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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Ultimate Edition Line-up

Many know of my 25th Anniversary Edition rules that I was working on and would likely be glad to know that I haven't abandoned the project. I have recently gotten back to working on the books for that project once again, but I am debating with myself whether to continue it as non-profit Star Frontiers or to seek Bill Logan's backing to publish it under his FrontierSpace banner.

I already have hundreds of pages prepared for Gamma Dawn that need to be straightened out and rewritten, and Beta Dawn is coming along swiftly. The hundred or so RPG's I have acquired are excellent research for this endeavor and help me to know what needs building on and what tropes to keep and what to throw out.

For the Beta Dawn Cybernetics Rulebook, I think it best not to do the Cyberpunk setting, as it has been done to death and is not in the flavor of Star Frontiers. However, covering the seedier side of computer networking and cybernetics overload is a must, just without the punks. For the galactic internet, I am developing a social substrata that will branch such classic movie tropes as Tron and the Matrix with simple mechanics while recognizing the need for some amount of realism in what is expected by those who may despise the above mentioned movies. It will include robot rules and lots of cybernetics-compatible equipment.

I realize, though, that I won't be able to please everyone. Someone is going to complain that I was too inclusive and am ruining the Star Frontiers experience for them. I roll my eyes at such people, because that is exactly what Star Frontiers does. It rolled up Star Wars, Star Trek, Battle Star Galactica, and Buck Rogers all into one neat package while keeping it somewhat more grounded in modern science.

On the other hand, there are those that are going to say that I didn't do something right according to their campaign. To both sides I say take with it what you think fits your idea of Star Frontiers and leave the rest. This is Star Frontiers in the 21st century and I'm going to treat it as such, the way it would have developed if the game had gotten the backing that other RPG's received and which it deserved. Every RPG starts out simple and gets more complex as time goes on. That's the nature of providing products for a setting. The more products you provide, the more fleshed out the setting becomes. There's just no avoiding it.

As for Gamma Dawn Deviations Rulebook, I want to provide a cohesive structure that explains why mutants haven't been seen in the Frontier to date and provide mechanics that resemble Star Froniers rather than Gamma World. Something interesting that I found was that Kimber Eastland, who compiled Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space, was a well established Gamma Dawn writer, having many modules and supplements to his name. But while he favored that setting, he did not attempt to turn Star Frontiers into Gamma Dawn. He clearly had plans to introduce cybernetics and bionics, and perhaps might have addressed mutations in later volumes of Zeb's, but he wasn't able to finish the series, and so here we are.

I will tackle the mutation theme while keeping the flavor and essence of Star Frontiers at the forefront. I realize that super powers are not in the flavor of Star Frontiers and will therefore seek to balance the mechanics so that they do not break the game too much (as far as can be done, as it is the Referee's responsibility to balance his own campaign). I am exploring turning the random mutation tables into a means of creating new creatures and altering characters with the same mechanic. It should have an inherent balance and make creature creation more standard and less guessing.

I will discuss my reasoning behind the Alpha Dawn Core Rulebook incidentally now. Regarding the differences between the original Alpha Dawn and Zebulon's Guide, Kim had his own view of what Star Frontiers was, as each of us do, as well as his own ideas about how to develop it. I think Zebulon's Guide was a push in the right direction, but with poor support, causing it to be poorly executed. The races didn't look like their descriptions or previous incarnations, nor were they pretty according to the art. Whereas the Alpha Dawn races looked interesting because of the fantastic work of the grand master trio of Easley, Elmore, and Caldwell, Zeb's Guide fell flat for the inferior art among other reasons, including layout. Zeb's was simply doomed, but not for its story.

Some people snit and nit pick over the way Zeb's handled such things as the timeline. Some say the timeline should have been kept simple so that players could flesh it out, but really, how is fleshing a timeline out going to hamper a Referee's creativity? It's not. The timeline still left tons of opportunity for exploration. However, it was the planet population and chemical composition charts that really messed things up. Many star systems that people had previously hoped to explore or who had created their own details about those stars are now told the stars can't even sustain life. So what happened to the "densely packed stars" concept? Why can't we visit those worlds that Alpha Dawn once provided to us? And why quarantine three worlds? Well, this actually intrigued me when I studied that aspect and the MedLab Campaign Book was born. (See below.)

Another project that I introduced and which I was getting help on, more so than any other project, was the Delta Dawn Fleet Rulebook. First of all, I don't care what anyone says, Knight Hawks sucked. It's ship creation rules sucked. It's movement rules sucked. It's advanced skills sucked. Its mapping sucked. And it was completely void of fleet maneuvering. The Delta Dawn rules are meant to revise all of that. Delta Dawn will introduce fleet rules, vectoring, 3-D mapping, and utilize the cohesive vehicle creation rules that will be introduced in the Alpha Dawn Ultimate Edition. It will have ranks, fleet strategies, space combat, ground combat, and aquatic combat rules, as well as military grade weapons and vehicles, including mecha. It will also introduce the morale mechanic. Anything that has anything to do with massive military operations will be included there.

