Monday, March 2, 2009

Star Frontiers

Star Frontiers was a science fiction roleplaying game system produced by TSR in 1982. Being a big Star Wars fan, I jumped at the chance for a game about space-ships and laser guns. At the time, I had heard of other sci-fi systems (such as Traveller), but they weren't easily available in the middle of South Dakota. 

Star Frontiers wasn't quite what I was expecting from a sci-fi system. I was expecting more space-opera, but what I got was a bit more hard-science than that (though clearly not as 'hard' as Traveller). After I got over the initial shock of this, though, I grew to really enjoy the game and admire it for what it was. The setting was interesting—a small but expanding core of civilized systems threatened by a mysterious and implacable alien menace. The races were quite memorable as well—your typical humans were joined by the insectoid Vrusk, blob-like Dralasites, gliding-monkey-man Yazirians and worm like Sathar (the villains). I also enjoyed the skill-based rule system—a major departure from the classes of more traditional systems like D&D. As I mentioned in my gaming history the Star Frontiers universe was the setting for my first 'real' game, and as such, it will always hold a special place in my heart. The adventures of Jake Logan and the crew of the Gullwind were a blast.

Now, you may be asking what this has to do with Star Wars? Well, I'll tell you—with a little modification, the Star Frontiers setting and all its supporting information and adventure modules makes a great supplement to the Star Wars universe. I've used several Star Frontiers adventures in my various Star Wars campaigns and they've worked well. Its just another example of the inclusiveness of the setting.

The rest of this post will focus on how I have adapted (or would adapt) Star Frontiers to the Star Wars setting:

If you wanted to include the Frontier in its entirety, you could translate it easily as a remote sector in the outer-rim. Even during the time of the Empire, the place could still be run by a planetary federation—only one that ultimately plays homage to the Emperor. Being so isolated (and initially free of Rebel influences) the Empire would have no reason to station troops there, and would probably let the local 'Starfleet' maintain order. Likewise, the threat of the alien Sathar attacking could still be in place, with the Frontier sector being left to defend itself in the face of an Empire concerned with 'more important' battles. Still, in the end, it could be fun to bring the Rebellion and Empire into the sector, to throw the whole setting on its ear. The Federation would ultimately have to make a choice—to stand with the Rebellion or cow-tow to the Empire.

This was a three-module campaign that saw the characters as explorers, crash-landing on a planet inhabited by various sentient species, dangerous beasts and a vicious gang of space-pirates. It is a truly epic adventure that culminates in the characters raising an army of natives in order to defend the planet versus an all-out Sathar attack. Conversion wise, all you have to do is make up stats for the alien critters and races and boom, you've got one heck of an exploration/survival adventure—in or out of the Frontier setting. The characters could be independent or corporate scouts, or working for the Rebellion in trying to find a new safe-world.

In this adventure, the characters are hired by a freighter captain to explore and set up trade with a primitive native race (as well as to investigate the presence of high-tech artifacts found among this race). Unfortunately, the Sathar have set up a secret terrorist training-camp/genetic test center on the planet. This adventure would work well in a tramp-freighter campaign or again you could have the Rebel Alliance send the characters to investigate. If you really wanted to switch things up, the Sathar camp could be converted to a secret Imperial base.

This was one of my favorite Star Frontiers adventures—both  because of its cool cover-art and its combat-oriented plot. The characters are sent to investigate why contact was lost with a remote mining facility. They arrive to find it has been destroyed by a rival mining company. The players then exact their revenge by launching an all out assault on the bad guy's base—perhaps enlisting the aid of a primitive local tribe along he way. Conversion wise, the characters could either be corporate mercenaries (as in the original adventure) or they could be Rebels doing a favor for a corporation sympathetic to their cause. 

This is probably one of the more complicated modules to convert. Its premise has the characters having a layover in a remote system. The administrator of the local gas-mining operation hires them to investigate a disaster in one of their facilities. That investigation turns deadly as the characters discover a mysterious force that begins to kill the mining crew, one by one. This is one of those adventures that would work best as a 'random' insertion into a campaign, whenever the characters (rebel, independent or whatever) are stopping off in a remote system. Where the compications set in, however are in some of the details—namely the low-tech nature of the mining outpost (it rotates at the end of a tether to generate artificial gravity) and its computer systems (some plot points can revolve around the routing of the various computer systems, but by modern terms, let alone Star Wars terms, they are very crude). 

No, it has nothing to do with Pink Floyd (thank god). This is actually one of the better Star Frontiers adventures, revolving around the death of Dr. Legrange, a 'human rights activist' (aka anti-alien bigot) and the turmoil it causes on his bi-racial home planet of Krataar. The characters begin as escorts to a news reporter, but are rapidly swept up in the investigation of the doctor's death. Before long, they discover the sinister secret behind it all and the race is on to prevent a disaster of world-ending proportions. This adventure works well in the New Republic era, where the players are Intel agents posing as reporters to investigate the activist. With some finagling, it could be modified to fit a Rebel team as well (perhaps they're trying to assist a rebel sympathetic cell on the planet). The adventure is especially ingenious by providing a good deal of information that the characters can unearth in their investigations. However, for less astute groups, you may have to 'lead' them a bit. And finally, the name 'Trojan Enterprises' (one of the companies involved in the mystery) just has to go, unless you like innuendo jokes.

This is actually a mini-campaign wherein the characters enlist in the planetary militia (Royal Marines) of the planet Clarion (aka White Light). It progresses through a series of 'routine' patrols: smuggling ships, droid-inhabited 'ghost-ships', pirate attacks and the like; it finally culminates with a showdown versus a traitor in the midst of the Marines and an all-out attack by the Sathar on Clarion itself. This is one of the more difficult adventures to integrate into a Star Wars campaign, since it involves joining a military other than the Rebellion or Republic. Still, it might work as the beginning to a campaign, the background story of one or a couple characters in their youth, before going on to a career as tramp freighters or rebels.

Of all the Star Frontiers modules, this one comes the closest in feel to a Star Wars Adventure. Signing on as crew with an old tramp freighter captain, the characters find themselves fleeing from minions of the foul crime-lord known as 'The Malthar'. Seems this Jabba-esque Dralasite doesn't want the characters to talk to the authorities about the evidence suddenly in their possession—the shocking truth about the 'secret ingredient' in a new and popular illegal drug. The adventure moves from bar-room brawls, to zero-gee shootouts, to starship battles and ultimately to the very lair of the Malthar himself. This is a great adventure to use if you want to find an in-character way for a party to acquire their own starship. If they already have one, the plot can be easily modified—the old captain can book passage onboard their ship instead of hiring the party as crew for his own.

This is another series of three modules dealing with exploration of systems beyond the charted space of the Frontier (hence the title). In the first module, the characters are part of an exploration crew that suddenly finds themselves stranded when one of their crew-mates seemingly goes berserk. The rest of the module has them struggling through the wilderness to reach and re-take their ship from the mutineer. The second module picks up with a relief vessel arriving to assist the team—only to discover a crashed Sathar ship on the planet. Clues from this eventually lead to another starsystem where the party leads an attack on a Sathar spy-ship. The mystery only deepens in the final chapter when the Sathar trail finally leads to a secret Sathar shipyard and an enslaved race of humanoids forced to work for the hideous worms. All of this leads up to a final, desperate battle to save the entire system. Very little is necessary to translate this adventure. You could even switch out the Sathar for Imperials or pirates or even a corrupt corporation without too much trouble. The characters could be explorers or rebel agents or even mercs.

In any case, I think you can see from the ideas above that Star Frontiers can live on in the Star Wars setting. If you're looking for these adventures, you can still find a few on ebay now and then, but there are also a couple websites that have them in digital format. You can find them here and here.

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