Welcome back to Card Catalog where we are taking a look at TSR’s Star Frontiers from 1982. Another of the intriguing species available in Star Frontiers is the Vrusk – an insectoid like species with eight legs, two arms, a carapace, and mandibles. At some point, every party needs an Engineer and I thought that the Vrusk would be a good way to introduce the technological components here. While Kratog has familiarity with some ship systems, and Jorgein is well suited to planetary science, someone needs to hang upside down in the engine room and beat on the housing with a wench until it works. Streel V’orz Untisp wins that role.
I am also going to advance all the Star Frontier characters with about 50XP to show how you can optimize your chances or enrich your character as built.
For Star Frontiers, you roll a percentile which is converted to a starting attribute score for four pairs of attributes that start equal in rating. For Jorgein, I rolled 21; 41; 74; and 55 which results in starting scores as follows:
- Strength/Stamina 40
- Dexterity/Reaction Speed 45
- Intuition/Logic 55
- Personality/Leadership 45
The Vrusk are a bit more nimble than humans and so they receive a +5 to their DEX/RS Ability and a corresponding -5 to their STR/STA. Next, you can trade up to 10 points between the pairs, and I like the idea of a slightly clumsier Engineer so I will swap 5 points from Dexterity to Reaction Speed and also have him not quite as much of a Leader as a nice guy, so I will trade a whole 10 points from Leadership to Personality. This results in the following statistics:
- STR/STA 35/35
- DEX/RS 45/55
- INT/LOG 55/55
- PER/LDR 55/35
Vrusk have two special abilities worth noting. The first is their ambidexterity which prevents having penalties based on off hand use but doesn’t allow more actions per round. The Second is Comprehension which allows a Vrusk, the very communally oriented and hard working species they are, to discern patterns and relationships between sentient creatures. This begins at a 15% and may be raised with experience.
I’ve already mentioned that Streel V’orz will be acting as an Engineer for the Bodaz G’lunk so it should come as no surprise that his Primary Skill Area is the Technological Skill Area. That means that Jorgein will have a discount or reduced cost to buy skills and skill levels of the Technical Area’s Skills. The obvious thing to start V’orz with for a skill is the Technician skill but for his second skill, I am going to start him with Robotics – wait, I didn’t mention the robots? This was 1982, so the Robots originally described are somewhat complex and run on what can best be described as Space Fantasy BASIC and they are all over the place. They have complexity ratings from 1 to 6 which corresponds to how advanced their programming and functioncs can be from the Level 1 really smart automatic washing and waxing the floor robot to the Level 6 manufacturing facility brain with the ability to analyze market trends and change based on economic conditions what is being manufacured. In Zebulon’s Guide to the Frontier Vol. I, TSR added a potentially playable new species of sentient AI robots who were also in a likely antagonistic role taking over for the Sathar. I think V’orz tinkering is as likely to be a drone or robotic tinkerer and use those repurposed robots in a combat or adventure as he is to get into the thick of things himself.
V’orz will be a female Vrusk and we have already noted that Vrusk are ambidextrous. I am leaving equipment for after I spend the 50 advancement Experience Points!
The great simplicity of Star Frontiers is that there are only two places for a character to spend experience points – abilities and skills. The Abilities can range up to 100 and are a simple 1 XP for 1 Point expenditure. Straightforward and because the skill checks are percentile based easy to understand what your investment nets you. Skills are bought per level, from 1 to a maximum of 6. Non-human characters can also spend points on their special abilities, but those are purchased just like the Abilities on a 0-100 scale and a 1 for 1 improvement rate.
The most important improvement will be getting the Technician Skill to Level 3 for a total of 20XP and also moving the Robotics skill to level 2 for another 8 since those are within her Primary Skill Area. I am also going to use the House Rules we mentioned in Kratog’s write up where the Spaceship Skills are their own PSA instead of a steep buy-in to add a Level of Spaceship Engineering for 10 more XP bringing us to a total of 38 of the 50 XP spent thus far. This means that he and Kratog can argue over who is fixing the ship correctly and Kratog can try to tell V’orz what to do for an odd couple like relationship.
Now I am going to look at equipment, weapons, and defenses … which I may not pay too much attention to the cost because it’s a lot more fun just to get them outfitted. Also, the ship is under the Captain’s control with a Charter Letter with Streel Corp. as a reminder.
V’orz does not have any real weapon abilities because I am going to have him act like a pet class character using robots as drones and sending them into battle for her. I am going to give her an Electric sword, as Swords in general have a bonus to hit in Star Frontiers and I like the idea of a giant bug wielding a buzzing and humming electrified sword. It appeals to me on some visceral level.
For defenses, Star Frontiers provides two “slots” – a suit and a screen. Each type chosen will shield the character from incoming damage of a particular type and eventually need repair or replacement. Because I am giving V’orz several thousand extra credits to equip some custom robots and drones, I am going skimp on the defenses to pretend that the campaign was balanced. A Skein Suit provides for a bit of protection against physical and inertia based attacks. See our previous discussion of the way that these defenses work in the Captain’s section.
