Just what were we Expecting with the Alpha Dawn box?

jedion357's picture
jedion357
October 21, 2011 - 5:18am
RE: http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2011/06/ads-of-dragon-star-frontiers.html

As I troll the web I find people talking about Star Frontiers and one mantra that does pop up is: "I was disappointed because there were no star ships."

Yeah I felt a little disappointed there were no star ships too but I got my parents to buy or I mowed enough lawns to buy Knight Hawks.

So whats my beef? this was the day and age of the little traveller books. You had to buy more than one. Come on, you wouldn't have been happy without buying several.

And just what did you get in the AD box set (as well as in the KHs boxed set)? a basic game for fast start, core rule book, module, double side poster map, and die cut counters because no one had sci fi miniatures back then (come to think of it I didn't even own many fantasy figures either) oh yeah some dice and a crayon. Honestly, the box set seemed pretty comprehensive to me. Perhaps it could have been better if Zeb Cook or Gygax showed up at your door and showed you how to roll up characters and played a game with you but man you bought 2 box sets and were good to go for only about $20-$30 worth of your lawn mowing and paper route money.

I wonder if it was the fact that it was a boxed set and that buying it was like getting a Christmas present all wrapped up. "What's in Side?" ooooh a space ship game! Ahh shucks no space ships.

Did the box set create higher expectations over what the little Traveller books delivered?
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!
Comments:

TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
October 21, 2011 - 7:19am
I don't remember what I was expecting but I wasn't disappointed.  My only RPG experience to that point had been the Red Box Basic D&D set.  Star Frontiers seemed to provide the same amount of stuff (rules, dice, an adventure, etc as Jedi mentioned) and it was Sci-Fi instead of Fantasy.  I don't remember being disappointed that there were no ships or ship rules.
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Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
October 21, 2011 - 8:00am
I was to young to know it didn't have ships. Travelling 45 minutes to hang out at a hobby store with Mom and look at games was awesome. They had a glass case with polyhedron dice displayed, I never seen anything like that. I wanted them all! 

The day I bought my boxed set was so much fun! In fact, I can't remember owning KH.. Undecided

CleanCutRogue's picture
CleanCutRogue
October 21, 2011 - 9:30am
I don't know what I expected, but it quickly became an obsession for me and my friends.  We spent a lot of time with the game... inspired by Buck Rogers, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, not to mention the old classics like Forbidden Planet and more.  It was a perfect vehicle for me to drive my imagination to new levels.  I had Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn before I ever owned any D&D stuff.  So when other people lean on D&D as their "original" role-playing experience, I lean on Alpha Dawn boxed set.
3. We wear sungoggles during the day. Not because the sun affects our vision, but when you're cool like us the sun shines all the time.

-top 11 reasons to be a Yazirian, ShadowShack


Drammattex's picture
Drammattex
October 21, 2011 - 9:55am
When I think way back to last month when I first opened my Alpha Dawn box...

...I was happy enough with the rules that I didn't mind. I did think it a little strange that the game assumed that the characters would never own their own ship, but knowing Knight Hawks was out there it was a non-issue for me. 

I'm taking a break from the Star Frontiersman to read Knight Hawks right now. So far so good, except I'm currently wading through the ship design stuff which mostly seems to be about costs of parts, time it takes to install them, the availability of a good repair station, etc. In other words, this is stuff I will be streamlining for the most part. Resource expenditure is fine and good when calculating what you can afford--I like that--however simulationist bean-counting doesn't have much of a place in my games. Loved the board game rules, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter when we get to Spaceship Skills!

But Alpha Dawn seems to do a fine job standing on its own, imo. Especially with all the counters, maps, 2 very customizable rulesets, and an adventure!

Deryn_Rys's picture
Deryn_Rys
October 21, 2011 - 9:59am
i was not disappointed by not having space craft in Alphadawn. we just decided that our first characters were colonial marine types aboard a military ship and were shuttled to the adventure locations, or were star law agents/bounty hunters based in Prenglar and had adventures on world.

I fell in love with the game instantly becaue it was science fiction, and I could finally adventure in the far future, since all we had done up to that point was play AD&D (post Basic D&D) and played several made up games based on D&D rules, and Car Wars.
"Hey guys I wonder what this does"-Famous last words
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jedion357's picture
jedion357
October 21, 2011 - 11:04am
@dramatex wait till you read "A Skilled Frontier" and "Spacer Skills Revisited" in issues 9&11 I think those were the issues. Taken together they are effectively a 2.0 revision of the rules for character skills.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Drammattex's picture
Drammattex
October 21, 2011 - 11:29am
EXCITED!

