So, I read Stars Without Number last week, and I’ve actually continued rereading sections to better familiarize myself with its contents. I really like this game. I want to run and play this game, which is admittedly a first for me.

Like, I literally cannot think of another game book I’ve read that made me want to run and play the game. I’ve read some D&D supplements before where I was like, “I wish I could use this” but I think we all know that’s different.

Maybe I was just in the right mood — after reading and experimenting with the AD&D DMG, and reading/playing Temple of Elemental Evil again, I was just in the mindset to read and enjoy a very straightforward ruleset like SWN.

I ought to call it “swoon” for the effect it had on me.

I don’t want to read and run Edge of the Empire. I looked at that book. I picked it up. It’s heavy, and it has weird dice. Maybe that’s okay — I’m sure it’s a great game. But I don’t want to learn it before playing it. Not these days.

I’m not sure if it was while reading this, or the AD&D DMG — though I’m tempted to credit SWN out of spite for AD&D — I think I finally get why some players prefer Descending Armor Class over well, the contemporary approach.

It’s a little hard to explain but I think it’s like this:

From 3e onward (I can’t speak for 2e), Armor Class is just math. You have a Dexterity modifier, and you have an Armor modifier, and maybe you have a zillion other little bonuses. They’re bonuses that add up to your defensive score.

But with descending AC, you don’t get that Dexterity bonus — I mean, maybe there are ways to get it that I just couldn’t find, but from what I read it wasn’t obvious — your Armor Class was a personal touch.

There was a difference between 15 and 16. Er, I mean 5 and 6. Or whatever.

I mean, I think I get it but I still don’t get it. But I do finally understand why negative AC was workable. Attack bonuses were a lot easier — and there’s something about negative AC modifying attack rolls that makes sense now.

It’s that “active defense” that RPGs using ascending AC struggle to find.

When you have a 3e monster with “Stench” imposing a -2 penalty to attack rolls against adjacent enemies — it just isn’t quite the same. When you forget the penalty, it might as well not be there. But negative AC is different.

It’s because there is only one number.

It’s basically impossible to forget.

Now, I’m pretty sure that Stars Without Number actually uses a variation on the system for rolling attacks. I’m still not totally familiar with it. Rather than comparing your roll to a table, you add your target’s Armor Class to your attack roll and try to roll over 20 to hit. It works kind of like both methods.

Anyway, the whole experience has been very eye-opening for me.

I’m confident now that I could run games in any edition of D&D. And I’m almost willing to do it, too. It probably still depends on the players — I wouldn’t run 3e for just anyone — but I think I better understand what makes each edition.