Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn is the original published rule-set for Star Frontiers. It was developed under the working title Alien Worlds and first published in 1980 as the "blue box" set, then republished in 1982 as the "magenta box" set, with the addition of "Alpha Dawn" to the title. Since then, it has served as the foundation for all other Star Frontiers rules up to Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space, where the line was discontinued.
In 2007, a 154-page fan-made version of Alpha Dawn was released to the internet by Bill Logan. This version of Alpha Dawn is mostly the expanded rules, with parts of the basic rules, the Crash on Volturnus module, and some house rules added in. The artwork is a mix of the classic Star Frontiers art, with whole new fan-made art and layout.
- STAR FRONTIERS adventures take place in an area of space called the Frontier Sector, or simply The Frontier. The Frontier contains 17 inhabited star systems, with a total of 23 colonized planets. Some of these planets have been claimed and settled by only one of the four races, while others were set up in cooperation and have mixed populations.
- Besides these settled areas, the sector contains 21 unexplored star systems that could have habitable (or inhabited) planets. No one has explored the routes to these stars for navigational hazards, so no one knows whether these stars even have planets. Even the settled systems are not fully explored. There are many moons, asteroid belts and uninhabited planets that are largely ignored in the day-to-day business of earning a living in the Frontier. These areas could hold lost alien treasures or rich deposits of precious metals and gems.
- Because they are isolated, these spots quickly become hiding places for outlaws and space pirates. Many of the settled planets themselves are not fully explored. Most have been mapped by spaceships and satellites that take pictures from orbit. Very few have been explored on the ground. When adventurers travel more than a few hundred kilometers from a settlement, they are entering an area where very few people have ever been. They could be the first people ever to cross that land, or they could be walking in the footprints of a race that built a civilization and then collapsed, leaving its relics to be discovered centuries later.
- It’s a frontier waiting for discovery and adventure.
At the core of the rule system are ten-sided dice — called a "d10". Most tasks require players to roll percentile dice (d00): one die for "tens", and a second die for "units." In this case, the player needs to roll equal or less then the percentage (or Attribute score; see below) to be successful. Likewise, damage uses d10s, with powerful weapons allowing attackers to roll more dice for damage.
Characters get eight attributes (core stats used by all characters, and almost universal to most role-playing systems), that are grouped in pairs: STR/STA, DEX/RS, LOG/INT and PER/LDR (see below). Each pair is rolled together to get an equal result, which is then adjusted by race, and the player has the option to lower one slightly to raise the other in equal proportion. The attributes (including "derived stats") are as follows:
Strength (STR) is a measure of how strong the character is. A character with a low Strength score is scrawny and weak, while a character with a high Strength score is very strong. Strength can be used to determine if a character can preform feats of raw strength (lifting heavy objects, braking stuff, wrestling, etc.), and it can adjust one's Punching Score.
- Punching Score adjusts one's unarmed and melee weapon damage rolls. It is equal to one-twentieth (1/20) of the character's Strength, round up to nearest whole number.
- Melee Weapons is the base score of one's accuracy with unarmed and close-quarter combat. It is equal to half your character’s Strength or Dexterity (see below) score, whichever is higher. Having the right Military skill can raise this by 10 per level of skill. e.g. Having Martial Arts skill of 3 would add 30, if the character is engaging in unarmed combat.
Stamina (STA) measures a character's physical fitness and general health. A character with low stamina will get tired easily and will be prone to injury and disease, while a character with high Stamina could work hard all day without getting tired, and might never be sick a day in his life. Stamina also measures how badly a character can be wounded before he passes out or dies.
- Current Stamina this his how much damage a character can take before dying or passing out. It is much like Hit Points for Dungeons & Dragons, if a character's Hit Points is equal to his Constitution score.
Dexterity (DEX) measures a character's coordination. Character's with low Dexterity scores are clumsy, while characters with high Dexterity scores are very agile. Dexterity is very important in combat, as it serves as the base for determining one's weapon accuracy.
