Wednesday, January 22, 2014

recycled thoughts and house rules for Stars Without Number

UPDATE! Hello redditors! I'm putting together a pdf with all of my house rules (and without all of my crazy public musings about rules) and I will link to it at the top of this page as soon as it's done. Thanks for stopping by!

The rules for Stars Without Number are free!

This all started because I wanted to include a way for PCs to get critical hits and that led me to expanding upon the central rules. When I first GMed Stars Without Number I tweaked it slightly to give PCs a little more edge, and to make some of the generic qualities of combat a little more exciting. Being able to critically hit an opponent is a big thing and it's not part of the rules as written. As much as I enjoy the rules, I think older game systems evolved into modern systems because around the table there is a real need to serve the players' basic drive to succeed in heroic and exciting ways. At the time I was GMing my players didn't want to keep playing Stars Without Number, but it still lingers in my mind as one of the superior OSR systems. What follows here is a collection of all of my personal notes and house rules, culled from my old blog:

I have noticed that character disadvantages in multiple game systems have some real failures on designers' parts. GURPS alone has about four or five different variations of "impulsiveness" that when you really examine the rules behind them become quite game-y. The whole point-buy system of character creation lends itself to min/maxing and I'm not fond of it, though I do like giving my players the option to spend points into customizing their characters. I prefer the idea that if you can purchase an advantage it comes with a random disadvantage. Otherwise you can wind up with a character who becomes a walking tank with minimal conflicts during downtime.

I made a listing of the Traits from Fallout and edited them slightly to fit into Stars Without Number, then I went over them and fidgeted with them all a little so nobody would be able to cancel out the negative quality from one trait by selecting another with a more powerful positive effect.


Ripped almost word-for-word from the Fallout Wiki.
Choose one, or roll two randomly (1d12):

1 Bruiser:
A little slower, but a little bigger. You may not hit as quickly, but they will feel it when you do! Your initiative suffers a -4 penalty, but your overall Strength is increased by +2 and you do an additional point of damage with unarmed attacks.

2 Destroyer: The flamethrower that burns twice as bright burns half as long. All of your attacks with weapons are considered critical hits regardless of your roll, but equipment tends to break very easily when you use it as all of your misses with weapons are critical fumbles.

3 Fast Metabolism: Your metabolic rate is twice normal. This means that you are much less resistant to radiation and poison, but your body heals faster. Healing rates are doubled, and recovery times are halved; saving throws against radiation suffer a -3 penalty and poisons are considered one toxicity level higher.

4 Finesse: Your attacks show a lot of finesse. You don't do as much damage, but you hit more often. +1 attack bonus; -1 damage.

5 Gifted: You have more innate abilities than most, so you have not spent as much time honing your skills. +1 to all ability scores; receive one less skill point per level.

6 Good Natured: You studied less-combative skills as you were growing up. Your combat skills suffer significantly, but other skills are substantially improved. +1 to all Culture, Persuade, and Tech/Medical rolls; -3 to all attack rolls.

7 Hair Trigger: By not paying attention to any threats, you can act a lot faster in a turn. This lowers your armor class to just what you are wearing, but you react much faster in a combat turn. +4 to initiative and you always win ties; no Dexterity bonus for defense.

8 Hoarder: You may not be very strong, but somehow you carry more than your fair share of equipment. You gain +3 to encumbrance but -1 to overall strength.

9 Sex Appeal: You've got the "right" stuff that makes you particularly attractive to others. But those who are not amenable to your attractiveness tend to become quite jealous. +2 to Persuade checks and reaction modifiers when appropriate, and -2 when inappropriate.

10 Skilled: Since you spent more time improving your skills than a normal person, you start with better skill levels. The tradeoff is that you do not gain any extra abilities. You may add 3 skill points at 1st level, but do not take an Upgrade at 1st level.

11 Small Frame: You are not quite as big as other people, but that never slowed you down. You can't carry as much and your Encumbrance is -2, but you're more agile with +2 to overall Dexterity.

