Tabletop Game / Star Frontiers
TSR's third entry into Sci-Fi RPGs
(after Metamorphosis Alpha
and Gamma World
), first published in 1982.Star Frontiers
takes place near the center of a spiral galaxy. A previously undiscovered quirk of the laws of physics allows starships to jump to "The Void", a hyperspatial
realm that greatly shortens the travel times between inhabited worlds, once they reach 1% of the speed of light (3,000 km/s).
The basic game setting was an area known as "The Frontier Sector", where four sentient races, the Dralasites, Humans, Vrusk and Yazirians, had met and formed the United Planetary Federation [UPF
]. A large number of the star systems shown on the map of the Frontier sector in the basic rulebook were unexplored and undetailed, allowing the Gamemaster
(called the "Referee" in the game) to put whatever he wished there.
Players could take on any number of possible roles in the setting but the default was to act as hired agents of the Pan Galactic Corporation in exploring the Frontier and fighting the aggressive incursions of the alien and mysterious worm-like race known as the Sathar. Most published modules for the game followed these themes.
The basic rules set was called Alpha Dawn
. It was released as a boxed set that included a fold-out poster map of a futuristic city on one side and various sections of alien terrain on the other, a bunch of die-cut counters, the introductory module SF0 Crash on Volturnus
, and a pair of 10-sided dicenote
Another boxed set called Knight Hawks
presented a starship combat system and starship-related skills and rules for the regular rpg. It also included a fold-out poster map with empty space on one side and a space station and ship deckplan on the other, along with another set of spacecraft counters, SFKH0 Warriors of White Light
, and another pair of 10-sided dicenote
A late addition to the game was Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space
, which introduced several new races and an entirely different basic rule system. It was, however, the last book produced for the line by TSR.
Provides examples of:
- Adventure-Friendly World: Most of the Frontier sector is unexplored, including lots of systems between the inhabited ones.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
- The Mechanons of SF2 and Zebulon's Guide evolved from earlier self-programming robots and believe that mechanical life is superior to biological life and must eventually replace it.
- The "Puppetmaster" of the freighter Marionette in SFKH0 is a cybernetic robot that is convinced it is the master of the universe.
- SFAD5 features a self-aware cybernetic robot who turns homicidal after being infected by the titular bugs in the system.
- The adaptions of 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: Odyssey Two both feature the HAL-9000, of course.
- All Planets Are Earth-Like: Nearly all of the published adventures featured visits to planets that have breathable atmospheres.
- One exception is the module SF5 Bugs in the System which featured the Belnafaer system where most of the action occurred in the atmosphere of the gas giant Venturi on the Jetsom extraction platform.
- Another minor exception is SFKH2 "Mutiny on the Eleanor Moreas", which took place on the planet Mahg Maar, a planet with a slightly toxic atmosphere that required the use of filter masks. It was still fairly Earthlike, though.
- Always Chaotic Evil:
- The Sathar, apparently. The other races in the setting could be on either side, but the Sathar were definitely the villains.
- The S'sessu introduced into Dragon 96 were a "friendlier" version of the Sathar, even though they were predatory capitalistic sharks...er...worms.
- Ammunition Backpack: Popular for laser rifles.
- Ancient Artifact: A few of these pop up in the printed modules.
- Artificial Gravity: Averted. Ships have to accelerate constantly in order to provide gravity and have a vertical deck plan (with the back of the ship being "down").
- Asteroid Miners: One of the possible spaceship careers covered in the Knight Hawks set.
- Barbarian Tribe: The natives in all of the published adventures had less developed technology than the player races - often much less.
- BFG: Laser rifles can dial their damage up to 20d10 - equal to the heavy laser and sonic devastator heavy weapons. At that level you only get 1 shot out of a standard clip, but it will kill most anything you hit with it.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Vrusk are giant bugs but are friendly. The Sathar on the other hand are giant worms, and not friendly at all.
- Binary Suns: Many of the worlds in the Frontier sector have two suns.
- Brain in a Jar: Module SF1 Volturnus, Planet of Mystery. The slavebots in the Sathar Artifact are controlled by a Sathar's brain which is in a large fluid-filled flask.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Via a previously undiscovered quirk of physics.
- Cool Starship: The Assault Scout, which has deck plans in the Knight Hawks game and is featured on the cover.
- Covers Always Lie: The cover of SF3 Sundown on Starmist shows an alien called a Heliope shooting at a group of adventurers with a pistol held in humanoid hands, but the descriptions of the Heliopes in the module say they have lobster-like pincers, not hands.
- Deflector Shields: Three different kinds for both starships and personal scale.
- Doppelgänger Spin: Dragon magazine #88 article "The Battle at Ebony Eyes". A pair of black holes create illusionary duplicates of any starships in the area.
- Dying Race: The Eorna of Volturnus are dying out. At least until the end of SF2 Starspawn of Volturnus.
- Dungeon Crawling: This style of gaming was prominent in the printed adventures. The intro adventure in the main rulebook involves exploring a crashed starship with local animal life serving as "monsters". The intro module that came with the basic rules, SF0 Crash on Volturnus, features a long journey through an extensive cave system; again full of alien animals that will try to kill the party.
- Elaborate Underground Base: The Sathar like these.
- Escape Pod: Module SF0 Crash on Volturnus. After their ship is captured by the Star Devil's pirates, the Player Characters abandon ship in a lifeboat and use it to land on the planet Volturnus.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Yazirians are intelligent flying (well, gliding) monkeys!
- Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: Crash on Volturnus features a race of land-dwelling, intelligent, telepathic, purple octopuses (technically they have nine tentacles, but still). For extra awesomeness they ride DINOSAURS!
- Everything Trying to Kill You: The basic set and each of the printed modules featured lists of hostile native life for the planet featured in the module. Effectively a "Monster Manual" for each world.
- The Federation: The United Planetary Federation, in fact.
- First Contact: Happens all the time. Much of the Frontier is unexplored, and sentient races seem to be all over. The planet Volturnus from the intro module has five sentient races living on it though that is due to one race having genetically modified the others.
- Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Laser and Disruptor cannons on the larger ships, and Assault Rockets on the smaller ones.
- Ghost Ship: Present in SFKH0 Warriors of White Light.
- A holo screen is a defensive power screen that projects a three dimensional image (hologram) around its user. The holographic image is stored on a holodisc that is inserted into the holo screen.
- Adventure SF1 Volturnus, Planet of Mystery. Several examples can be found inside the Eorna underground complex.
- In the Asylum Common Room the PCs can find a holovision (three dimensional holographic television).
- The Eorna History Museum and Cultural Center has displays explaining Eorna history and culture that include holograms.
- Intrepid Merchant: One of the careers described in Knight Hawks. Also what the players become in SFKH1 Drammune Run.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: Humans are this, with no stat modifiers and no special abilities other than a +5 to a single attribute. All the other PC races had balanced stat modifiers (adding up to zero) but also had racial abilities.
- Living Gasbag: Adventure SF1 Volturnus: Planet of Mystery. The air whale is an alien creature that produces hydrogen as a byproduct of digestion. The hydrogen is stored in sacs inside its body and provides the lift that allows it to float. It maneuvers by venting compressed hydrogen through tubes.
- A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away...: The Frontier and its people are completely unconnected with Earth, despite having recognizable humans.
- Made of Iron: Nearly everyone can take a lot of damage before dropping. Fortunately some weapons (lasers) are capable of dealing out a lot, although you then have to reload...
- Mega Corp.: The Pan Galactic Corporation and several others — all relatively benevolent, though there have been corporate wars and the module SF4 Mission to Alcazzar puts the characters between the secretive Cassidine Development Corporation and the aggressive Streel Corporation.
- The Metric System Is Here to Stay: Star Frontiers is one of the few TSR games that used metric units.
- Our Dwarves Are Different: The short, strong race are ameoba-like blobs with a penchant for puns.
- Our Elves Are Different: The intelligent, graceful, culturally advanced race are giant bugs.
- Precursors: Several vanished older races with advanced technology used to live in the Frontier sector. SF3 Sundown on Starmist centers on a Precursor hovertank.
- Proud Warrior Race: The Yazirians, though they are actually less strong than the other races (being from a light gravity world).
- Proud Scholar Race: The Vrusk.
- Psychic Powers: None of the player races have any, but some of the aliens in the modules do. "Zebulon's Guide to the Frontier" introduced some for player races.
- Pungeon Master: The Dralasites love bad puns.
- Recycled In Space Of A Different Sort
- The alien races of Star Frontiers were later recycled for the Spelljammer Dungeons & Dragons setting under different names: The Dralasites became Plasmoids, the Sathar became Syllix, the Vrusk became Rastipedes, and the Yazirians became Hadozee.
- They were also later recycled for Alternity in Dragon Annual 3 and for Modern d20 in the Future d20 sourcebook.
- None of the Zebulon's Guide races appeared elsewhere, however.
- Silicon-Based Life: Adventure SF1 Volturnus, Planet of Mystery. The Eorna created silicon-based life in the form of large crystals. Their attempts to make the crystals intelligent failed as whenever they reached semi-intelligence they Turned Against Their Masters.
- Space Battle: Half of the Knight Hawks set was all about this.
- Space Fighter: Yep. Armed with three "assault rockets" each.
- Space Mines: These are present too.
- Space Navy: Both the UPF and the Sathar.
- Space Opera: Verging on Dungeons & Dragons - IN SPACE!!!
- Space Pirates: Present in the introductory module, no less, and with their own unique ship design in the Knight Hawks set - the corvette. The corvette counters only come in pirate colors.
- Space Station: Knight Hawks features rules for these. Some act as orbital defense fortresses. They are the classic "hula hoop" style.
- Stat Death: All damage is scored against your Stamina, one of your attributes. Run out of Stamina points and you were dead.
- Super Spit: Adventure SF1 Volturnus, Planet of Mystery. The PCs will encounter a group of alien monsters called spitters. Spitters can spit acid that does 2-20 points of Stamina damage up to 20 meters away.
- Themed Stock Board Game: TSR released adaptations of both 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact as modules using the Star Frontiers system.
- Turned Against Their Masters: Adventure SF1 Volturnus, Planet of Mystery. The Eorna created Silicon-Based Life in the form of large crystals. When they tried to make the crystals intelligent, every time the crystals reached semi-intelligence they turned on their creators. Eventually the Eorna gave up on their experiments but some of the life forms (known as Rogue Crystals) escaped.
- 2-D Space: The map of the Frontier is 2-D and space combat in Knight Hawks is on a 2-D map.
- We Will Wear Armor in the Future: Skin-tight flexible armored suits, in fact. Bulky power armor also appeared in Dragon Magazine 129.