I bought this game a few years ago (I also have Other Dust and Silent Legions) and have been running it off and on quite a bit since then, so I feel I have a good understanding of this RPG.
It’s made by Sine Nomine and there’s a free downloadable version which has 95% of the rules (minus AI, some random tables, and Mechs).
So if you’re not sure about it, you can just get that and quite happily run it or just read the rules if you’re not sure about buying it.
The CORE RULES are the paid version, which has the missing content I mentioned above.
It’s a sandbox RPG, meaning there’s LOTS or tables provided to generate random content, which you can create on the fly, or with very little prep.
This really is the big strength of this game. Even if you don’t run SWN, it’s worth getting just for the random tables.
It plays a lot like the Traveller RPG, but very loosely based on ODnD (original DnD) rules.
Meaning it uses levels for character progression, Descending Armor class (the lower the better), and a D20 for attack rolls.
It also uses a save system, again rolled using a D20.
It has a skill system as well, which covers quite a few skills, but not so many that is becomes unwieldy.
Skill resolution is done rolling 2D6 with a target number assigned.
The setting is a sort of Galactic Post apocalyptic. There was originally a vast very high tech Human empire called “The Terran Mandate”.
At some stage an event called “The scream” drove all Psychics mad or killed them. As Jumpgates, which the Terran Mandate pretty much depends on are run by Psychics, everything collapses. The Psychics bosses are are war with what appears to be Benevolent AI trying to protect the Human race, but it all goes horribly wrong.
Fast forward a few hundred years and there’s spots of civilization around the galaxy here and there trying to survive.
The setting at this stage is (or can be) about survival, exploration and so on.
Generally you play humans, but it’s very easy to create alien races to play as well.
There’s a few classes being:
Warrior: (strengths are fighting and so on)
Expert: Technicians, doctors, Pilots, engineers.
Psychic: A Psychic specialist.
These pretty much cover what you’ll need to make a well rounded character. Warriors aren’t just good fighters, they do get a decent starting skill set, it’s just Experts progress faster.
Each class gets some special abilities as well, which adds a fun dimension to the game.
I really like how this RPG moves very quickly and is VERY flexible. It’s also very easy to understand, which is great for new players.
It’s level based, so has character progression, which for me is a bonus point vs Traveller.
After the first couple of levels, character progression slows down, so you want to get an idea of what your character is going to be like in the first few levels.
The game covers up to level 10, which is great, as characters would be crazy overpowered over that level limit.
Combat is pretty deadly, as characters don’t have that many Hit points and even though it’s level based, at higher levels, characters are still pretty fragile.
The Psychic powers are pretty low key, so you won’t see lots of high powered Psychic abilities.
But they are fun and fits into the game quite well.
There’s HUGE amounts of additional material available for SWN, much of it completely free. Just have a look at DrivethruRPG for Sine Nomine’s products.
The author, Kevin Crawford really supports SWN very well.
In addition to that, he has other RPGs which are very compatible with SWN as they use the same mechanics.
They are as follows:
Other dust (Post Apocalyptic, somewhat like an early edition of Gamma world)
Silent Legions (Horror RPG, somewhat like Call of Cthulhu)
I own and use these RPGs, in fact I use content from these in my SWN campaigns sometimes and it works very well and easy to integrate into SWN.
There’s another RPG he’s made called “Spears of Dawn” . I don’t own that and haven’t read it, so I can’t comment on that much. apart from it’s a sort of Native African style Fantasy RPG.
Layout and organization: 7.
It was Kevin’s first effort (that I know of) and the layout is a bit Haphazard sometimes, but it’s such an easy game to pick up it’s not that much of a big deal.
The art is quite retro in feel and I like it. But if you want very high quality colour images and text etc.. It’s only black and white. For me it’s fine though.
Playability and Fun: 9
It works very well, is easy to run and play and lots of supporting material.
As a sandbox RPG it’s fantastic. Worth getting even if you don’t run the RPG itself and just get it for the huge amount of random tables.
I’d recommend this if you want to play a game that feels like Traveller but with ODnD type rules and you like Sandbox gaming.