12 Strong Arm: You swing harder, not better. Your unarmed attacks are very brutal and add +1d4 damage, but lack finesse. You never cause a critical hit with unarmed melee damage.

Character Creation is a step by step process.

It's more important to me that player's define an overall goal for their character, or life's mission, because I can construct adventures around the goal. Character disadvantages, or Setbacks, are also integral to character creation. The player would have to take at least one as the last step. But then, I also wanted to make it something that could be used to improve a character. If somebody wants to start with more money, then they'd take a Setback. If they want to improve one of their abilities by +1, then they'd take a Setback.


A tricky proposition, because they basically will work like Feats and I didn't want to unbalance the rules that are already established here. I didn't want to change the focus of the game, but merely supplement what is already there with a little boost for players and make it a little more cinematic.

When feats were first implemented in 3rd edition D&D, I think the idea might have been to strip away special combat moves from non-warrior classes and introduce a way of customizing combat options for warriors. I don't think it ended up really working, since most times I've played 3rd edition non-warrior PCs still want to trip, bull rush, charge, grapple, and pin their opponents. Also, I've heard of DMs who will construct encounters specifically to foil the combat abilities of a warrior, so somebody whose built their character to fight hordes of orcs and goblins with Great Cleave is going to end up facing off against a lone minotaur or giant most of the time, and in my mind that defeats the point of creating those kinds of characters. Why specialize if you never get to use your specialization?

When looking at my options of what to include, I decided to make two rules for myself:
1) no Upgrades that simply add bonuses to skill checks
2) as few combat-related Upgrades as possible

For inspiration I started with the Fallout wiki again, and constructed a rudimentary set of Upgrades. I managed to avoid combat-related Upgrades until I realized I wanted to put in critical hits. At first I only had three combat-related Upgrades, but as I analyzed the skills that were available I saw a few huge holes within the structure of combat that I really felt could be filled with a few new things. I had a secondary list of skills that were affected by Upgrades and as I transferred skills from one list to the other I ended up with a list of skills that weren't affected by my Upgrades at all. This included all of the versatile skills that are frequently considered "must haves" for a sci-fi setting like Computer, Navigation, Perception, and Stealth. This means nobody can take a single Upgrade which sets their inherent skill at a higher level from the other players who might not select the same Upgrade.

The Tactics and Leadership skills were a headache though.

Mechanically this all ended up working well. The only thing left was to tweak a few of the Upgrades so that some would have requirements that made sense. In most places this was simply having a point in a specific skill that seemed related, but I was keen to give level requirements for the few combat Upgrades I included and still have them be balanced for warrior-types to get them early and have them feel somewhat out of reach for non-warriors. After all of that I reviewed the list of Upgrades that required a skill, then trimmed the requirements from some and left the rest intact.

Finally, I created one class-specific Upgrade for each of the three classes.

Here is a basic summary of each Upgrade (with Prerequisites listed in parenthesis).

