Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space (1985)

Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space (1985) was meant to be the first volume in a series of sourcebooks that overhauled and expanded the Star Frontiers line. Instead, it was the last supplement for the game. So it goes, I guess.

The big change is the implementation the Action Resolution Table (I should note: resolution tables were all the rage in the mid-80s), which replaced the old percentile system. This is basically FASERIP from Marvel Super Heroes but simplified. It seems simultaneously too simple for what Star Frontiers players needed a system to do, but also too complicated compared to the percentile. To say it was divisive is a bit of an understatement. Other changes included more player species (none of which look particularly interesting to me and one of which is like a kangaroo alien so I dunno) and a boatload of new skills (too many to my eye).

There is a lot of good stuff too. The book works hard to reconcile all the previous material into a sensible timeline, which brought with it a greater sense of place and more focus on politics and roleplaying (it isn’t quite a formal metastory, but more like the framework for one). Psionics also pop up, which is always wobbly in TSR products, but with it came additional political factions and social impacts that are super interesting, including psionic law enforcement agents. Oh, and lots of new equipment (always a good thing).

There is also that awesome Keith Parkinson cover. I love a big gun that has tubes coming out of it. All my favorite GI Joe figures had those.

It is a funny thing to see a rules reboot crash and burn so spectacularly. Because volume two, which was to include cybernetics and rules for higher level skills and equipment, never came out, the overhaul was left incomplete and arguably unusable.

I can’t find a satisfactory explanation as to why TSR decided to scuttle the line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *