Backgrounds – Rooting Player Characters in the Setting

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by Tom Verreault

I developed these backgrounds for an entry level adventure I wrote for the Star Frontiers game. I’ve always been a fan of the Yazirian Clans article of Star Frontiersman #8, because that article tied a player’s character to a specific planet and rooted him to a specific location in the setting. I felt that it would be good to expand this to have backgrounds for all the player character species across the map of the Frontier.

What follows is general player character backgrounds developed for the early portion of the Star Frontiers timeline. Some of the backgrounds are tied to specific historical events like the First Sathar War or the Free World Rebellion. If an adventure is set latter in the timeline, these backgrounds may need to be modified. For example if the time frame is post Second Sathar War, the “Legacy of the Sathar War” background will be about that war and not necessarily tied to the planets mentioned.

One of the neat features of the Yazirian Clans article is that it gave a small benefit to the player character and I’ve incorporated that feature into these backgrounds. A player may use the yazirian backgrounds below and roll on the clan tables of the Yazirian Clans article but he does not gain any material benefit of the clan’s article. The purpose for rolling on the clan table is purely for generating a clan name and symbol. At the referee’s discretion the benefit from the yazirian clan tables may be allowed.

Example: Yazirians from the Kuegla clan of Hentz begin play with a musical instrument; this is not a significant item of starting equipment and thus could be allowed. However, yazirians from the Gorlia clan of Hentz gain a bonus to their battle rage and it would not be appropriate to allow this benefit in conjunction with the yazirian background benefits listed below.

Some backgrounds confer a skill that does not match with any Alpha Dawn skill or PSA. These skills can be advanced by paying two times the skill level desired in experience points and are treated as in PSA. Finally the backgrounds below only reflect the Alpha Dawn Frontier map due to the time frame in history that it was developed for.


Mixed Race Colonies

Mixed race colonies (Triad, Outer Reach, Gran Quivera, and Pale) cause exposure to other languages and cultures. Choose one: (A) character can fluently speak or understand the language of one of the other races or (B) character has a deep understanding of one other race’s culture and gains +15% bonus when dealing with that race as well as a +10% bonus to their wage when being hired by that race. Note: the vrusk vocal apparatus cannot form words in any language but their own and the other races cannot pronounce the vrusk language so if this situation applies the character only gains understanding of the language not the ability to speak it.

Legacy of the Sathar War

Due to how the populations of Truane’s Star and Dixon’s Star suffered from the depredations of the sathar they have an intense hatred for the worms: +5% to melee attacks against the sathar and their creatures.

Yazirian Heritage

A yazirian character may come from a very traditional family and is steeped in his or her heritage. Choose one: (A) a level of skill with the honor weapons (the zamra and the kha’dan), or (B) roll on the Yazirian Clans tables from Star Frontiersman #8. Note any yazirian can roll on the clan tables regardless of the colony they’re from and thus may represent a yazirian who has immigrated to another colony.

Religious Yazirian

Yazirian society is dominated by the Family of One religion which is headquartered on Hentz in the Araks system. There is some resentment by yazirians from other colonies over the heavy handedness of this organization. Choose one: (A) two levels of theology and a +10 bonus when dealing with Family of One clergy, or (B) keeps a miniature domesticated wyvole pet (see below) as a statement of defiance against the Family of One.

Clanless/Outcast Yazirian

The clanless and outcast exist in yazirian society and occupy the lowest social strata. The yazirian word for outcast is ‘gak’ and it is also synonymous with feces, as in a piece of feces that one might accidently step on. There is a pronounced tendency for these yazirians to live in mixed race colonies away from yazirian dominated society. Choose one: (A) -5% reaction from other yazirians but +10% bonus to reactions from the other core four races, (B) -20% from the clan that cast him out and -10% from all other yazirians but begins play with double the starting money. Note: with option B the clan that the character is cast out of must be determined.

Yazirian Orphaned at Birth

Orphaned at birth and raised by another race, this yazirian does not know his clan or heritage and culturally is more like his adoptive parents. This character begins play with a side quest to discover his clan. The referee must determine which clan or create one as well as create opportunities for the character to discover his heritage over the course of play. The player may suggest a starting background benefit for the referee to approve and/or the referee will provide a starting benefit linked to the secrets he’s created concerning this character. Note that this background is possible for other player character races with some adjustments.

Dralasite Culture, Inner Reach

Dralasites from Inner Reach paint their bodies in washable dyes to show their mood for the day. The rival planet in this system is a mecca for pirates and crime. All dralasites from this colony begin with a collection of dyes and a brush or two. Choose one: (A) two levels of artist skill with paints and dyes (may attempt to create works of art for extra money in between adventures as per the rules in the article, “Artisan Skill PSA” in SFman #9), (B) +5% melee bonus when fighting pirates or organized crime figures and -5% to reactions from pirates.

Dralasite Culture, Fromeltar system

Fromeltar system is the location of some of the most prestigious dralasite academies. It’s also a system they share with the vrusk. Choose one:  (A) fluently understand vrusk speech,  (B) two levels of philosophy and +10 bonus when dealing with scholars, or (C) a deep understanding of vrusk culture +15% when dealing with vrusk and +10% to wages when being hired by a vrusk.