Animal Empathy: use Persuade to change the attitude of a wild or domestic animal - affects animals with any level of Intelligence
Assessment: choose a subject and in place of a combat action make a Perception check - succeed and the GM tells you the subject’s total attack bonus without modifiers
Better Criticals: gain a damage bonus of +1d6 every time you score a critical hit (Level 6+)
Chemist: make drugs or chems that last twice as long with a Science/Intelligence roll (Skill: Science 1+)
Demolition Expert: when using explosives of any kind you never critically fumble a roll, and when determining damage roll twice and take the best result (Level 6+)
Die Hard: when hit points are reduced to 0, immediately perform one last action (not movement) before collapsing (Class: Warrior)
Dodger: natural Armor Class is 3 points lower
Eidetic Memory: +2 on checks to remember things, including saving throws against effects that alter or erase memories, no unskilled penalties on Intelligence rolls (Must be taken at 1st level.)
Grim Reaper: killing somebody in combat immediately allows you to move and make another attack (Level 14+)
Healer: doubles the effectiveness of medicine or any kind of medical care you give
Intense Training: raise an ability by a single point - can take this multiple times
Jack-of-All-Trades: use any Profession, Tech, or Vehicle skill without untrained penalties (Class: Expert)
Life Giver: gain an additional Hit Point per level - can take this multiple times
Martial Artist: choose a style - may be selected multiple times, each time a new style is learned - taking any style raises the martial artist's unarmed combat damage to 1d10 (Skill: Combat/Unarmed 1+) ...without going into details, there are five different styles, each style gives two maneuvers which can only be performed by those with the Upgrade
Master Tactician: apply a Tactics skill check bonus to allies using Leadership skill (Skill: Leadership 0+, Tactics 1+)
More Criticals: critical hits occur whenever you exceed your target number to hit by 5, instead of having to exceed your target number by 10 (Level 6+)
Pack Rat: halve the encumbrance rating of all items you carry down to a minimum of 1
Paralyzing Palm: using an Unarmed attack the target must make a Physical Effect saving throw or cannot act for 1d4 rounds (Skill: Combat/Unarmed 1+, Level 6+)
Prone Fighting: suffer no penalties on attack rolls for being prone, and opponents do not gain any bonus to hit with melee attacks while you are prone
Psychic Focus: choose a Psionic power, either targets suffer a -3 penalty to their saving throws against that power, or it costs half as many Psi Points to activate (round up) - can take this more than once, each time it applies to a different power (Class: Psychic)
Silent Running: can use Stealth and suffer no penalties for movement speed or armor worn (Level 8+)
Skilled: gain four skill raises to four different skills that you have at least 0+ in
Smooth Talker: suffer no unskilled penalty for any Charisma-based or social skill checks
Sneak Attack: when hitting surprised or unaware opponents (using Stealth) automatically inflict the maximum possible damage, no roll is necessary - opponents who cannot be surprised are immune (Level 2+)
Stonewall: whenever targeted by an ability that would knock you down, you may resist the knockdown with a successful Physical Effect save
Super Slam: you knock an opponent down to the ground when you inflict half of their Constitution score in damage from a single hit using an unarmed attack
Swift Learner: at each level earn an additional +1 skill point (Int 10+)
Taunt: make a skill check with either Persuade or Tactics, with success the target is shaken and you manage to get something out of them - during combat, use an action and if the target fails a Mental Effect save they are shaken for three rounds (–2 to all attack rolls, checks, and saving throws) - cannot Taunt somebody more than once in a given scene
Toughness: reduces damage you take by 1 point, to a minimum of 1 point (Con 10+)
Track: You can find and follow tracks left by other creatures - lots of modifiers!
Two-Fisted: reduce the penalty for attacking with your primary hand from -4 to -1 and for your off hand from -8 to -2
Wild Talent: choose a Level 1 Psionic power, you have developed a single Psionic ability - it costs 1 point of System Strain to use the power - may only be taken once (cannot be taken by Psychics)

32 Upgrades, or 36 if you count the different styles of Martial Arts, with 12 of them being used purely for combat. I'm leery about more than a third of them being primarily for combat, but I honestly couldn't think of any that I would want to get rid of. It's a pretty good ratio too since the maximum Upgrades a character could earn over their career is 12, and that's only if they make it to 20th level.


The skill system in Stars Without Number is based on 1970s-era Traveller (roll 2d6 usually against a target number of 8, add your skill and ability modifier), but the level and combat system is like a simplified version of 1st edition AD&D (roll d20 and add your class bonus, skill bonus, and opponent's Armor Class to the roll).

While learning the skills from Stars Without Number I only found one thing incongruous, and that is the distinction between Postech and Pretech specialties under the Tech skill. The classifications seemed rather arbitrary and open-ended, and perhaps that was done on purpose to give the GM control over what could fall under those categories of Tech.

Postech: Mechanical and electronic technology developed after the Scream, including almost all of the technology in use on modern frontier worlds.
Pretech: Advanced technology dating from before the Scream, often requiring manufacturing techniques that are no longer available on the frontier.

