Artifacts in the Frontier

Anonymous's picture
January 29, 2010 - 10:25am
Below I've listed some probing question to start conversations about Frontier Artifacts. I'd like to hear your ideas to represent another aspect of the mysterious side of the frontier.

What type of artifacts would be found in the frontier?
  • Old, Modern and Advanced Technology
  • Magic Items
  • Mentalist Items
  • Other
Who would have left them?
  • Tetrachs (#7-p35)
  • Ancients
  • Other races passing through
  • Warp'd here somehow from another part of the galaxy
For what purpose?
  • Recover them later
  • Time capsule, something to remember 
  • Cause harm when found


Rum Rogue's picture
Rum Rogue
January 29, 2010 - 12:23pm
I like how the module Sundown and Starmist had the (cant recall ancients) dump junk and slaves.  I thought that was interesting. 

A "common" scifi theme is the old derilict space vessel.

I bet some of the flow charts from Gamma World world be fun to use for this.
Time flies when your having rum.

Im a government employee, I dont goof-off. I constructively abuse my time.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
January 29, 2010 - 1:02pm
Rum, good observation. Here is the quote.

There are no intelligent, competitive species native to Starmist. The Heliopes, the humanoid inhabitants of Starmist, are from a different system. They were slaves of a race called the Clikks, resembling the Vrusk, who explored the Sundown area. One of the military exploration vessels, mapping in the region of Starmist, had problems that required dumping any extra weight. Unloaded on Starmist were a war tank of advanced design and all nonessential personnel. Nonessential personnel included the Heliopes. Before leaving, the Clikks subjected the Heliopes to a mindwipe that caused amnesia. Heliopes who survived on the planet filled in their missing past by making up
legends and stories that eventually became their history. Culture among the Heliopes is shallow since they have developed on Starmist for only 600 years. The Heliope religion is focused around the tank and relics left by the Clikks.

jedion357's picture
January 29, 2010 - 8:51pm
An artifact does not have to be powerful though D&D has conditioned us to think it does

It could be the ships log from the one of the human colony ships that brought them to the frontier
or a Asimovian style android built on earth that came with the human colony expedition but as been lost

@ Woot the answer is Yes

or even better then the ships log would be the long from a dralasite colony ship and could lead to an expedition to the lost dralasite home world

or Hive mind is discovered in a giant pyramid and it turns out that its responsible for developing the sathar.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

ArtMic's picture
January 30, 2010 - 12:54am
 Ever read Stainless steel rat sings the blues? The "alien" artifact is actually from the future, they folks in the future turned it on and it went back in time till it ran out of power. And the Corps thinks its alien and want it. Good seed for an adventure.
Gold is for the mistress-silver for the maid-copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.But Iron-Cold Iron- is master of them all

Gullwind's picture
January 30, 2010 - 7:59am
One idea I've been toying with (after watching my Stargate DVDs) is the Tetrarchs having left stargate devices on all or most of the Frontier worlds. The characters (perhaps as part of the Volturnus campaign) figure out what they do and triggers an SGC-style organization charged with taking charge of them and keeping them secret from the Sathar.
"Rome didn't build an empire by having meetings. They did it by killing those who stood in their way."

Gargoyle2k7's picture
January 30, 2010 - 10:58am
I've really never been big on ancient alien artifacts, but I'm slowly coming around.  I've got a campaing in mind that centers around it.  For me, the Eorna play a big part in it, as well as the races of the Rim.
Long live the Frontier!

Gilbert's picture
January 30, 2010 - 2:31pm
  My campaigns have focused around the rim worlds also. The Eorna have been in a key position to be able to develop a fleet of their own, although the ships are smaller due to the major limitations on their population to draw on to man their fleets. The limit placed upon the Eorna fleet is only 1,000 for the fleet with an undetermined reserve. The ships had to be redesigned for each class to have a smaller crew with most of the fire power still intact. The Eorna fleet crew have no combat experiences to draw from and fall short on resources to have large fleets or ships. I did create a treaty for the players to be able to see the exchange of any technologies or resources and how they are controlled and limited. This was to give them an interest in black markets and trying to get around the legality of acquiring the equipment outside of the treaty limits. The players have many memories of this part of our gaming in SF around this area and the setting of the treaty between the Eorna and the UPF.

