Last time we covered character creation in Kevin Crawford’s genius space OSR Sandbox game Stars without Number. The equipment section is interesting because unlike OSR fantasy games, the credits to physical power curve goes quite deep. While gold coins can’t generally buy magic items and armies of pikemen are impractical in many a fantasy adventure, credits can mean the difference between a bum with a laser and a leather jacket and a Power-armoured, cybernetically-augmented killer with a Distortion Cannon. Barring the might of the Psychic, wealth and power scale much harder then wealth and experience. While many a fantasy game would eventually incorporate some sort of carousing rules to bleed off excess gold, there is no need for this in SWN, where the world can easily accommodate multi-million dollar bank accounts without breaking a sweat.
Equipment is divided by Tech Level and covers the gamut of tech level 0 (stone age) equipment to Tech Level 5, for those few Pre-tech devices that are still in wide enough circulation to be found on the open market (SWN mentions the odd Pretech factory that still manufactures Shear Rifles for example) and covers everything from convenient Glowbugs that are essentially sticky flashlights to Gravtanks and Carriers. A ludicrously expansive and powerful system, actually running SWN can feel like driving a Lamborghini in first gear since you will likely end up using only the lower echelons of its capabilities. If you are a filthy min-maxer, SWN is like a lucid wet dream.
First a note on encumbrance. In an astonishing twist of parallel evolution, SWN simplifies inventory management from the godawful beancounting common among most editions of DnD. You can carry a number of items (or bundles of small items) equal to half their Strength Score for easy use (within the round), and twice that many Stowed on their person so as to take a round to dig out. Characters can opt to reduce their speed by a fourth by carrying 2 additional items (4 stowed) or half by 4. Some items count as more then one, say, a machine gun. Anyone who can achieve by approximation what was previously handled with tedious pettyfoggery deserves an exaltation.
The currency of the future is the Credit, backed up by the still functional Exchange of Light, an interstellar banking organization that enables some form of pan-stellar economy by enforcing contracts, overseeing negotiations and generally acting as stabilizing influence. In a refreshing but somewhat incredible take, they are not also a coven of Baphomael worshipping cannibal war profiteers, but its the future so we can dig it. The credit does not seem to be based on the value of any one material, SWN mentions the relative abundance of metals to any TL 4 civilization via asteroid mining.
Rules for carrying weaponry abroad appear to vary from culture to culture, with most SWN worlds having a frontier-ish feel and at least open-carry laws. Most planets draw the line at heavy weapons and more importantly, Body-armor. While you can carry a gun for self-defense, it is reasoned anyone wearing armor is expecting a smackdown, adding a market for…concealed armor!
Armor should be pretty familiar to anyone who has played Dnd, and goes from Leather Jackets to complex polyceramic hardsuits, space-capable Power Armour and personal force fields. Edgy players wanting to portray a medieval knight in a future setting may readily do so, with the caveat that plate armor is utterly useless against TL 3 weaponry or higher. This seems a little too binary, I would have enjoyed a system where plate armor would protect better against laser weapons  then a futuristic kevlar vest and perhaps some hyper-advanced shield would be vulnerable to the kidnjall  but this does not take place . Technology advances in an almost linear fashion. 6000 credits will net you an AC 2 Assault suit (you need the Exosuit skill at 0 or take a penalty to hit when wearing it) proof against all man portable weaponry of TL 3 or higher. The implications are clear. A band of ruthless criminals can easily land on some primitive world and set up an empire of violence and terror, or as I like to call it, “the first thing PCs do when they get a starship and a good starchart” . Min-maxers can opt to shill out for a TL 4 shield proof against bullets for that extra AC.
Primitive weaponry is SWN slang for melee combat, and unfortunately for Wh40k/Dune enthusiasts, melee combat is very much the pere noir of the SWN system. There is no rule for firing into melee, meaning that barring extreme environmental conditions, the projectile and the laser rule the battlefields of SWN. In the rare cases when melee weaponry is actually advantageous or you are teaching a bunch of savages some lessons about interstellar entrepeneurship, you have you collection of low-tech swords, rocks, knives, clubs, spears and bows. The Greatsword is still pretty good. The section is very general but covers most categories you are likely to encounter in a sci-fi game.
