Monday, February 27, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Star Frontiers

Star Frontiers! A game that I almost played once.

Way, way back in 6th grade, my friend Damian decided that he wanted to run Star Frontiers. We spent a whole afternoon making characters and then...never played, because kids are like that. One thing I remember from this time is that we were famously bad at the rules for all RPGs (well, okay, D&D), and no firmer example of this was the character generation section for this game. Damian allowed me to roll up a Sathar, an NPC-only race who are the canonical bad guys of the setting.

This time period was also illustrative of what a dink I was as a small child, because Damian told me that I had a secret power that would be revealed in-game, and I kept pestering him to tell me what that power was. We never played, so it was moot, but that was still really obnoxious of me.

On this attempt at character creation, I decided to limit myself to one of the characters from the four actual PC species. These include Humans (yawn), Dralasites (sapient blob people), Vrusk (cool bug people with centipede bodies), and Yazirians (violent, gliding monkeys that have to wear goggles). I was on the fence until I saw this bon mot in the advanced rulebook:

Dralasites are widely known for their strange sense of humor. They love old jokes and puns that make Humans groan. Many Human comedians who could not find work in Human cities have become rich performing on Dralasite worlds.

Punslinging blob critter? Sold.

Star Frontiers character generation consists of rolling d100 and looking up the results on a chart. This is similar (though slightly different from) the other TSR non-D&D games of the period, which makes me think that TSR could have come out with a universal role-playing system in the early 80s if they had wanted to and if that was, you know, a thing that people had conceived of at the time. It's too bad, really, because they could have had a genre-hopping game of gunslingers, spies, gangsters, archaeologists, and space adventure, to name but a few. How epic would that have been?

Anywho, there are four groups of paired stats in the game. Each paired stat shares a single number. Your species gives you bonuses to one number pair and also gives you a penalty to one numbered pair. Humans get a +5 bonus to one stat in their pair (so their Strength/Stamina could be 55/50), but receive no penalties. After you've rolled your stats and applied modifiers, you can opt to move up to 10 points from one paired stat to another. (I could have had an Intellect/Logic of 30/50 if I had wanted to).

Stamina's your hit points. Weapons do a lot of damage in this game, and armor appears to be mostly ablative. Armor is also stupid expensive, so I couldn't afford any. Yikes.

Dralasites get two special abilities: Detect Lie at 5% and Elasticity. Elasticity's description is very long, but boils down to my being able to grow a maximum of Dex/10 limbs. I have control of them all, but one of them must be my "dominant" limb (I'm fifth-handed!) and, no matter how many limbs I have, I can still only use two weapons at a time. Also, the veins and ridges in my rubbery, protoplasmic body cannot be changed and provide an identification akin to fingerprints. So much for committing the perfect crime.

Skill are a little wonky and take quite a bit of time to explain. The gist of it is that there are three main categories (Military, Technology, Biosocial). At the start of the game, you pick your primary focus and get one skill from that group. You may then pick a skill from any of the other two categories. All skills have sub-skills and, if you pick a skill, you get all it's sub-skills too. This was nice, because I decided to pick Medicine and was dismayed when I misunderstood and thought I'd have to buy each sub-skill on its own. All skills are rated at base percentage + 10 x skill level percentage, and skills have a maximum rating of 6.

Oh, and I picked Weapon Skills from the Military category, because this is an 80s game and I am going to be shooting at things. This gives me proficiency with a bunch of the basic weapon types, which is handy. I feel like I put in 5% of the effort that I did making my Star Trek characters, and my Dralasite still feels competent and well-rounded.

I get d100 + 250 credits to buy my initial possessions with, so I proceeded to the equipment list in the advanced character generation section and found that everything was stupefyingly expensive. For instance, a med kit costs 500 credits, which is 150 more credits than I could possibly start with. How was I supposed to do medicine without a med kit?! Gaah!

It was then that I learned that a starting character could opt to spend 250 credits to get basic gear (Which comes with a first aid pack. Yes!). This gave me some money left over to buy a (very cheap) weapon. I picked up a vibroknife and am hoping that I get a lot more credits before I get into a fight.

Onivan Eht’eulb, Dralasite Physician

Strength/Stamina: 55
Intellect/Logic: 40
Dexterity/Reaction Speed: 45
Personality/Leadership: 55

Initiative Modifier: 5 (RS/10 round up)

Special Abilities:  5% chance to Detect Lie, Elasticity
Biosocial Skills: Administer Drugs 100%, Diagnosis 70%, First Aid 100%, Minor Surgery 50%, Major Surgery 30%, Controlling Infection 60%, Curing Diseases 50%, Neutralizing Toxins 40%, Activating Freeze Fields 40%.

Military Skills: Gyrojet 33%, Melee 33%, Projectile 33%, Thrown 33%.

Credits: 42 (auspicious!)
Standard Equipment Pack: Chronograph/Communicator, Coveralls, Dose Grenade, First Aid Pack
Vibroknife: 2d10 +5 to hit

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