Legacy of the Free World Rebellion

The Free World Rebellion on Kdi-kit in Madderly’s Star involved the human population evicting the vrusk population. Some atrocities occurred. Some vrusk distrust humanity because of this event; they have a -5% penalty to reactions involving humans but gain +15% to comprehension rolls when observing humans. A vrusk with this background is one of the refugees evicted from Madderly’s Star and now hails from some other colony.

Humans from this colony are prone to prejudicial attitudes against non-humans. The colony has a strong agricultural economy as well as exporting mercenaries. A human from this system can choose one of the following: (A) two levels of Horticultural, Botanical, or Animal Handling skill (see Frontier Explorer #4), or (B) starts with a free skein suit from previous paramilitary training but must have at least 1 military skill (no restrictions on PSA).

Vrusk Business Experience; Resource Development

Vrusk from planets that have a resource development economy like Zik-Kit have an intimate understanding of the mining and the resource exploitation business. Choose one: (A) a level of geology skill, or (B) able to operate mining equipment and machinery as a level 1 technician would. In addition to the prior they also have the ability to make a LOG check while reviewing mining business records and spot problems or inconsistencies.

Vrusk Business Experience; Agri-business

Vrusk from planets that have an agriculture based economy like Ken’Zah-Kit have an intimate understanding of the agriculture business. Choose one: (A) 2 levels of Horticulture, Botanical, or Animal Handling skill or (B) able to operate farming equipment and machinery as a level 1 technician would. In addition to the prior they also have the ability to make a LOG check while reviewing farming business records and spot problems or inconsistencies.

Vrusk Business Experience; Industry

Vrusk from planets that have an industrial based economy like Terledrom or Zik-Kit have an intimate understanding of industry. Choose one: (A) 2 levels of engineering (usually industrial but not starship engineering) or (B) able to operate factory equipment and machinery as a level 1 technician would. In addition to the prior they also have the ability to make a LOG check while reviewing industry records and spot problems or inconsistencies.

Vrusk Business Experience; R&D

Vrusk from planets with major R&D centers like Kwadl-Kit have an intimate understanding of the research and development business. Choose one: (A) 1 level of a scientific skill (physics, chemistry, etc), or (B) owns a referee approved prototype piece of equipment with a small bonus over standard equipment (has degree of miniaturization that either reduces weight, or increases range, or reduces energy consumption). In addition to the prior they also have the ability to make a LOG check while reviewing R&D business records and spot problems or inconsistencies.

Vrusk Criminal Experience; z’nk

The vrusk word translated mafia is z’nk and it was famously (or infamously) used as the basis for the name for the most famous vrusk criminal organization; the Zenk (see Dragon magazine #109). Vrusk criminal trade houses spring up from time to time. They don’t see themselves as criminal just businesses with a more ruthless set of practices. They raise their own young “in house”. When law enforcement dismantles the criminal organization the young are not prosecuted. Their fate is uncertain and some fall through the cracks in society while others end up wards of the state. These experiences can provide an edge for such a vrusk. Choose one: (A) +5% bonus to comprehension ability, (B) 2 levels of knowledge skill tied to the vrusk criminal underground, (C) +5% to PER checks when dealing with bureaucrats and government “systems”.

Note: defecting from a still functioning z’nk organization is very difficult as the organization is likely to eliminate defecting vrusk as a security risk. Its more usual that vrusk with this background were young vrusk at the time of the dismantling of the trade house by law enforcement.

Human Ag Colony background

Ag colonies like Rupert’s Hole, Kdi-Kit, Lossend and New Pale have a tradition of hard work. Any human character from these colonies gains either +5% to STR or STA.

Military Boarding School

This background is usually for a human but could apply to other races. Some families send their young children away to boarding school (not college). Character gains +5 to LDR score.

Gymnastic or Dance Background

This background is typically for humans but could apply to the other races. Parents enrolled the character in dance school or they took dance or gymnastics as an extracurricular activity while growing up and may have performed in major entertainment venues. Choose one: (A) 2 levels of dance skill, or (B) +5% to DEX.

Sports Background

This background is typically for humans but could apply to the other races. Character has spent his life participating in sports and may have played semi pro or possibly even professionally. Choose one: (A) Double starting money, or (B) +5% to RS.

Spacer Background

Some characters spent their lives on ships and stations. Choose one: (A) able to operate small craft like launches and work pods without the requisite skill as a 0 level pilot and gain +10% bonus when they acquire the skill, (B) gains one level of astronomy (not astrogation), or (C) +10% to RS checks in 0g combat to retain control.

Streetwise Background

For human characters in particular, a person that has grown up on the rough side of town in a major city like Port Loren, Prenglar or Port Royal, Clarion has an edge from these experiences. Choose one: (A) +5% to INT or (B) +5% to RS or (C) 2 levels of knowledge skill tied to the criminal underground of a specific planet.

Computer Geek Background

For human characters in particular, when a person grows up plugged into computers or robots they have an edge from those experiences. Choose one: (A) able to perform one sub-skill from the Computers or Robotics skills at one level higher than actual level (must have either Computer or Robotics skills), (B) gain the ability to write an extra computer program (example: can write 2 programs at level 1), or (C) +5% LOG. This background does not make much sense if the character has no technical skills or interest in learning computers or robotics skills