September 24, 2010 by deadorcs
By R.M. Walker
Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages…
Wait. That’s the wrong franchise.
Greetings, Readers! It is my privilege to be able to present to you a new blog series that will take us off the beaten path of fantasy role-playing games, and explore the world of science fiction role playing, instead. Specifically, this series will show you how to take the classic game of Star Frontiers, and re-skin it so that you can play the game using the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons® rules.
So you’re probably asking. Why Star Frontiers? Didn’t that game die out years ago?
Well, yes. It is true that the last supplement for Star Frontiers (Zebulon’s Guide to the Galaxy)was last published in 1985. However, since that time, enthusiastic fans have continued to play the game, creating revisions of it as other game editions were updated. Instead of rehash all that here, here’s a handy Wikipedia link for a bit of history.
Still, that doesn’t answer the question. Why choose Star Frontiers when others science fiction role-playing games are just as good? I chose Star Frontiers because the recent sci-fi role-playing games just didn’t have the same “feel” as 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons®. Recent games such as Alternity™ were overly complex and not keeping with the original spirit of Star Frontiers. Traveller®, while a great game, suffers from a complexity that would be difficult to translate into the easy-to-use 4th edition rules. Finally, games like the recent release of Gamma World®, DO have a 4th edition feel, but are specific to a certain type of campaign (in Gamma World’s case, a post-apocalyptic one). Thus, Star Frontiers seemed to capture the spirit of 4th edition, while being a general science fiction game without the drawback of being locked into a specific theme.
As this series gets going, you’ll find several things that make Star Frontiers an exciting candidate for re-skinning to 4e. The first, is that with all the monsters in 4th edition, you’ll never have a want of aliens. Hobgoblins? Militant Aliens. Gelatinous Cubes? Goopy Aliens. Tarrasque? Gigantic Monstrous Aliens. You get the idea. One of the major topics this series will cover, will be on techniques to skin 4th Edition monsters into creatures useable for Star Frontiers. Second, despite the fact that I’ll be giving you rules for converting from a fantasy universe (the 4th edition rules) to a sci-fi universe, that doesn’t mean you can’t mix the two together. Many gamers love to do this. Want your Paladin fighting side by side with your buddy’s Star Law Ranger? I’m going to show you how to do that.
As this series continues, you’ll want to keep in mind a couple of persistent concepts. The first of these, is that in Star Frontiers, there is no magic (although see the above paragraph). It’s a sci-fi universe. When we re-skin things such as monsters, we’ll be providing non-magical explanations for things. Second, powers in Star Frontiers will likely not take as large a role in combat as in the 4th edition universe. Equipment & skills provide all the tools you need to defeat your foes, not magical or strange powers. There’s basically only one way to shoot a laser. Thus, I will be looking to the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials rules for ways to simplify the powers mechanic in the 4th edition rules for use in this new version of Star Frontiers.
Finally, there may be one more question in the back of your mind. “Why not just play Star Frontiers like it was written?” It’s a good question. However, as the game is 25 some years old, many younger gamers (and by young, I mean the under 25 set) have hardly even heard of the game, let alone have played it. At the same time, those younger gamers probably have experienced 4e if they’re into role-playing games at all. By all means, if you have a copy of the original Star Frontiers, and want to play it as it was written, please do! This is just my opportunity to provide a sci-fi skin to a great set of rules.
Next month, we’ll jump right in, with descriptions of the first four races from the original Star Frontiers. Stay tuned!
STAR FRONTIERS, WIZARDS OF THE COAST, and the WIZARDS OF THE COAST logo are trademarks belonging to Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and are used here without permission. © 2001 Wizards of the Coast. All Rights Reserved.