Star Frontiers to GURPS 4e Conversion Notes

History

v1.0: Created 1997. It’s the oldest thing on the GURPS Diner!

v2.0: 2006.11.23. Updated for new site and for GURPS 4e.

v2.1: 2009.07.30. Some clean-up.

Credits: Dralasite notes enhanced with comments by Art Wendorf.

Note: Also see More Star Frontiers goodness for additional resources, including links to altermate character conversion ideas.


 

Star Patrol wants YOU!

Got a Star Frontiers game you’d like to bring over to GURPS? (Okay, so that proposition made more sense in 1997. But do please play along.) Here are some notes to help those characters make the jump.

First, a bit of intro

It’s hard for me to say what I liked so much about Star Frontiers when I picked it up way back when. Part of it was production value: the books weren’t anything fancy (pretty primitive, in fact, by today’s standards), but there was so much packed into the box: multiple books, maps, colored counters, more. A lot of components for a simple game.

The game’s play is “lightweight”: light on rules, grit, atmosphere, and weighty themes. It’s quirky, high space adventure. It certainly doesn’t stack up against the more detailed and “mature” games of today, but SF tied its simplicity to a certain naive charm. Rather than clumsily try to depict that in words, I’ll leave it to interested parties to check out the game itself. I’ll just add my opinion that the PC races, though few, all had a fun feel and somehow fit nicely together, like a well-balanced TV show cast.

To my surprise, the rules are available for download at http://www.starfrontiers.com/ (and it’s a kosher download, I’m told). If you’d like to try an all-new setting for your GURPS game – one that’s easy to pick up, not too heavy on overwhelming background – give the SF rulebooks and this article a try.

Gnarly! It’s Dralasites, Vrusk, Yazirians and more, straight from the day-glo ’80s – er, from the farflung future, I mean. If you’ve got old leftovers from old Star Frontiers games, or are new to TSR’s vintage sci-fi setting, here’s your guide to converting Star Frontiers materials and characters into a GURPS game.

Basics

Point level and character renewal

Converting characters themselves is a simple and even fun process. But squeezing a converted design into a set number of points may not be.

A GURPS default point level (such as 150 points) is fine if you’re starting with all new characters. If bringing old SF characters over to the game, consider the point level that best speaks to the SF group’s experience. That may be 150 points for new SF heroes, 200 points for those with a few planetary adventures behind them, 250 points for experienced Sathar fighters, etc.

It’s a completely arbitrary decision, but that’s fine; take your best guess. And if you’re really flexible, consider whether it’s even necessary to have all PCs hit the same point level. If you translate each character as faithfully as possible, there’s no chance they’re going to happen to come out at the same total. Is that okay in your game, or are you and the players willing to freely modify each PC to hit the target? Either one is an opportunity to have fun.

The most likely scenario for GMs reading these rules involves dusting off old, mildewy SF characters for use in new games. Use that opportunity to let players update the characters themselves; that greatly eases the process of setting all PCs at a given GURPS point level. Assume considerable time has gone by since the last set of adventures. Players can add new abilities that PCs might logically pick up (Wealth and Strong Will, maybe; Eidetic Memory and magic spells, probably not). GURPS’ extensive list of traits, many of which can be explained by cyber- or bio-engineering, can take those old PCs places that TSR never envisioned.

Refreshed characters will re-invigorate player interest from the start, and reduce some fears over moving to a new game system.

Attributes and skills

Players and the GM should work together to figure out what set of GURPS attributes and skills reflect the old SF character write-up, based on the rough “translation” guidelines below. Buy those traits normally.

Disadvantages

Allow PCs to buy disads that reflect the personalities they had exhibited in the old SF game: Code of Honor, Honesty, Impulsiveness, and so on. GURPS personality disads represent strong versions of the trait, so if the PC was only a little overconfident and not excessively so, a Quirk “Somewhat overconfident” may be better than the Overconfident disadvantage. Encourage players to take a full five Quirks to round out their characters.

Guidelines for Translating Traits

There’s no need for a set rule on how any given SF trait converts to a GURPS trait. Guidelines, though, are a good thing. Use the rules of thumb below to set your GURPS traits, and then purchase normally.

STR/STA

Divide STR by 5 and add 1 to get GURPS ST; do the same for STA to get GURPS HT.

DEX/RS

As described in the SF rulebook, the two abilities in this pair are nearly identical; both together serve the same function as GURPS DX. Of the following two conversion methods, use whichever the player or GM prefers:

    1. add DEX and RS, divide by 10, and add 1 to get GURPS DX; or

  1. use DEX/5 + 1 for DX, and also give the Combat Reflexes advantage if RS is 65 or more; Combat Paralysis if RS is 25 or less.

INT/LOG

As above, both of these scores are reflected in one GURPS score, IQ. Use one of the following two conversion methods:

  1. add INT and LOG, divide by 10, and add 1 to get GURPS IQ; or
  2. use LOG/5 + 1 for IQ; for every 5 full points of INT above 50, spend 5 CP on Alertness, Danger Sense, and/or Intuition, as desired; INT of 25 or less results in the Absent-Mindedness disadvantage.

