SWN: Jumpstarting my Creativity

Stars Without Numbers Mongoose CoverFor the last few weeks I really struggled getting anything done. I don’t know what caused it – perhaps it’s this long, cold and dark winter – but my mental health issues have been more severe lately. At this moment I am slowly starting to feel better. The bouts of anxiety I get from time to time are fewer and further between, but I still have troubles when it comes to creativity.

But just today I found a good way to jumpstart my creativity again. Stars Without Number has a pretty elaborate World generating system that allows the game master to quickly roll up detailed worlds. There are random tables for atmosphere, biosphere, tech level, population, tags, etc. Within a few minutes you can roll up a whole slew of worlds. Since I want to run SWN in the near future I decided rolling up a sector would be a good start. So I got my dice and started rolling.

To make things easier for me, I created a spreadsheet in Google Drive that allows me to enter the numbers I rolled and it automatically puts out the results. That way I didn’t have to write everything down myself. Instead I just rolled and watched as the worlds slowly took shape on the spreadsheet – and in my mind. Especially the tags generated by this system really help to jumpstart one’s ideas.

For one world I rolled up the tags Unbraked AI and Zombies. Immediately I had ideas about a world controlled by a mad AI that creates mindless cyborg zombies from any hapless human being it can get its hands on. This world could be the perfect setting for a horror-themed adventure. In another case I got Desert Planet and Alien Ruins, and my mind was filled with ideas of a lost alien civilization whose remains are scattered across a deadly desert. Within a couple of minutes I had a couple of great adventure ideas.

Of course rolling up the worlds is just the very first step. I still have to turn everything into a workable setting. Some worlds I created using the random generation method are pretty silly and don’t make much sense at all, so I’ll have to make some subtle – and not so subtle – adjustments in the coming days. But the important part is that using the random world generation in Stars Without Numbers helped me getting some creative work done. Now I have to make sure that my perfectionism and self-doubt don’t stop me dead in my tracks. Wish me luck!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

7 thoughts on “SWN: Jumpstarting my Creativity”

  1. What are you doing to take care of your mental health? Are you on medication? Don’t just let this be an ongoing issue. Get it sorted out. Feel free to email me if you need to discuss. I’ve been dealing with anxiety/depression for years and managing it is the most important thing you can possibly do.

    1. +1 … if you have a sprained ankle, you treat it. If it needs a doctor’s attention, you take it to a doctor. Mental issues are no less important for treatment. Get it treated. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we support you in being healthy, physically and mentally.

  2. Don’t worry, guys. I am under medication and I am attending group therapy sessions since last year. Things have actually improved a bit since then.

  3. SWN is such a sweet book… I love it! I am so glad it is helping you my friend. While I love the system my players might not be so keen in the OSR rule set, BUT the advice and tools in there are great no matter what you play.

  4. Do you have a link to the Google Doc you described above – that would make a lot of people’s lives easier when World-Building. Not to mention, we could probably adapt it to other genres pretty easily

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