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
October 21, 2011 - 11:52am
I was disappointed that there were no rules covering ships, but on the whole? Disappointed was the last thing I thought of the game itself.

Besides, we made our own ship rules right away, basing them loosely off the parameters of the vehicle rules. By the time we had everything hammered out and running smoothly, the KH set came out.

From there it was a simple matter of re-speccing our existing ships to KH rules, with one major drawback --- we rendered our ships in the cinematic effect: decks parallel to main axis versus the KH rendering of decks perpendicular to create gravity under acceleration. It was a natural selection to go with decks-parallel prior to the KH box, what with the popularity of Star Wars & Star Trek coupled with the canon ships (Serena Dawn from SF:0, Omicron from the Ref Screen, and the crashed Hepplewhite Inc ship from the rulebook sample scenario).

So our solution? One of us had picked up the Traveller "Traders & Gunboats" supplement along the way (prior to KH) to base our deck plans from, and they kept mentioning "gravitics" and "inertial compensators" so we simply incorporated that aspect into our re-specced/pre-KH rules ships.


Now the real disappointment?


Having started rendering decks-perpendicular ships, which I finally warmed up to after the SF/KH:1 Dramune Run module...what do we get? The Sathar scout ship in the Beyond the Frontier series rendered in DECKS PARALLEL FORMAT!!!

Really, I wanted to strangle someone...
I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide...nor do I have any qualms stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

CleanCutRogue's picture
CleanCutRogue
October 21, 2011 - 2:00pm
Shadow Shack wrote:
Now the real disappointment?

Having started rendering decks-perpendicular ships, which I finally warmed up to after the SF/KH:1 Dramune Run module...what do we get? The Sathar scout ship in the Beyond the Frontier series rendered in DECKS PARALLEL FORMAT!!!

Really, I wanted to strangle someone...
Don't forget that the deck plans for the starliner Serena Dawn was horizontal too.  That was in the AD boxed set :-P
3. We wear sungoggles during the day. Not because the sun affects our vision, but when you're cool like us the sun shines all the time.

-top 11 reasons to be a Yazirian, ShadowShack


Identity Crisis's picture
Identity Crisis
October 21, 2011 - 2:23pm
I was real disappointed that there were no ship rules.  SF sat unused for a while until I managed to get the KH rules.  It seems to me several games of the time did the same thing but only one comes to mind, Pirates and Plunder,  the pirate game without ship rules.  I think Spacemaster didn't have ship rules either, or I just didn't have the complete set of books.  Its been a while and SM is not part of my collection anymore. 

jedion357's picture
jedion357
October 21, 2011 - 2:41pm
I instinctively hated the sereana dawn deck plan in SF-0 but love the KH method of deck arrangement even though I probably played more Star Fleet battles then KHs. Of course then I discovered Car wars and Ogre and played those to death.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
October 21, 2011 - 4:10pm
SpaceMaster had their spaceship rules in a different boxed set called Star Strike.  I have that sitting on my shelf here behind me although I don't have the character SpaceMaster ruleset.
Ad Astra Per Ardua!
Webmaster - The Star Frontiers Network & this site
Founding Editor - The Frontier Explorer Magazine
Managing Editor - The Star Frontiersman Magazine

AZ_GAMER's picture
AZ_GAMER
October 21, 2011 - 5:03pm
I wasn't disappointed, at twelve I was just happy to get a rpg other than D&D that was Sci-Fi!! Anyway, when I introduced it to my brother and friends we just assumed that starships were there, kind of an off camera expectation. We played several adventures as characters inside starships and made deck plans for it. However, we never really explored controlling the ships ourselves. We just made up our own stuff until KH came along. I guess as a long time D&D player we were use to using our imagination to come up with house rules and designing our own stuff as the game needed. But I have to say KH was a huge EPIC Win when i bought if for twelve bucks. I was a little mistified and didnt really understand the perpendicular hull thing since i grew up with star wars and star trek where the ships were all horizontal to thrust axis. Other than that, I was in hog heaven.

I was never disappointed in either set, the only set I was sorely disappointed in was Zeb's Guide. Again, not because of the content (which I think is great) but because of the attempt to change the light and friendly game mechanics. Shift this column Zebs.

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
October 22, 2011 - 1:14am
Zeb's gave a whole new meaning to the word "disappointment". I personally have a tough time counting it as "Star Frontiers".
I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide...nor do I have any qualms stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

Drammattex's picture
Drammattex
October 22, 2011 - 8:45am
I discovered it last month after reading through Alpha Dawn. On first glance I thought it would be awesome, but as I read through it I found I didn't care for what it did to the game. I wrestled with this in a blog post, finally concluding that it wasn't for me. 