PER/LDR

Purchase 5 CP worth of reaction bonuses (normally Charisma, but possibly Appearance, Status, Voice, etc.) for every 5 full points of PER over 50, and 5 points’ worth of similar disadvantages (Odious Personal Habits, Shyness, etc.) for every 5 full PER points below 40.

For every 3 points of LDR above 50, spend 1 GURPS CP on the Leadership skill. For every 5 full points of LDR below 40, buy 5 points of the Shyness disadvantage (e.g., Crippling Shyness for LDR 20 or less).

Alternately, these points for low LDR could be spent on Weak Will, or possibly disadvantages like Gullibility.

IM

GURPS Speed fulfills the same function; compute Speed normally.

Guidelines for Translating Races

Below are racial templates for characters in the SF world:

General notes

Overall, racial likes and dislikes don’t seem strong in SF, and so should probably be left to individual players. Mostly they will appear as Quirks (such as “Thinks Yazirians are violent” for a Dralasite, or “thinks Humans are unpredictable” for a Vrusk).

Dralasites

Required advantages and disadvantages include:

Attribute Modifiers

  • ST +1 [10]
  • HT +1 [10]
  • DX -1 [-20]

Advantages

  • Acute Taste and Smell +5 [10]
  • Racial Talent (+3 to Detect Lies) [6]
  • Double-Jointed [15]
  • Penetrating Voice [1]
  • Hermaphromorph [5]
  • Squishy [5] (see below)
  • Extra Limbs [+5, plus additional +10 per extra limb] (see below)

Disadvantages

  • Colorblindness [-10]

Quirks

  • Philosophical, patient [-1]
  • Strange sense of humor [-1]
  • Love steam baths w/perfumes and/or intoxicants [-1]
  • Do not wear clothing (interferes with breathing through skin) [-1]
  • Fond of Vrusks [-1]


Squishiness: The Dralasites’ body starts with the (oddly-named) Double-Jointed advantage, a type of super flexibility allowing drastic bending and twisting.

The Dralasites go one better, however, and have a very limited shape-shifting ability. By spending 5 minutes, a Dralasite could squeeze through a small opening, become round or flattened out, etc. GULLIVER suggests a Squishy advantage as follows:

Squishy (new) 5 points

“Malleable” is another good name for this advantage: you’re boneless, or have bones that slip and dislocate easily. (If the former, add the 0-point effects from Invertebrate.) You can squeeze your body in unusual ways, even forcing your head through an opening half its girth!

Double-Jointed or Flexibility is a prerequisite for Squishy. You get the benefits of the prerequisite with an additional +2 on Escape, and +1 to break free from a pin or resist an Arm Lock and its effects.

Squishy lets you to stretch slowly; not far or quick enough to be of use in combat, but by HT x 2% or so, little by little. But Squishy is not a quick shape-change ability; any unusual squeezes or stretches take five minutes, halved on a DX roll or a Change Control (DX/Average) skill. Examples include soft invertebrates and Tooms from The X-Files.

Roll vs Change Control to see if the Dral can fit through a foot-wide hole, or change a leg to an arm in under three minutes minutes, or take on the rough shape of a Yazirian, etc. A high skill level in Shape Control would be respected among Drals, and useful for entertainers, assassins, etc.

Extra Limbs: Extra Arms normally cost 10 points each. (The Extra-Flexible enhancement shouldn’t be necessary, as the Dralasites already pay for Double-Jointed.) Dralasites go beyond that, with configurable extra limbs.

The Dral can have as many limbs (arms plus legs) as the old rules allow; divide GURPS DX by 2 to get the maximum number of limbs available. (Remember that regardless of the number of arms, Dralasites get no extra combat attacks, though extra arms are useful in close combat.) Any limbs over 4 (two arms and two legs) are extra, and cost 10 points each. A Dralasite with a max 3 limbs would have a -10 point disadvantage. Example: A Dralasite with DX 10 can have five limbs, or one more than the human norm, for a 10-pt advantage. DX 14 allows seven limbs, or a 30-pt advantage.

The player should be able to buy fewer extra limbs if he wants. Some otherwise-coordinated Drals just might not be good with extra limbs, or maybe it’s a permanent effect of a Dral childhood disease. (The Drals probably even have names for such individuals.)

There is no limitation for the fact that the Dralasite won’t always have the extra limbs ready, as it never has to withdraw them. In fact, the arms have a special advantage in that they can be withdrawn if desired, or converted to extra legs. Charge an extra 5 points to the Dralasites’ Extra Limbs cost for this ability.

Senses: Instead of Acute Taste and Smell, the GM could consider Discriminatory Smell [15]. Either advantage could carry a -20% limitation (Restricted By Clothing). Or see broader rules for skin-based senses in GULLIVER.

Other options: Although not in SF, consider Hit Points or Hard to Kill for those diffuse and duplicated organs, plus Rapid Healing, Regrowth, and 1 or 2 points of Damage Resistance with the Tough Skin limitation, or effective vs crushing only (-40%).