The definitions rely far too much upon the campaign setting presented within the rulebook and even though it is a very generalized setting, for a while I simply chose to ignore those words while I toyed with the system. Then I find myself confronted with them while I tweaked the skills to fit my custom rules, and found myself forced to remove the two skills associated with them. Instead of simply gutting them entirely, I am choosing to replace them with some specialties that I find more appropriate, and sorely lacking from the skills already available.

Mechanical: This covers propulsion systems for most types of non-starship vehicles, all forms of power plant or engine (steam, gasoline, diesel, fuel cell, etc.), robotics, and automated factories.
Electronic: Any kind of electronic device not covered by the other specialties. This includes most forms of communications technology (radios, satellite uplinks, etc. ), electronic countermeasures, force shields, deflector arrays, sonar and acoustic gear (including underwater equipment), concealable or remote surveillance gear (hidden cameras, wiretaps, etc.) and all forms of audio, film, video and holographic editing equipment.

I was influenced by GURPS to make an electronic/mechanical split. GURPS goes overboard with specializations though, so I thought it was fun being able to look at ALL of these different versions of electronics and be able to umbrella them under one skill.

There is also one weird overlap with starships. If you're attempting to fly stealthily within a star system it's an opposed skill check of Computer vs. Vehicle/Space or Tech/Astronautic, whichever is higher. I personally don't think Vehicle/Space should be used to avoid detection, unless there is something in the space to hide behind or around, which means trying to hide your starship from detection would always come down to a Tech roll. Thinking of the scene in the first episode of Firefly, Wash tries to shut down all of the systems on his ship to avoid detection, but the ship is also perched inside a larger piece of space wreckage. It just makes sense to me that it would always default to Tech/Astronautic unless there's something for the pilot to use as "cover."

Kevin Crawford had this to say:
    "The reason I put in that skill bifurcation was largely to implicitly leave "crazy Terran Mandate tech" as the exclusive domain of characters focused on tech as their main character angle. If you're just dabbling in tech, you're going to go with Tech/Postech, because that's the great majority of what you'll encounter. You'll only go so far as to take Tech/Pretech if it's really your concept that your character is a master of all things sparking and glowy. As a consequence, Tech/Pretech is going to be lower than your character's Postech skills, making Pretech work harder and a more significant test of your character's abilities without requiring special effort from the GM to set it off. As a thematic generalization, you could really replace the two skills with "Tech/Stuff Any Professional Tech Should Be Able To Fix" and "Tech/Stuff Only Elite Wrenchmonkeys Can Handle" and get the same effect. The split you've done between Mechanical and Electronic can work just fine- Traveller does it that way, if I'm remembering right. Still, you might consider just dropping the bifurcation completely, and going with "Tech/Standard" or some such. A character whose concept is "I'm a Space Mechanic" is going to feel obligated to buy both Mechanical and Electronic skills at roughly the same level of competence, and that's going to cost substantially more than the -0 or -1 skill in Tech/Pretech that they might otherwise feel sufficient to signify their tech-awesomeness. Skill points in SWN are very limited, and you might find your tech-concept PCs struggling a bit to keep up both skills at the levels that feel "right" to them. As for the weird overlap in detection, that was a quiet gesture toward "lone pilot" competence. A character with the "I'm a pilot" concept is going to have a very good Vehicle/Space skill, but may only nod toward Tech/Astronautics. I'd rather let the pilot be able to handle that situation without requiring help, for the sake of all those space operas with lone pilots in their trusty fighters. If that's not the genre you want to emulate and you want to play up the necessity of a ship's engineer, then requiring Tech/Astronautics should work fine."
Which all makes sense.
And thus ends my mental dithering over skill checks with Stars Without Number rules.

las drogos

The more I tinkered with Stars Without Number (how many times can I link to it? not enough, it's awesome!), the more my version is turning into a simplified tabletop version of the Fallout 1 video game.

One of the big things that SWN is missing is an easy way to heal. In fact, healing is virtually nonexistent. There are rules for healing while resting, and then the Psychic class has a Biopsionics discipline that can mitigate hit point loss, but otherwise the only piece of equipment that can heal is a medical kit which only increases a doctor or nurse's skill. I've been looking at healing in several games (not just SWN and Fallout) and trying to find a way to give players a balanced way to heal without requiring a Psychic, or science fiction spellcaster. My options are a little limited, but again, Fallout provides an easy solution with drugs. Or "Chems" as they are more often referred to.