Then I felt smart when I discovered this community and found out I wasn't in the minority. Hooray!

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
October 22, 2011 - 11:36am
Zeb's actually has a small following. 

Personally, I will admit porting SOME of it over as campaign material. But on the whole it was a disappointment on many levels, from game mecahnics alterations to terrible interior artwork to conflicting information and finally its incomplete nature (two more volumes were promised but never made).

In short, I can't think of a more perfect way to kill off a game than the decision to launch (followed by nixxing) something like the Zeb guide. Seriously, had the other two books made it to production, it could have at least had a chance as Star Frontiers 2.0 --- which would open the floor to debate much like the various renditions of D&D/AD&D, but at least it would have made something of a run if it were completed.
I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide...nor do I have any qualms stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

jedion357's picture
jedion357
October 22, 2011 - 12:52pm
And if the other two volumes had been produced one might presume that a few modules would also have made it to market as well. BTW DramaTex the Zebs Guide Expanded project is not about using the character skills or the resolution system from Zebs but rather rehabbing the setting material and expanding it (though I would not stop anyone from working on or tinkering with those parts).
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Inigo Montoya's picture
Inigo Montoya
October 22, 2011 - 12:57pm
Shadow Shack wrote:
Seriously, had the other two books made it to production, it could have at least had a chance as Star Frontiers 2.0 --- which would open the floor to debate much like the various renditions of D&D/AD&D, but at least it would have made something of a run if it were completed.



Or it could have turned out like the Highlander franchise. My induction to SF came by chance in college. I didn't have any disappointments other than the fact that it was out of production before I ever started playing. I wish I personally could have played more but I am running my kids through the mods.

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
October 22, 2011 - 3:22pm
jedion357 wrote:
And if the other two volumes had been produced one might presume that a few modules would also have made it to market as well.

That goes without saying. It's like designing a new vehicle...suppose I have a new design for an engine, but I still need a chassis to drop it into and some body panels to cover it all up. Nix it at that point and there's no reason to build dealerships. That was Zeb's --- an engine without a car. A lot of what I don't like about the engine is due to the fact I was never able to sample the car.


Anyways, back to the OP.


The link leads to a discussion about an ad that appeared in Dragon magazine, with a discussion that is mostly a bunch of post mortem ragging on a 30 year old ad. Count me amongst those who bought the original purple boxed set before the Dragon ad, I was enticed by the comic book ads (I have those posted on my SF site - http://starfrontiers.20m.com/ads.html ).

While I'll readily agree that the comic ads were much more enticing, I can't say that the Dragon ad would have put me off from buying the game. After all, it's not terribly different from the D&D ads depicting kids playing a game at a table. Sure, it LOOKS goofy now, but I canrelate the "Hawk the Slayer" movie in the same vein...back when I was first cutting my teeth on D&D at the tender age of 12, it was a great movie. Having seen it again more recently, not so much.

Quote:
So whats my beef? this was the day and age of the little traveller books. You had to buy more than one. Come on, you wouldn't have been happy without buying several.

Exactly. I've always made the comparo between SF & Traveller akin to D&D and AD&D...rules-lite versus rules-heavy. A self-contained game system versus one that mandates numerous books. I got the Moldvay D&D basic set (which retailed for about $10-12 back then) and had a full rulebook complete with monsters and tips for DM and players alike, an assortment of dice, and a dungeon module. To get started in AD&D I would have needed to spend that same $10-12 each on a DM Guide, Players Handbook, and Monster Manual...and still have no module or dice to host a game.

So really, what was the big effin' deal about having to spend another $12 on a second boxed set for ship rules? About the only beef that I can find here was the time span between releases. But then again, there was quite a significant time span between OD&D, revised Holmes basic, revised Moldvay Basic & Expert, and revised Mentzer Basic/Expert/Companion/Masters/Immortals that easily spanned two decades with nary a single D&D player pissing or moaning about it.
I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide...nor do I have any qualms stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
October 22, 2011 - 3:36pm
Expanding on the Traveller comparo some more --- somewhere I have a copy of Book:2 - starships from that game. It's the same book that was included in the basic Traveller boxed set, I don't recall the other two (beyond their designations of Book:0 and Book:1) but yeah, they did have a complete scope of basic rules.