High tech options include the TL 3 Advanced Bow, a stun baton, a mono-blade and the deadly suit-ripper, a weapon specifically designed to destroy space suit. On the plus side, Grenades are counted as Primitive and inflict 2d6 – 1/point of AC under 6, save for half damage with SCATTER DICE. As a note to any future spacers, Grenades are essential to surviving a game of SWN and you should carry as many as humanly possible. You will never regret a purchase.
In SWN only girls and otaku fight with Primitive Weaponry. Real men fight with Guns. Projectile weapons are the bread and butter of TL 2-4 combat, providing a cheap and masculine alternative and preventing your game from descending into a Star Trek Larp. Muskets, Revolvers, Automatic rifles, Carbines, Combat shotguns, Sniper Rifles that can kill instantly on a surprise attack and the terrifying 2d8+2 Mag Rifles. A look at the damage of a simple shotgun (3d4 or 3d6 with slug ammunition) and the plethora of burst options (+2 to hit and damage for 3 increased ammo expenditure) tells you who is the king of the battlefield. Advanced weaponry is lethal to low level characters, often dealing 2 or three d6 damage. Excluding psychics Combat in SWN is largely a brutal arithmetic of net economic worth multiplied by numbers and expressed through superior armor and weaponry. The Age of the Sword is over. Death is fast, noisy and light.
Completing the holy trinity are Energy Weapons. Is your aim shaky and your vision misty? Does your girlish wrist shatter with kickback? Does your girlfriend tell you that guns are bad for the environment? Fear not! Energy weapons give a +1 to hit, have superior range and all take easily rechargeable Type A energy cells. The drawback? Environmental scattering, wimpy damage and a high price tag. The more advanced weaponry uses particle beams instead and deals horrendous damage, the TL 5 weapons use gravitic fields, shear planes or even a portable spatial disruptor. As written, there is no real drawback to Energy Weapons besides requiring a TL 4 infrastructure to maintain, making the eventual transition from projectiles to energy weapons for advanced civilizations almost inevitable.
The odd duck, clocking in at the last are psitech weaponry, which can only be used by Psychics. Psitech represents a mostly lost technology from before the Scream and requires a number of levels in certain disciplines to use. They are all awesome. A blade of mental energy that passes through inanimate materials. A grenade that can be set by precognitives so it only hits enemy combatants in the blast zone. A telekinetic gravity gun! And last and best, the Metastasis Projector or Cancer Gun! Even a single hit requires prolonged treatment in a TL 4 medical centre! Outlawed on virtually all worlds aware of their existence! Badguy weapon confirmed.
The game starts to open up with its description of Gunnery, that is to say supra-man portable weaponry, which can see a surprising amount of use unprecedented in a fantasy game. Its huge weight is no longer the inconvenience it once was in a game where one is readily equipped with Grav Sleds and Shuttlecraft capable of fielding that weight or more, though all but the heavy machine gun and the rocket launcher are so massive as to be only mounted on vehicles. While the ability to perform supressive fire is given all the terrifying potency it should have, the rocket launcher is surprisingly weak and lacks an area effect, making it an effective weapon against vehicles only. The heavy machine gun has the most potential as a space dungeon asset for defensible locations.
TL 4-5 vehicle weapons are nightmarish agglomerations of damage dice and ranges, 20 foot radius Wheatcutter Belts or a TL 5 5d12 Vortex Cannon are important only for vehicle on vehicle purposes. In the battlegrounds of the 33rd century men are like gnats .
