I love Stars Without Number. It’s a concise, well thought out science fiction toolbox, and for me it scratches a conceptual itch that games like Traveller never quite manage. So, when I found out about the Kickstarter for Worlds Without Number, I backed it straight away. At the time of writing, the project has produced a release candidate pdf, and is about to go to the printers. Ostensibly a fantasy version of Stars Without Number with a far future dying earth setting built in, I found the real treasure to be in its world building tools. As a Forever GM, I only get to be a player when solo gaming, where good, solid random tables are a much sought-after resource.
Whilst I never really used the Terran Mandate setting in Stars Without Number, preferring my own homebrew universe instead, I found its Worlds Without Number counterpart to have piqued my interest. The Latter Earth reads like a Beksiński painting you can play around in, with flavours of the Dying Earth and the Book of the New Sun, I really enjoyed the assumptions used to bring some of the standard fantasy tropes into the setting. The undying elves as recurrent glitches in reality. The dwarves bred to be used as arcane heatsinks. A cosmology and creatures conjured from forking dimensions, and the labyrinthine, patchwork nature of an ancient world, weary from the weight of countless centuries pressing down upon it.
I’m going to play a few solo games of Worlds Without Number, using its Latter Earth setting, the toolkits in the pdf, and some of my usual solo gaming resources. I’ll post the sessions as a blog, partly as a campaign record for me, partly in case anyone is interested in WWN or solo RPGs. I’ll roll up some characters and start them in the Gyre region, defining and detailing the world as I go. There will be little to no prep beforehand.
Every solo gamer builds up their own repertoire of resources they prefer to use, and for the curious few, the backbone of my own toolkit usually includes:
- The Mythic GM Emulator is my solo gaming engine of choice, replacing parts of a real GM with its Fate Chart. Ask it a question, make a rough estimate of the probabilities involved, and roll a d100. Boom. Job done.
- For building and fleshing out NPCs I tend to use UNE, as it is quick and simple but generates interesting and complex personalities.
- Filling in the Blanks and The Perilous Wilds are resources I use when exploring the world. Both can create points of interest, encounters, and inject some flavour and randomness into travel. If I want more specific generators, I use the GMs Miscellany series of supplements. Together these documents flesh out the world around you.
- Finally, The GameMaster’s Apprentice is a deck of cards that can be used to fill in any gaps, or add a level of complexity to a game. It can be used as a dice roller, an oracle, an encounter creator, a random generator, as well as a prompt for the imagination.
Whilst these will no doubt see much use during my Latter Earth sessions, I plan to use the tables and tools in the WWN pdf as much as possible, since generating sandboxes is what they are designed for. It will be interesting to see how much of the world generating load they can handle.
Since I will be creating everything as I play, I’m not sure what exact shape this campaign will take, but my solo games usually tend to revolve around exploration, with a certain level of graphic violence or horror. I usually stay away from sexual themes, and I don’t really enjoy playing high powered characters.
I guess there is nothing left to do except roll up some adventurers!