On September 27th DwD Studios released their space opera RPG FrontierSpace. Stargazer’s World already reviewed it. I had the opportunity to use the playtest rules for a one shot session during ZeltCon 2017, the annual gaming convention of the roleplaying club of Biberach, “Palaver”.
Even better – I was invited to take part in a more or less impromptu session a friend of mine ran the following day. But I will come to that later.
I had prepared a short introductory scenario for “Ferne Sterne” (Far Stars), a new setting I am working on so I was not using DwD’s FrontierSpace setting. It was meant as a test whether it worked and whether it was worth developing further.
For the sake of convenience and quick access I had also prepared four Player Characters from two of the four species present in the region – humans and “Rakhaadi” (which actually are the more or less stereotypical Greys). So I only had to create one new alien species for this occasion. This process is covered only briefly in the Player’s Handbook but is included in the Referee’s Handbook in a concise yet comprehensive way.
As I stated in my recent review of the FrontierSpace PHB, FrontierSpace is one of the most exciting releases this year. Even though I have played and even written fantasy roleplaying games before, I am first and foremost a science fiction fan. Unfortunately a lot of SF RPGs out there have been written by designers who love rules. It feels as if crunch and science fiction often come in pairs. Luckily FrontierSpace is an exception. The rules are between rules-light and rules-medium, but there’s definitely enough depth for long campaigns. The referee handbook adds optional rules and various generators to expand your FrontierSpace game and help the GM (or Referee as it’s called in the game) to do their job.
This review is based on a unfinished copy of the RHB provided by DwD Studios. Thanks again, Bill. The 198-paged preview copy lacks a couple of pieces of art but aside from that it should be identical to the finished version. The RHB shares its look and layout with the PHB. The release is probably only a week or two away and like the PHB the RHB should be available both as POD version (soft- or hardcover) and PDF via RPGNow/DriveThruRPG. I guess it will probably set you back $10 just like the PHB, which is a very good price, if you ask me.
So what does the RHB add to the table? The first chapter of the book called Game Guidelines mostly expands on the rules on the PHB. In the first section of said chapter there’s a closer look at Character Rules including the morality system, how it applies to robots, and how the Referee can react when players let their character’s act against their defined moral code. Personally I don’t think codifying one’s morality is really necessary (especially in a SF game), but that’s just me.
More interesting are the information on earning DP (development points, FrontierSpace’s XP equivalent). In this section the author gives detailed tips on how to grant DP after each session. There’s a bullet list with ten item which if applicable grant you 1 DP each. This makes granting DP a much easier task, since you just have to check which criteria apply. Veteran Referees may just wing it, but if you’re new to the game it definitely comes in handy.
Another form of reward is also detailed: Loyalty benefits. These are special benefits granted to characters who have been loyal to a certain patron may it be a powerful corporation or a local government. Loyalty benefits are usually designed by the Referee but a list of examples is given which contains benefits like special skill training, the use of certain vehicles provided by the patron, or even company stocks.
It’s a great time for fans of science-fiction roleplaying games. Kevin Crawford has just successfully kickstarted a revised edition of Stars Without Number, Green Ronin recently accounced a roleplaying game based on the “The Expanse” franchise, and DwD Studios finally released the long-awaited Player’s Handbook to FrontierSpace .
Before I start my review I have to make a confession. I know that the people behind FrontierSpace are huge fans of TSR’s Star Frontiers, and I was told that some of the mechanics are at least inspired by this classic RPG, but I can neither deny nor confirm this. I have actually never played Star Frontiers. Having said that, let’s get this review started…
This review is based on the digitally version of the FrontierSpace PHB which has graciously been provided by DwD Studios’ Bill Logan. The 248-paged PDF is currently available on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG and a POD version should be available soon as well. DwD Studios will also release a Referee’s Handbook in the next couple of weeks. While FrontierSpace is fully playable with just the PHB, the RHB will contain a lot of material to make the GM’s life easier and which also expands the game. There will be rules for Psionic abilities, Referee advice, Alien creatures and species generation, star system generation and more.
FrontierSpace is powered by DwD Studios’ d00-Lite System which they already used in both Barebones Fantasy and Covert Ops. It’s at its core a d%-roll-under system. But instead of most games where a result of 00 means 100, it’s zero in d00-Lite. Something I especially like about the d00-Lite System is that the Skills are basically archetypal roles like Academic, Commander, Medic, and the like. So if you are trying to perform an action a marksman might be good at, you use the Marksman skill, while everything medicine-related is covered by the Medic skill. Sounds easy, right? This also solves a common problem with SF roleplaying games: skill creep.
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