Humans

No special rules needed. A Quirk (“Nervous Around Vrusk”) might be common, but if it’s strong, the Vrusk should be allowed to purchase a -1 Reaction Modifier (“Buglike”, only affects some humans) [-2].

Vrusk

Required advantages and disadvantages include:

Attribute Modifiers

  • ST -1 [-10]
  • HT -1 [-10]
  • DX+1 [20]

Advantages

  • Acute Taste and Smell +1 [2]
  • Extra Legs (eight) [15]
  • Double-Jointed [15]
  • Ambidexterity [5]
  • Cultural Adaptibility [20]

Quirks

  • Loves art, beauty [-1]
  • Loves peace and order [-1]

Double-Jointed: The goal here is to get the ability for a limb to bend oddly and freely reach any part of the body. 4e’s Double-Jointed seems like overkill here, but that’s what it takes to confer the ability.

Cultural Adaptibility: This roughly mimics SF’s Comprehension trait. A Talent for skills such as Psychology, Sociology, and Export Skill (Xenology), as well as the Empathy advantage, may also fit SF’s Vrusk description.

Other options: While it offers no special protection in SF, a point of Damage Resistance would represent Vrusks’ hard carapace. You might also enforce an Incompetence [-1] with Swimming, for Vrusks’ poor aquatic ability.

Vrusk working for corporations will have Patrons, Duties, and possibly Sense of Duty (to company), Code of Honor (Businessvrusk). Those not in a company might have a -1 reaction from corporate Vrusk (Reputation: Loner, Maverick [-2]). Savior-Faire (Vrusk business world) seems an important skill; SF implies that this is very difficult for non-Vrusk to learn.

Yazirians

Required advantages and disadvantages include:

Attribute Modifiers

  • ST -2 [-15]
  • HT -2 [-15]
  • DX +1 [20]
  • IQ +1 [20]

Advantages

  • Night Vision [10]
  • Gliding [12]
  • Battle Rage [5] (see below)

Disadvantages

  • Vow: Defeat life enemy [varies]
  • Bad Sight (light sensitivity) [-10] (see below)

Gliding: Many items of clothing or armor will be restrictive to Yazirians’ Gliding, as would a broken arm, items carried in the arms, etc. Allow another -20% limitation over the -50% Gliding limitation on Flight.

Rules tweakers may want to look at GULLIVER’s separate take on Gliding .

Battle Rage: The Battle Rage advantage is tough to translate. The +20 TH in SF is like the +4 TH from GURPS’ All-Out-Attack, but in GURPS that also means the Yazirian can’t defend himself, and will likely be hurt! Also, SF Battle Rage is an advantage, but GURPS’ Berserk is a disadvantage, as the PC won’t defend himself, and might even attack allies.

A suggestion for a whole new advantage, Yazirian Battle Rage (not to be confused with GURPS’ Battle Rage enhancement on Berserk):

YBR lets you fight as a berserker, with the same abilities to resist pain and shock. However, through skill it allows more control. You can replace the Will rolls to enter, avoid, or snap out of Berserk state with Will-adjusted Yazirian Battle Rage skill (Will/Hard). More importantly, during any turn of Berserk combat, a roll lets you act freely (including use of defenses) as if not Berserk, while maintaining the beneficial resistance aspects.

In addition, a separate Battle Rage roll (only one, at the beginning of combat) confers +2 ST or +1 DX (player’s choice) while Berserk. That approximates the SF idea better. (A Yazirian taking that ST or DX bonus should suffer double fatigue at the end of the battle, minimum 1 fatigue.)

Vow: The life enemy custom is best gamed as a Vow or even Obsession. Whether that’s worth -5, -10 or -15 points depends on how tough the enemy is, and how much time the Yazirian devotes to it. A -15 point Vow should be reserved for those that regularly expose the Yazirian to real physical danger. (If the enemy is one that actively tries to hurt the Yazirian, that’s a separate Enemy disadvantage as well!) Yazirians who choose particularly daunting enemies can buy separate, positive Reputation bonuses, or possibly Status.

Bad Sight (light sensitivity): I don’t yet see an official disadvantage for a clear way to build it, so I made this up as a variant of correctable Bad Eyesight [-10], resulting in -2 DX/IQ and -4 Vision in bright light only, half that even in normal light, with quadruple any penalties and their durations for actual blinding lights (Flash attacks, etc.).

Basic sunglasses reduce these problems; dark, wrap-around glasses remove them entirely, letting the Yazirian function like any other character as far as bright lights are concerned. But either of those will make you blind in real darkness.

See the full disad write-up in GULLIVER here. This trait ties in to the comprehensive rules for light and darkness here.

