Stars Without Number is a sci-fi tabletop RPG created to allow players and GMs to create their own sector of space to explore. Set in a universe that is still recovering from the horrors of the past, modern society has only recently rediscovered space flight. And when people start getting spaceships, they inevitably start strapping guns to them. As such, the system needs a ruleset to deal with ship vs. ship combat. This ruleset is one of the best out there.
When combat starts, each ship rolls to see who goes first. Each ship’s crew will then decide the order of each department. There are five departments – the bridge, gunnery, engineering, comms, and the captain. Each department has one action on their turn. This can be a general action that anyone can take, or a department-specific one. These actions either cost or make command points (CP). CP are shared by all departments and any that aren’t used by the end of the turn are lost.
Why is This Ruleset so Good?
This ruleset is one of the best in not only Stars Without Number, but in tabletop RPGs. The rules perfectly simulate the hectic and chaotic nature of a space battle. Each player runs a department, and each department needs to work together to get the most out of each turn. Want to open up with all of your guns? Make sure gunnery goes last and that they have plenty of CP to spend. Want to try and hide from the enemy? Make sure comms gets a chance to pull off some electronic warfare.
The system also encourages the players to think on their feet. A single shot can knock out their engines or a critical weapon. When this happens, the players may have to quickly change their strategy. One of the best aspects of this ruleset are crises. Whenever a player’s ship is hit, anyone can choose to accept a crisis. This is a random event that, if not solved by next turn, can cause some serious damage to the players or the ship. This creates a tactical decision the players need to make. Can they afford to take the hit, or do they want to risk the potential for something worse?
Overall, this ruleset makes for hectic, but fun ship combat sessions. You never know what to expect next, and always have to be on your toes. The entire situation can be upended before you know it.