Star Frontiers wasn’t the first sci-fi game from TSR of course. Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World both predate it. But those are more science fantasy, and don’t really fill the bill of a Star Trek or Star Wars spaceships, planets and aliens type RPG setting. Star Frontiers is that game.
Development of Star Frontiers was surprisingly long and convoluted. Design work began in Summer 1979, and yet the finished game wasn’t released until late 1982. The game at inception seemed to be aimed at rival GDW’s Traveller RPG, a hard sci-fi game. By release, Star Frontiers had been re-orientated toward a younger audience.
The STAR FRONTIERS game in its final form retains the original concepts developed during the first two years of playtesting, but many of the mechanics of play and specific rules are considerably different from the original versions. Although many TSR employees were sad to say goodbye to the original hardcore version, others predict the revised STAR FRONTIERS game will be very well received.Dragon 65 (September 1982)
It is intriguing to ponder the original “hardcore” rules, and what form they may have taken.
The Star Frontiers rules are percentile-based, and quite different from TSR’s other games of the time. Distances and weights are in the metric system. A space opera setting was baked into the rules, the United Planetary Federation (UPF), which humans shared with 3 alien races. The aliens are compelling: Vrusk (insectoid scientists), Yazirians (primate-like gliders), and Dralasites (amorphous creatures with limited shapechanging abilities). The newt-like Sathar are the inimical foe of the setting.
The game was moderately successful. The following year, 1983, the box was re-branded as Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn to line up with the Knight Hawks box set featuring starship combat rules. Several adventure modules followed.
The last official release was Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space in 1985, itself virtually a second edition of the game. The last Dragon magazine article for Star Frontiers was in Sept 1989.
In this post, I’ll be delving into the core box set. For more information about the multitude of SF modules, accessories, and metal miniatures, visit my RPG reference site page.
Star Frontiers (Original & Alpha Dawn) [BOX SET]
1982, 1983 … TSR 7007
• Basic Game Rules booklet (16 pages)
• Expanded Game Rules booklet (60 pages + 4 pages of weapons tables and combat charts)
• Module SF-0: Crash on Volturnus (30 pages) with cover folder/map.
• Fold-out, double-sided city/building map
• 285 counters (1 sheet)
PDF and/or reprint at DriveThruRPG – You can pick up crisp reprints of the Alpha Dawn set in Paperback ($16) or Hardcover ($26) at DTRPG!
Original vs. Alpha Dawn
Alas, I cannot do a side-by-side post, because the sets are identical beyond the cover graphics. TSR even retained the “1st printing, July 1982” on the copyright page of Alpha Dawn. (…sigh…)
Basic Game Rules
Expanded Game Rules
The Credits page is lame, even by TSR standards. This was remedied in Dragon magazine issue 65. I’ll reprint the full credits below. The Dragon article notes: “Because of the space that would have been needed, a complete list of credits was not published with the game.” Really? Look at the Credits and Copyrights pages above and decide for yourself. Anyhow…
Concepts and original design: Dave Cook, Lawrence Schick
Revision: Mike Gray, Allen Hammack, Harold Johnson, David C. Sutherland III, Steve Winter
Crash on Volturnus: Mark Acres, Tom Moldvay, Doug Niles
Art: Jeff Easley, Larry Elmore, Jim Holloway, Harry Quinn, Stephen D. Sullivan
Editing: Steve Winter, Troy Denning
Playtesters: Mark Acres, Dave Bullis, Brad Cihla, Dave Cook, Helen Cook, Jeff Dee, Don Dexter, Mike Gray, E. Gary Gygax, Luke Gygax, Allen Hammack, Kevin Hendryx, Jeff Herndon, Chris Holmes, John Eric Holmes, Josie Irvine, Harold Johnson, Dave S. LaForce, Frank Mentzer, Tom Moldvay, Will Niebling, Doug Niles, Erol Otus, Jon Pickens, Michael Price, Paul Reiche III, Bill Renter, Evan Robinson, Lawrence Schick, Donald Snow, Stephen D. Sullivan, Phil Taterczynski, Jim Ward, Bill Willingham.
Module SF-0: Crash on Volturnus with cover folder folio / map
Two more Volturnus modules would follow, forming a trilogy. For more info, visit my RPG reference site page.
The play map in the set is large (35″ x 23″), and printed on both sides. Side 1 has a futuristic downtown and Side 2 a number of generic encounter locations.
These will pair up nicely with that play mat!
All you needed were a pair of percentile dice (2D10 = d100)