As I’ve been creating and tweeting the #SFTimeline on the @StarFrontiers Twitter account, I’ve been thinking more and more about how to string all of the published Star Frontiers modules into a comprehensive campaign.
The timeline I’ve been tweeting doesn’t work as I’ve been interspersing the modules into the timeline out of order. That’s mainly because I’m a bit impatient and wanted to incorporate the modules early to give me some ideas of things to include in the timeline. I have enough threads running now that I can safely drop the rest of the modules in in their “appropriate” order for set of PCs to be the protagonists in all the events. Maybe at some point I’ll go back and tweak the timeline to match the one I’m presenting here.
The modules don’t provide enough XP by themselves to move directly between them, so in addition to providing my preferred order to the modules, I’ll be providing some suggestions of additional adventures, either from the fanzines or that the Referee will need to create for their group. Depending on how much I end up writing, this may end up as a series of posts.
I’ve posted bits and pieces of this campaign idea over the years on various social media and forums but in this series of posts I’m going to try to collate all of that into a comprehensive document. Let’s get started.
In the timeline that follows, I’m going to assume that the PC’s start as fresh, new adventurers newly minted with the Alpha Dawn Expanded rules: a PSA and two level 1 skills.
I’m also going to be a generous Referee and assume that in the published modules, the PCs earn the maximum (or nearly the maximum) XP possible in each of the sessions. As we launch into each of the modules in the timeline, I’m going to present what I expect the approximate amount of XP the characters should have earned at that point. If you are running this campaign and your characters aren’t quite there yet, run a few more side adventures for them to get them up to speed.
I’m also going to assume the module are run as written, warts and all. You’re free to tweak them as you see fit but I’ll assume the events described occur.
In case you don’t want to read all the details, here’s the overall order I’d run the modules in sans, any intermediary adventures to get the XP progression correct. It’s mostly the order they were published, but bumping Mission to Alcazzar after Dark Side of the Moon.
- SF0: Crash on Volturnus
- SF1: Volturnus, Planet of Mystery
- SF2: Starspawn of Volturnus
- SF3: Sundown on Starmist
- SFAD5: Bugs in the System
- SFAD6: Dark Side of the Moon
- SF4: Mission to Alcazzar
- SFKH0: Warriors of White Light
- SFKH1: Drammune Run
- SFKH2: Mutiny on the Elanor Moraes
- SFKH3: Face of the Enemy
- SFKH4: The War Machine
TSR did a good job in publishing the modules in order of increasing power level. The exception being the two modules developed by the UK group (SFAD5 & 6) that only require PCs with a power level a little less than Mission to Alcazzar. I’m sure if more modules had been published, they would have bounced around more but their initial offerings were spot on.
The Grand Campaign
In my mind, all these adventures take place, and in some cases, trigger, events in the Second Sathar War. In any case, they have to occur after the First Sathar War as the PCs know of the existence of the sathar even in the first Volturnus adventure which they wouldn’t if it occurred before the first sathar invasion.
I also see the SWII as a much longer and more protracted affair than the First Sathar War with the sathar trying to undermine the UPF and Rim systems and infrastructure before the actual invasion. This can be seen in the Detailed Frontier Timeline I’m working on and will be reflected in some of the side adventures here. While the PCs may not be involved in any of the major military conflicts of the war (especially at the beginning of the campaign), those events will be happening in the background and the PCs may find themselves in the aftermath.
We begin the campaign by running though the three published Volturnus adventures.
SF0: Crash on Volturnus
Since the original boxed set included the Crash on Volturnus module, that is where we will start. This module assumes brand new PCs with 0 XP. I always tell the players to not spend any of their initial funds on weapons and that they will be issued weapons as part of the start of the adventure. And then in the introduction I let them choose a weapon and tell them that it is placed in the weapons locker on the Serena Dawn. That way they aren’t really penalized for the game fiat that their weapons are destroyed.
In my game, there are quickdeath on Pale from the sathar invasion during the Great Sathar War. While the PCs may know of their existence and have seen pictures, they probably haven’t seen one in real life as they have been mostly hunted and controlled. Thus the presence of the quickdeath in the Ul-mor ceremony should be the first clue to the PCs that sathar have been on the planet in the past and may be still here.
SF1: Volturnus, Planet of Mystery
This module follows directly from the events in Crash on Volturnus and so the characters continue in their struggle to survive and escape Volturnus. If all went well, the PCs will have picked up 18 XP in the previous module and added a couple level of skills.
In this adventure they deal with the pirate threat on the planet and discover the larger sathar history and current presence on the planet in the form of the artifact. In my universe, the Star Devil pirates are partially supported by the Pan Galactic Corporation. If you want to provide that level of detail, the PCs can notice that most of the equipment the pirates have are PGC models and not Streel ones, even through Streel headquarters are on Pale in Truane’s Star, the nearest star system to Volturnus.
Another change I make to this adventure is in ending 1. If you want (as we do) the PCs to play through the next module in the series, I don’t feel that 2 weeks is enough time. Some of the tasks in the next module can take two weeks all by themselves. I tend to leave the time frame vague, i.e. “Attack on planet eminent”, or give it a month or so. Additionally, I want the UPF ships to show up right after the fighting starts and I don’t feel that two weeks is enough time to get any ships assembled beyond the Truane’s Star militia and get them to the Zebulon system.
The PCs can pick up another 18 XP in this adventure.
SF2: Starspawn of Volturnus
At this point the PCs have collected 36 XP and are probably level 3 or 4 in their primary skill and have a smattering of others. This adventure consists of a series of mini-quests to do something of benefit to each of the sentient species on Volturnus to convince them to join in the fight against the incoming sathar attack.
