Aug 13, 2012

I Don't Own Stars Without Number Anymore

A friend of mine is going up north to teach English to ESL students in Kangirsuk [1], in Nunavik in northern Quebec. She sent out a call for people to donate small items like art supplies etc. that the students could use to learn English (most speak the Nunamvimmiutitut dialect of Inuktitut and/or French) and I decided to donate a roleplaying game (plus dice), since Malcolm Sheppard has been using them to teach literacy to young people and adults. The students are at about the age that many gamers enter the hobby (Grades 3 and 4 - I started playing when in Grade 3 when I was 8).

Finding a roleplaying game that I hope would appeal to young people from a non-Western background is harder than it sounds. The vast majority of fantasy games have Europe-like settings, feature art that is entirely white people, and don't provide a lot support for anything other than killing things and the accumulation of wealth and power. These games are more or less fine for an audience with a cultural background that prepares them for these things, but I suspect they're of much less interest to a non-Western audience (just as most of us are not watching Nollywood films). I wanted a game where there was at least the possibility of nonviolent objectives and goals, since the kids are young enough that their parents probably won't approve of imaginary murder. As well, I wanted a game that would teach kids how to roleplay, rather than assume they knew how to, and that would provide them with a ton of tools to do so.

I decided Stars Without Number would be the ideal game in my collection for a lot of reasons. The rediscovery of lost worlds and cultures in the default setting offers an overarching non-violent goal for PCs to pursue. The tools for building worlds, aliens, etc. were fantastic and simple, and should be easy for new gamers to learn. The actual rules are simple and sensible. But what really sold me was the inclusion of tables of non-Western names and the art featuring non-whites fairly frequently. Though the names don't include Inuit ones, they do include specific tables of Arabic, Japanese and Nigerian ones, which I hope will indicate to the Inuit kids that you don't have to be a white guy to be adventuring space heroes. The fact that it's one book was helpful too, since transportation space will be limited.

On the chance that the kids wouldn't like that particular game or she couldn't take the physical book, I loaded up an 8GB thumb drive with pdfs of other games (all freely and legally available), including the Swords and Wizardry core rules and the Quickstart, all the free mini-adventures available for Swords and Wizardry, the art-free version of Mutant Future, Dark Dungeons, the free pdf version of Stars Without Number, and Infinite Stars. I had the Eclipse Phase pdf on there at one point, but took it off because I figured it'd be too mechanically complex for young kids, but that left me with very few good, free, science fiction games. Openquest has a free pdf available, but the harpy monster in the back of the bestiary has exposed breasts. I also loaded up tons of OSR-related material, like free NPC generators, hex templates, etc. These will require the kids to have access to a printer to make full use of, but I figured I'd err on the side of more rather than less.

And that's why I don't own Stars Without Number anymore.