White Star RPG Review

White Star Single Covers - FrontI’ve had a chance to read White Star cover-to-cover, and overall I really like what I see.  White Star, by James Spahn, is based upon Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, and the two games are fully compatible.

Like Whitebox, White Star is very rules light.  GM’s will be required to make rulings when situations inevitably arise that are not covered in the rules.  Such lighter rule sets also leave a lot of room for tweaking, modding and house ruling.  Both of these are good things, in my opinion.

While it’s clear that White Star is heavily influenced by Star Wars, the game pays homage to virtually every sci-fi setting on screen, from Dune to Firefly to Battlestar Galactica…even Doctor Who.  It just files the serial numbers off.

The four primary classes are Aristocrat (think Leia or Lando), Mercenary (Boba Fett or Jayne Cobb), Pilot (Han Solo or Wash) and Star Knight (i.e Jedi Knights or, conceivably, Time Lords).  In keeping with the toolbox nature of the game, alien racial classes are presented as archetypes: the Alien Brute (Chewbacca, Ookla or D’argo), Alien Mystic (Yoda, or Vulcans perhaps) and Robots.  I really like this approach to aliens, as it is infinitely expandable, works with any setting you come up with, and avoids the author putting their thumb in your game.  You could also have two Alien Brutes in your game, and yet they could be entirely different species.

Combat works pretty much like it does in most D&D variants, just with lasers and star swords.  And starship combat works just like personal combat, with the addition of Shields (which reduce incoming damage).

In keeping with old school D&D, White Star has no formal skill system.  This is one of the major differences between this game and other old school sci-fi RPGs, like Stars Without Number or X-Plorers.  However, if you desire a skill system, it would be fairly easy to bolt one on.  Say, steal the X-in-6 skill system from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or base it on the thief’s percentile rolls.  Personally, though, I feel White Star works just fine without formal skills.

White Star has “spells” in the form of Meditations and Gifts, used by Star Knights and Alien Mystics (respectively).  Both use D&D’s fire-and-forget spell mechanism.  Overall the system works well, and is keeping in full compatibility with S&W Whitebox.  However, considering Meditations and Gifts, and the classes that use them, are obviously inspired by Star Wars and The Force, I don’t understand the need to have two different sets powers.  All the more so considering the relative paucity of Meditations and Gifts included in the base game.  It’s an easy thing, though, to simply combine them into one group.

Many of the monsters included are inspired by science-fiction movies: Daleks, Cylons, Klingons, sand worms, and many more, make an appearance, though with different names.  It may seem a cheap and hokey addition, but as I was reading the game it felt like it somehow just works.  I can easily picture a space dungeon filled to the brim with screaming Cannicks (Obliterate!  OBLITERATE!), ridge-headed Qinlons seeking honorable combat, and relentless Assimilants droning on about the futility of resistance.

Advanced Technology details the “magic items” of the game.  There’s a nice selection to get you started, including a small section on cybernetics.  It’d be easy enough to add dozens more items inspired by sci-fi movies and books, or based on D&D magic items.  Some magic items, like Ioun stones, are sufficiently exotic they could probably be ported over directly.

White Star is rounded out by a GM’s section providing suggestions for various campaign styles drawn from common sci-fi tropes; for example, rebels vs. empire, space traders, planetary invasion, murder-hobos with a spaceship (aka Firefly), and more.  There’s also a sample space sector and a starting adventure.

It would be nice to see a few additions.  The game is missing a technical class (the pilot kinda-sorta fills this role, but not completely), and I think it could benefit from a thief-like ‘scoundrel’ class as well (again, the Aristocrat can fill this role, but that doesn’t feel like a good fit to me).  Tables and charts for random encounters, as well as randomly generating planets and star systems, would also be a nice addition.

In my opinion, White Star does a really good job of being Dungeons & Dragons in space.  If that’s not what you’re looking for, if you prefer hard sci-fi settings, then this probably isn’t the game for you.  But if you just want to pick up a star sword and kill Daleks and Cylons in the nearest derelict space hulk, White Star is the game for you.

Btw, as far as I know, the 20% discount for White Star is still going.

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2 Responses to “White Star RPG Review”

  1. Bruno Galan Says:

    I would recommend ‘Machinations of the Space Princess’ over ‘Lamentations’ for the skills, as it’s basically the same system but expanded specifically for sci-fi with ‘Machinations’.

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