I may have mentioned it briefly a few other times.
That's just wrong.
What to say about Star Frontiers?
Man oh man. This game. The red-headed stepchild of Science Fiction RPGs where I grew up. It was a love-hate thing for sure.
We played a lot of it, but the attention it received pales in comparison to other games such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Traveller, Space Opera (yes, Space Opera by FGU. Don't ask me how. Another Thorough Thursday perhaps), Cyberpunk 2020, even 2300 AD...yeah. Pretty much every Science Fiction game out there saw more play than this bugger, and that's a damn shame.
The game has something special about it, some sort of charm that is very difficult to pin down. Unfortunately, when compared to other games we were playing at the time, all it had going for it was that it was popular, and available, but that's about all that made it stand out to us, and that ain't much. Because of this, it was easily overshadowed.
Much like previous Thorough Thursdays celebrity guest DC HEROES, Star Frontiers faced some pretty tough competition, not the least of which was FASA's Star Trek, which I discovered, and had been playing for a year or so, before I ever saw Star Frontiers.
With the FASA game being pretty excellent, and me being a huge Star Trek fan, you can see what Star Frontiers was up against. It really never stood a chance.
In addition to its fierce, and largely unyielding competition, Star Frontiers had several elements working against it.
As I mentioned some time ago in a post about my first experience with Traveller, I expect certain things out of my Sci-Fi/Space Adventure RPGs. Among those things are interesting (and playable) alien species, starships and the ability to operate them, robots (playable if possible - otherwise at least purchasable and operable), cool ray guns, and neat technology like HUD equipped binoculars, wrist mounted computers, and the like.
Not every Science Fiction universe is going to have all of those things. Star Trek is notably robot light, for example.
Two problems with Star Frontiers that always stood in the way of it winning us over were a lack of solid spaceship rules, and the opinion that the aliens were, well, silly.
Star Frontiers painting by Jim Burns
I don't know why, but we never took the aliens of SF too seriously. Don't get me wrong, there are some very cool things about some of them (Dralasites in particular are pretty original for a player character Species), but somehow they just seemed cartoonish to a twelve year old, oh-so-serious me.
As far as the starship rules, we fudged things at first, but soon came up with our own rules for spacecraft that largely worked. When the Knight Hawks edition of the game came out, we weren't super impressed as I recall, and mixed what we did like into our homebrewed system (which for the life of me I can not remember at all just now).
The rule system is also a bit odd. While I am a fan of percentile skills to some extent (I like the aesthetic), SF's skills, if I am remembering this right, start at 100%, and are then modified by the situation's difficulty, and the PC's skill. I have this memory of that particular mechanic making things seem way too easy too quickly.
While it may not live among my top ten, it is definitely a game I have found memories of. Just because my group, and I didn't love it like we loved Star Trek, or even Space Opera, doesn't mean it wasn't fun to play.
I periodically trot it out from time to time, running ones-shots or very short campaigns, but as a full campaign game it just hasn't caught on with anyone I've played with in the last 25 years or so.
Happy Birthday to Me! Today I am 46 years young. :)
A lot of Science Fiction Love on the Thorough Thursday posts, no? I hope you're enjoying them. Matter of fact, let me know how you like Thorough Thursdays in general. I'd appreciate the feedback.