Sathar

Required advantages and disadvantages include:

Attribute Modifiers

  • DX -1 [-20]
  • IQ -1 [-20]

Advantages

  • Charisma +2 [10]
  • Racial Talent: +2 on Hypnosis [4]
  • Racial Talent: +2 on Leadership [4]
  • Two Extra Arms (No Physical Attack, -50%) [10]
  • Peripheral Vision [15]

Disadvantages

  • Reputation -4 (hated) [-20]
  • Enemy (Star Patrol) [-30]
  • Code of Honor (Destroy other races, death before surrender or capture, protect Sathar secrets) [-15]

Charisma: Charisma doesn’t necessarily mean Sathar are liked; it means they’re persuasive. If the GM wishes, he can turn the Charisma into an additional +2 Racial Talent on Leadership instead. Public Speaking and Enthrallment skills would be even more fun (and dangerous).

Other options: The usual assortment of Status, Military Rank, Patrons, Duties, etc. appropriate for a Sathar’s place in his society is necessary.

Guidelines for Translating Skills

Availability

There are no PSAs in GURPS; characters are free to learn any skills at normal cost. Feel free to use Talents to lump skills into PSA-like groups if you want to keep the SF feel.

Most SF skills are very broad, with many subskills; each subskill will usually become a separate GURPS skill. As ST players drool over the massive shopping list of GURPS skills, keep an eye on any that’d be inappropriate or hard to come by in the SF world. If the PCs are career members of Star Patrol, which teaches beam weapon usage but not Escape or Pickpocket, a 5-point Unusual Background (Grew up on the streets) might be needed for those latter skills.

Use more expensive UBs for PCs who want exotic martial arts skills, several native languages, unusual combat skills like Net and Lasso, and so on. In the latter case, a 10-point UB (Grew up in primitive colony) would let the player have access to primitive combat, healing, and outdoor skills other PCs wouldn’t have access to.

On the other hand, many skills aren’t covered by SF, but should be available to PCs with no UB cost. A Star Patrol member might easily have picked up the skills Carousing and Gambling, or in his spare time have developed skills like Pottery or Musical Instrument.

Level

To translate an existing SF character, figure out which GURPS skills are needed and purchase them at a level appropriate to the SF PC’s levels. A suggestion: a PC with Level 1 in a skill has the appropriate GURPS skill at level 10. Add 2 to the GURPS skill level for each SF Level above 1.

Example: A PC with SF Demolitions Level 4 has GURPS Demolitions-16. This is only a guideline; adjust the final number up or down a little, depending upon how many CP the player is willing to spend.

What to do about skills like SF Melee Weapons, which covers a huge number of GURPS skills? For a SF PC with Melee Weapons Level 3, it’ll be impossible to purchase every GURPS skill covered by Melee Weapons at level 14 or so.

One solution, again, is to allow a Talent, even if GURPS normally frowns on Talents for combat skills. Or let the PC buy as many individual skills as he wants at the level suggested above (maybe even a couple levels higher for key skills, as the numbers are just guidelines). These should be the ones that would most realistically have come from the PC’s background. Remaining combat skills could be bought at a lower level, depending on how many CPs the player wants to spend.

Example: A Star Patrol PC with Melee Weapons Level 5 decides to buy GURPS Knife-19 and Smallsword-18, which should be pretty expensive. The logic is that the Patrol teaches knife combat, and fencing is a popular hobby among recruits. The PC then decides to buy Force Sword-14, Short Sword-12 (from police baton training), and Buckler-11 (again, from fencing training). The GM decides to limit skill in Broadsword, Axe/Mace, Flail, etc., as the Patrol wouldn’t teach such skills.

Similar treatment will be required for other skills that have lots of GURPS counterparts, such as SF Computer Skill and Medical Skill.

Equivalents

Below are the GURPS skills that equate to SF skills:

