“If you could make any game you wanted, and were guaranteed not only enough money to build it to your precise specs, but even guaranteed that it would be a success (in other words, setting aside all financial considerations), what would you make?”
This is part 2 of a 5 part series exploring some of the pen-and-paper settings which have come to my mind as a result of contemplating that question. Note that, unlike most of my other posts where I refer to PnP RPGs, in this series of posts I’m talking about setting, not system. I’m not presenting in any particular order, either… just posting them as they come to hand while I scan across my bookshelves.
The Star Frontiers setting, from the game of the same name by TSR published in the early 80s, is one of those that I find intriguing less because of any specific element of the setting, but rather because of the overall perspective it tries to accommodate.
The key word here is essentially “frontier”. No millenia old Empire, no sector-spanning Federation: just a handful of inhabited planets, some not yet fully explored themselves, huddled in a tiny cluster and surrounded by utterly unexplored (and relatively densely distributed) systems of unknown peril and promise.
It is this frontier perspective that I find appealing about the setting more than anything. Other existing games have some of it, Eve Online for instance, but not to the extent that I would like. SWG and Star Trek Online represent significantly different (and probably more logical) views of the sci-fi space travel theme. Earth and Beyond, from what little I recall, was probably in the same basic line of thought by contrast. Star Frontiers, as I would express it at least, would revel in the frontier perspective.
The basic races of Star Frontiers also have some unique flavor to them. The 8-legged insectoid Vrusk, the blob-like shape-shifting Dralasites, gliding monkey-like Yazirians, and ubiquitous Humans each provide some distinctive ways of interacting with the universe while not being so alien as to be off-putting.
The Knight Hawks ruleset for space battles would need to be incorporated as well, of course. The relatively unique Assault Scout class of ship in the setting, a hybrid fighter/frigate with a “crew of 4-6”, was obviously added to directly accommodate the typical adventuring party. Making use of that original design quirk might prove to be interesting, if a system of mechanics can be designed around it.
One of the challenges is creating a vast selection of planets to explore and potentially colonize, each with it’s own unique flavor and set of adventures to pursue. Star Frontiers did have a relatively expansive selection of secondary alien races added in the rules expansion (Zebulon’s Guide to the Frontier), but that would just be a tithing compared to what would be needed for an MMOG, not to mention the various wild alien beasties that were a staple of the game.
The everpresent Sathar threat would be one of the major plotlines of the game, of course. Space piracy, smuggling runs, alien ruins, megacorp conspiracies… all part and parcel of the game. A relatively typical space adventure setting in all those respects.
Again, I’m not going to go into huge amounts of detail, just give some indication of what the setting is, and why I’m intrigued by it beyond simple nostalgia. Commentary is always welcome, of course.
Tomorrow: Sailing on the Ether, liftwood reaching across the flow. Would you care for some tea?