Vehicle rules are simple, but complex enough to provide logistical challenges for their widespread use. Vehicles generally consume 1 type B powercell every 6 hours, meaning that you’d better bring plenty of spares if you are going to do any vehicle-based hexcrawling. Speed is given in abstract terms only for purposes of pursuit, as a number that can be subtracted from Drive Tests or added to AC when a vehicle is moving. Being on a vehicle, even a motorcycle, will give its occupant complete protection until the vehicle’s hit points are depleted, after which all occupants take the vehicle’s maximum hit points in damage (half on a luck save) in a vaguely quantum mechanical approach to balanced combat. That being said, the armor on even rudimentary vehicles like a Gravcar or a helicopter generally makes them a force to be reckoned with. The Grav Tank is a humongously powerful machine, proof against all non-gunnery weaponry, but its TL 5 nature implies that even Sector Powers are unlikely to be able to field them in great quantities.
So is there anything else you can pour your hardearned cash into besides terrifying amounts of firepower? Yes! There is a fairly expansive list of adventuring gear, suitable for all manner of expeditions into alien jungles, mineral prospecting reports and pre-tech base dives. As a space DnD adventuring list, it actually serves exceptionally well. Atmophilters, Comm serves, glow bugs, Grav Chutes, Light Amplification Goggles, Pressure tents, Advanced rope that can be welded to other rope seamlessly with the one-size fits all Meta-tool, Survey scanners and so on, all the relevant items powered by the Type A power cell, the oil flasks of space Dnd. Unlike oil flasks, they are actually easy to recharge, so once you have the infrastructure set up resources are no longer a problem.
Its interesting how SWN handles the vaccuum of space, a topic that comes up remarkably little in Space Opera. Much like actual space, SWN space is fucking deadly and inflicts d20 damage per round (save for half) for each round after the first if you do not wear a suit or fancy Vacc skin. Fortunately, adventuring in vaccuum is rendered something less then the absolute death trap it is likely to be. While you can’t wear armor under your bulky shit suit, it does have elaborate self repair mechanisms meaning it won’t puncture from bullets. Edged weaponry has a 50% chance of puncturing your suit if you have 10 or less hit points, but you can always use a turn’s action (does that mean a round Kevin?) to mend your suit with an emergency repair patch. Space is not all that much deadlier then air unless you have 10 hp or less it seems. The exploration of a partially pressurized dungeon like the hulk of a pretech battlecruiser seems to beg for these rules, and Vaccuum can thus add an interesting environmental hazard to your space dungeon. Recommended.
All the equipment adds a bit of a tonal shift from DnD. Where early DnD would essentially cap out equipment at around the time your PCs can afford the impractical full plate mail armor for anything from 50 to 1000 gp , forcing PCs to rely on their wits, SWN seems to postulate a more deterministic playstyle. There is always some sort of gadget or technological solution for most problems that cuts into the ability to improvise a solution on the fly, which is rather a shame. On the other hand, there is plenty of opportunity for shenangians. Who can resist the allure of the Dermofilm for instant disguise, the blackmail potential of the Argus Web, the architectural blitzkrieg potential of the Instapanel?
Crawford deserves some credit in between writing up costs for Thunder Cannons and Holo units for actually putting down the credit costs of various lifestyles and commodities like prostitutes, bribes (minor to major), booking transport to a nearby world and the wages of various experts of different skill levels, from unskilled laborers to Level 2 Lawyers. It not only covers the costs of most services PCs are likely to need (with the curious omission of Starship Navigators), but also provides a grounding for the value of a Credit, conductive to that all important verisimilitude.
I will note that there are generic “trade metals” or “trade goods” suitable for distribution on hithereto undiscovered or rarely visited worlds as well as a flat fee for cargo space but SWN Core seems to regard regular honest trade as something best left to NPCs . It is quick to remind us that while it is possible to make a literal killing selling trade metals to undeveloped worlds, once a world is known other Travellers will quickly make their way there and ruin your ability to trade an army of men for a cargo-load of booze and glass beads. Subsequent expansions would introduce other staples of technologically asymmetrical entrepreneurship such as Control Drugs to hand out to any prospective natives once they decide they have enough metal.
