30 Anniversary Projects

Document container for project design documents.

In Search of Sargasso


I was kicking around the Internet and reading up on things in a hap hazard fashion to see what inspiration would grab me when I chanced upon comments about Expert D&D module X1, “The Isle of Dread,” by David Cook and Tom Moldvay. Upon the death of Tom Moldvay in 1997, Steve Winter called Isle of Dread, "Tom's work that had the widest impact", as its inclusion in the Expert Set, “made it one of the most widely known and played adventures for years .”

I’m a bit of a sucker for anything that smacks of history of early RPG industry so I pondered that for a while and broke out a copy to reread as I hadn't played it in 30 years. During this exercise, I inevitably asked myself, “How would I use this in Star Frontiers?” The more I thought about it the more I became convinced that the premise of Isle of Dread would make a good Star Frontiers Adventure with suitable conversion of the story elements. A rumored and mysterious star system the lures adventurers to seek their fortune there among its ancient ruins and wrecked ships. Isle of Dread was conceived as a vehicle for Dungeon Masters and players to cut their teeth on wilderness adventures since the Expert Rules for D&D introduced this new arena for adventure. Thus the module lacks a major dungeon crawl and a decidedly sand box approach was taken with Isle of Dread. I’ve endeavored to honor the survival in the wilderness aspect of the original as well as preserve some aspects of the sandbox approach in the new work. I am mindful of my tendency to follow the Hickman Revolution in module design which gives “In Search of Sargasso” an underlying story. However the major elements of the module can be explored in any order as they all provide clues to the overall story and should lead the player characters to the climatic show down.

This is not a straight up conversion of the Isle of Dread. I tried to analyze and distill the significant elements from the original and envision how they would play or look in a science fiction environment. Despite the fact that this is a Star Frontiers module it is eminently playable with almost any sci-fi rule system being a exploration of a new star system it can be dropped into almost any setting.

What follows is a tribute module to the founding designers and writers of the Golden Age of RPGs. This year is the 30th anniversary of the publishing of Star Frontiers and some of the torch bearers from that time are leaving the Prime Material Plane for realms beyond. For me, I get nostalgic but also grateful and wonder what the legacy of role playing games will be 30 years from now. One thing is certain, new torch bearers must take the baton and carry it if there is to be a legacy of role playing games among the up and coming generation. So this module is both a tribute to Gygax and the other designers, writers, and artist of the Golden Age but I also dedicated it to those who have not yet discovered the joy of role playing games.

Outline: In Search of Sargasso

Playing In Search of Sargasso

1. Referee Background and Notes

2. Introducing the Myth and Mystery of Sargasso to the Player Characters

3. Arrival

4. A Stranded Ship

5. A Lost Ship

6. The Ruins

7. The Obelisk

8. The Empire of the Dead and the Escape from Pavor

9. Epilogue and Continuing Adventures

Appendix A: NPC File

Appendix B: Maps

Appendix A Non Player Characters

Notes on yazirians living on Pavor
The yazirian exploration craft Pavor crashed here before the yazirians entered the Frontier and met the other star faring species. Thus they know nothing of the Frontier, the UPF, or the other species. They do not even know how to speak the universal trade language, Pan Gal. Communication with them will likely be through any player character that knows how to speak Yazirian or through a polyvox.

After the death of the captain the first officer forged a new clan and society out of the crew of the Pavor and Clan Pavor was born. This was not an easy feat and only succeeded because of the desperate situation and the forceful personality of the new clan chief. Some of the few original crew would dearly love to return to their clans but are torn realizing they have built something new here having invested their whole lives in it. The rest of the clan is first and second generation natives of Pavor and all they know is this clan and world. Despite that some of them dream of something better.

Mol Vay, yazirian chief
Mol Vay was the first officer of the yazirian scout craft that crash landed on Pavor. After the death of the captain he took command and forged a new society and clan out of the survivors. Naturally enough the crew were reluctant to let go of their native clan afliations but Mol Vay's forceful personality prevailed. He is mindful that his position as chief of a newly formed clan is on shaky ground and will resist change.

