Is the Frontier campaign intrinsic to Alpha Dawn?

Corvus's picture
October 8, 2007 - 3:43am
Or, to put it another way, do you believe the Alpha Dawn rules can be used in a more "generic" fashion, without being tied specifically to the Frontier?  In many discussions, some people have voiced the notion that the "retro-future" feel of the game is absolutely vital to its charms, but on the other hand, projects like Fantasy Frontiers indicate that some folks don't agree.  So how about it -- could you see yourself using the Alpha Dawn rules with a flashier, more modern campaign setting, or one that's even more retro than the early 1980s?

For myself, I'm sort of in the middle.  I believe that the concepts of Alpha Dawn can be left intact while the presentation can be updated.  For example, a chronocom doesn't have to be a big, clunky wristband more reminiscent of a pocket calculator stuck to a teleport bracelet from Blake's 7 -- I believe it can be a slender band that uses a holo projector instead of a screen and voice command instead of buttons, but performs exactly the same function. Computer cases don't have to be the size of appliances, and memory certainly doesn't have to be reel-to-reel tape (as seen in the introductory comic in the Alpha Dawn Basic Game book) -- indeed, I believe Alpha Dawn computers don't even have to be built according to the early-80s "hobby kit" model, but can still use the rules as printed!

That's what got me excited about the Revival in the first place -- Bill's updated presentation in the Digitally Remastered books.  If the books themselves can get a visual update while still containing the same core, I think the game's style can too.
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. -- Carl Sagan

CleanCutRogue's picture
October 8, 2007 - 9:40am
I go both ways.

Don't misread that sentence.


I like the naive 80's look at the future that brought us Star Frontiers. But it's the frontier feeling that I love about it moreso than the type of technology available. The developers of the game obviously didn't know the difference between software and hardware on a computer, for example. Or they took such an over-simplified approach that it does insult our current understanding of things. Robots are similarly handled. Even the concept of energy portability is understated. There is a solid argument for making a generic up-to-date star frontiers - and if someone wanted to tackle that project I would definitely get involved. The only thing I'd worry about losing (I guess these are the "sacred cows" to me):

  • The core races must remain intact, with any additional races being optional.
  • The game should be simple despite anything new added. That's one of the strongest appeals to the game: my 6yo picked it up in no time and loves playing Vorty (Short for Vortimus Maximus, his Dralasite).
  • The balance of offenses and defenses is nice - careful consideration should be made before thinking of removing any. Star Frontiers has skeinsuits, albedo suits and screens, inertia screens, gyrojet weapons, etc... these are part of the SF flavor, they help give SF its identity. ZG tried to make whole new categories of weapons - some of which dramatically changed the usefulness of certain types of offenses and defenses. That gave the game a whole different feel to me.
  • The frontier feel must be maintained. Information *should* take a while to get from place to place. People *should* take a while to get from place to place. It's part of the core feel of the game, not just its charm. Heck - it's even in the name of the product.
  • Creating a character should be accomblished in minutes, not hours and not a full sitting. Folks who want more detail should have such options availble, but players who want to roll up a character should be able to do so quickly. Again - this is just part of the appeal of the original game.
  • The major power outside the core hub of the Frontier is Mega Corporations, not the UPF. Corporations are supposed to be the biggest part of any campaign's political structure, second to the individual planet's legal system (star law helps unify this), and tertiary to UPF (which is only a military body designed to defend the Frontier worlds against the Sathar and while not at war against piracy). If we shift the focus too far away from corporate political superstructure, it becomes Star Trek, losing its own identity.
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

SmootRK's picture
October 8, 2007 - 12:38pm

I love the Star Frontiers Universe.

That being said, when it comes to game design, in general, I believe that game mechanics mostly belong separate from campaign material. This always allows more portability to other styles of gaming than the narrow view that the originators may have conceived of. I think that is one of the great draws of the D20 systems, but don't get me wrong... D20 Star Frontiers is just wrong.

