Stars Without Number: Revised Edition [Affiliate Link] is the result of a Kickstarter to fund a second/revised edition of the rules that are backwards compatible with the original. Kevin Crawford is the man behind Stars Without Number, and in my opinion, is the best at running RPG Kickstarters. I backed this Kickstarter personally, and am extremely pleased with how well he ran it.
The Right Way To Run An RPG Kickstarter.
On the Kickstarter front, Kevin had a plan and worked his plan to his advantage. He had the artists lined up and had a spreadsheet to track each step of each artist’s work on each picture they were contracted. He tracked drafts, revisions, due dates, payments, etc. The end result for the art, thanks to a stretch goal, is that the complete art is available for free for both personal and commercial use, in the Art Pack [Affiliate Link]. He set a goal to raise enough money to buy the complete rights to the art, and he has given it away! He also did that with the original.
When I say Kevin had a plan, I mean it. It is also something he shares with others. He wrote about it in his zine The Sandbox #1 [Affiliate Link]. He directly mentions that he has a process for running a Kickstarter. He also has a total catastrophe plan, and if he does not deliver 100% by the day he said he would, he will refund all the money. This will only happens if he dies. Well we needn’t worry, it completed today, a month and a half before the delivery deadline.
I think everyone who wants to run a Kickstarter should get the first edition of his zine, and use that to build a plan. The big secret is having the writing done, and lining up the artwork, printing, and fulfillment process up front.
What’s In The Kickstarter?
Obviously the revised rules. There is a whole section on the Kickstarter page about what is changing and what is being added. The rules came as a PDF to all backers, and he added ebook formats of mobi and epub. The PDF is in a lightweight format with smaller resolution art, and the full quality art. There is a form fillable PDF character sheet in the rule, and Kevin separated it into its own PDF. Plus there is the GM screen with all the tables pertinent to running a session.
The artwork is gorgeous! Don’t take my word for it, the art is available for free! [Affiliate Link] The first image in the GM screen PDF hit the right spot for me. See the image below. This is the portion of the image I was greeted with when I first opened the PDF for the GM screen. WOW! My monitor is set so I have to look up just a bit, adding to the feeling of awe.
There is a PDF with a picture of all the art with the name of the artist under it. All 28 illustrations come in tif format, meaning full color and ready to print! The only requirement for using this royalty free art is to credit the original artist. Free pictures of star fields, nebula, and other astronomical objects from NASA help add to the awesomeness of this project.
The book is a hefty 321 pages with a gorgeous cover, good quality paper that is easy to read – the background art sticks to the edges away from the text.
Finally, Kevin offered a code for all backers to get a monster tome with all of his previously published material for SWN. This tome was only available to backers. I wasn’t going to spend the $100 to get this 1009 page beast of a book, but I relented and added it to my collection. This is even bigger than the 609 page 2nd edition Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea [Affiliate Link] that is bigger than the DCC [Affiliate Link] rule book.
If you want to see an actual play, Adam Koebel ran a game that is on YouTube. He also had episodes just for the GM. I have only watched the session 0/character creation video, and the first GM video on the faction turn. Having the PDF of the rules available for free is a low bar for jumping into the game. The only difference between the free and full rules is the art.
The Mini Review.
Gorgeous art, with a science fiction setting built in, tables for system and session generation. Lots of cool ideas that can be used in any game. The original edition had rules for a faction turn, which remain. I really like the idea of multi-system spanning corporations and other organizations seeking to control things. It has been described as the GM’s turn between sessions. While the ideas are not totally portable to all genres, it has a framework that gives you something to think about.
The system is based on the standard six abilities from D&D. While much is familiar, there are minor differences. Initiative is with a d8, for example. I was really impressed with the original edition, and I bought the PDF a while back. I decided to back the Kickstarter, when I learned of it.
I’ll be running a session of SWN at Gary Con X in March, and I will be digging in to all of the materials I now have in my hands as I polish and tighten the scenario. If you are interested, you can sign up for event #222 Raid on The Space Vikings. I got inspired last year when I read H. Beam Piper’s Space Vikings [Affiliate Link].
After a more in depth reading of what I have, I can post a more in-depth review. There is a lot here, and if you are a fan of science fiction, or like the ideas in random tables to add to your GM toolkit, you can’t go wrong with the free rules. Although I recommend you buy the full rules to support the creator.
Kevin has done many other games, and game supplements. Check them out at his website, Sine Nomine Publishing, or click the link for his products at OBS and see what else he has done.