Inigo Montoya's picture
Inigo Montoya
January 30, 2010 - 2:54pm

How about an 'alien' Voyager-type craft that inters the frontier at considerably lower than light speed? Without power and heavily damaged it would be a challenge for the pc's to piece together and divine data. One cruel trick I always enjoyed as a game leader is to throw something seemingly magnificent at the party and in the end, it had nothing to do with the story at hand. Or giving them access to one of the D&D-like all powerful artifact only for the purpose of it to fail at the absolute worst time.

Rum Rogue's picture
Rum Rogue
January 30, 2010 - 6:26pm
I like to throw in some interesting and powerful items at times, but I have to be careful not to Monty Haul it.

Many years agao a ran a Battletech/Mechwarrior compaign where the pc's survived an invasion of there world, and put together a resistance force.  The found out that the enemy was there looking for an storage base.  Long story short, when the pc's spent much money, destroyed much equipment and killed off several npc's they made it into the base befor the bad guys.  all they found was an old hazerdous waste storage/treament facilty. Smile

Back to the topic...
Who knows what was left back on Starmist.  "Lets hook some power up to this thang and see what happens..."
It could blow up, melt down, or just drain the power.
Come up with an in depth description, the players will think its awsome just because the gm wrote down what it looks like. In the long run it be someones old home entertainment system or an entire scientific databse.
Time flies when your having rum.

Im a government employee, I dont goof-off. I constructively abuse my time.

Gargoyle2k7's picture
February 2, 2010 - 11:28am
Of course, if you agree with Arthur C. Clarke, you could easily throw in magic items as alien artifacts....
Long live the Frontier!

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
February 2, 2010 - 4:02pm
Gargoyle2k7 wrote:
Of course, if you agree with Arthur C. Clarke, you could easily throw in magic items as alien artifacts....

Suggestions would be helpful;
  • What type of magic items?
    Boost ability
    Boost skill check
    Grant mental abilities or spell-casting
    Enhance senses
  • What is it's source? (Does it matter?)
  • Is it magic or advanced technology?
  • Is it magic or a combination of metals, gasses, chemicals that appear to have magical properties?

Sam's picture
February 3, 2010 - 9:54am

"Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic..."

So it would be advanced technology, but so advanced the frontier races would have no idea how to reproduce it. It works, but they have no clue why.

A glowing tree that somehow provides power to all powered devices within a certain range, without having to be conected to anything. No one knows if the tree is taking power from the local surroundings through its root network  -- but nothing appears to be suffering ... other plant and animal life are abundant. Perhaps the tree is an advanced technology that somehow taps into the kinetic energy provided by the force of gravity. Or perhaps it taps into an unknown extra dimensional source of power.

Maybe its a mirror in the captains room that lets you zap away people you don't like. Where they go and how it works no one seems to know...

Gargoyle2k7's picture
February 3, 2010 - 10:23am
Yes, Sam, that's my point.  Sufficiently advanced so that it seems like magic to the Frontier races.  It could conceivably be anything.
Long live the Frontier!

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
February 3, 2010 - 5:02pm
Force Axe of the Dralasitic Lords:

2 X I: __________ , __________
1 X II: __________
1 X III: __________
1 X IV: __________
1 X V: __________
1 X VI: __________

Legend has it that the greatest dralasite that ever lived, the first Dralasitic Master Debater, forged this weapon in the pseudopodic plasma of the Host Nuclei with the aid of a patron diety. It passed from dralasitic philosopher to dralasitic philosopher until it was lost in the Invoked Debate centuries ago. Rumors persist of the appearance of the Axe from time to time in various systems, but it supposedly bears a curse.

Any dralasite that comes into possession of the Axe will recieve double ability checks and a +15% bounus when...

...Oh, wait. Wrong TSR game.
I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide...nor do I have any qualms stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

Sam's picture
February 3, 2010 - 9:54pm
What about the Sword of Yaz, or the Invincible Coat of the Eorna...

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
February 4, 2010 - 9:17am
Now your just making fun. Tongue out

Gargoyle2k7's picture
February 4, 2010 - 10:34am
See, that's why I generally don't go for alien artifacts in my games.  To make it sufficiently "alien artifact-y", it often devolves into the ridiculous.   Nonetheless, I am working on a campaign concept that kind of ties Star Wars and Dune together, and throws science to the four winds, thus allowing for some fantasy elements to make their way into my sci-fi.  Also, I'm a big fan of psionics, and have always felt their place really belongs in sci-fi and not fantasy, but maybe that's just me.  Myself, I like the d20 system, and thus use their Progress Level system.  Using that, the Frontier is about PL6, edging on PL7.  Higher PLs get really fantastical, and can thus be used for alien artifacts.  By PL9, practically anything imaginable is possible; the very fabric of reality can be changed by science.

All this said, I still use the Eorna as ancient PL7 or 8 geneticists, able to manipulate genes like clay.  The Clikks were PL 7 warriors, once conquering many worlds, but have sinced moved on, elsewhere in the galaxy.  The Tetrarch Societies are mysterious, unknown entities, who may have been PL 8 or even PL9, and comprised of many races toward the Galactic Core.  And the mysterious Ancients?  Only myths and legends...  Most tech I pull from other sources (Traveller, Star Wars, etc.) or make up, whole cloth.  GURPS had a hi-tech book that had some good ideas, too.  I avoid anything resembling a magic item like the plague, for reasons noted above, but I'm starting to rethink that just a little.
Long live the Frontier!

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
February 4, 2010 - 8:53pm
Thank you all for the suggestions - I agree (and like) each one of them and I'll consider submitting an article to the webzine.

Not to be argumentative as I know that everyone has a different feeling about the subject of "extra ordinary powers" in sci-fi and Star Frontiers. It really sounds all the same to me; mentalism, psionics, magic, whatever. :-)

If, as the Referee, you allow the Mentalism PSA in the back of the AD Remastered book then you would lean towards powers that frontier science couldn't explain and would be labeled "outside the realm of our understanding".

I ask you to define the nature of powers used for abilities beyond "normal"?

AD Remastered wrote:
It could be psionic, personally powered through strength of the mind. It could be an all-encompassing energy field that surrounds all living beings and breathes life into the frontier. It could be power granted from a divine (or evil?) being. It could be spiritual energy channeled from another dimension. Whatever the source, the rules work the same.

While typing this post I realized a neat (and I believe) an acceptable way to provide artifacts to players. First off I allow mentalism in my setting. I would create history of artifacts that were imbued with the mentalist powers granting the objects one or more abilities.

Mentalist Power = Objects Ability

For example;
Ta'Kar~en lived in a time when steam power allowed vrusk-kind to visit far off lands. During this period in history it was said that Ta'Kar possessed magical powers - able see into the future and past. His powers source is unknown but current mentalist agree he possessed the "premonitions" ability.

Premonitions – the telepaths level of awareness is so extreme that he can extend his awareness beyond space and time. He catches glimpses of facts and knowledge, often wrapped in enigma and symbolism, about people or objects he touches or places.

Normally, the character makes physical contact with the object or person (or walks around a place, touching things as he goes) and makes a telepath skill check. If successful, the Referee gives the player flash glimpses of information. If he fails, he cannot try again with the same object, person, or place in the same day.

Artifact - The metal orb of Ta'Kar
Anyone touching this orb gains the Premonitions mentalism discipline. The orb weighs 6kg and is made of an unknown combination of metals.

jedion357's picture
February 5, 2010 - 7:49am
w00t wrote:

Artifact - The metal orb of Ta'Kar
Anyone touching this orb gains the Premonitions mentalism discipline. The orb weighs 6kg and is made of an unknown combination of metals.