- Melee Weapons (see above)
- Ranged Weapons is the base score of one's accuracy with unarmed and close-quarter combat. In the basic rules, it is equal to the character’s Dexterity score, at it uses no skill system. In the expanded rules, it is equal to half your character’s Dexterity score, whichever is higher. e.g. Having Laser Weapons skill of 4 would add 40, if the character is firing a laser weapon.
Reaction Speed (RS) measures the quickness of a character's reflexes. If a character with a low Reaction Speed is attacked suddenly, he probably will fumble with his weapon and react slowly, while a character with a high Reaction Speed could draw and fire a weapon quickly, jump out of the way of falling boulders, etc. This sore serves as the base for a character's Initiative Modifier.
- Initiative Modifier (IM) adjusts a character's initiative roll: d10+IM. Rolling high means being able to act quickly and before anyone who rolled lower. It is equal to one-tenth (1/10) of the character's Reaction Speed, round up to nearest whole number.
Intuition (INT) measures a character's alertness and ability to draw conclusions from what seem to be unrelated facts. Characters with high Intuition scores are more likely to solve problems by having hunches or making guesses than by carefully considering all the evidence.
Logic (LOG) is a character's ability to solve problems in an orderly, step-by-step way. It is the opposite of Intuition. Characters with high Logic scores make good scientists and computer experts.
Personality (PER) measures how well a character gets along with other intelligent beings. Characters with high Personality scores are friendly, pleasant and persuasive, while those with low scores may be grouchy and hard to get along with.
Leadership (LDR) measures a character's ability to give orders that other people will understand and obey. It also measures how willing other people will be to work for the character, take his advice or follow him into a dangerous situation.
There are four races to choose form: Dralasite, Human, Vrusk and Yazirian. The Sathar are limited to NPC antagonists, but their stats are given along with the core races. Each race comes with their own strengths and weaknesses in the form of attribute adjustments, and special abilities unique to each race.
Although absent from the basic rulebook, the expanded rulebook features a skill system. There are 13 different skills that characters can learn. These 13 skills are organized into three Primary Skill Areas (PSAs): Military, Technological and Biosocial. During character creation, the player chooses one Primary Skill Area for his character, which is a permanent career choice of the character. The player then chooses two skills for his character. One skill must be from the character's PSA, but the other can be from any PSA, and both are level 1 in experience. Any skill chosen that is within a character's primary skill area costs half the normal amount of experience points to progress then to the next level.
Each skill provides a number of tasks with their own base chance of success (as a percentage), with a +10% per level.
The skills are as following:
Biosocial skills deal with the intelligent races and their surroundings.
- Environmental deals with relationships between intelligent life and nature. An environmental specialist has training in astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, ecology and geology.
- Medical diagnose ailments, heal wounds, control infections, neutralize poisons, cure diseases, wake up unconscious individuals and prevent tissue deterioration. Someone that has Medical skill is called a medic. Medics need a Medkit to use their skill.
- Psychosocial gives a person an advantage when dealing with individuals or groups of intelligent beings. The skill can be used when dealing with any of the major races as well as any other intelligent species one could encounter. Vrusk have a natural talent for this field, do to their Comprehension ability, as Dralasites have a natural edge with their Detect Lies ability.
Military skills deal with combat.
- Beam Weapons applies to electrostunners, heavy lasers, laser pistols, laser rifles, sonic devastators, sonic disruptors and sonic stunners.
- Gyrojet Weapons applies to gyrojet pistols, gyrojet rifles, grenade rifles, grenade mortars and rocket launchers.
- Melee Weapons applies to axes, brass knuckles, chains, clubs, swords, electric swords, sonic swords, knives, sonic knives, vibroknives, nightsticks, polearms, shock gloves, spears, stunsticks and whips.
- Projectile Weapons applies to automatic pistols and rifles, bows, muskets, needler pistols and rifles, machine guns and recoilless rifles.
- Thrown Weapons applies to all grenades and thrown axes, knives and spears.
