Monday, January 25, 2010

X-plorers vs. Star Frontiers

So here's a quick update on my search for a ruleset. I'm looking closely (exclusively) at two systems X-plorers and Star Frontiers. X-plorers, for those not familiar, is a recent "imagining" of 0E RPGs had they been sci-fi based instead of fantasy. Star Frontiers is more like a first cousin to D&D since it came directly from TSR. Most of this is on setting and character creation, I'm still working my way up to game mechanics on both sets (I'm reading them simultaneously so it's taking a bit longer).Click the images to visit each game's website.

First impressions about X-plorers...

Quick and easy character creation rules, so far better than Star Frontiers (see below). It's 3d6 based which is intuitive if you're a D&D person and the main attributes are boiled down to just four simple stats. I'm not too crazy about some of the setting stuff in X-plorers, but the book even says that everything is malleable. A big corporation acts as the sole organization for exploring, which kinda turns me off. Likewise for the heavily armored soldiers which seem like "kinghts in space". They're set up as kind of the default for the setting, and I don't see that panning out for a campaign I'd want to do. If I choose this one I'll likely discard some of those trappings. I could use a little more description in the way of equipment and aliens, but I can pick that up from other sources too I guess. I think sci-fi works much differently in that you want a certain degree of description. Magic is magic--it doesn't require explanation's magical! Sci-fi needs that explanation of how stuff works--even if it's minimal.

First impressions about Star Frontiers...

I really dig the atmosphere (I think it's the artwork to be honest!), and maybe I just like that there are a few more details (not too many) in these manuals. There's still a big corporate influence in this one too, again, this can be mitigated or re-worked. The big discovery was that I'm not a fan of the PC creation rules which employs this weird re-scaling chart after rolling d10s. I don't mind d10s per se, but I'm confused why SF has players rolling d10s then using that number to determine an entirely different one on a 1-70 range to find an attribute score. It's all just too convoluted.

UPDATE: Here's an image of the weird chart in question:


More to come, but feel free to share your observations as well. I'm learning about these two examples rules for the first time really, having played WEG Star Wars back in the day. I'd like to try something new, which is why I'm investing time with these two sets, but I'm also not opposed to borrow heavily from my roots.


  1. If I recall, the reason for determining attributes on a base from 1-70 is that different racial modifiers would push them up or down.

  2. Narmer, I'd forgotten about that one. I just downloaded it (for free no less!) from RPGNow. I'll give it a look this weekend.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Glad to be of help. Yeah, it being free is really cool.

  4. I just discovered your blog, lots of great resources here!

    This post's title made me smile, because I was recently grappling with the same dilemma. I used to play a lot of Star Frontiers; a fun game, but not what I'm looking for right now. I really like X-Plorers, I'm having a blast tweaking the rules for my Zhontaar setting. Good luck with your decision!

  5. Thanks gnombient! I've got lots of good stuff coming up--just need the time to clean it up and post. I think I'm beginning to lean towards X-plorers myself, it seems much simpler. But I plan on stealing liberally from Star Frontiers just the same, as well just about every other game I can get my hands on!

  6. Have you tried the Microlite20 Star Frontiers?;sa=view;down=23
    I also really like the Star Trek Microlite 20 rules.

  7. Okumarts, I've not seen those, but definitely worth a look--thanks for the links!