Just a touch- so the whole party will play the potato with this? Is it a permanent gain or only while touching? you'd have to write into the setting massive greed based desire to get this. Every 2 credit hood, corporate exec, bookie, pirate, mercenary and criminal in the Frontier will be after it plus the men in black, the vursk in silver and a host of other quasi government organizations.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
February 5, 2010 - 8:05am
Eornan Gene Resequencer: the last working model was thought destroyed during the Battle of Volkos (SF-2) but rumors persist... Its a chair/bed/booth thingie that lets you resequence a subject's genes even radically changing them. It maintains a database of genes but usually cannot use a genes on a subject from an altogether different line of evolution. Strangely when the eorna first scanned a dead sathar specimen they discovered that the worm's genes were compatible with their own and latter once the core four races of the Frontier visited Volturnus it turned out that they too were compatible to recieve sathar genes.
The MSO (Medical Services Organization) is greatly desirous of locating or recovering this tech as it allowed for a genome to be sequenced in a day.
A malfunctioning EGR is very dangerous as the possible results read like a Gama World mutation table but not in a good way.

Using an EGR is dangerous in that it drains d10 STA from the subject each time it resequences its genes and you just never know if it will kill the subject. This is why the eorna usually experimented on the strongest individuals in their native populations.

the Eornan Matrix Memory Eraser. can selectively erase a subjects memory, developed after they unraveled the sathar genome with the gene resequencer. Works on multiple races. only effects memorys not skills muscle memory stays in tact.

I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Sam's picture
February 5, 2010 - 9:45am

I know its not really in keeping with the Alien Artifact idea, but remember the items mentioned in Zeb Guide history of SW2 -- the Dralisite books or some such that had such cultural significance that the Federation had to retrieve them. Cultural and historical items like those could abound and while not giving the PC's powers, the legal possessors (or retrievers) of these items may receive a number of benefits. Of course these items will be far less common if the race is not native to the frontier.

Examples ...
The Cane/Rod of Kacken'rik Ti -- an honorary cane bestowed by the heads of state of several Vrusk worlds to reknowned leaders -- individuals whose command skills are well respected by the organized Vrusk societies. Any known recipient of the cane receives a bonus in all interaction skills with any lawfully aligned Vrusk and most if not all Vrusk aligned corporation.

The Urn of Graz -- an ornately carved urn, of an amber crystal found only in Gruna Garu, containing the remains of Lord Graz, last lord of the nation state of Haritha. This leader was a reknowned military leader and warrior, having defeated countless enemies in single combat and while leading his nation to victory ages ago. This urn disappeared from all records during civil disturbances several generations ago. Anyone or group returning the urn will receive positve bonuses in all interactions with the local government agencies of Gruna Garu and may also provide a similiar bonus to "interested" citizenry (historians, academics, military groups, etc ...). Anyone caught trying to keep the artifact will receive a negative bonus from these same groups (as well as the resultant legal actions).

Gilbert's picture
February 5, 2010 - 5:51pm
I do artifacts like sam does, no true powers except by recognition to the artifact by certain observers. Anyone else will probably not even know what it is or what it symbolizes. It would be like getting a navagational item used seversl hundred years ago that is not in use today. If you did not know what it was or how to use it, it would be no more than a scrap peice of metal that looks interesting.

Gargoyle2k7's picture
February 8, 2010 - 10:58am
For myself, I think I'd have two different types of artifacts; the Prestige Artifact and the Ancient Tech Artifact.  The difference is that the Prestige Artifact is the item that holds historical significance, as Sam and Gilbert are talking about.  It has no powers or abilities, but it is valued nonetheless.  The Ancient Tech Artifact actually has some kind of power or ability, and can either improve a PC abilities, or can be used in the construction of new ships, buildings, weapons, whatever.
Long live the Frontier!

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
February 9, 2010 - 7:23pm
Excellent points.
Of course an Artifact could have historical significance without granting powers. (I think I missed that reading the posts.) :-)

Here's an idea to break them down into three categories.

Artifact Types

 - These types have historical significance. The owner gains prestige and recognition within the society of whom the artifact belongs (especially if the owner retrieved the artifact himself).

Adventures include; retrieval, protection or theft. Possessing the artifact (or not returning it or giving to a museum) could result in one or more groups coming after you.

Ancient/Futuristic Technology
 - This includes technology far beyond frontier knowledge or far in the past. This technology may not be understood in function or power source. Or it could simply be a "cutting-edge" version of frontier technology. (I think the wartank from Sundown on Starmist fits this category). Maybe an ancient steam train buried deep in the desert preserved perfectly.
Lots of space for ideas here.