Game Mechanics and Campaign material can appear in the same books... but separate them to into the applicable sections. I love how the Alpha Dawn (and Knight Hawks) games does certain things, even if I think some of the material could use a little updating. It really wasn't broke, and I think that is the reason why Zeb's book did not go over well... it did not need fixing. They would have been better received by simply adding material and expanding material, than redesigning the core stuff.

So... I agree. I would like a refreshed Star Frontiers game that takes into account a little more modern mentality when it comes to certain concepts (power/SEU, computers/communications, genetics, bionics/cybernetics, physics of space, etc). I don't think much needs changing; just mostly re-explaining or a little updating. Since I am typing this on a decent laptop, connected wirelessly to the Internet... I would expect future-games to at least supersede the tech represented by the real world in those areas.

<insert witty comment here>

Anonymous's picture
Corjay (not verified)
October 8, 2007 - 2:14pm
To me, Star Frontiers as it stands IS its story AND its mechanics. Change one of those things into something completely different and it destroys Star Frontiers.

At the same time, though, you could easily have an updated version that feels fresh and up-to-date. It wouldn't feel like the classic Star Frontiers, but would be a new game that could have an equal appeal.

You can apply the Star Frontiers mechanics to a whole new game or apply the story to a whole new system. Either way, it won't be Star Frontiers anymore (not to me any anyway), but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a cool game to play.

I have been mulling over an up-to-date version adapting Seawolf's Star Frontiers 4th Edition to update mechanics and bring us into the modern age, but it would contain a lot more sophisticated elements than traditional Star Frontiers, but the goal would still be simplicity. Without ease of play, there would be nothing left to call Star Frontiers.

Imperial Lord's picture
Imperial Lord
October 8, 2007 - 2:36pm
The short answer Corvus is, do what you will.

Overall, I would think that the rules would work pretty well in some sort of modern setting - like maybe some sort of TV show taking place now, or, as you say, some 80's retro stuff.

While I appreciate purists, I am actually NOT one in this regard. My main objective is to avoid stuff that sucks. If you can overlay Star Frontiers onto some sort of earth-bound situation, like James Bond or something, I would say rock 'n roll.

Myself personally, I will explore those kinds of things when I am sick of SF as it stands out of the boxes. As of now, I am not even close to that.

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
October 9, 2007 - 4:56am
I love the core descriptions as well. However, I have no qualms about making some streamlined updates. Yes the chronocom does not need to be a bulky thing that weighs your appendages down. A powerbackpack doesn't really have to mass 10kg, especially when five powerclips that store the same amount of energy masses...nothing. But descriptive details aside, I pretty much like to leave it alone when it comes time to roll the dice.
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
October 9, 2007 - 6:10am
See... this wide variety of opinions is precisely why a site like this is necessary.  All of us have ideas and opinions, and even if your idea isn't my cup o'tea, I enjoy the game well enough that I'd contribute to your ideas.  This site is designed to allow all of you to build on your own projects and concepts - and everyone can (if they choose) get involved to help move things along, each providing his/her own expertise.

I was accused once of being very "gestapo" - I was even called by that same person "the Borg" -- trying to make everyone do things my way.  I hope you all understand that that is the *OPPOSITE* of what I'm trying to do.

One big sandbox and lots of lil sandcastles makes one fun sandbox.
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

Anonymous's picture
Corjay (not verified)
October 9, 2007 - 10:02am
Gestapo and borg? LOL. You must have been getting flack that should have been aimed at me, because you were the popular one and I was trying to generate a unified development ethic that no one liked (and took shortcuts).

Bill ain't to blaim. Hail S**tler, you dumkaufs!Tongue out

Will's picture
October 14, 2007 - 2:12pm

Go Heil phfft! Heil phfft! Right in the Führer's face....

Seriously, I agree with Bill's idea of everyone expanding on their own ideas of what SF could/should/oughta be.

The original rules are still workable, just bits such as character generation, the spaceship skills and the spaceship design rules which need tweaking and/or clarification.

"You're everything that's base in humanity," Cochrane continued. "Drawing up strict, senseless rules for the sole reason of putting you at the top and excluding anyone you say doesn't belong or fit in, for no other reason than just because you say so."

—Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stephens, Federation