Showing posts with label Star Frontiers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Star Frontiers. Show all posts

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Game I've Longed to Play and the Game I've Played the Most #RPGaDAY

So far, I've been able to keep up with all the necessary #RPGaDAY posts without getting so far behind that I quit due to the dread of having to write 10 or more posts at once. One of the reasons for that is that this year's set of questions have been good prompts, and the other is that I've decided to make a concerted effort to post more often.

I missed yesterday's prompt, but it and today's are very much related in them and I'll be combining them into one post.
Day 17 - Which RPG have you owned the longest and not played?

I own a lot of role playing games. I'm not saying I own "the most" role playing games, as that claim would be absurd, but I own a lot. Over 500 a lot. Probably more than that. I own more role playing games that I've cared to enter on RPG Geek because it just takes too long. I should update them on a database, but I've got work and research etc. and I just don't have the will to do it. Besides, a lot of my games are in a storage unit I've converted into a gaming library. Needless to say, it's a lot of games.
Some of those games I bought just to read and see how they did things. Cosmic Enforcers comes to mind as one of these kinds of games. It's a super hero role playing game and given that I've already got my favorites in that category it was doomed to be mere reference material. But there are some games that I bought because I really want to play them, even if most of my friends probably won't. I buy them in the hopes that one day I'll be able to experience at least a one-shot of the game. I bought Scion: Hero and Tour of Darkness for this reason. 

The game that I own the longest and have not played falls into the "I really want to play it" category. Back in the days before the "Sweet Pickles Bus Wars" a friend of mine got a copy of Star Frontiers. I loved the illustrations and I loved the setting. I desperately wanted to play and I soon got my own copy. I read through the rules and made up several Basic and Advanced characters. I talked about the game with my friends and we planned a sleepover gaming night...then the "Sweet Pickles Bus Wars" began and I had to put off playing it. Years later, another of my friends expressed an interest in playing and had even written up a campaign to run us through, but that was never to happen.

I've owned the game a very long time and have not played it once. It's a game from a different era of play and I would love to get a chance to play it some day, even if only for one session that is followed by a campaign in the Federation using Savage Worlds rules.

Day 18 - Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

When the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition Player's Handbook came out, I hadn't gamed for a few years. I'd spent the couple of years before the release finishing my undergraduate education and didn't have much time for RPGs. My wife and I had just moved to Los Angeles and didn't know a lot of people. I'm the kind of person who needs a circle of friends to help me recharge from the stresses of day to day toil and struggle, and gaming is the perfect hobby for that. It didn't take long for me to find a group of players, most of whom are still my good friends today, and kick up a campaign.

That 3.x campaign ran from 2000 to 2008 and we played almost weekly for a good chunk of that time. I saw characters go from first level adventurers struggling to survive in the Sunless Citadel to 20+ level paragons who battled against a living fragment of Tharizdun that was was destroying the Feywild, the Elven Pantheon, and all the Elves on Oerth. After years of adventure, the campaign came to an end and the world of Oerth was changed forever as many of the old gods (not Old Gods) perished in Tharizdun's wake and were replaced by a new Pantheon. Oerth's elven population was significantly reduced as the corruption of Tharizdun's influence in the Feywild manifested as a wasting disease that killed 90% of that world's elves.

It was a blast...and it exhausted me. I was ready for a new game system and that's around when 4e came out. It was too early for many, but it was at exactly the right time for me.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

[Gaming History] Star Frontiers -- A Look Back at a Classic SF RPG

When TSR released the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game in the early 1970s, they created a new mode of gaming the role playing game.  What is interesting is that they failed to rapidly follow up the success of their "fantasy" themed role playing game with a succession of game releases in other genres.  While many of the first role playing games were shallow imitations of D&D...some were even Vacuous to use Gygax's terminology, it was other companies who first entered the marketplace with non-fantasy RPGs.

It wasn't long after the publication of D&D that Ken St. Andre drafted a set of rules for a science fiction themed role playing game entitled Starfaring, and Marc Miller published Traveller in 1977.  Where Starfaring was whimsical, and is a quintessentially 70s artifact that feels a bit like John Carpenter's Dark Star the rpg, Marc Miller's Traveller set the standard for science fiction rpgs.  In fact, Traveller truly set the standard for any rpg product line that was going to compete in the rpg marketplace.  Marc Miller's creation had a large following among the Space Gamer readership, and the publication of support materials for the game led to the growth of FASA -- one of the classic old RPG companies.  Traveller's success extends to the present, and Marc Miller currently has a Kickstarter campaign that promises a new edition that harkens to the old version.