Note: I read a book I wish I could locate. A woman and her crew worked as retrieval specialist. They were sent to a planet to retrieve a crystal. I believe it was located in a gondola airship. There was also a memorial dedicated to space flight where many died in a failed faster than light "train".

 - This category is used for the fantastic. It includes items that have magical, psionic or mentailist powers.

Now... to come up with a list. Smile

Anyone like this approach?
[] Agree
[] Disagree

Gargoyle2k7's picture
February 10, 2010 - 9:30am
BTW, I've been reading Asimov's Foundation, and while it is a little dated (it was written in 1950) I find it interesting that the technology of the Empire became the Reiligion of the Foundation.  After a time, even simple technologies became mystical, mythical and "holy" relics.  That's another tact that could be used for artifacts in Frontier; religious artifacts.
Long live the Frontier!

jedion357's picture
February 10, 2010 - 12:24pm
My brain has been engaged with the dralasite society thread and so its been on my mind....

now I should preface my next idea with a statement that I dont veiw drals as native to the Frontier and the whole comment in AD about them making contact with a vursk mining colony  I interpret as a dral colony ship wandered into the system. and this neatly explains the lack of a dralasite home world. NOW...

Artifact: an advanced Dralasite ship is discovered that is actually based on advanced understanding of dralasite biology and the ship is actually living and it could reproduce by budding in the same way as drals do [kind of like Far Scape] PCs find this magnificent wonder but... it can't reproduce as its the only one and it reproduction requires a 2nd, it would have some ability to reconfigure under direction of the pilot. No weapons possible. would need some method of propulsion to be an effective craft. could grow drop pods for landing/ escape pods though landing in one would prevent return to the ship without alternate method of flying into space. other limitations: requires a mentalist to pilot? the ship only speaks dralasite and one that is significantly different than what is spoken by drals in the Frontier and naturally enough every greedy credit grubbing corporation will pay handsomely to get their hands on it and even sathar agents would want to as well.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
February 10, 2010 - 12:43pm
Gargoyle2k7 wrote:
religious artifacts.

I've played with a lost blade carried by the War Hon victorious in the last Great Clan War the united the yazirians under a sort of Shogun. This blade went missing during the emigration to the Frontier when the Family of One clan executed a coop in space upon the reigning Shogun and his personal body guard, Clan Renegade while they were in cryo. The blade hasn't been seen since.

It carries both religious & prestige & historic significance. Any yazirian who recognized it in the hands on a non yazirian would be offended at a non yaz possessing it and would aks for it forcefully. The ultra secret cadre of Frontier legend that is purported to be decendents of the Clan Renegade yazirians with the Family of One as their life enemy, would certainly emerge to claim it if they really exist. the Family of One would want to make it re-disappear. Without a doubt the discovery of such a fabled blade would spark civil war amoung yazirians who oppose the Family of One Clan and those loyal to the clan.

edit: the cadre is sometimes called Clan Renegade and other conspiracy authors call it Renegade Crusade

EDIT 2: Any yazirian bearing this blade and sounding the war cry against the Family of One would have 1000s flocking to his banner. (some would be enemy agents too)
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Sam's picture
February 10, 2010 - 8:12pm
WH 40k does the religon/technology thing as well. Interesting to read (I enjoy the Ciaphas Cain books myself, and some others). Not a setting that I'd want to play in, but it is an interesting take on it.

So depending on your setting, you could find a lost colony world/ship or even a slowly dieing outpost where the decendants are practicing the "arcane" rituals required to keep the power on, the water purifier chip working, etc ...

AZ_GAMER's picture
February 11, 2010 - 4:45pm
My setting for the Frontierspace game is based on the premise that characters will enter this alternate region (setting) through a wormhole type event from the Astra Incognito (Core Setting). After reading some of the posts here I agree that a reverse twist on this idea, a race or artifact, being sucked through a wormhole event and ending up in the frontier.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
February 11, 2010 - 6:24pm
Ya know AZ... that is an excellent idea. (both)

Blows me away! So cool!Smile