My players always like the Great Game of the Ul-mor and have a fun time trying to win. My last group, which happened to be my kids, managed to no only win the game, but do so without a single of the PCs being knocked off their mount.
The retrieval of the Sacred Idol of the Kurabanda is the part of the adventure that could potentially take the most time as part of the travel is through the wilderness on foot or by vehicle. If they drive all the way there it’s a several day journey each way. If they fly, they have to make the last part of the trek on foot which can take a few days, and if they happen to get caught in one of the blasts while flying and crash, they have a several week trek back without their vehicle.
The module ends with the massive Battle of Volkos, where the PCs pit themselves and the various species of Volturnus against the invading sathar hordes. Regardless of whether the PCs win or lose the battle, I have the UPF fleet arrive as the land battle is winding down and drive off the Sathar fleet. If the PCs win the ground battle, shuttles from the UPF fleet can safely land and possibly take the PCs back to Truane’s Star. If they lose, the UPF fleet is a naval force only and doesn’t have ground troops to fight off the surviving sathar army. They will radio back to the Frontier, but it will be some time before ground forces can be assembled and brought to the surface. The PCs will have to hold out until then.
I described the composition of both the UPF and Sathar fleets in last week’s Battle of Zebulon post. If you have players already familiar with the Knight Hawks rules, you could run this battle as an evening’s session. There are a lot of ships, so it takes a while if you use the advanced rules as I did.
The PC’s can earn up to 15 more XP from this module bringing their total up to 51 XP.
After the Modules
As the last module suggests, there are a number of other things the PCs could do on Volturnus before leaving. I have the UPF sticking around for a while after driving off the sathar so they can get transported home at any time if they do decide to have a few more adventures on planet. Possible endeavors include:
The Devil’s Lair
In Frontier Explorer issue 7, I detailed a small complex that is the personal hideout of the Star Devil when visiting Volturnus. I leave clues about the existence of this hideout in the computers of Slave City one for the PCs to discover. The Star Devil isn’t in the system at the moment, but the PC’s can clear out the hideout and learn more about the Star Devil’s operations. This small adventure is worth another 3 XP.
Eorna Defense Installation
In Frontier Explorer issue 2, Jim Young detailed a ruined Eorna Defense Installation. The PCs could have noticed it while flying back and forth recruiting the species for the war or maybe found mention of it in the Mound of the Mechanons or the Eorna Archives. The article provides two different scenarios for the location’s use depending on the background you want to use. This would worth another 3 XP if successfully explored.
Eorna Lunar Defense Battery
Jim provided another location, this time on Volturnus’s moon, in issue 3 of the Frontier Explorer. If you plan on having a Knight Hawks component to the game, you could have the PCs find a way here before the sathar arrive and use the fighters in the base in the battle (which is a bit of bending of the standard rules) or you could have the UPF forces discover the base and send the PCs in to investigate. The fighters discovered could form the basis of the Zebulon system’s initial militia forces. This could generate the PCs another 3 XP.
Lizard Head Rock
A long time ago, I did an entire complex under Lizard Head Rock, a location suggested as a possible adventure at the end of the module. In my teenage years, this complex housed another species, even older than the Eorna, in a large, active, and hidden society. If I were to use it today, I’d redesign it (I was obsessed with the confines of a single sheet of graph paper) and make it ruins instead of an active area, but it still would make a fun little exploration dungeon crawl. The Yernoids in the area are a primitive version of the ancient race. Depending on how big you make this, it could be 3-6 more XP.
Finally, they could track down sathar survivors, another adventure hook suggested by the module. Spacefleet doesn’t have the personnel and the native species are drifting back to their homelands. It’s up to the PCs to clean up the pockets of sathar still sticking around. If the PCs really are in to this, it could go on for a while but assuming they only do a small number of these roundups, they could earn 3-9 XP depending on the number, the complexity, and how generous you are with XP.
Returning to the Frontier
There are a number of events that could happen once the PCs return to the Frontier from Volturnus. At this point, assuming you’ve done some of the additional adventures on Volturnus, the PCs should have between 60 and 70 XP.
Tracking down the Star Devil
Information collected on Volturnus provided clues to the Star Devil’s operations in the Pale system. By the time the PCs return, the Pale government has identified the location of a small Star Devil Operation on New Pale. The PCs are sent to investigate and shut down the operation, capturing the staff if possible. This should be worth another 3 XP.
Council of Worlds
If your players want to get involved in some political wrangling, you could have them summoned to Gran Quivera in Prenglar to testify before the Council of Worlds as to the events on Volturnus and the state of the species there. Because of the Sathar, the Council of Worlds is interested in the events in the system.
In my game, the Battle of Zebulon (the space battle) and the Battle of Volkos (the ground battle) are the opening shots of the Second Sathar War. It takes a while for everything to get going but the loss at Zebulon jolt the sathar out of their complacency towards the Frontier and cause them to step up their activities.
The PCs are the Frontier experts on Volturnus at the moment and their words could have far reaching impacts for the future of the planet and the species living there, as well as the Frontier’s response to the sathar. This should be worth another 3-9 XP depending on how involved you make it. It also gets them part way across the Frontier where they could be recruited for the next module SF3: Sundown on Starmist.
That gets us through the first three modules with the PCs earning around 70 XP (possibly a bit more) from the modules and side adventures. In the next installment, we’ll look at the rest of the Alpha Dawn modules and supplementary adventures that will get them to the spaceship skills and ready for the Knight Hawks adventures.
How have you strung the modules together? Have you added in additional adventures on Volturnus? Share your experiences in the comments below.