  • SF Beam Weapons = GURPS Beam Weapons (all types). You can toss in Liquid Projector as well.
  • SF Gyrojet Weapons = GURPS Guns (Gyroc, Grenade Launcher, LAW).
  • SF Melee Weapons = Covers almost all GURPS hand weapon skills.
  • SF Projectile Weapons = Choose freely from GURPS Guns and Gunner specialties, as well as Bow. (Yes, SF lumps machine guns and bows into one skill.)
  • SF Thrown Weapons = GURPS Throwing and Thrown Weapon skills.
  • SF Energy Weapons = GURPS Gunner (Beams).
  • SF Rocket Weapons = GURPS Gunner (Rockets).
  • SF Demolitions Skill: Setting Charges becomes GURPS Explosives (Demolition); Defusing Charges becomes Explosives (Explosive Ordinance Disposal). Add other Explosives specialties as you like.
  • SF Martial Arts: This seems to cover both Karate and Judo. Purchase GURPS Karate, Judo, Boxing, or Brawling, or a combination of these. Tack on techniques or full Martial Arts styles as you like; traditional fighting skills for the SF races (Yazirian Berserk Mid-Air Boxing?) sound like fun. The GURPS versions of martial arts are quite powerful, so be careful of allowing very high skill levels.
  • SF Computer Skill: The SF subskills become GURPS Computer Operation, Computer Programming, Computer Hacking, and Electronics Repair (Computers).
  • SF Robotics Skill: SF contains more material on robots than past GURPS worldbooks had, although its clear distinction between computers and robots is not realistic. Now that GURPS has Robots, head to that. Unless Robots suggests better ideas, SF Robotics Skill subskills become GURPS Computer Operation, Computer Programming, Mechanic (Robotics) and Engineer (Robotics).
  • SF Technician Skill: This skill’s subskills cover GURPS Driving (all types), Boating (all types), Piloting (all atmospheric types and Aerospace), Mechanic (all types except Robotics), Electrician, Electronics Repair (all types except Computers), Electronics Operation (all types), and Lockpicking. That’s a lot of skills! To save CPs, a PC may have to pare down the skills and/or purchase modest levels. Use the PC’s past experience as a guideline: if the PC drove vehicles more often than he picked locks, Lockpicking skill should be bought low or not at all.
  • SF Environmental Skill: This covers GURPS Biology (ecology), Navigation (land), Survival (various types), Tracking, Stealth, Electronics Operation (sensors) and possibly scientific skills like Prospecting, Geology, Chemistry, full Biology, etc.
  • SF Medical Skill = GURPS Physician, Surgery, First Aid, and Diagnosis.
  • SF Psycho-Social Skill = GURPS Hypnosis, Gesture, Psychology, and Diplomacy.
  • SF Piloting Skill = GURPS Piloting (Low-Performance Spacecraft and High-Performance Spacecraft).
  • SF Astrogation Skill = GURPS Navigation (Space, Hyperspace).
  • SF Spaceship Engineering Skill = GURPS Engineer (Starship) and Armoury (whatever types your game’s spaceships use).
  • SF Gunnery Skill = GURPS Gunner (whatever types your game’s spaceships use).

GURPS has many other skills that SF characters might have learned, such as Free Fall and Environment Suit.

Final notes

Career traits

PCs in the Star Patrol will have the Patrol as a Patron, and will in turn have a Duty to it. They may or may not also have a Sense of Duty to the Patrol, to civilians, etc. A Code of Honor (Patrol Member) is appropriate. A Patrol career is likely to result in Reputations, Status, Military Rank, etc., as appropriate for the campaign.

Combat

Players will probably enjoy their more detailed, “grittier” characters made with GURPS rules. Just make sure they understand the grittier combat rules as well! No more of this: ” ‘You take a machine-gun burst full in the chest.’ ‘Okay, I fire back.’ “

A couple of sample combat sessions should serve to introduce any GURPS weapons and armor types the GM wishes to use, as well as graphically show the effects of a HE gyroc round on Dralasite protoplasm.

Try to keep ’em reeling but alive. The original SF setting is space opera; if you want to keep that atmosphere, sprinkle on plenty of GURPS cinematic options.

Have fun, and don’t listen to any Sathar voices in the shadows…

Resources

There’s a lot of Star Frontiers goodness on the web – including the game itself, free! Here are a few good resources; Google will find you even more.

Star Frontiers website

I don’t know what “official” status this has, but it has THE domain for the game, and offers the game itself for free download. (Legally, I’m told.) Those downloads plus this article give you a whole new sci-fi setting for GURPS.
http://www.starfrontiers.com

Star Frontiers website

.org, not .com. Doesn’t look active, but there’s plenty to look at and download.
http://www.starfrontiers.org

Star Frontiersman Magazine

Wow! All the Star Frontiers books, beautifully “remastered” by one heck of a fan. Plus a Star Frontiers magazine and more!  
http://www.starfrontiersman.com

Star Frontiers website

Same name, yet another site. Rules, creatures, ships, more.
http://www.geocities.com/starfrontiers/

Star Frontiers Digitally Remastered

Wow! Downloads galore of official books. A whole gameshelf’s worth.
http://www.geocities.com/cleancutrogue/SF.html

Star Frontiers Wikipedia entry

Wikipedia, I love you so much.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Frontiers

The Toroid

Not a big site, but there’s GURPS stuff and Star Frontiers stuff. What’s not to like?
http://web.infoave.net/~estokes/

Star Frontiers Now & Forever

Lots of stuff, including a huge list of links.
http://www.xmission.com/~layne/Star.html

Ephemeris – An Almanac of the Frontier

Campaign setting resources.
http://members.aol.com/TimC27/sf-rpg.html

Star Frontiers house rules

A big reworking of the rules.
http://www.leadtech.biz/SF/index.html

GURPS Star Frontiers Conversion

A PDF Star Frontiers to GURPS conversion, offering a twist on (and linking to) this page’s conversion notes.
http://mrh.boxofgeeks.net/SF/StarFrontiersConversion.pdf

Star Frontiers Racial Conversions

A SJG forum thread discussion conversion of SF races to GURPS. Lots of races covered!
http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?p=1615135

Star Frontiers Web Ring

Still ain’t had enough? Then find more here.
http://o.webring.com/hub?ring=starfrontiers

9 Comments

  • dar

    Me and my kid were playing Star Hawks. Or whatever the space combat game was called. He’s looking over my shoulder right now and is begging to build a dralasite… very cool.

