Star Frontiers

  • Star Frontiers on DriveThruRPG: PDFs of core rule boxes, charsheets, and the rest of the Volturnus modules so far, and Alpha Dawn in print-on-demand!

The third RPG I ever played; D&D (Holmes), Gamma World, then Star Frontiers: TSR dominated the shelves at small-town bookstores and hobby shops.

Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn went off in such a different direction from D&D and GW, being skill-based, Primary Skill Areas (classes) only doubling the cost of non-PSA skills. Stats were used directly for task resolution, and in the Basic Game there were just stats, no skills, a mechanism I’ve come back to over and over. Combat (on foot and vehicular!) was extremely tactical, and while they said “no gameboard needed!”, in practice it needed the tactical map and counters, with all the ranged weapons and AOE attacks. Programming and robotics were significantly useful, which as a newbie programmer by then I found exciting. Just a great game all around. ★★★★★

This is the game that convinced me 10-sided dice suck, though; the original soapy TSR dice flaked away to garbage very fast, replacement Dragon Dice did the same, so I went back to using two d20s from GameScience. I presume DriveThruRPG doesn’t ship dice with a POD book.

Knight Hawks has one of my favorite starship construction & combat systems (far more so than any Traveller version), though I ended up making movement phased like Star Fleet Battles, because too often you’d whip past the enemy without a chance to shoot rockets and lasers at optimal distances. The FTL system is nonsense even by the normal standards of FTL being nonsense (our Universe does not have FTL), but it’s not hard to retcon or rewrite to use something less stupid. The slightly weird part there is that there’s usually only one enemy, the Sathar, rarely some pirates. It’s a system looking for a galaxy at war, but the Frontier is largely at peace/corporate espionage. ★★★★½

The Volturnus saga is very much like an Ensign Flandry adventure, stranded adventurers doing some survival, shooting, and uniting aliens to save civilization from afar. I’ve never liked it as a starting adventure, though, since you’re told about this high-tech society and then don’t get to see it for… 12-24 sessions? It’s a long-ass adventure. ★★★★☆

There’s been openly-pirated versions of these books out forever, WotC had semi-officially abandoned it and Star Frontiersman and have been supporting it. Earlier this year “Evil Hat” (an appropriate appellation) filed to take the trademark and use it for whatever they wanted, presumably prompting this release. That’ll do, Wizards of the Coast, that’ll do.

Now I’m thinking all my Space Game adventure & setting notes can be converted back to Star Frontiers, since there’s a legit source for the rules.