One of the most un-traveller-esque editions to the equipment catalog is Cyberware, the goldsink of choice if you already have powered armor and TL 5 weaponry. As SWN points out, most of the functions of cyberware lies in its subtlety, consigning the purchase thereof mostly to a small number of elite operatives, assassins or visiting dignitaries. Cyberware takes up 1 permanent system strain each, and mechanically significant upgrades tend to have some sort of drawback. The balancing is immaculate. While there are a few implants that allow you to sport concealed weaponry in your hand, have a phone in your head or induce a deathlike coma which is cool if you like being circumspect, the real deal are Twitchlock Actuators that allow you to reroll ranged attack rolls (lower Dex bonus by 1 and 1 system strain per reroll), a Stabilization Window that automatically stabilizes you if you hit 0 hp (lower Con bonus by 1, still fucking worth it) and the hideous Revenant Wiring, the implant of choice for death commandos, which contains a small AI that allows the body to fight on after death until it has been reduced to -25 hit points (half stabilization chances). While some might argue it will clash with the 70s-80s aesthetic or Traveller, its presence makes sense and there are plenty of interesting tactical trade-offs. Approved.
There is a section on what for lack of a better word may be termed the “magic items” of SWN; pre-tech devices that can no longer be replicated or properly understood. Much like magic items, you are unlikely to encounter them on the open market and most planetary governments will be very eager to get their grubby paws on them if they are revealed, making their possession outside of a millionaire’s vault the purview of criminals, explorers and elite faction operatives. I think the key of this section’s success here are the little hints of flavor strewn about, the nuggets of description of a weapon’s appearance and possible origins alongside the mechanical effects that add a touch of mystery and awe to an otherwise very rationalist universe.
There is a list of for lack of a better word, templates, that may be added to existing weapons to represent that they have been created by a certain pre-scream corporation. From low key entries like Colonial Arms issue firearms that were specifically designed to be self-repairing and used in the frontier, the section quickly scales up to Omnipresence nanotech weaponry that can be disguised as any innocuous object and foils scanners, the disturbing Samaeltech class of advanced melee weaponry covered in religious iconography or the Stardust Micropellet System projectile weapons that never require ammunition. This section is alright, some of the entries are a little standard but their presence makes sense in the context of the universe.
The real deal is the Artifact Armor and Equipment Section, which brings the supertech power. Armors with Integral Artifical intelligences (might have own purpose), stylish executive security suits, personal cloaking devices, teleportation suits, Integrity Stimms (like health potions, these nanotech-based devices can no longer be easily faricated), polymorphic nanites that can be turned into any device of TL 4 to the god-like revidivus sheath, a greyish sleeping bag that can be used to revive someone from the dead provided he has not been dead for longer then 5 minutes. Not too shabby, it lacks the Golden Age of Technology clarketech feel of Warhammer 40k artifacts but its still damn cool and it makes sense. The awe is lacking but the punch is there.
An actual discussion of Starship construction, the primary goldsink of the system before one gets into delicious faction-play will be handled in part III of this review, which will cover the basic systems also. Since Starship combat is different from normal combat and its principles are of vital important to the nature of starship construction, I figure we may as well kill all the gnats with one blow. See you there!
 See also Dark Heresy
 Ah la Dune.
 At least partially. The Field Emitter panoply is a space capable forcefield that provides complete protection whereas the Deflector Array is an easily concealable version that is useless against environmental effects and primitive weapons.
 Swn calls this a Kurtz, after the mad ivory trader from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness .
 It is probable this work is also the origin of Konrad Curze, the Night Lords Primarch from Warhammer 40k.
 We can quibble over whether warhorses, carts or mercenaries count as equipment but I say they don’t for the purposes of dungeoncrawling.
 I’m struggling to find a good fictional analogy for land battles in SWN. If we discount the mech rules, which are put in later in the book, presumably so you can do a soft battletech pastiche if you so desire, I think the closest analogy would be something like Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers or Starship Troopers, small groups of highly mobile mechanized infantry demolishing the enemy with overwhelming firepower.
 The subsequent Suns of Gold expansion would focus on the principles of interstellar entrepreneurship and free trade like a boss.