    • tbone

      Knight Hawks, I believe! And I’m sure I owned it, though I only played the basic Alpha Dawn character portion of SF, not the Knight Hawks spaceship combat. (I played combats inside spaceships, just not between them.) IIRC, KH was pretty run-of-the-mill RPG space battle stuff; nothing particularly noteworthy about it.

      Still, everyone loves space battles, and KH beat having nothing. Starship rules are a hundred times crunchier in GURPS; I wouldn’t be surprised if a GURPS-SF group created a way to keep much of KH’s simpler, quicker system. (That’d be a great article by anyone willing to write it.)

      Kids love Dralasites. (Not many kids would ask to be a Vrusk.) Post the blobby guy here if you like!

      • Esteemed Visitor

        You’ve got to check out Full Thrust. I used to setup / play massive Knight Hawk space battles since I couldn’t get my group to play Star Fleet Battles with me back in the day. Full Thrust takes about 2-3 hours to run a massive fleet engagement. The rules are streamlined and fairly generic, so you can modify them to fit your particular setting. The only issue is that its a little harder to highlight player’s skills. The rules are now free as downloadable PDF’s (link: http://www.gtns.co.uk/store1/commerce.cgi?page=downloads.html ).

        -Chuck

        • tbone

          Thanks, I’d never heard of Full Thrust. Great free resource; I’m downloading now.

          Sounds like it’d be an interesting project to integrate these rules with Star Frontiers/Knight Hawk, or the GURPS space combat rules, or any other. Or, maybe best if all, use Full Thrust as-is for fast-paced space combat, and work in some new rules (per the GURPS Mass Combat rules) to highlight PC actions.

  • Toadkiller_Dog

    A couple comments – I was working on my own conversion of SF to 4th edition GURPS when I got sidetracked by other GURPS work. I will add more comments in the future, but for now:

    Yazarian Battle Rage – sounds like a real bargain at 5 points. All the upsides of Berserk, they can up the skill to come out of it at a lower price than buying up Will, and they get none of the downsides. All SF gave it was a 5% chance of entering battle rage and a +20 to hit in Melee only. Making it no-downsides Berserk seems very generous – it’s not like SF gave them special resistance to knockout, death, or pain while enraged. They just better at whacking stuff in melee.

    I figured it should be a DX bonus – maybe as high as +4, with either Skill-based (Will/Hard) for the roll, or Activation if you want to map to SF’s very low starting chance of pulling it off. Making it for Melee Weapon and Unarmed skills only, for To Hit only (not for Parry or to resist or make Feints) should give it a very steep discount for Accessibility – DX without most skill bonuses and Speed should be cheap. Still, +4 even with the maximum -80% discount that’s up 16 points for +4.

    It might be interesting to make it a Talent for Melee Weapon skills and Unarmed skills with Accessibility/Skill Based. Probably not legal on a talent, though, and it would have the sideeffect of making Yazarians learn Broadsword faster than anyone else, what with all of them having 4 levels of it…

    Sathar – extra arms seems…wrong somehow. They’ve got four tentacles – two weak ones with no useful attack they can use for guns and computer use and so on, and two for “heavy lifting” that really function as legs in all of the pictures of the Sathar. So they ought to have som limitation of “no legs” if they use those tentacles for that. They should have some kind of flexibility benefits – I can’t see getting Sathar in Arm Locks (or Leg Locks or the spine attacks we’re putting in MA4e). Aren’t they Invertabrates, or is that way too harsh in game terms?

    I’ll post more as I think about it. As I said, this is something I was working on. SF was my kind of Space Opera, and I’d run it again if I got a chance. The Sathar were very cool and creepy bad guys. Like Nazis in Indiana Jones movies – hidden bases and spies and a big military you can whup on if you just have your guns handy.

    • tbone

      Thanks for the very helpful comments, TKD. Another SF fan out there! Let me jump right into your points:

      Yazirian Battle Rage: My version is a simple update of the old article’s version; and clearly, the old version is something I made from the perspective of wanting to use GURPS’ “battle rage” (Berserk) framework. My thinking was that “+20% TH in melee” was a dull trait, with SF not having the crunchy tools to game the trait more interestingly. Players moving to GURPS would surely prefer its more dramatic and psychological take on the concept, I figured.

      But a better (and less lazy : ) take would be to provide two versions: one, as close a translation as possible of the original SF trait, and two, whatever GURPSy rewrite I might prefer.

      Thanks for the suggestion for the former. Yes, a DX bonus is pretty much the GURPS equivalent, though I would tend toward +2, a great big bonus in GURPS (boosting success rate at DX 10 by 24 percentage points). The player could choose the bonus, though. Any suggestion for what the total limitation should be to give the bonus Skill-Based and Accessibility (only for offensive melee combat use)? I don’t have Powers yet, and don’t know the value of Skill-Based.

