White Star: White Box Science Fiction Roleplaying by James M. Spahn is a role playing game supplement published by Barrel Rider Games that is compatible with the Swords & Wizardry White Box by Matt J. Finch, which is published by Mythmere Games and which is based on the original, 1974 version of Dungeons & Dragons. The book is therefore covered by the Open Game License and as a result some of it is classed as Open Game Content.
The supplement is available from RPGNow as a watermarked PDF as well as print on demand softcover and hardcover books. The version purchased was the PDF, whose normal price is $9.99, but which was bought at the discounted price of $5.99. The purchase includes the main PDF, an interactive PDF character sheet and a zip file which contains images and PDFs of all the different character classes covered in the book. The main PDF has 134 pages; two pages are the full colour front and back covers, there are two blank pages, two pages are front matter, four pages are the Contents, there is a one page Introduction, one page is a black and white version of the of the front cover illustration, two pages are a character sheet and one page is the Open Game License.
Credit: Jason Moser/Barrel Rider GamesThe single page Introduction suggests possible sources of inspiration and gives a brief overview.
The first chapter, Attributes, covers the six attributes, which should be familiar to anyone who has played any version of Dungeons & Dragons, and other similar systems, how to generate them, alignment (which is basically up to the Referee), credits (money) and bonuses that come from attributes.
The second chapter, Character Classes and Races, covers four character classes and three alien races.
The next, Equipment, gives an overview of different types of equipment and weapons, how to buy them - some can't be bought, only found; this is discussed later - and how to calculate armour class.
Playing the Game covers some of the basic mechanics, such as time, saving throws, secret and concealed door, moving, experience and hiring assistants.
Chapter five, Personal Combat, is the mechanics of personal combat.
Chapter six, Starship Combat, is similar to chapter five, only it covers starship combat rather than personal. Also in this chapter are rules on repairing and purchasing starships, hiring crew, designing new starships and a range of different starship types, from fighters to dreadnaughts, and how experience is gained from starship combat.
Gifts and Meditations is essentially the "spells" chapter. The Mediations are the abilities that Star Knights, one of the four character classes, use; the Gifts those used by Alien Mystics, one of the three alien races. This is also the final chapter in the player's part of the rulebook.
Aliens and Creatures gives the stats and descriptions of assorted alien races and creatures.
Advanced Equipment is the advanced technology that cannot be purchased (although it can be sold), only discovered.
The White Star Campaign gives an assortment of campaign ideas, which should be familiar to fans of science fiction, and some suggestions on incorporating Swords & Wizardry White Box.
Chapter eleven, Interstellar Civil War and Kelron Sector, is a sample campaign setting. It has a star map of the Kelron Sector, complete with descriptions of the various locations, and is on the theme of rebels trying to fighting against an oppressive regime run by Void Knights.
The Second Battle of Brinn is a complete adventure scenario set in the Kelron Sector that was described in the previous chapter.
White Star: White Box Science Fiction Roleplaying in Review
The Contents has a complete breakdown of the various chapters and sections, and the PDF's bookmarks are equally thorough. Navigation of the supplement is therefore pretty easy. There aren't many illustrations inside, which are all in black and white, and the layout has a single column of text. Overall, there is a nice, clean feel to the layout.
White Star is a complete rule system for both players and Referees in one book - it isn't necessary to have the Swords & Wizardry White Box game in order to play it (although that game is available as a free download). Throughout the supplement are many different House Rules that could be used, if desired, which means there are many ways of customising the game without too much effort.
There is a strong Star Wars influence to this game, even though it is never outright mentioned - probably due to copyright. There are other influences too, but the Star Wars one is the most pronounced, especially as one of the main character classes is the Star Knight, a rather mystical order of warriors who follow The Way with mental powers who wield what is called a Star Sword in battle, which is an energy sword that projects from a hilt, and who are opposed by the similar Void Knights who have turned to the dark s... err, evil. Starships and space combat also seem to be inspired by Star Wars, more than any other franchise. Star Trek feels like it might be the second most influential one.
Whilst they have different names, and may be described at least slightly differently, those familiar will spot Jedi, Sith, Klingons, Daleks, Reavers from Firefly, Borg and Jawas amongst the described races - and there are others, too, that can be recognised.
The overall feel of the supplement should be familiar to those who have played the original Dungeons & Dragons and the revamped version that began with the Basic Set, and more recent Old School Revival games, such as the White Box system on which this is based, but also others like, but not limited to, Labyrinth Lord. Those who are only familiar with such as D&D 3.X and Pathfinder may find the rules system of White Star to be unusually light compared to those games.
There is a growing amount of third party White Star Compatible content, which is not surprising given that the system is both popular and covered by the Open Game License, although products marked as White Star Compatible with the White Star logo have to use a royalty-free license available from Barrel Rider Games.
The author of White Star had previously written a lot of popular supplements for the White Box system, and this is compatible with both those and the system itself, increasing the amount of content available, albeit the content is not science fiction in nature. White Star does what it's intended to do - it moves the original Dungeons & Dragons game into space, with a light, easy to run and extremely popular system.