Friday, May 8, 2015

The White Star, White Box Science Fiction Roleplaying.

Sometimes it is the harder to write something good when you are shooting for brevity and simplicity. Even Gygax with original Dungeon & Dragons didn't get it right the first time. It took Holmes Blue Book DnD and and refined in Moldavy/Cook version before Dungeons and Dragon got the presentation right.

Written by James Spahn, White Star adapts the original Dungeons and Dragons (1974 edition) to science fiction. Mechanics wise there is not much there, but that was goal. To open up the classic tropes of science fiction using the straight forward mechanics of original Dungeons and Dragon routed through Swords and Wizardry, White Box edition. And James does a hell of a job. Everything drips with the love of the genre. His adaptation of the original mechanics to science fiction is spot on. And he manages to pull off a hat trick with retaining 100% compatibility with Swords & Wizardry White Box.

And it been generating buzz all over the OSR especially by Tenkar over on Tenkar's Tavern. I am seeing announcements for supplements popping up like this from the Greyhawk Grognard. I think it warranted based on what I read.

What are the highlights of the products in my opinion there are several.
  • He treats starships as monsters/characters with AC, hit points, etc and I am impressed with how it reads. 
  • He retains 100% compatibility with Swords and Wizardry.
  • Does a great job of including what you need to run Star Wars style space opera campaigns.

So what bad about White Star? Well if you are not interested in content creation then pretty much the only support the rulebook has is for Star Wars style space opera campaigns.

But I don't view that as a problem in the long run. Because just about the whole thing is under the Open Game License. So while James has opted to present support for space operas the path is open for other folks to jump in with support for other types of science fiction.  Also while it has no explicit planet creation or starship creation rules it looks pretty straightforward to just make up stuff with the examples in the book. It just that easy with the ODnD style mechanics.

I will complain that chapter two, Character Creation, was declared product identity. I get that the campaign stuff involving his setting is product identity. But I don't see the point of making the classes product identity. But then again the whole thing so straight forward that it is easy to see how to make your own.

So what about Star without Numbers the current leader of sci-fi roleplaying in the OSR. Star without Number is a great RPG, however for me it sits where OSRIC does in relation to Swords & Wizardry. While pretty much the same game, Swords and Wizardry lays out the foundation of of Dungeons and Dragons in a way that OSRIC doesn't. Swords and Wizardry not OSRIC was the game that fired up my imagination enough to figure out how to adapt my Majestic Wilderlands from GURPS to a variant of classic Dungeons and Dragons.

White Star inspires me in the same way. I can see what James is getting at and how I can adapt it to what I like about science fiction. And yes I have something to adapt. While it doesn't have the pedigree or the play behind it as the Majestic Wilderlands, it is something I been working on for a long, long time.


Mankind has reached the stars only to find… Earth

Birds flying under distant skies, fish swimming unexplored seas, and dinosaurs ruling unknown continents. On a hundred words there are the children of Earth. Children from an Earth of sixty-five million years ago.

Now man has outgrown his cradle and traveled into the black, wondering who and what scattered the seeds of Earth throughout the cosmos. Mankind is forging a new life among the stars but old fears and conflicts still threaten. The year is 2425 and this is their universe, the Majestic Stars.

10 comments:

James Spahn said...

Rob, thanks for the amazing review. You're very kind.

I can understand the confusion regarding Chapter 2 being PI. My logic in doing so was that by declaring the classes as PI it would encourage original content and prevent "re-tread." Also, Barrel Rider Games has had plagiarism in the past. By declaring Chapter 2 as PI, it means that fast-buck publishers won't be able to simply copy/paste the open content and sell it in their own site - but publishers will be able to create original material which will qualify under the terms of the OGL.

Long story short, not being able to copy/paste classes helps keep things original and prevents lazy publishers from taking the game whole-cloth, slapping a new cover on it and trying to make a fast buck.

JDsivraj said...

can a pubisher still use white star classes as long as they aren't duplicating the chapter. i.e. have a character: "Lars Bolo, 6th level Mercenary". and not be stomping on the PI?

James Spahn said...

Absolutely. The word mercenary is used in other parts of the core rules.

Matt Celis said...

What's the difference between White Box and S&W Complete? I have Complete; can I still swap back and forth with White Star?

By the way, Complete is awesome and the Otus cover rules.

Erik Tenkar said...

I'll field this for Matt.

S&W White Box is just that - it emulates the Original White Collector's Edition of D&D and adds in the Thief from Greyhawk.

In white box. d6 is used for HP for all the classes and weapon damage is d6 across the board.

complete changes HD based on class and has variable weapon damage and the rest of the classes.

it's very easy to switch between the two. I do it all the time.

Matt Celis said...

Cool, thanks, I was actually just about to copy and paste my inquiry over at the Tavern since you've been talking so much about White Star over there!

I still don't understand why they put Jeff Dee on the cover, though.

Matt Celis said...

Does Lars Bolo hang around the Centennial Eagle with Son Halo the smuggler-pilot?

The Scarecrow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Scarecrow said...

I don't know if to buy White Star or not, not at the moment yet because I've X-plorers RPG and they seem the same thing.
Can anyone explain me it there are differences between the two game systems? Thanks

Emily Reed said...

As a rules light RPG some modern gamers may be killed by the possibly uncertain nature of the system.I personally observe this to be one of the qualities of White Star however it may not be everybody's cup of tea…or Procyon brandy.You should buy White Star to figure out what a Procyon is!
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