Star Frontiers has always had a special place in my gaming heart. It came out while I was in grade school and ended up being one of the favorite systems that my group played throughout high school. In particular it wasn’t the setting so much as the solid design of the combat system that drew us into to it. When the Knight Hawks expansion released maybe a year later its well crafted space combat system had us locked into adventuring across the frontier for years.
The setting however wasn’t particularly to our liking. Back in 1985 the sci-fi culture was undergoing a strange transformation. The pristine clean cities and citizens of Star Trek with its optimism that science would overcome every modern woe were being overshadowed by a new form of sci-fi where man took his ugliness, hatred and irrationality with him into the future. Movies like Blade Runner, Alien, and the graphic comic magazine Heavy Metal Illustrated filled our heads with a darker much more grim future. William Gibson’s Neuromancer and pretty much anything by Bruce Sterling or Asimov filled in the literary blanks. Our infatuation with punk music also set a tone that was hard to marry to the optimistic traditional sci-fi setting of Star Frontiers. And so like true gamers do to any system they play we tinkered making it uniquely our own.
The unified racial front of the UPF was the first to fall victim to changes. We grew up in era where we were told that the world wouldn’t last past the millennium if it somehow survived Reagan’s itchy trigger button finger. It was inconceivable that mankind could ever form a unified collective when we didn’t see unity on a global, national, state, or even city stage. And so the benevolent Kingdom of Clarion morphed into just one of many nation states vying to dominate and influence other nations. The alien races followed suit creating a world with political intrigue spanned not just nations but across a galaxy of races that barely tolerated each other but were forced to live too close for comfort.
It also bothered some of us deeply that all the alien races had technology too similar. The races even if closely packed together a mere handful of light-years apart would still advance at different rates. The Sathar being the oldest race should sweep in with weapons of near magical proportions dominating and destroying the younger species with the same ease as the US Army in the American wild west.
In this environment the Sathar weren’t exactly required. Who needs bug eyed monsters when the likes of Roy Batty and Carter Burke are out to do you in? The Sathar took a back seat to the petty squabbling of four races out to ensure theirs got the largest slice of pie in the universe. Considering also that there was an entire frontier to explore the need for a big bad on a universal scale dwindled to the point that our gaming group simply pushed them entirely out of the picture. Our universe was radically different from the one presented in the pages of the official rulebooks. And as the changes kept coming we continued ignoring them further.
And so as an attempt to compile a worldbook of my own I present our vision of what Star Frontier had been. A dark dangerous myopic place. A place where humanity had split into two camps, the forces of monarchy and democracy waging a bitter ideological war that stretched to the stars. Where crooks and hoodlums ran the frontier towns looking to stuff their pockets more than find out what lay out there only waiting to be discovered. And where alien races grudgingly tolerated humans only because of their ability to make wars sting. Where conspiracy abounded as the powers that be struggled in ways unfathomable to the player pawns. This was our universe, a group of misfits standing on the edge of a dark frontier...
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