- Demolitions applies to explosives like Tornadium D-19 (aka kaboomite). Only someone with demolitions skill and a clean criminal record can legally buy or use explosives or detonators.
- Martial Arts makes one a better fighter in melee.
Technological skills deal with various types of machines.
- Computers cover all computer systems and computer programing.
- Robotics specializes in robots. Robots are complex, mobile machines that are designed to perform specific jobs.
- Technician covers machinery and mechanical engineering in general. A techkit is needed for all these subskills except Operate Machinery.
The rest of the rules are geared towards overland travel, personnel- & vehicle-scale combat, creatures (earth-like and alien), and equipment.
Unlike later editions, Alpha Dawn establishes no rules for spaceships operations, nor EVA-based (outside spacecraft) actions, features vary few cybernetics, no psychic abilities, political movements, or any races beyond the established worlds (not counting the modules).
The 2007 e-book offers additional rules for character generation, Edges & Flaws to flesh-out characters, new equipment, a new PSA (Mentalists), sample characters, and simple rules to streamline the skill system. Most of these rules are added to the back of the document under Optional Rules, but minor house rules are added to the main rules as added ideas.
The setting consist of 23 colonized planet within 17 systems, and 30 unexplored star systems. The planets are the home to the Dralasites, Humans, Vrusk, and Yazirians. The harmony of these worlds are threatened with an external menace: the highly mysterious Sathars.
For the most part, each race occupies a pocket within the Frontier Sector, with the central systems, like Cassidine and Prenglar, being major cosmopolitan hubs. These hubs include Gran Quivera, Outer Reach, Pale, and Triad. Dralasites mostly live in northern and central systems of the Frontier Sector, from Fromeltar to Cassidine, but they are found all over the sector in small numbers. They are mostly found at Gran Quivera, Groth, Inner Reach, Outer Reach, Pale, Terledrom (shared with the Vrusk), and Triad. Humans mostly live in the southeast sector (out to Theseus) to the central systems, but it is hard not to any human even within even the most remote system. They are mostly found at Gran Quivera, Gollywog, Kdikit, Laco, Lossend, Minotaur, Morgaine's World, New Pale, Outer Reach, Pale, Rupert's Hole, and Triad. Vrusk mostly live in the eastern to northern sector, and into to the central systems, but they are found all over the sector in small numbers. They are mostly found at Gran Quivera, Kawdl-Kit, Ken'zah-Kit, Outer Reach, Pale, Terledrom (shared with the Dralasites), Triad, and Zik-kit. Yazirians mostly live in the western and southwest sector, and into to the central systems. They are mostly found at Gran Quivera, Hargut, Hakosoar, Hentz, Histran, Outer Reach, Pale, Triad, and Yast. The Sathar live in some unknown reach of space, never specified in any of the books or supplemental materials.
Player characters are assumed to be independent Adventures taking any job they can get with hopes to start their own company. Agencies like the Pan-Galactic Corporation would hire free-agents to handle delicate jobs they cannot be publicly implicated in, or to do important (and often risky) work without having to use their own resources or manpower. Adventures take on great risks but those who are successful can achieve fame and fortune, as well as to experience new worlds and wonders. They often encounter Sathar agents (sympathizers and people controlled though hypnotism) or Sathar attack monsters in plots to take over the Frontier Sector.
Adventures usually takes place on Port Loren, on Gran Quivera, as it offers the setting for urban adventures, Volturnus, as offers the setting for wilderness adventures on an alien world, or in some spaceship (like the PGS Omnicron) as passengers or secondary crewmen.
Supporting Supplements and Modules
- SFAC2 - Assault on Starship Omnicron (Referee's Screen & Mini-Module)
- SF0 - Crash on Volturnus
- SF1 - Volturnus Planet of Mystery
- SF2 - Starspawn of Volturnus
- SF3 - Sundown on Starmist
- SF4 - Mission to Alcazzar
- SFAD5 - Bugs in the System
- SFAD6 - Dark Side of the Moon