ride to Troll Tunnel or Troll Twister. A mistake I made during the game came near the end in the showdown. Kelly decided to use her Lead skill for the showdown in order to add dice to the other players dice pools. What I did wrong was let her keep her successes for the total showdown accumulation. The showdown specifically requires the Lead skill to either add to the total success or give additional dice to the other players, not both. At least I know now for future reference. As you can see below, my notes are rather short and just give the truth of the mystery. Everything else was more or less adhoc. I had some ideas but I wanted to see where the players took the game.

Next time on Thoughts Of A Barbarian I think I might do a bit of a science fiction RPG review. I have Stars Without Number by Kevin Crawford in mind but there is another I might do first. I'd also like to mention that the weekend of November 30th Hobbs & Friends of the OSR are hosting an online gaming convention called Hobbsapalooza. Check out this video for more information.

Don't forget to come out and join the Nerds-Interantional at Con on the Cob in Richfield Ohio this November. Our tables will be located in the Atrium near the swimming pool. I'll be running some Lamentations of the Flame Princess and the new Judge Dredd game. I had an amazing time last year and this year should be even better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Contest Winner and Blog Update

Before I get to the contest itself I'd like to take a moment to update you on this blog. With the tumultuous advent of our Google + milieu disappearing in the next 10 months, I've been contemplating the end of the blog. Let me rephrase that. I'm anticipating Google's blogger platform to go by the wayside soon after Google + shuts down. Why you may ask? Because Google is a money making enterprise and it makes good business sense to stop spending resources on products that don't make a profit. I don't see how Blogger makes Google any money, unless some of them are providing some sort of advertising revenue. Therefore, at this stage I'm trying to figure out if I should start moving the blog over to WordPress, start my own web page, or give up entirely. At this stage I'm working on backing up all of my articles for archival purposes. Whether or not I jump ship to another platform is yet to be seen. So what this means to you right now is absolutely nothing. You won't see a change for some time to come but I just wanted you to be aware. Well, at least the 9 of you anyway.

To be honest, I was worried that choosing a winner would be extremely difficult but that isn't the case. I thought this contest was broad enough and interesting enough that I would have to sift through quite a few submissions. I was wrong. I don't know if its just lack of interest, too lazy to make an effort, or afraid of looking bad that people didn't submit anything. Maybe they thought the prize was crap. Only you can tell me what went wrong. Please do tell me so I can make it better next time. I mean, who doesn't want free stuff?

Any who. On to the winner's. Yes I said winner'S. When I said it wasn't difficult to pick I wasn't kidding. All three submissions are winners in my book. This was a last minute change because it was clear that the people who submitted entries put in a bunch of effort. While first place will get the aforementioned prize, second and third will get a pair of custom dice, a sticker, and an iron on patch. Second and third place will also get one of Thaddeus Moore's OSR patches (randomly determined by me).

On to the submissions.

The first submission I received was from Marco (I'm not sure if he wants his full name here). At first glance it looks like it was just whipped up in a few minutes but clearly some thought was put into it. I really dig the pumpkin layout of the wizard laboratory.

The second submission I received was from Harrison Hunt of the famous Tabletop Twats (or infamous, depending on how you look at it). His submission was a little more unique than I envisioned. As a matter of fact I'm still unsure if his is a joke or not because I asked him to provide me with a brief write up of how he did it and what his inspiration was. I've yet to hear back from him on this. Any way, his submission can be found at

Last but not least, Eric Lamoureux from The Wild Die Podcast submitted an entry. His submission stood out to me as I thought he followed the guidelines more rigidly than the others. He took the time to snap in-progress pictures and teach us how to do what he did. You can find his submission on his blog at

And the winner is... Drum Roll Please...

Eric Lamoureux

Congratulations to everyone who participated and thank you for your efforts. I really enjoyed seeing them.

Don't forget to come on out to Con on the Cob in November and hang out with some Nerds. We will have our own section with a few tables in the atrium near the swimming pool. Who knows, maybe you can meet some famous people like Stephen from The Dragons Toolbox or the elusive beer drinking bird watcher from Imaginary Ramblings