Even though Traveller established science fiction as a viable genre for role playing games, it took TSR five years after the release of Traveller before they released their SF entry into the RPG marketplace, the Star Frontiers game.  When Star Frontiers came out, there were those who tried to compare it to Traveller, but I have always felt that the comparisons were slightly off base as they represent different kinds of SF.  Traveller's rules and back story, as well as the overwhelming influence D&D had on the early RPG market, gave the game a specific feel.  Characters created in the game are typically former military who are now retired, or as James Maliszewski has pointed out a good many were former Mercenaries.  Traveller campaigns had narratives along the lines of the Firefly television show, though it would be more chronologically accurate to say that Firefly has a Traveller feel to it.  Traveller's own backstory was heavily influenced by Asimov's Foundation series with it's dying empire.  Traveller campaigns were often gritty SF adventures filled with mercenaries and retired Imperial Officers spanning the Spinward Marches in pursuit of wealth and notoriety.

The D&D influence could also be seen in many Traveller campaigns, where players essentially wandered around the galaxy as pirates raiding Imperial space ships for their loot.  This isn't to say that all Traveller campaigns were "spacey dungeon crawls," the official adventures certainly weren't, just that some people played it that way.

The science fiction background of Star Frontiers was quite different from that of Traveller.  Where Traveller took place in a galaxy dominated by an interstellar Empire in a fairly settled area of the galaxy, Star Frontiers took place on the Frontier of civilization where a major corporation "Pan Galactic Corporation" -- later multiple corporations -- was sponsoring the exploration and attempting to profit.  The Pan Galactic Corporation had come into existence to promote exploration and trade among four major alien races -- Human, Vrusk, Dralasite, and Yazirian.  These races have only just begun to interact with one another, and have banded together on the Frontier of explored space.  At that Frontier, they soon discover a new enemy that threatens to destroy any civilization that chooses to explore the Frontier.  That enemy is the Sathar, a wormlike race with hypnotic powers on the edge of explored space.  The exploring races have only recently completed their First Sathar War, during which they formed the United Planetary Federation, and are now having to deal with terrorist attacks and sabotage by agents of the Sathar...agents from among their own people.  In response to the Sathar's new warfare strategies -- espionage and terrorism -- the UPF has formed the Star Law Rangers who track Sathar agents and attempt to foil their plots.

The universes of the Traveller rpg and the Star Frontiers rpg have parallels in history.  One is of an empire in decline, the other is of mercantilism on the rise.  The tones of the settings are very different, but so are the rules.  Where Traveller characters are retired from former professions and already have a number of skills at which they are proficient -- especially if the characters were generated using the Mercenaries or High Guard supplements -- Star Frontiers characters are relatively inexperienced.  Even in the Expanded Star Frontiers rules, the characters have training in only two major skills -- and that training is at the lowest level.  The characters start near penniless and are in need of employment.  Players can be thankful that the Star Law Rangers are always looking for recruits, that the corporations are always looking for someone willing to risk Sathar attack while exploring planets on the Frontier, and then there's always the possibility of playing a group of Sathar agents...

Star Frontiers is a game that has a background that is rich in ideas for development...but it is also a game where one has to dig in order to find these ideas.  Trying to find out the history of the Star Frontiers universe is not an easy task.  Prior to the publication of Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space there was not a clear timeline of the development of civilization.  One had to induct heavily from the introduction in the Basic Game rule book, read and reread the racial descriptions, and scour every module for minutiae to get a sense of what was going on.  Zeb's Guide did some of the work for you, as it advanced the timeline to a point after the modules and to a point where the Sathar had developed mind controlling organisms that latch on to the victim's back to take over the nervous system (fans of Puppet Masters and Iron Empires take note).  Taking the Frontier beyond an outline and into a fleshed out campaign setting takes time, but it is worth it.

I've read the rules many time, but have never actually played the game.  It's an easy system, though I've recently come up with an even simpler version of their Basic Rule with my own Extremely Basic rules, but I might just use the setting and play the game with another game's rules set.  Maybe d20 Modern/Future, they did write a Star Frontiers setting section for the d20 Future book and had a web expansion with stats for the Sathar, maybe Alternity, or Savage Worlds.  Heck...I might just use the Traveller system for it, when I get my copy of the 5th edition.  It's a great game too.