However, that Book:2 was extremely BASIC when it came to ships in the Traveller game. It was well laid out for basic ship specifications and designs, but as far as scope of the game, it was very limited...100-1000ton designs were as far as you could go with it. If you do the math according to their 14cubic meters-per-ton parameters, 1000T comes out to the minimum size requirements of a HS:5 ship in Star Frontiers (which is about 1300 tons, minus the 25% variation permitted in the SF rules is 975 tons). 

And those rules were for civilian ships only. The beginning Traveller player never got to see actual warships at all, the 800T mercenary cruiser was about as wicked as one could get. If you were going to have any fleet maneuvers with the basic boxed set, you were be limited to cutters, scout/couriers, small tramp freighters, and mercenary cruisers...IIRC system defense boats may have been included but I can't confirm that without tearing the house apart to find the book.

Finally, rather than having a fold out map you used a ruler and pencil (assuming you had huge sheets of paper to roll out) or string to map out ship movement on the floor.
I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide...nor do I have any qualms stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

Drammattex's picture
Drammattex
October 24, 2011 - 7:13am
I'm about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through Knight Hawks. I think it's going to take another readthrough to really come to grips with it. I like the board game sections, but there are a lot of things about Knight Hawks that turn me off right now. However, I think I can sum those up into one basic complaint: a lot of the book seems to obsess about minutia, fiddly details, and equations that aren't terribly dramatic in an RPG. I'm talking about stuff like calculating the launch time of a ship or the ship-to-ship grappling rules...

Most of my problem is that each situation seems to require its own unique set of calculations and formulae. Ok, that's great for simulation. But in play: "Flip... flip... flip... hold on... flip... flip... flipp.. okay, you want to take your percentage... and then divide that by five... and then proceed to step two... and then add the value of..."

I don't mean to gripe. I'm not finished with Knight Hawks yet, so I can't judge. I know I'll be streamlining. My thought as it pertains to this thread is that Alpha Dawn seems a lot more intuitive and I'm scratching my head at some of the complexities introduced in Knight Hawks (the level of experience you need to use any spaceship skills is... er... I'm going to change that, I'm pretty sure).

I'll bet there's some great info on this in The Star Frontiersman, but I'm still only on issue 3!

jedion357's picture
jedion357
October 24, 2011 - 7:30am
@dramatex: AD seems more streamlined because zeb cook designed it as a different game then TSR decided to go a different direction with it and had another team do that. The core of AD is probably zeb cook. Knight hawks was designed from the ground up by a different team. So its character is very different from AD. My advice is to join the KH 2.0 project and debate, post and blog about your ideas for streamlining it.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Drammattex's picture
Drammattex
October 24, 2011 - 8:00am
Thanks, jedion. I was convinced it was a completely different designer; just was too lazy to flip to the beginning of the book and look.

Once I've finished Knight Hawks and delved a little further into the Star Frontiersman--and once I've started my game (!)--I'll definitely head to the KH2.0 project for talk about streamlining it. Is DWD thinking of putting up a pdf of this?

It's really revealing, looking at different systems and seeing how they work based on the design/designer. I hate to choose favorites, but despite some of its mechanical weirdness (inherited from original AD&D), I have rosy memories of AD&D 2e, which I'm pretty sure Cook was the lead on.

And in case it needs restating, I think the original Star Frontiers (Alpha Dawn) is a very graceful system. I mean, having discovered that over the past couple months, that's why I'm here right now posting on this forum.

jedion357's picture
jedion357
October 24, 2011 - 8:21am
A PDF on KH2.0? Probably not. DWD is for profit and the project hasn't progresses to the point of producing a document. If it did it could be submitted to the SFman or if a large document it could be dressed up like a remastered work and posted here and at the SFman site.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
October 24, 2011 - 12:41pm
Drammattex wrote:
I'm talking about stuff like calculating the launch time of a ship or the ship-to-ship grappling rules...

This part is something that really shouldn't become an issue, at least not once you start running a few boardgame sessions. 

Launch times --- taking off from a planet is 1d10 minutes per hull size. If your players have starships, this isn't going to be much of an issue unless it's an assault scout or smaller...rules say starships up to HS:3 can make planetfall. Not too many players will opt for system ships as their primary means of travel (which, again limited to planetfall, goes up to HS:5...it opens up a debate why the ship's drives and computer software determines how big a ship can land, but that's another debate for another time), so unless your group has a bigger starship that invokes shuttles this won't pop up very often.

(optional) Gravity Rule is just that --- optional. Don't like it? Don't use it.

