Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The aliens of TSR

Back in the good old days of TSR, Inc., much like it is today, Dungeons & Dragons was king. However, they did produce some other tabletop rpgs in different genres, including their popular post-apocalyptic game, Gamma World (1st ed. 1978), and their less-popular space opera game, Star Frontiers (1st ed. 1982). Personally, I quite liked Star Frontiers (much more than Gamma World, which just seemed weird and unbalanced to me). Star Frontiers includes three alien PC races, in addition to Humans, the Dralasites, the Vrusk and the Yazirians. The Dralasites are a race of amorphous blobs who can grow limbs as needed and have a fondness for philosophical discourse and lame jokes. They breathe through their skin, giving them an acute sense of smell, but their vision is limited. Because of their cultural affinity for debating, they have some ability to detect lies. The Vrusk is an insectoid race with a highly-complex society. Most Vrusk work for some mercantile entity and their loyalty to their company is absolute. Due to the extreme complexity of their laws and customs, Vrusk are highly-adept at social interaction. They have a racial ability to comprehend hidden motives and intentions. The Yazirians are tall, slender simians with large, wing-like membranes between their arms and legs that allow them some limited ability to glide. They are an aggressive, warlike race with night vision and the ability to enter into a berserker state in combat. A later effort at introducing a second edition of the game, entitled Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space (1985), introduced several new races, but no supplements beyond the first book were ever published and the new edition was left abandoned and incomplete.

TSR flirted briefly with the space opera genre in 1993 as part of its Amazing Engine generic game system and the supplement, The Galactos Barrier. However, that experiment was very short-lived and they didn't really get serious until 1998 with the release of Alternity. A whole new suite of PC aliens are introduced in Alternity. These include the Fraal, a race of highly-advanced and peaceful nomads who bear a strong resemblance to the stereotypical aliens of UFO folklore. There is also the Mechalus, a cybernetic race trying hard to make amends for a dark past, the Sesheyans, a non-technological race of stealthy, bat-like humanoids, the T'sa, a technologically-advanced and constantly active reptilian race, and the Weren, a race of huge, lumbering, furry humanoids with a warrior culture and a preference for black-powder weapons. Like Star Frontiers and Amazing Engine, Alternity was a short-lived product line, although a significant number of supplements were published. These include several game settings. The Star Drive campaign setting might be described as the default space opera setting, but a modern sci-fi conspiracy setting called Dark Matter was also released, as were settings based on Gamma World and StarCraft.

Finally, in 2002, Wizards of the Coast released d20 Modern (and d20 Future two years later) and they did something quite interesting. They took all the alien races from Star Frontiers and Alternity and combined them into the new game. It was awesome to see Werens and Dralasites, Sesheyans and Yazirians available together and it was a laudible gesture from WotC to fans of these out-of-print games.


1 comment:

Konsumterra said...

star frontiers races in 2nd ed spelljammer monsters too