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Star Frontiers

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Star Frontiers is a science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 role-playing game
Role-playing game
A role-playing game is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting, or through a process of structured decision-making or character development...

 produced by TSR
TSR, Inc.
Blume and Gygax, the remaining owners, incorporated a new company called TSR Hobbies, Inc., with Blume and his father, Melvin Blume, owning the larger share. The former assets of the partnership were transferred to TSR Hobbies, Inc....

 beginning in 1982. The game offered a space-opera action-adventure setting.


Star Frontiers takes place near the center of a spiral galaxy (the setting does not specify whether the galaxy is our own Milky Way
Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System. This name derives from its appearance as a dim un-resolved "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky...

A previously undiscovered quirk of the laws of physics allows starships to jump to "The Void", a hyperspatial realm that greatly shortens the travel times between inhabited worlds, once they reach 1% of the speed of light (3,000 km/s).

The basic game setting was an area known as "The Frontier Sector" where four sentient races (Dralasite
Dralasites are a fictional extraterrestrial race that have been featured as player character options in several role-playing games . In each incarnation they have been described as short, rubbery, gray amoeboid creatures capable of changing their form to a limited extent by extending and...

, Humans, Vrusk, and Yazirian) had met and formed the United Planetary Federation (UPF). The original homeworlds of the Dralasite
Dralasites are a fictional extraterrestrial race that have been featured as player character options in several role-playing games . In each incarnation they have been described as short, rubbery, gray amoeboid creatures capable of changing their form to a limited extent by extending and...

s, Humans, and Vrusk were never detailed in the setting and it is possible that they no longer existed. A large number of the star systems shown on the map of the Frontier sector in the basic rulebook were unexplored and undetailed, allowing the Gamemaster
A gamemaster is a person who acts as an organizer, officiant for questions regarding rules, arbitrator, and moderator for a multiplayer game...

 (called the "referee" in the game) to put whatever they wished there.

Players could take on any number of possible roles in the setting but the default was to act as hired agents of the Pan Galactic corporation in exploring the Frontier and fighting the aggressive incursions of the alien
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 and mysterious worm-like race known as the Sathar. Most published modules for the game followed these themes.

Sapient races

  • Dralasites are short, gray amoeboid
    Amoeboids are single-celled life-forms characterized by an irregular shape."Amoeboid" and "amœba" are often used interchangeably even by biologists, and especially refer to a creature moving by using pseudopodia. Most references to "amoebas" or "amoebae" are to amoeboids in general rather than to...

     creatures capable of changing their form to a limited extent by extending and retracting pseudopod
    Pseudopods or pseudopodia are temporary projections of eukaryotic cells. Cells that possess this faculty are generally referred to as amoeboids. Pseudopodia extend and contract by the reversible assembly of actin subunits into microfilaments...

    s. Lacking a digestive system, they consume their food by surrounding and absorbing it. A network of nerves and veins intersects at a Dralasite's two eye spots. They cannot see colors, but have a well-developed sense of smell. They have a sense of humor that the other races often find strange or quirky, and a love of bad puns.

  • Human
    Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

    are a race of beings virtually identical to Earthly humans. The most notable difference between these and earth humans are that the humans of the Frontier have a 200 year lifespan (possibly due to the advanced technology of the setting).

  • Vrusk are an insectoid
    Insectoid denotes any creature or object that shares a similar body or traits with common earth insects and arachnids. The term is a combination of "insect" and "-oid" . Compare "humanoid"....

     race with eight walking legs and two five-clawed manipulating arms. Their ant-like heads included two antennae
    Antenna (biology)
    Antennae in biology have historically been paired appendages used for sensing in arthropods. More recently, the term has also been applied to cilium structures present in most cell types of eukaryotes....

     and two mandibles. They are omnivorous. They are noted for their logical minds and their society is structured as commercial ventures. Many Vrusk give their company name before their given name.

  • The Yazirian race are anthropoids similar to various terrestrial apes. They are muzzled, lightly furred, and have patagia
    *In bats, the skin forming the surface of the wing. It is an extension of the skin of the abdomen that runs to the tip of each digit, uniting the forelimb with the body.*The patagium of a bat has four distinct parts:...

     stretching between their arms and legs which they can use to glide over short distances in low gravity (their home worlds are all low-gravity). They are descended from a nocturnal species, and prefer to wear tinted goggles to protect their eyesight during the day. They are said to be rather violent and pushy, and have a custom to choose a "life-enemy", which could be anything; a company, person, or a concept. The fictional species was rehashed as Shadow People in TSR's later Dragonlance
    Dragonlance is a shared universe created by Laura and Tracy Hickman, and expanded by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis under the direction of TSR, Inc. into a series of popular fantasy novels. The Hickmans conceived Dragonlance while driving in their car on the way to TSR for a job application...

     series of campaign modules and also as the Hadozee race presented first in Spelljammer and secondly in Stormwrack
    Stormwrack is a supplemental source-book for the 3.5 edition of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game.-Contents:The book has detailed information and descriptions on various types of both realistic and fantastical watery environments, including underwater, the open ocean, ships, coral...

