Friday, February 14, 2020

My Deceptive Memories of Star Frontiers

Back in my school days, when we were playing pretty much every rpg game we could get our hands on - one of them being TSRs Star Frontiers. My memories of this rpg are vivid: I remember the illustration of the amorphous Dralasite with its eyes that looked like textbook renditions of cancer cells (I immediately called dibs on that one); I remember the characters on the cover, expecially that kind-of-cool, but also kind of revulsive ape-bat creature that turned out to be a Yazirian (my best friend called dibs on that one, which figured, since his favourite childhood plush toy had been a little smiling monkey in a striped tee); I remember the big city map with its ugly, squarish design, that, I think, was supposed to show a spaceport city; and I remember that, when you held the boxes lid against the light, that it was actually from a D&D red box and they had only pasted the Star Frontiers cover on it! (What had happened there? Had they produced too many D&D boxes and saw no choice but to publish another rpg to make use of them? I guess that's not how it went, but it would make a good anecdote. Also, I'm writing about the German edition of Star Frontiers here, which was called Sternengarde, so don't be surprised if you find nothing of that kind when you hold up the lid of your original Star Frontiers box).
Anyway, my memories are so vivid and create such a deep sense of familiarity, I naturally assumed that we must have played the hell out of Star Frontiers and loved it. (I even claimed just that recently on social media).
However, thinking about it a little harder, I actually can't remember playing it.

I know that I created at least one Dralasite. (I also seem to remember the other players rolling their eyes and saying "another Dralasite?" at some later point, but I might be mixing that up with "another Hobbit?" in MERP or "another Ewok?" in Stars Wars ...). I know that we sat around that very big map; and I clearly remember how we pissed ourselves about the idea that a "fat nobleman" might come around a corner to give us an assignment, because that was one of our fantasy campaign tropes back then, and we felt that it would be just hilariously out of place in a spaceport city (as you can imagine, we pissed ourselves a lot back then). Also, I have some very hazy memories of a firefight that might or might not have happened in a Star Frontiers session.
But that's the closest thing to actual play that I can remember.
Now I wonder, are my fond not-quite-memories the hazy mist left by dozens of great gaming nights? Or, as seems more likely, are they memories of what might have been, of the great rpg sessions promised by that cover art, by that Dralasite illustration, by that ugly map and by the simple fact that we had decided to give a space scifi game another try (after not getting Traveller at all)?
Maybe I never actually got my Star Frontiers fix.
If that's the case, the most obvious thing to do would be to search out the game and give it another try, see if it is as great as I can't quite remember it. However, what would I stand to gain? Chances are that I won't be able to re-capture the magic, especially when I'm not quite sure whether it was there in the first place or whether it is all a case of made-up memories.

All of which is a roundabout way to say that I've decided to give FrontierSpace, the successor in spirit to Star Frontiers, a try - that way, I can't ruin my possibly made-up memories of Star Frontiers, and I still might get my fix a good thirty years later!

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