Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Blast from the past - Star Frontiers

From 1981, when I first started playing D&D, until 1989, when I went away to grad school and became exposed to a wider world of RPGs, there was basically only one game publisher for me. Despite a brief dalliance with the Space Opera game by Fantasy Games Unlimited, I was a tried-and-true TSR fan. AD&D was our game of choice, but we did try some other TSR products, namely Gamma World and Star Frontiers. The former seemed a bit silly to me and my gaming buddies and we quickly shelved it, but the latter was a frequent diversion from our usual weekend AD&D game.

First published in 1982, the original boxed set, called Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn consisted of a 60 pg. rulebook and the complete module, SF0: Crash on Volturnus. Despite its small package, the original game is remarkably complete, with an elegant ruleset. It lacked rules for spaceships and ship-to-ship combat, but those would be introduced the following year in the Star Frontiers Knight Hawks boxed set.

There were four player races in the original Star Frontiers game, Humans, amorphous Dralasites, insectoid Vrusk and simian Yazirians. These races have seen a recent resurrection in the d20 Future supplement to the d20 Modern game from WotC. A fifth NPC race, the vermiform Sathar, represent the main villains in the game. The game uses a percentile, skill-based system. There are 13 skills, divided into three primary skill areas (PSAs). The skills are as follows:

Military PSA
beam weapons
gyrojet weapons
melee weapons
projectile weapons
thrown weapons
martial arts

Technical PSA

Biosocial PSA

Players would choose a PSA for their character, which would allow for more rapid advancement in the associated skills..

There are 8 abilities in the game which are generated in pairs. For example, strength and stamina are rolled together, although after that first stage, they can be advanced individually. The other ability pairs are dexterity and reaction speed, intuition and logic and personality and leadership.

Besides skills and abilities, XPs can also be spent on special abilities of the alien races. For example, Dralasites have the ability to detect lies and XPs can be spent to improve that.

In 1985, the game underwent a radical reboot with the publication of Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space. It changed the rules quite dramatically and introduced several new player character races. Unfortunately, two more books were in the works, but never got published and so, the new version of the game was never completed. Thus, diehard fans of the game insist, the original Star Frontiers is the real Star Frontiers.



Obiri said...

I remember seeing these adds on the back of my comic books. I never did play it though.

Rognar said...

It's a great game. I just dug out my old books the other day. they are pretty beat up, but they sure bring back memories.

Rognar said...

Btw, given your love of free stuff, ever single thing published for Star Frontiers is available for free download at starfrontiers.com.

Obiri said...

I am hopelessly hooked on Civ4 again right now so my quest for Free RPG stuff is on hold until it starts to bore me again.

Just one.. more.. turn...

Carter Soles said...

I only played Star Frontiers a few times but had a totally kick-ass time when I did so. I too was mostly a TSR purist in my early days as well, though the groups I played with who didn't play D&D preferred TOP SECRET.

@ Rognar: Thanks for the tip about Star Frontiers freebies! I'm definitely checking that out ASAP.

Rognar said...

Glad to help.

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