Star Frontiers

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

TSR's third entry into Sci-Fi RPGs (after Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World), first published in 1982. It consists of two parts - RPG (Alpha Dawn) and spaceship tactics game (Knight Hawks) compatible with RPG ( as much as they can interact - i.e. mostly character skills and rules for robots).

Star Frontiers takes place near the center of a spiral galaxy (the setting does not specify whether the galaxy is our own Milky Way). A previously undiscovered quirk of the laws of physics allows starships to jump to "The Void", a hyperspatial realm that greatly shortens the travel times between inhabited worlds, once they reach 1% of the speed of light (3,000 km/s).

The basic game setting was an area known as "The Frontier Sector", where four sentient races (Dralasite, Humans, Vrusk and Yazirian) had met and formed the United Planetary Federation [UPF]. The original home planets of the Dralasites, Humans and Vrusk were never detailed in the setting and it is possible that they no longer existed. A large number of the star systems shown on the map of the Frontier sector in the basic rulebook were unexplored and undetailed, allowing the Game Master (called the "referee" in the game) to put whatever he wished there.

Players could take on any number of possible roles in the setting but the default was to act as hired agents of the Pan Galactic Corporation in exploring the Frontier and fighting the aggressive incursions of the alien and mysterious worm-like race known as the Sathar. Most published modules for the game followed these themes.

As usual, articles in Dragon and Polyhedron from developers and fans alike offered some expansions, including vehicles from boats to tanks. A late addition to the game was Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space, which introduced several new races and an entirely different rule system. It was, however, the last book produced for the line.

Still has an active website (, and magazines Star Frontiersman and Frontier Explorer (prints or free PDF via RPGNow or DriveThrough).

Tropes used in Star Frontiers include:

