Joe's Half-Baked Ideas

Section I. Introduction

This booklet is intended to update the Star Frontiers 2000 project by providing a few more professions for players while streamlining the skills list. It is a fan-created document and is free to download and for other fans of the game to alter to meet the dictates of their campaigns.

One of the wonderful things about the original SF Alpha Dawn Expanded game is the uncluttered simplicity of its character development rules, though players are limited by the skill options they can chose in the form of Primary Skill Areas (PSAs). The Knight Hawks supplement provided starship-handling skills, but limited those talents to very high-level characters.

When Zebulon’s Guide came out in 1986, it offered a more diverse set of skills and additional equipment, but upended the ease of the Alpha Dawn system for a mostly untested set of rules that used column shifts and color codes for determining the success of skill checks.

When I had rediscovered Star Frontiers while seeking a game to play with my children who had grown tired of video RPGs, I found remastered copies of the Basic, Alpha Dawn and Knight Hawks rules online. As I prepared to use the game, however, the limited character choices (PSAs) weren’t as appealing as I originally thought they would be for a campaign. Yet, the Zebulon system was very flawed as well.

Conducting more online searches, I found the Star Frontiers 2000 project with its rules to convert the Zebulon rules to more of an Alpha Dawn feel.

Character attribute scores, such as Logic (LOG) or Intuition (INT) or Personality (PER), etc., helped determine the success for various skill checks. Previously, these attributes had little to do with normal skill checks in the Alpha Dawn and Zebulon rules. Now, with Star Frontiers 2000 there were no column shifts or color codes to worry about and it had a very Alpha Dawn feel to it. 

Yet, the designers for Star Frontiers 2000 had created mini-PSAs within each profession. A character could have a certain set of skills that they could advance by spending experience points at the professional cost. All other skills – including those in the same profession – had to be advanced using the non-professional skill cost. This solution still didn’t strike me as adequate and led me to tweak the rules a bit.

This version, which I’ll dub “Star Frontiers 2016,” includes several new professions based on optional PSAs that have been published in the Star Frontiersman and Frontier Explorer magazines, such as the Espionage profession, along with an optional Criminal profession that was published on the Star Frontiers wiki site. In several instances, related skills have been grouped together to provide even more of an Alpha Dawn feeling, while still trying to provide some of the diversity of the Zebulon skills system.

For example, in the Alpha Dawn system, a character with a Technological PSA could purchase a computer skill which had eight sub-skills including operating computers, writing programs, defeating security, bypassing security, displaying information, manipulating programs, interfacing computers and repairing computers. Under the Zebulon and Star Frontiers 2000 systems, each sub-skill became a separate skill that a character could purchase. However, abilities that seemed to intuitively flow from one to the other – being able to manipulate a program while also being able to write software and bypass security – were no longer linked. Granted, you had to be able to have the “Computers: Access & Operate” skill before you could purchase other computer skills, but it still didn’t have the insightful design of the original rules.

With this version, there are six computer skills – one includes “Software Engineer,” which is a more advanced skill that came from Star Frontiers 2000 and I added “Computers: Forensics” as a specialized skill for a specialist who can try to identify, preserve and recover data that has been lost after someone has hacked into a computer system. The rest of the computer skills have various sub-skills. Similarly, many robotics skills have related sub-skills; animal handling has various sub-skills, etc.

Hopefully this doesn’t unbalance the game, but the proposed system here needs to be play-tested, but I hope you will find it useful.

Joseph Paul Cabadas

June 22, 2016