    . All bear a strong resemblance to the High Martians of GDW
    Game Designers' Workshop
    Game Designers' Workshop was a wargame and role-playing game publisher from 1973 to 1996. Many of their games are now carried by other publishers.-History:Game Designers' Workshop was originally established June 22, 1973...

    's later Space: 1889
    Space: 1889
    Space: 1889 is a role-playing game of Victorian-era space-faring,created by Frank Chadwick and originally published by Game Designers' Workshop from 1988 to 1991 and later reprinted by Heliograph, Inc...

     RPG. Yazirians bear a passing resemblance to Wookiees in Star Wars
    Star Wars
    Star Wars is an American epic space opera film series created by George Lucas. The first film in the series was originally released on May 25, 1977, under the title Star Wars, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, followed by two sequels, released at three-year...

    especially in the matter of battle rage or a berserker
    Berserkers were Norse warriors who are reported in the Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word berserk. Berserkers are attested in numerous Old Norse sources...

    state of mind.

These races were altered slightly and reused in TSR
TSR, Inc.
Blume and Gygax, the remaining owners, incorporated a new company called TSR Hobbies, Inc., with Blume and his father, Melvin Blume, owning the larger share. The former assets of the partnership were transferred to TSR Hobbies, Inc....

's Spelljammer
Spelljammer is a campaign setting for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, which features a fantastical outer space environment....

, and have now been republished closer to their original form for d20 Future
D20 Future
d20 Future is an accessory for the d20 Modern role-playing game written by Christopher Perkins, Rodney Thompson, and JD Wiker. It facilitates the playing of campaigns in the far future, using elements such as cybernetics, mecha, mutations, robotics, space travel, starships, and xenobiology...

 by Wizards of the Coast
Wizards of the Coast
Wizards of the Coast is an American publisher of games, primarily based on fantasy and science fiction themes, and formerly an operator of retail stores for games...

  • The Sathar are a race of mysterious, worm-like beings who are the enemies of the UPF (they are not intended to be used as a player race). They have wormlike bodies of 3 to 4 meters in length with two tentacular arms that end in fine tentacles for manipulation and two tentacles that end in paddles that can be used for heavy lifting (including acting as "legs", lifting the front of the creature off the ground in a humanoid-like stance). Their eyes have two pupils each, giving them good peripheral vision. The races of the Frontier know little about them other than their basic anatomy and the fact that they are hostile, as no live Sathar has ever been captured. Some of the behaviors and motives of the Sathar were revealed in the printed adventures for the game, and adventures commonly featured mercenaries working for the Sathar to undermine the UPF as villains.

  • There are also other non-player races in the Star Frontiers universe, including many in the printed modules, but these five are the only races who developed space drive technology within the Frontier.
  • Several new player races appeared in a late addition to the line, Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space, and include the Humma (which resemble kangaroo
    A kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae . In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, especially those of the genus Macropus, Red Kangaroo, Antilopine Kangaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Western Grey Kangaroo. Kangaroos are endemic to the country...

    s), Ifshnit (akin to dwarves
    Dwarf (Dungeons & Dragons)
    In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game, dwarves are a humanoid race, one of the primary races available for play as player characters...

    ), Osakar (lanky, parthenogenic
    Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction found in females, where growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization by a male...

    Quadrupedalism is a form of land animal locomotion using four limbs or legs. An animal or machine that usually moves in a quadrupedal manner is known as a quadruped, meaning "four feet"...

    s) and Mechanons (intelligent robot
    A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...


Game mechanics

The game was a percentile-based system and used only 10-sided dice (d10). Characters had attributes rated from 1-100 (usually in the 25-75 range) which could be rolled against for raw-attribute actions such as lifting items or getting out of the way of falling rocks. There were eight attributes that were paired together (and shared the same rating to begin with)—Strength/Stamina, Dexterity/Reaction Speed, Intuition/Logic, and Personality/Leadership.

Characters also each had a Primary Skill Area (PSA—Military, Technological, or Biosocial) which allowed them to buy skills that fell into their PSA at a discount. Skills were rated from 1–6 and usually consisted of a set of subskills that gave a chance for accomplishing a particular action as a base percentage plus a 10% bonus for each skill level the character had in the skill. Weapon skills were based on the character's relevant attribute (Dexterity or Strength) but other skills had a base chance of success independent of the character's attributes. Many of the technological skills were penalized by the complexity of the robot, security system, or computer the character was attempting to manipulate (also rated from 1 to 6).

Characters were usually quite durable in combat—it would take several hits from normal weapons to kill an average character. Medical technology was also advanced—characters could recover quickly from wounds with appropriate medical attention and a dead character could be "frozen" and revived later.