He is quite old at this point and his mane is graying but his mind is still sharp and shrewd.

WIP character portrait

Sil Kie, yazirian huntress
Sil Kie is a second generation huntress for the Pavor clan. She knows nothing of yazirian society or the Frontier at large but longs to see them both. He imagination has been inflamed by the arrival of ships from the Frontier and she will be most intrigued by any yazirian characters and or stories of the yazirian colonies.

She is middle aged and an accomplished hunter. Her skill set is primitive by Frontier standards but well adapted to life on Pavor. Her greatest desire would be to travel to the Frontier.

WIP character portraits


Disembodied Brain
The sathar visited Pavor approximately 900-700 years ago and wiped out the civilization of the original inhabitants. The left an observation post like the one found on Volturnus run by a sathar brain encased in a vat of nutrient liquid and have never returned to the planet. Over time the brain, cut off from other sathar, began to lose its sanity. Today it believes it is the only sathar left in the galaxy and that it must fulfill the sathar mandate of galactic domination.

The obelisk facility that he was entombed in has been sufficient to supply his needs and to create slave bots but lacked the infrastructure to build the war machine to conquer the galaxy. The arrival of ships from the Frontier has presented him with the opportunity to realize his ambition.


Note still need to work up some portrais for two pirates and do the ink shading for these.

Playing In Search of Sargasso & Referee Notes

Module Format
Sargasso is very much a story driven module but it is possible to play the middle parts (A Stranded Ship, A Lost Ship, and The Ruins) in any order. ESince the inspiration module was sandbox in format there are several avenues that could set the Player Characters on the path to Sargasso. If they do their due dilligence and investigate the legends surrounding Sargasso the other items of evidence for the system can be used as the fruits of their investigation.

The original inspiration for In Search of Sargasso is a 30 year old fantasy genre module that was laid out in sand box format. Sargasso is very much a story driven module with the twist that parts of it can be run in sand box mode. The intro has a table of rumors and several different lines of evidence leading to the system. This serves three functions, one it lets a referee tailor the start of the module to his campaign and group, two it's and opertunity for the player's to exercise choice and investigate the legend and three if they get hooked with one piece of evidence the rest becomes the fruit of their investigations. This middle parts of the module, A Stranded Ship, A Lost Ship, and The Ruins, are designed to be run in any order. Each only tells a small piece of the story.

Of NPCs and Mooks
Throughout the module there are key non player characters that have been fleshed. The stats, descriptions and backgrounds for these can be found in Appendix A. The bulk of the NPCs follow the mook rule. The mook rule is the idea that 'Thug #3' doesn't need a full set of stats. Mooks are largely opposition and figuring out all the various statistics about them is often wasted time for a referee. Instead they have one statistic based on their assigned level.

Forexample a level 1 mook has a value of 35%. This means that any ability or skill check will be tested at 35%. If he enters combat and his Endurance is required then it is 35%. If a referee judges that opposition needs to be tougher then he can modify the assigned level and the single statistic (see table below). Only the most significant idems of equipment for a mook will be listed and he can be considered to carry anything the referee decides he needs for his job. So if a mook is listed as carrying tangler grenades then he also is likely to be carrying solvaway capsules too. A mook will have the skill neccessary for his job and weapons so generally skills are not listed for a mook they are simply assumed to be there.

Pirate #2 Level 2, 40%; skein suit, sonic stunner & 2 clips

 Mook Level
 1 35
 2 40
 3 45
 4 50
 5 55
 6 60

Sargasso's Location
The Sargasso system can be placed anywhere. The legends and rumors surrounding it focus on it being lost and place from which ships never return. Of course, if the player characters are hearing rumors about it, then someone return!

If it is to be a mystery the question of why it hasn't become common knowledge yet should be answered. To this end we planned to make it a dim star with a nebula between it and the Frontier systems and 13 light years from the nearest known system. None of those factors make it lost or impossible to visit but rather easy to overlook.

Ships have visited the system because of miss jumps and some have returned. For one reason or another the jump route was never properly mapped and most people discount the rummors of the system as space myth.

Player Intro

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