      As for the latter version of YBR, a GURPSified one: I revisited this while writing the new article, and have some words in defense of my cost. First, Berserk itself isn’t all that bad a trait in terms of control. You can avoid Berserk on a Will roll. You can attempt to break out of it after each downed foe, and again after the last one. Friends are safe unless they try to restrain you, or unless you fail a couple of control rolls after you take care of foes.

      My addition of the control skill isn’t any real benefit, IMO. It lets you improve control at 4 pts/+1, yet full Will only costs 5 pts/+1; the skill is a pretty poor bargain.

      I did add two real benefits, both requiring skill rolls: temporary, one-second abatement of Berserk (good for making defenses), and a one-chance-per-combat bonus of +2 ST or +1 DX. Great bennies, though the first doesn’t make for no-downsides Berserk; every time you fail that roll, it’s pure AOA for your turn.

      So those two items are the real benefits, and their combined cost is effectively 15 points (the difference between 5 pts and the Berserk-only cost of -10 points). 15 points is a lot. That said, I mistakenly thought Berserk was still -15 pts in 4e, meaning I was envisioning a 20-pt difference. If I boosted the cost to 10 pts, maintaining the 20-pt difference, do you think that’s a good cost?

      And on the other tentacle, I can see ditching it altogether, and suggesting the following for YBR:

      1) Buy the +X on DX with Skill-Based on Accessibility limitations, as above, simulating the original SF trait;

      2) Add by-the-book Berserk and/or Bad Temper if desired, for a more GURPS-flavored and interesting character.

      That’d be easiest of all, perhaps. I like it.

      And speaking of tentacles:

      Sathar limbs: True, I just wrote them off as Extra Arms, but so does the SF text. Only that little drawing in the main racial writeup suggests otherwise, as you note (and by the way, the evil worm and his “feet” come across as pretty silly in that pose. Someone’s wanting nice woolen stockings for his tenties this Christmas.)

      Extra Arms with the Foot Manipulators limitation sounds fine as a GURPS revision of Sathar lower tentacles. (This adds the assumption that they do need the limbs to move.) Actually, the Extra Arms should also be stronger, and made less dextrous at fine manipulation; how do we do that for Extra Arms in 4e? Anyone?

      As for Flexibility benefits: I’m all for that; don’t know why I didn’t suggest anything. Let me suggest the Double-Jointed version of Flexibility, plus possibly GURPS’ Invertebrate – though I prefer my own version of Invertebrate ( http://www.gamesdiner.com/gurps/GULLIVER/B3body.htm#Invertebrates ) plus Squishy (see Dralasite writeup).

      If you can comment again on the above, I’ll happily update the article.

      By the way, you were working on your own SF -> GURPS 4e article? Sorry to jump you on that one; the job was much easier for me, having only to update an old article. If you go ahead with yours, I’ll gladly link to it from here – coopetition and all that. : ) Or if you’d like, we can further put our heads together and whip this article into better shape.

      • Toadkiller_Dog

        I’d like to just comment on this – my work is sporadic and incomplete, so it’s just easier to try and work on yours. I’m not interested in conversion per se – so I’ll probably leave alone anything that turns SF characters into GURPS ones, and just comment on the racial templates and maybe later on equipment if we get that far.

        YBR – +2 is probably fine – my notes have +2 as a starter for the same reason (it’s a big jump in GURPS) but since you had a +4 to hit listed about I figured that was reasonable enough. Let me dig up POWERS and see how we can set this up. Let’s try +2 DX limited and see where it goes. I’ll post more here. I’ll try to nail down the Yazarians and Sathar before we go anywhere else.

        Oh yeah, for the racial enemy, Vow is a good idea. I liked it as a positive, so I generally linked it with Higher Purpose….folks who take a broad enemy get a wider Higher Purpose but get a bigger Vow or even Obsession if they real go all-out. So, Higher Purpose (Defeat the Sathar) would be legal, buttake a -15 Vow or Obsession and probably take the rest of your life and all of your time.

        Sathar legs – that’s not the only picture, actually. The miniatures are split between two minis in the Spacefarers series that have the sather weilding weapons with all four tentacles while upright, and the Player Characters box set had one in a space suit and one without, using weapons with the upper tentacles and standing on the lower ones. There is a picture in Sparspawn of Volturnus that shows marching Sathar, but it isn’t clear if they’re using their tentacles as feet, to carry stuff, or not. So it’s split, but it’s not like it is one picture in one book. Sathar pictures in general are hard to find – check the various modules, generally even a Sathar-heavy one will have one or two pictures of Sathar. The War Machine, IIRC, had NO pictures at all…

        Since I own the minis from the Player Characters set and have the pictures in the book, I generally use them as “feet.” Makes it easier than showing the players a Sathar mini and saying “actually, this miniature is wrong, he’s standing on his lower body and using the lower limbs to fire a rifle, and the upper arms for…well, I don’t know what. 😉

        • Toadkiller_Dog

          Thinking it over more, it seems like a good way to start would be No Legs (Slithers), Extra Arms (No Physical Attack) for the dinky little arms, and then work on the big “leg” tentacles.