Vehicle and robot rules were included in the "Alpha Dawn" basic set. A beneficial feature of the game was its seamless integration of personal, vehicle and aerial combat simulation. The "Knight Hawks" rules expansion set included detailed rules for starships.
The basic set also included a short "bestiary" of creatures native to the world of Volturnus (the setting for the introductory module included with the basic boxed set), along with rules for creating new creatures.

Character advancement consisted of spending experience points on improving skills and attributes.


The basic boxed set was renamed "Alpha Dawn" after the expansions began publication. It included two ten-sided dice, a large set of cardboard counters, and a folding map with a futuristic city on one side and various wilderness areas on the other for use with the included adventure, SF-0: Crash on Volturnus.

A second boxed set called "Knight Hawks" followed shortly. It provided rules for using starships in the setting and also a set of wargame rules for fighting space battles between the UPF and Sathar. Included were counters for starships, two-ten sided dice, a large folding map with open space on one side and on the other a space station and starship (for use with the included adventure), and the adventure SFKH-0: Warriors of White Light.

Adventures printed separately for the game included two more adventures set on Volturnus (SF-1: Volturnus, Planet of Mystery and SF-2: Starspawn of Volturnus continuing the adventure included in the basic set), SF-3: Sundown on Starmist, SF-4: Mission to Alcazzar, SF-5: Bugs in the System and SF-6: Dark Side of the Moon. The last two modules (SF-5 and SF-6) were written by authors from TSR's UK division, and are distinctly different from the others in the series in tone and production style.

Adventures using the Knight Hawks rules included SFKH-1: Dramune Run and a trilogy set "Beyond the Frontier" in which the players learn more about the Sathar and foil their latest plot (SFKH-2: Mutiny on the Eleanor Moraes, SFKH-3: Face of the Enemy, and SFKH-4: The War Machine).

Two modules also re-created the plot and setting of the movies 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey (film)
2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, partially inspired by Clarke's short story The Sentinel...

and 2010: Odyssey Two
2010: Odyssey Two
2010: Odyssey Two is a 1982 best-selling science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke. It is the sequel to the 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, but continues the story of Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation with the same title and not Clarke's original novel. The book is a part of Clarke's...


A late addition to the line was "Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space" which introduced several additional races and radical changes to the game's mechanics. Of the three planned volumes of the Guide, only the first was ever published (in 1985), leaving the game in an uncomfortable, half-overhauled state. Gamers were given little to no practical advice on how to convert their existing characters to the new rules, and TSR never published any further products using the "Zebulon's" concepts.

Current products

Wizards of the Coast published many of the races originally found in Star Frontiers in their d20 Future supplement for d20 Modern
D20 Modern
d20 Modern is a roleplaying game designed by Bill Slavicsek, Jeff Grubb, Rich Redman, and Charles Ryan. It was published by Wizards of the Coast in November 2002, and uses the d20 System...


Current versions of the original game are fanworks. In addition to the Star frontiers Redux and Knight Hawks Vector Rules, a high-quality fan E-zine named "Star Frontiersman" is being published on a regular basis. A multiplayer flight simulator version of Knight Hawks Vector is being developed for Orbiter Space Simulator program, and a virtual tabletop version is also in the works. Play-by-forum post and OpenRPG games are currently being played with new ones starting all the time in the Starfrontiers.org forum.

A version of the setting called "Star Law", which uses the d20 system rules was published as an alternate campaign setting in the d20 Future
D20 Future
d20 Future is an accessory for the d20 Modern role-playing game written by Christopher Perkins, Rodney Thompson, and JD Wiker. It facilitates the playing of campaigns in the far future, using elements such as cybernetics, mecha, mutations, robotics, space travel, starships, and xenobiology...

book. It uses the species names of Vrusk, Dralasite, Sathar, and Yazirian, but is not actually the Star Frontiers setting.

External links

  • StarFrontiers.org - The original Star Frontiers website and Forums. Lots of gaming resources here, including Star Frontiers video games such as VECTOR and a 3d space-flight simulator. You can find downloadable RuleBooks for Knight Hawks and Alpha Dawn and hundreds of 3d models and Star Frontiers artwork.
  • StarFrontiers.com - The Official online resource offering legal PDF downloads of the game and links to many great SF webring sites since 1992.
  • The Star Frontiers Network - Site designed for hosting on-line Star Frontiers games and software development as well as providing links to other Star Frontiers resources. Links, forums, blogs, a Star Frontiers wiki and more.
  • Star Frontiers Revival Site: Devoted to collaborative community development and discussion of Star Frontiers. Includes social networking, projects, forums, chat, downloads, search, wiki's and site support. Largest online Star Frontiers community and sister site of The Star Frontiersman fazine site.
  • Star Frontiers to GURPS 4e Conversion Notes - Fan-made conversion for gaming Star Frontiers in a popular GURPS system.
  • Star Frontiers - Digitally Remastered - Original books reformatted into a modern, user-friendly PDF's. Home of The Star Frontiersman, a fanzine dedicated to fan contributions.
  • Palalyrn Cluster - Site that expands the Star Frontiers campaign map providing new star systems to explore.