I had been ignoring drugs at first but since I included an Upgrade for making drugs last longer, I'm turning my attention to them now. In Fallout 1 drugs had a strong risk-reward mechanic, you could get a huge boost to a skill which would help out in a fight or ease your way through dialogue with an unruly NPC, but you always ran the risk of getting addicted and suffering withdrawal. I remember playing Fallout 1 and always trying to guess if this was a fight that I might need a dose of Psycho to help out with, because I didn't want to take that stuff and suffer the after effects, but I didn't want to die either. Fallout 3 virtually removed withdrawal, or made it so easy to get rid of the addiction that it's almost laughable why you would ever second guess using drugs.

I consider these to be a rough draft for playtesting.

Drugs, or "Chems," are any chemical, medicinal or otherwise, used to cause changes in a person's behavior or biological systems. The effects of drugs "stack" to provide larger bonuses together than either does individually, but this commonly leads to addiction.
Drugs may have simultaneous effects, usually with some kind of balance — it might lower one stat while raising another. The practical upshot of this is that a character can receive an extraordinary bonus to some critically required skill, but some other skill or ability is going to suffer.
Drugs are divided into two groups: addictive, and non-addictive. Abusing most drugs regularly will result in addiction, causing withdrawal symptoms when the chem wears off, resulting in lowered stats unless you continue to take the drug, or seek a restorative cure.

Anti-Tox: A potent and nearly universal antidote for poisons and toxins found on many worlds. Anti-Tox must be injected via syringe or auto-injector, and upon application acts as a Tech/Medical skill check against the poison's Toxicity. Only one application of Anti-Tox can be used effectively during each Interval of a poison. (non-addictive)

Healing Powder: A primitive analgesic paste made with plants, roots and bark. After it is applied 1d6 hit points are restored, but Dexterity suffers by -2 for 1 day. Repeat doses increases the duration of the penalty by 1 extra day. (non-addictive)

Medpak: This item consists of a small syringe filled with a nano-medication and a gauge for measuring the status of the contents. The syringe and the gauge are housed on the back of a patch that wraps around an arm. When exposed to oxygen the nano-medication instantly spoils. It was originally created as a prototype for a more universal medical gel which was never refined. They are plentiful and easy to come by in more civilized areas, although on the outskirts of civilization they can be quite rare and fetch high prices. It takes a full-round to apply a Medpak, the person administering the Medpak can concentrate on nothing else. When the medicine is injected it provides immediate healing of the body's minor wounds, healing 2d4+1 hit points. Crippled limbs and broken bones are not restored with Medpaks. (non-addictive)

Hydros: A flavorless but unpleasant paste which is ingested and begins to take effect almost immediately. Hydros has the amazing effect of being able to keep muscle tissue from atrophying while broken bones heal. This curative agent heals bones faster thus any crippled limb can usually be restored quickly with a generous helping of Hydros. After one dose of Hydros, the healing time for broken bones or crippled limbs are halved (applied after Tech/Medical might reduce the healing time). Hydros leaves the patient in a dreamlike haze while it is in their system and is addictive like morphine. While healing with Hydros, the user's Perception is reduced by -3, movement is cut in half, and they suffer a -2 to Dexterity for the duration of the healing time. Hydros is expensive and debilitating but effective. (addictive)

Null: Null is a highly potent psychopharmaceutical which makes the user temporarily impervious to pain. Null grants the user 16 bonus hit points that are lost first, meaning users suffering less than 16 points of damage will be uninjured when the drug wears off. The effect is immediate upon injection and lasts for one hour. The user suffers no ill effects from taking Null but most packages come with a label warning that the drug is highly addictive and should only be used under extreme conditions. (addictive)