Chemical Drive take off speeds again...another moot issue. I haven't come across the need for this one ever, in those few cases where the players have a chem-drive system ship I just haven't seen the need to determine their speed or distance at any given moment. Since there are no rules governing AD weapons versus ships, it's assumed that if anything should be firing at the ship it isn't going to do much (if any) damage. Seriously, look at the damage you have to do with AD weaponry to open a man-sized hole in the hull as listed on p.38 of the KH book...those are STRUCTURE POINTS via planted explosives, not STA points from fired guns. The closest thing resembling a rule in this regard is detailed under the Laser PowerTorch --- it takes four turns to cut a 1x1 meter square section out of a hull panel and if used as a weapon, it inflicts 20d10. If a hand weapon can inflict 20d10 worth of damage in four consecutive hits on the same location, we can assume it leaves a similar sized hole...which does nothing to hull integrity aside from pressurization issues. That's a rather far fetched affair for a AD hand weapon.

After a half hour of acceleration, the ship reaches a speed of 60,000m per turn (AD turns, as in six seconds per turn, not the KH ten minute turn) and escapes the atmosphere. At this point KH time takes over and the ship is moving one hex per turn with an ADF of 1. About the only threat here is pursuing chem drive ships that may follow, but again if they have KH weapons their ranges are measured in 10,000km hexes so if the ship is still within range of the gun --- meaning if it hasn't broken atmosphere and travelled beyond the 90,000km range of a laser battery etc --- then it's still in range. Really, it's a moot rule that I haven't found a need for yet.

The rule is little more than a solution for a rare to unique problem.


GRAPPLING --- You'll find that in order to enter the same hex as the other ship that is still under power and maintain that scenario for FIVE turns as the rules suggest...let's just say that's not a rule that you will be invoking often either. Bottom line here is IF a ship can actually manage that feat, they're better off firing their battery weapons with called shots (selective targetting skill) to disable the ship and boarding it at their leisure. 

Think about it, any ship that still has power will attempt to accelerate away from, maneuver away from, and/or fire at anyone chasing it. If a pursuing ship can manage to linger for five turns in the same hex, that's point blank firing for the battery weapons on BOTH ships. No range modifier for any of them, they can fire with maximum chance to hit. What captain in their right mind would subject a ship to that, assuming at least one gun is still operational? Even if the guns were down, the pursuing ship would still fare better by making those called shots. And if they can actually manage to stay in that same-hex range for five turns, then they have certainly earned the opportunity to grapple. Alas, any energy gun on the pursuing ship can fire those called shots twice per turn: once during the movement phase and once during the defensive phase. Ten point blank shots per gun at -30 to hit (plus operator bonus), they're gonna land a hit or two. That ship should be disabled long before you can fire the grapples. Wink
I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide...nor do I have any qualms stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

Drammattex's picture
Drammattex
October 24, 2011 - 3:11pm
Totally! I think that's what's been giving me trouble: I've been reading all these corner cases, getting to the end of the passage, and thinking this is something that would be circumstantial at best, or left to the province of the referee or story. But I'll keep reading, have no fear. 

Thanks for the detailed writeup, by the way, ShadowShack.

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
October 25, 2011 - 12:26am
No problem.

One other item of noteworthy mention on grapples --- it's a MHS:5 weapon. Not many players will opt for that when they can have a  battery or cannon in its place. The MHS limitations for civilian ships simply doesn't allow the luxury of a lot of guns, and most (if not all) people will prefer a weapon system with a range greater than point blank.
I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide...nor do I have any qualms stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

jedion357's picture
jedion357
October 25, 2011 - 3:53am
Shadow Shack wrote:
No problem.

One other item of noteworthy mention on grapples --- it's a MHS:5 weapon. Not many players will opt for that when they can have a  battery or cannon in its place. The MHS limitations for civilian ships simply doesn't allow the luxury of a lot of guns, and most (if not all) people will prefer a weapon system with a range greater than point blank.
Don't get caught bringing grapples to a laser fight!
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Ascent's picture
Ascent
October 27, 2011 - 3:16pm
You paid 20-30 bucks for yours? Man, what a rip-off. I paid $11.75 for my original Star Frontiers box in 82, and $12.50 a piece for my AD and KH boxes in 83.
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jedion357's picture
jedion357
October 28, 2011 - 4:54am
I paid between $20 and 30 for the two box sets but my parents may have bought one. Not sure but I think I saved for KHs with lawn mowing money. But were talking about 30 years ago. The line in Casa Blanca when Bogart is asked where he was last night and he says, "That's so long ago I don't remember." One of my favorite movie lines for more than one reason I just can't remember what the others are.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!