          They don’t seem to be fine manipulators, but clearly they can use Sathar weapon technology and regular technology. They can also be used as feet, if the Sathar needs to stand upright. It may even be required if they want to do so – the text doesn’t make it clear either way, but we have at least a couple of physical images (Sathar minis) that show them used in this way. I’m not really sure which way to go with this, game-wise. They’d probably have some issues with those tentacles dealing with human tech (and this helps explain their tendency to use slave races).

          I’m also trying to figure how I’d do their hypnotism. I’m not sure Charisma is the way to go…it’s not like people just LIKE Sathar. You need to screw up and let them talk to you to fall for it. Enthrallment seems likely, but it’ll only work if they also have Charisma. Hypnotism doesn’t quite cover it. Maybe an Affliction of some sort…I’ll work on this too.

          This is fun. The Sathar rank right up next to the Daleks in terms of genuinely cool bad guy aliens in my book.

          • tbone

            Thanks for the latest ideas:

            Toadkiller_Dog wrote:
            Thinking it over more, it seems like a good way to start would be No Legs (Slithers), Extra Arms (No Physical Attack) for the dinky little arms, and then work on the big “leg” tentacles.

            Sounds right to me so far. I’ll toss in my Single Leg trait too, as a 0-point option that adds a little extra detail. http://www.gamesdiner.com/gurps/GULLIVER/B3body.htm#NumberLegs

            Toadkiller_Dog wrote:
            They don’t seem to be fine manipulators, but clearly they can use Sathar weapon technology and regular technology. They can also be used as feet, if the Sathar needs to stand upright. It may even be required if they want to do so – the text doesn’t make it clear either way, but we have at least a couple of physical images (Sathar minis) that show them used in this way. I’m not really sure which way to go with this, game-wise. They’d probably have some issues with those tentacles dealing with human tech (and this helps explain their tendency to use slave races).

            I agree that we gotta make some assumptions, even if only based on little sketches. (And hey, it’s appropriate: Sathar are rarely encountered – and never caught – alive; everything about them should be guesswork. : ) As you and the sketches depict it, the lower tentacles are essentially arms, stronger than the upper arms but with poor manipulation. I think we’re agreed there. My question is: does 4e cover building mismatched sets of limbs (as in two types of arms)?

            As for the limbs’ utility in “standing”, I think no extra complication is needed. Even if the limbs were just plain arms, they could be used for this purpose, as a special effect of where they’re positioned. Just as limbs positioned high on the body would be particularly useful for reaching high places, no special trait needed. (And that’s where the Sathar lower limbs fall short.) They’re arms that happen to be well-positioned for placing on the ground.

            However, that “tripod effect” should make for a much more stably-standing worm, worth some bonus on balance checks. I’ll have to dip again into GULLIVER for this optional extra detail, unless 4e offers something other than Perfect Balance (which would be overkill).

            The final question, if I’m not missing something, is whether the lower “arms” are needed in some way for normal movement. If yes, then that’s another complex point adjustment. Perhaps it’s just easier to say they’re not needed for movement and do nothing to aid it, other than to improve balance (already covered above). Or to drag the Sathar along if his regular movement appendage (“tail”) is injured, but as any default arms can be used for crawling like that, no special trait is needed for that. What do you think?

            Toadkiller_Dog wrote:
            I’m also trying to figure how I’d do their hypnotism. I’m not sure Charisma is the way to go…it’s not like people just LIKE Sathar. You need to screw up and let them talk to you to fall for it. Enthrallment seems likely, but it’ll only work if they also have Charisma. Hypnotism doesn’t quite cover it. Maybe an Affliction of some sort…I’ll work on this too.

            This is fun. The Sathar rank right up next to the Daleks in terms of genuinely cool bad guy aliens in my book.

            I’d like to make it some subset of Charisma, “Only for Intimidation or similar forceful interactions, not for friendly interactions”. But I don’t know that 4e handles that.

            How about a Talent for Intimidation, Leadership, Enthrallment (with the Talent substituting for the Charisma requirement), and Hypnotism?

            I like Sathar too. The “fifth column, voice-in-the-dark, puppet master” aspect is what makes them cool. Any enemy worth its salt has to have some weapon far more subtle, and open-ended in damage potential, than combat prowess; it’s pretty much a requirement for an arch-enemy race. Without it, an enemy becomes Orcs: fun, yes, but generic combat fodder, just the foot solders of the real enemy with the subtle/sophisticated power.

            Even Fantasy Folk‘s Verm get Sathar-like treatment: wicked psi powers on top of the armored combat crab shtick. They’d be one-note foes without it. The psi aspect opens up whole new possibilities.

            But, subtle psychological warfare aside, my best-remembered Sathar game was an old-fashioned cat-and-mouse-and-blow’-em-up conflict between PCs and Sathar (and some robots on each side) on a large space ship map. Lots of corridor chases and firefights. Which, if you count the explosive weapons as fireballs, pretty much translates to “dungeon”. ; )

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