Anti-Rad: An anti-radiation chemical that can significantly reduce the danger of irradiated areas. Anti-Rad is reasonably common and, like most legitimate medicinals, is non-addictive. Members of every starship engine crew should never be without a bottle of Anti-Rad pills! Anti-Rad increases saving throws against radiation by +8 and lasts for 1 full day, but requires an hour before its effects are felt. Taking multiple doses of Anti-Rad doesn’t increase the total resistance (the effects do not stack) nor does it extend the drug's active duration. (non-addictive)

Radpak: An intravenous chemical solution, administered just like a Medpak, that bonds with radiation particles and passes them completely and harmlessly through your system. It cannot be used to reverse radiation poisoning, but instead is meant to be used after being exposed to radiation to rid yourself of it before poisoning sets in or gets worse. It works instantly, preventing Constitution loss from radiation poisoning, but stays in the system for several days (1d4). It has numerous adverse side effects, most notably headaches (-2 Perception), stomach pains (-2 to Initiative), hair loss (very slim chance), and it acts as a potent diuretic. (non-addictive)

Rush: Excelenol is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that quickens the central nervous system. It is extracted from protein-enhanced insects and administered via an inhaler. The initial euphoric rush which lends the drug its street name rarely lasts more than a minute, but during that time the user is filled with a burst of energy and strength. The user receives +4 to Initiative and +3 to overall Dexterity and Constitution for 1 minute (10 rounds). (addictive)

Crackerjack: An injected drug composed of strange, unknown chemicals of military origin. It comes with its own unique delivery system (administered like a Medpak). Upon injection the effects are immediate and last for 10 rounds, the user gains +4 to Armor Class and +4 to any attack rolls, but any rolls made with Intelligence or Wisdom suffer -3. (addictive)

Bug Juice: An advanced steroid that was popularized by professional athletes and their clandestine use of the drug. The drug is a thin green liquid typically contained in small bottles, but can also be synthesized into swallowable gelcaps. It increases Strength and reflexes, designed specifically to increase a person's deadliness in hand-to-hand combat. Consequently, any combat style whose effectiveness is influenced by Strength reaps a significant benefit from the use of Bug Juice. In those situations where unarmed combat is the law, a quick dose or two of Bug Juice prior to the commencement of hostilities can drastically shift the odds. Unfortunately, Bug Juice is highly addictive and anyone using it more than once is running a severe risk. A person going through Bug Juice withdrawal is in no condition to fight hand-to-hand. After ingesting, it takes 2d6 minutes to take effect but then lasts for 3 hours. It gives the user +4 to Strength and Constitution affecting Encumbrance and Hit Points accordingly, and also bestows +1d6 to melee and unarmed damage. (addictive)

Captivax: Designed to increase memory related functions and speed up other mental processes. These red capsules are a popular party drug, widely appreciated for their effect on creativity. They are, of course, highly addictive. It takes 2d6 minutes for Captivax to take effect but lasts for 3 hours. It gives the user +2 to overall Intelligence, +2 to Perception, and a +4 to Charisma-based rolls. (addictive)

Addiction: Each time a character takes an addictive drug there is a chance he becomes dependent upon the drug. If this happens the character's body (or mind) is in need of a daily dose of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms which manifest as ability score or attribute penalties. In addition to this daily requirement, the character no longer receives the benefits of taking the drug (or drugs) which he is addicted to. At least, not until he overcomes his withdrawal.
Each drug has a percentage chance of becoming an addiction, multiple uses in the same day increase this percentage regardless of which drug was taken. The GM should roll this secretly and inform the player only of his penalties when acquiring an addiction.
Hydros: +10%, -3 Str/Dex
Null: +30%, -3 Dex/Int
Rush: +25%, -4 Str/Wis/Chr
Crackerjack: +20%, -3 Int/Wis/Chr
Bug Juice: +25%, -2 Str/Dex/Con
Captivax: +15%, -3 Dex/Int/Chr
For example: If a character took a dose of Rush he would have a 25% of becoming addicted to Rush. If he took Rush again in the same day his chance of getting addicted to the second dose would rise to 50%. If later on he applies Hydros to his wounds then the GM would add 10 to his addiction roll and the character would now have a 60% of becoming addicted to Hydros.

I think I can rephrase that last part about addiction better. I'm not sure I'll actually use Crackerjack, I really like the name though!


Physical or mental quirks which impair your character and leave you at a disadvantage. You might acquire Setbacks through the regular course of the game, but characters do not normally start with any Setbacks.
Players may elect to start their characters with a Setback (or several Setbacks) in the interest of making your character more interesting and realistic to role-play. For each Setback you take during character creation you may raise your character's level by one (but receive only half the experience points), start with 1000 more credits, or receive an extra Trait or Upgrade.
When taking a Setback during character creation you must roll 2d6 for it, with a minus 1 modifier to the roll for each Setback after the first. If you get the same Setback twice, take a Setback one slot above your roll. (If you rolled an Injury twice, then your second Setback would actually be an Addiction.) If you receive a Terminally Ill Setback you cannot take any more Setbacks.

2) Terminally Ill
3) Limited Sense
4) Medical Condition
5) Mental Case
6) Injury
7) Addiction
8) Socially Afflicted
9) Sleep Disorder
10) Stomach Upset
11) Butterfingers
12) Space Sickness

Addiction :
You just can't focus on your daily life without indulging some habit you've formed. You have become addicted to some relatively harmful substance (tobacco) or you are severely addicted to some relatively harmless substance (coffee). Either way you suffer mentally when you don't have access to the object of your addiction, and prolonged unavailability makes you irritable and difficult to work with. You may choose the nature of your character's addiction, it might even be a psychological addiction but the effects are the same. You suffer a –1 to all rolls if the substance is not available after 24 hours. If you are forced to go without for another 24 hours then you suffer -3 to Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma until you indulge your addiction. If you go two weeks without the substance all of your affected scores permanently drop by two points, but you're no longer addicted.

Butterfingers : You are physically awkward and tend to make simple mistakes due to poor motor skills. Tech and Vehicle skills cost double the normal points, and skill Raises can never be used to increase them. Additionally, your critical fumbles have a -3 modifier.

Injury : You choose the nature of the injury (war wound, chronic back pain, botched surgery, etc.) but the effects are always the same. Roll Constitution against 10+ once per day. Failing the roll means you wake up with the pain and it might last throughout the rest of the day. While affected by the pain your Dex and Int are reduced by -5 for six hours. After every six hours you can attempt another Constitution roll against 10+ to recover from the pain. Success means you deal with the pain and the negative effects dissipate, but failure means it continues for another six hours. If you fall asleep while suffering from the pain then you do not get any decent rest and lose 1d4 Hit Points the next day as a result of exhaustion. You cannot die from this loss of Hit Points.

Limited Sense : Choose either mild deafness or myopia. Mild deafness will result in -2 to Perception and any hearing-based rolls. Myopia leaves you with a –2 penalty to see or affect things farther away than 15 yards.

Medical Condition : You have an untreatable cardiovascular disease which leaves you susceptible to feeling weak and potentially getting killed. You have a -2 penalty on any roll to remain conscious, avoid death, or resist disease or poison. In addition, your natural healing rate is cut in half (round up) and you lose System Strain at twice the normal level.

Mental Case : Some men carry a darkness inside of them that eats away at their will to live. You suffer from chronic depression and must make a Wisdom check at 8+ every morning to do anything but acquire and consume the minimum necessities for survival. Make this same check whenever you must choose between two or more actions. If you fail you take the path of least resistance. This usually means staying put and doing nothing. If somebody else shows up and demands that you do something with him failing the check means you go along with them out of apathy. On days that you pass the check you're consumed with a mania that forces you to take extreme chances and throw yourself into dangerously risky situations. Whenever you find yourself in a fight you are consumed by a death wish and throw yourself into the fight recklessly.