The Epsilon Dawn Covert Ops Rulebook will introduce covert operations rules involving deadly sniper and assassination rules, infiltration, counter-espionage, terrorism and counter-terrorism in the future. This will mostly involve corporations, but some anit-Sathar measures will also be included. I am putting these in their own rulebook because Delta Dawn already has enough to deal with and these subjects are enough to fill a whole other supplement. The skills, equipment, and covert ops rules are plenty to keep the ideas rolling out. The feel will still be focused on maintaining the Star Frontiers setting while adding this new aspect, as well as making it an integral part of Delta Dawn play. This is still in the planning stages as it is a more recent development.

The Traders & Freighters Rulebook breaks from the use of the Greek Alphabet for the title, but will still carry the "Zeta Dawn" masthead in small letters at the top to show that the procession hasn't ended or been interrupted. I think Traders & Freighters is a much catchier title than using the alphabetical title. Many already know about my Traders and Freighters concept, but let me cover it here.

Traders & Freighters was an idea I had when I heard from a player whose play group had built their own Star Frontiers campaign around developing a corporation and running its operations until it became a megacorporation. This intrigued me so much that I felt there was a need for such a supplement in the game, and for me, when I see that there is a need for something, I don't sit around waiting for others to develop it. So I asked him if he had plans to make a supplement for it and he said if he could find his notes, he might do an article on it. But I never heard back from him about it. In the meantime, I did the Buying and Selling in the Frontier article in Star Frontiersman #6 which focused on simple barter for goods and services, not yet getting ambitious. But after a couple months I started the Traders & Freighters supplement.

Traders & Freighters provides rules for running a corporation, playing a boardgame of corporate conquest in the Frontier and beyond, and for pretty much any business you wish to run or any freelance occupation you wish to partake in, such as space truckers and even pirates. The boardgame is playable apart from Star Frontiers, which makes the supplement's name appropriate. I have made sure that the theme is exciting, so much so that it remains to be my favorite concept.

The boardgame will be developed using Diplomacy and similar games as tutors. I started to get paranoid last year when someone was getting inspired to develop their own boardgame because they kept pressing Traders of Catan from the moment that they heard "traders" and "boardgame". It made me uncomfortable and I'm glad they didn't pursue their idea. It's rude to let yourself be inspired to develop something by someone else's idea instead of trusting that person will do well with it. There are so many ideas out there to develop. Get your own ideas; don't develop the same thing at the same time someone else is developing it. When you have an original thought, if you do, go with that and stop edging in on others. The corporate conquest boardgame aspect was my idea and my idea alone; don't take it from me.

The Star Law Campaign Book was my very first project over at starfrontiers.us. It will be the Eta Dawn supplement. It is another idea I have a close attachment to. It has slowly evolved over the past two years as my understanding of Star Law has evolved. But it will also include common local law enforcement operations and procedures, but will have the primary focus of introducing the player to Star Law from the academy to commencement to promotions and even executive offices. Everything you need to run a Star Law operation will be in there. In fact, many don't realize that the mini-adventure provided with the Basic rules is a Star Law adventure. They think they're just local security, but the Alpha Dawn set says clearly that it is strongly encouraged that players begin as Star Law Rangers. Why would they deviate from their own advice?

Star Law is deeply implanted in Star Frontiers. It seems that it was a primary component of the Alien Worlds setting planned by its creators. But that was to have a grittier tone, as Star Frontiers was marketed to families and thus made grit-light. The Alien Worlds setting seems to have been a guns blazing old west meets the new frontier-type setting where the Star Law Rangers hunted down the outlaws and brigand alien bands comming out from the Stars. This is the setting that will be given more attention in the Star Law campaign guide, while retaining a cleaner, incorruptable white-hat-wearing rider on a white horse premise of Star Frontiers. A setting both Marshall Dillon and the Lone Ranger would be proud of.

But the Star Law Campaign Book won't neglect the hallowed walls aspect of Star Law as a policing body, either. The ranks and divisions of Star Law will be well explained, and other concepts not having to do with a space western will be expanded. Besides this, equipment and equipment packages will be provided.

The MedLab Campaign Book, with the Theta Dawn masthead, is another project close to my heart. I had been considering introducing some kind of medical campaign, because I've been intrigued by the far future medical novels. Then I spotted the Gretl Grohn story in the Zebulon's Guide timeline. Unlike others, I was actually intrigued by the efforts of Gretl Grohn and the Medical Services Organization to stop the deadly blue plague that formed as blue welts.