Before we get to the Engineers technical kits and other equipment, we need to make and design a few robots or drones that V’orz has for general purpose help and for combat. Robots are given a brief section in the equipment chapter of Alpha Dawn but in it’s fashion provides a great deal of flexibility for Star Frontiers players and GMs. There was not an expansion on what the robotic design rules entailed, even after the Mechanons were introduced as a potential opposition and replacement for ubiquitous Sathars in Zebulon’s Guide. First, a few low Class robots who are more or less glorified shop vacs, in fact one of them is pretty much just a shop vac with an AI attached that performs a cleaning duty, while the other is more of a filing and organizing sort that puts all the tools away and organizes things every night.
In Vrusk, Klatuu which translates as “Buster”, is a Standard Body Type Level 1 Robot with no special programs or modifications – just a vacuum hose and a body cavity that can be emptied of the wet or dry refuse.
Barada, translated as “Guster” , is a Standard Body Level 2 Robot with a pair of Heavy Duty extra limbs to assist in the organizing and a hover mode to reach those hard to reach spots. Barada also comes along with the extra kits and carries things for V’orz in the field. Aboard the Bodaz G’lunk, it is little known that Barada also has a Restraint Program so that it can use those same arms to hold down an unsuspecting intruder and a Self Defense Program to return attacks
Nikto, translated as “Duster”, who is a Class 4 Anthropomorphic, well Vruskopomorphic, Combat Drone. Nikto has Self Defense, Arrack/Defense, and Search & Destroy Programs that allow it to function almost independently when released on V’orz’s foes. As a Vrusk shaped robot, the extra anthropomorphic limbs have also been purchased. Importantly, Nikto has multiple weapon systems to use so that V’orz doesn’t have to worry about it. Niktop has a built in Sonic KNife and a Needler Pistol which has a port to change between barbed and anesthetic needles. Finally, Duster is usually carrying a Streel Co Laser Rifle to round out the weaponry and is sheathed in its own Albedo Suit to reduce Laser damage.
V’orz has little else in the way of gear and often is a bit of a burden on her teammates with a lack of survival gear. You would think she would have figured out how to pack that but she always seems to be spending her credits on Nikto’s repairs.
For the Vrusk, company is often all there is. Until you reach a level of success where life consists of quietly drinking tea and appreciating art strewn about a well apportioned home, the Vrusk will work for their companies with an unqualified loyalty. This is the life that Vorz Untisp knew until recently.
Streel Vorz Untisp, then Prosperity Vorz Untisp, went to work for the Vrusk Mutual Prosperity Company shortly after coming of age. Her parents had a fine life, and had made a fine living so she saw them retire and find the Vrusk life of contemplation. SHe saw it and aspired to it quite quickly. Unlike some of her classmates, Vorz Untisp was not a revel. She was not a unique thinker. She was Vrusk and she would serve a company well.
She was, however, a tinkerer. It was not long before her parents would click their mandibles in a quietly appreciative way as Vorz was working on Klatuu. It may seem odd for a financial institution like the Greater Vrusk Mutual Prosperity Institution to need a technician and scientist fiddling with robots over a computer programmer, but the VMPI was expanding and was undergoing a change. Like many of her classmates, she was recruited straight from school into the VMPI, a Conglomerate that was prestigious over and above the others and the trade houses – it was Vrusk community ascendant!
Sadly, the VMPI became nothing more than a subsidiary of Streel. Or perhaps it may be better noted that Streel had the foresight to acquire the VMPI early in their Corporate War strategy to better recruit the loyal and talented Vrusk within its ranks. Regardless of whether it was good or bad, the VMPI was no more its own conglomerate as it stretched too thin in the Corporate War and couldn’t fend off a hostile takeover from Streel when their resources ran low. Other species may be different, but for the Vrusk, it was a few minutes of soul searching before rededicating their lives to their company. The promise of a quiet and contemplative life paid for by a fully backed Streel Co. Pension smoothed the transition, and for V’orz saw few changes initially to her duties.
Slowly, but surely, her workload increased, and her Department grew. In Streel, there were more robots and more machinery to repair – she was needed. She rose a bit in the ranks to middle management with an infectious personality but she never showed the talent for leadership that would allow her to naturally rise in Streel any further. Then new opportunities arose! V’orz had kept an eye on the job listing internally – who knew when something might come up! And something did! A Chartered Ship needed crew and the Streel Corp. wanted employees on the ship as it set off to explore.
Streel V’orz Untisp and Captain Bodaz had an immediate bond! As women coming up to make names for themselves, and leaving their family name in the background, they shared how they got ahead in their respective fields. V’orz was the new Technician for the Ship, one who can complain to Kratog he is doing it wrong, one who can tinker with the systems, and one who brought with her a trio of engaging and entertaining robots. Her biggest question right now is the mystery of the Ifshnit Clan Abene! Jorgein has not been entirely truthful about his past, but as long as he continues to work in the efforts of the Streel Corp., V’orz has little to say. For now, her antenna have been raised as she looks more closely into his background and history.