December 2, 2010 by deadorcs
The original Star Frontiers rules were undoubtedly skills heavy. This is neither good nor bad, but simply a function of the game mechanics as written. While skills certainly play a big part in 4th Edition, they have been simplified for easier game play. This post is all about how to re-skin the 4th edition skills to one suitable for playing in the Star Frontiers universe.
LOOKING AT THE SKILLS
One quick look at the current skill offerings in the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons gives you something that looks like this:
Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, Bluff, Diplomacy, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Heal, History, Insight, Intimidate, Nature, Perception, Religion, Stealth, Streetwise, & Thievery.
See the bolded items in the list? These are the ones that presented some problems when trying to translate them into the Star Frontiers universe. Here’s why I thought they were a problem:
Arcana: Almost exclusively, this skill involves magic. Unless you have a very unusual sci-fi universe, magic doesn’t really exist. However, I will admit that sufficient technology may appear as magic to the uninitiated (for example, the programming of my cell phone).
Dungeoneering: While a fair amount of exploring underground complexes and similar terrain is a staple of most sci-fi campaigns, this term as given is way too narrow for use in Star Frontiers.
Heal: I mostly have semantic issues with this term. Healing in a sci-fi universe like Star Frontiers is more science than art. Healing is done more by robots & equipment, rather than by actual hands.
Nature: Like Dungeoneering, this term seems a bit narrow for the wide universe that Star Frontiers covers.
Religion: While religions (and lots of them), exist in Star Frontiers, the original use of this skill would be lost in that campaign setting. While people may believe in various gods or systems of philosophy, most don’t expect gods to take an active hand (by granting powers, etc.) to their followers.
Five skills seemed like a lot to leave out for a re-skinning, so I thought I’d come up with a slightly altered list instead. Consider the following:
Acrobatics, Technology, Athletics, Bluff, Diplomacy, Engineering, Endurance, Medical, History, Insight, Intimidate, Science, Perception, Culture, Stealth, Streetwise, & Thievery.
See what I did there? Yep, that’s right. I made some direct substitutions for the problematic skills. Here’s my rational:
Technology: In a sci-fi universe, the complicated machines that run the world often seem powered by magic, even by those that live right along side of it. Folks that can manipulate these machines are seen as (and even called) Wizards. Technology, then, is an easy choice to sub in for Arcana.
Engineering: Machines run the world, and something has to power them. In addition, complex and vast structures have to be built to house, feed, & transport the growing races of the Frontier. While Dungeoneering is too narrow to encompass all of these tasks, Engineering fills this gap nicely.
Medical: This was an easy substitution. As healing acquired a more scientific approach, herbs & prayers gave way to true medicines. Medical was a no-brainer term for use of the Heal skill.
Science: Science really attempts to explain all the various parts of nature. Nature being too narrow in scope, Science fills in nicely when referencing the skill to the Star Frontiers universe.
Culture: Again, in order to be a better general term in the Star Frontiers universe, I wanted to use a term that not only encompassed Religion, but also added additional skills more fitting to science fiction. In any event, Culture is often bound up with Religion (especially for ancient cultures), so this skill works well as a substitution.
WITH ME SO FAR?
Acrobatics, Athletics, Bluff, Culture, Diplomacy, Endurance, Engineering, History, Insight, Intimidate, Medical, Perception, Science, Stealth, Streetwise, Technology, & Thievery.
Now then. Let’s say you’re coming at this from a hard-core Star Frontiers perspective. You’re not really familiar with the 4e rules, but want to work them in.
Well, I’ve got good news. I’ve taken all the skills (as they’re listed in Zebulon’s Guide to the Galaxy), and created a chart that shows you how the skills translate. Right-click on this link, and download the .PDF I created for just this task.
The 4th Edition rules assign a key ability score to each skill, which makes complete sense. However, I noticed one small issue when translating the original 4th Edition skill list to the modified Star Frontiers skill list. The issue is with the Nature skill being assigned to Wisdom. This assignment makes sense when speaking about how nature is used in the D&D setting. However, in the modified skill list, Science replaces Nature. Science (at least to me) doesn’t really key off Wisdom that well. As a result, I’d recommend switching it over to Intelligence. The downloadable .PDF I mentioned above has a short table illustrating this change.
I also make one more recommendation. 4th Edition purists (wait, is that even a thing?), might take exception to this, but I highly recommend adding Perform and/or Crafting skills. Both skills are heavily role-playing focused, but the Craft skill might come in particularly handy when crashed on a strange planet with few supplies. Curious how to handle such skill additions? Check out this link and download the .PDF.
I hope you’re enjoying these re-skinning articles on Star Frontiers to 4th Edition. Expect to see more about Races, Feats, Weapons, & Equipment in the following weeks. More will be coming soon!
This is My Game – DeadOrcs out.