Sleep Disorder : You suffer from chronic insomnia and when the GM declares you must make a Constitution roll against 9+ to fall asleep easily. If you fail you lose sleep that night and the next day your Strength and Dexterity are reduced by four points (this doesn't affect Encumbrance). The insomnia continues until you succeed at the nightly Constitution roll. The GM secretly rolls 1d10 to determine how many days pass before you suffer from insomnia again. Whenever you have a traumatic experience the GM can require a Constitution roll to begin another episode of insomnia. Additionally, when you do manage to fall asleep you tend to be difficult to wake and subtract -2 to attempts to wake up.

Socially Afflicted : There is something about that is distasteful to others. You might be lacking in manners, impulsively blurt out your thoughts, completely oblivious to jests, or simply ugly as sin. Most of the time people get a bad impression from you, subtract 3 from all reaction rolls made against you or a group you are with. In addition to being disagreeable, you have difficulty communicating with others and have -2 to Instructor, Persuade, and any other social skill that might require you to be convincing.

Space Sickness : You suffer from "zero-gravity maladjustment syndrome," or space sickness. You are miserable in free fall, micro- and zero-gravity. You can never adapt to such environments and suffer -2 to all rolls and Armor Class. As well, roll Constitution against 8+ and if you fail you vomit, which is problematic if you're wearing a vacc suit.

Stomach Upset : You have a chronic gastrointestinal disorder which leaves you vigilant about what you consume or else suffer eventual starvation. You have a special diet that needs to be adhered to and your body will slowly consume itself if you don't receive the nutrients you require. You may choose what kind of diet restrictions the character has (vegan, all fruit, raw meat, etc.) and if for some reason you're unable to comply to the diet you begin to suffer the effects of starvation.

Terminally Ill : Your character is not long for this world. At the beginning of every session you must make a Physical Effect or Luck saving throw, your choice. If you fail you suffer a -4 to all rolls for the rest of that session. A failed roll also means you must make an Athletics/Con roll at 8+ (ignore the -4 penalty) or else they permanently lose 1 Hit Point. If this reduces you to 0 Hit Points, your character has died.

New Weapon: Flamethrower

Damage 2d6, Range 3 meter cone or 6 meter line, Magazine 50, Encumbrance 4
When spraying an area no attack roll is necessary. Instead everyone in the area must make an Evasion or Luck save to avoid damage. When set to shoot a stream of flame an attack roll is made as normal. Anyone hit by the flamethrower is set on fire and takes an additional 1d6 damage per round afterward, unless they spend their entire turn extinguishing the flames. Firing the weapon in two consecutive rounds overheats it, preventing it from being fired for one round. Reloading takes two rounds.

Finally, odds & ends

Skill Points: Each class doubles their skill points per level.
(If you do the math, a Warrior or Psychic will have to spend all of their skill points in one skill just to keep it at it's maximum level. Only at 10th level do they finally get a "spare" point to spend elsewhere. Most players want to have more range than one specialization, so I'm giving it to them.)

Ability Score Modifiers: I give a slightly different breakdown, as seen in the table on the right.
(I felt the range was too limited, and I just think there should be something special for having a 3 or 18 in an ability.)

Training Costs for Skills: Waived at 2nd and 3rd level. Characters are assumed to have been training beforehand. At 4th level and beyond money and time must be spent to raise skills.
(This is just a personal preference. Especially with new players, nobody likes to feel that they managed to survive to a higher level and then suddenly get hit with having to spend money.)

Lazarus Patch: All 1st level characters start with one at no cost.

Combat: Players don't like keeping track of their enemies' Armor Class, so I just give them a target number to hit that is lower than 20 based on the AC of whoever they're fighting. It's kind of like THAC0 in that respect, though I believe the correct name for what I'm doing would have to be THAC20
(I would like to change it to an ascending Armor Class system, but I'm being lazy and I'm also worried that I've changed too much already. Also, I let people make called shots and critical hits, and I kept a copy of GURPS 4e handy to use tables from that.)


  1. I know this was written like two years ago but damn this is some good stuff. Definitely using this in my upcoming campaign.

    1. Thanks! I appreciate it.
      It looks like I never finished that pdf. Damn! That will be the first thing on my New Year's resolution right there.

  2. Great stuff, just got SWN, I am a happy bunny.

    tears from the front blog.


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