  • Adventure-Friendly World: Most of the Frontier sector is unexplored, including lots of systems between the inhabited ones.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Nearly all of the published adventures featured visits to planets that have breathable atmospheres.
    • The Exception is the module SF5: Bugs in the System which featured the Belnafaer system where most of the action occurred in the atmosphere of the gas giant Venturi on the Jetsom extraction platform.
    • But then, the planets in the Alpha Dawn books are only given one line of description apiece, so we don't know exactly what they were like.
  • A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away: It's stated that Star Frontiers is set in this sort of verse.
  • Exclusively Evil: The Sathar, apparently. The other races in the setting could be on either side, but the Sathar were definitely the villans.
    • The S'sessu introduced in Dragon #96 were a "friendlier" version of the Sathar, even though they were predatory capitalistic
      • It's the other way around: Sathar are "orc everyone hates" version of S'sessu, according to interviews with Zeb Cook in Star Frontiersman #18 and with Lawrence Schick in Frontier Explorer #2. The original Alien Worlds was supposed to be rocket-punk setting with Mega Corp politicking and wars, and in that S'sessu much like they appeared later fit right in, as Space Dwarves Ferengi before they were completely turned into a generic Jew caricature one of five PC species - "the diametrical opposites of the group-oriented vrusk". But someone in TSR decided "uhh... we must have Sauron or something", hence overhaul and the First Sathar War.
  • Artificial Gravity: Averted. Ships have to accelerate constantly in order to provide gravity. Space stations spin.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Vrusk are giant bugs but are friendly. The Sathar on the other hand are giant worms, and not friendly at all.
  • Binary Suns: Many of the worlds in the Frontier sector have two suns.
  • Brain In a Jar: Module SF1 Volturnus, Planet of Mystery. The slavebots in the Sathar Artifact are controlled by a Sathar's brain which is in a large fluid-filled flask.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Via a previously undiscovered quirk of physics.
  • Cool Starship: The Assault Scout, which has deck plans in the Knight Hawks game.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Cover of SF3 shows an alien called a Heliope shooting at a group of adventurers with a pistol held in humanoid hands, but the descriptions of the Heliopes in the module say they have pincers, not hands.
  • Deflector Shields: Three different kinds for both starships and personal scale.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: The ship-building system in expanded rules, and later fan-made variant from article “The Frontiers of Design” (Dragon #132). Extra weapons and defenses were added starting with “An Interstellar Armory” (Dragon #115).
  • Escape Pod: Module SF0 Crash on Volturnus. After their ship is captured by the Star Devil's pirates, the Player Characters abandon ship in a lifeboat and use it to land on the planet Volturnus.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Yazirians are intelligent flying monkeys!
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Most of the alien life on Volturnis is quite dangerous.
  • The Federation: The United Planetary Federation, in fact.
  • First Contact: Happens all the time. Much of the Frontier is unexplored, and sentient races seem to be all over. Volturnis (from the intro module) has five sentient races living on it.
  • Ghost Ship: Present in Warriors of White Light.
  • Intrepid Merchant: What the players become in Drammune Run.
  • Jack of All Stats: Humans are this, with generally average stats and no special abilities.
    • They did get a +5 to a single stat (out of eight stats). All the other PC races had balanced stat modifiers (adding up to zero) but also had racial abilities.
  • A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away: The Frontier and its people are completely unconnected with Earth, despite having recognizable humans.
  • Made of Iron: Nearly everyone can take a lot of damage before dropping.
    • Fortunately some weapons (lasers) are capable of dealing out a lot, although you then have to reload...
  • Mega Corp: The Pan Galactic Corporation and several others — all relatively benevolent.
    • Though there have been corporate wars and the module SF 4: "Mission to Alcazzar" puts the characters between the secretive Cassidine Development Corporation and the aggressive Streel Corporation.
  • The Metric System Is Here to Stay: Star Frontiers is one of the few TSR games that use metric units.
  • Our Dwarves Are Different: The short, strong race are ameoba-like blobs with a penchant for puns.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The intelligent, graceful, culturally advanced race are giant bugs.
  • Precursors: Several vanished older races with advanced technology used to live in the Frontier sector. Sundown on Starmist centers on a Precursor hovertank.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Yazirians.
  • Proud Scholar Race: The Vrusk.
  • Psychic Powers: Apart from the ability of the Sathar and some other races to hypnotize, absent.
    • Unless you have Zebulon's Guide to the Frontier and became a Mentalist or Enlightened character.
  • Pungeon Master: The Dralasites love bad puns.
  • Recycled In Space Of A Different Sort: The alien races of Star Frontiers were later recycled for the Spelljammer Dungeons & Dragons setting under different names: The Dralasites became Plasmoids, the Sathar became Syllix, the Vrusk became Rastipedes, and the Yazirians became Hadozee.
    • The were also later recycled for Alternity in Dragon Annual 3 and for D20 Modern in the Future d20 sourcebook.
    • None of the Zebulon's Guide races appeared elsewhere, however.
  • Rules Conversions: Crops up in the magazines.
    • Devices from “Magic and Science” article by James M. Ward back in Dragon #1 (personal Deflector Shields, Heat Ray, etc) for Original D&D - in Frontier Explorer #14.
    • A ship from Starships & Spacemen 2nd Edition - in Frontier Explorer #14, planets in #20.
    • Rules from “Starships Perks & Flaws” article by Eckelberry & Collins, in Dragon #255 for Star*Drive - in Frontier Explorer #10.
    • Gamma World creatures and PC races conversions - in Frontier Explorer ##13, 14, 20 and 22.
    • Old D&D phase spider - in Frontier Explorer #20
    • Conversion from Star Frontiers to Stars Without Number - Frontier Explorer ##6, 8.
    • Conversion from Star Frontiers to Dungeons & Dragons 5e - Frontier Explorer #11
  • Space Battle: Half of the Knight Hawks set was all about this.
  • Space Mines: These are present too.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet
    • Space Navy: Both the UPF and the Sathar.
      • Supply ships were added (and given carrying capacities for ammunition) in Frontier Explorer #8 (and immediately used in an Escort Mission, of course).
    • Space Fighter: Yep. Armed with three "assault rockets" each. Later (in Polyhedron #19) was added laser pod variant with unlimited shots, but weak (like a gun of laser battery with half range), thus more suited for interception of other fighters. After which fan made material expanded to hybrid fighters and drones (rocket for heavy hitting + laser so they won't just turn and go home after expending the rocket), light drones (with weaker weapons), etc.
    • Privateers and space yachts: From Dragon articles "Fast and Deadly" (#86) and "Yachts and Privateers Return" (#88).
  • Space Opera: Verging on Dungeons & Dragons - In Space!!
  • Space Pirates: Present in the introductory module, no less, and with their own unique ship design in Knight Hawks (the corvette).
  • Stat Death: All damage is scored against your Stamina, one of your attributes. Run out of Stamina points and you were dead.
  • 2-D Space: The map of the Frontier is 2-D and space combat in Knight Hawks is on a 2-D map.
  • Vibroweapon: Vibroknife (does 2x more damage than a normal knife, or the same as a normal axe).
  • We Will Wear Armor in the Future: Skin-tight flexible armored suits, in fact.
    • Bulky power armor also appeared in “Armored and Dangerous” article in Dragon #129.