So one night I was laying there studying and contemplating how that could be developed and I came up with the super advanced medical frigate called simply MedLab 1, and there would be other MedLabs. Each MedLab not only has a top notch medical crew attending to victims, but also has a search and rescue team, a hazardous environments team, and a Star Law garrison, all to help rescue people from any situation in the developing colonies.

After working out the purpose of the MedLab, I then planned the story as the backdrop of a set of modules I dubbed "MedLab" after the name of the vessel where I set Gretl Grohn as one of the doctors. One player could play Gretl or use their own medical character. The story base for the modules was that when the blue plague breaks out among the core worlds (Hargut, Pale, and Gollywog), MedLab 1 is forced to abandon the rim worlds to contain the plague that was threatening to wipe out the heart of the Frontier. The series would conclude with Gretl Grohn being awarded the position of Medical Services Organization Coordinator for her handling of the crisis.

The campaign book was a natural outgrowth from the modules idea. I still want to do those modules, but not before I finish the campaign book. In the Medlab book, I will be providing rules for fully stocked medical labs, surgery, medical emergency rescue teams, deadly rescue missions, emergency management, toxic effects, and lots of new equipment.

The Knight Hawks Campaign Book, in the Ion Dawn slot, will attempt to do what I think the original KH failed miserably to do: establish a space-based campaign setting. While the core rules of the Tactical Operations Manual will be wholly revised in the Alpha Dawn Ultimate Edition, the Campaign Book will be revamped and expanded for a campaign set in deep space with hard core spacers.

Like the sea sailors of old, spacers have developed their own space culture, way of speaking, and distinguishing themselves from "ground huggers". Being planetside is a foreign experience to them, and always an uncomfortable, if awkward, experience. The space lanes are all they know, and the beauty of the nebulae and lit up vector screens are what beckons them. Many are cursed by space atrophy, the modern scurvy, with STR and DEX penalties with ailments, and those who don't are those who keep themselves in "tiptop shape" through proper supplements and resistance exercises, bringing them STR and DEX bonuses and good health.

Besides the setting, it will also provide space walk rules, new ships and space stations with deck plans, ship repair facilities and expanded rules, and lots of equipment specific to space-based missions.

The Lambda 500 Sports and Racing Rulebook, once again deviating from the previous two formats by returning to the Greek alphabet sans "Dawn", and will come after the Explorer's Survival Guide (See below). It will simply expand on the Futuresports article, providing various sports settings and many Frontier games fully fleshed out with whole rules sets, diagrams, and rules for building a sports empire and running sports and racing campaigns. It will introduce the popularity mechanic and utilize the morale mechanic from Delta Dawn, which is appropriate, as several of the proposed Futuresports settings will rely upon Delta Dawn.

The Explorer's Survival Guide (Kappa Dawn) and the Zebulon's Guide to the Frontier Volumes will focus on exploring and expanding knowledge of the Star Frontiers universe. Not much to say here except that there will be lots of ways to expand your campaign through exploration of previously unexplored worlds and learning a whole lot about the known worlds, including maps, random world generator (care of Larry Moore), and lots of races, creatures, environmental and crash landing survival tips, exploration equipment, and culturally specific weapons and equipment

Thus concludes my plan for world domination and my keyboard diarrhea. I'm off to take my meds and get some sleep. Good night. Until next time...


  1. Star Frontiers could use the upgrade you're talking about and I'm looking forward to working with you any way you wish - as a side note or as a major contributor, your call. Your ideas sound great, and I could easily see the game getting new life in your hands! Exciting stuff on the horizon!

    -Bill Logan

  2. Once I have all my ideas in place, I could definitely use whatever input you have to give. I have a horrible time doing the finishing and polishing. If you did the finishing for it, that would rock, and I would give you Editor and contributor credits. Thanks. :)

  3. I have decided that I will be contributing these ideas to FrontierSpace as new setting books. This will give me opportunity to treat Traders & Freighters on a higher plain of quality and give extra attention to its board game design. I am thinking of rolling the Epsilon Dawn plan into that project as well, as corporate espionage will be perfect for T&F.

    The Star Law Campaign Book will now be the Star Ranger Campaign Book. Beta Dawn and Gamma Dawn sourcebooks will already be handled in the FrontierSpace rules, so I will not be giving attention to them, but I did do an article that will appear in the Star Frontiersman that improves upon the current Gamma Dawn supplement.

    I will still be doing my own set of Space combat boardgame rules and the Lambda 500 board game rules for racing and sports.

    There may also be a Space Explorer's Survival Guide, as well, but that is tentative, depending upon how my other projects fair.


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