Here's an excerpt of the Introduction chapter text for FrontierSpace RPG. We thought some of you would enjoy it, as it helps set the stage for the types of adventures to be had. Comments welcome :-)
Within these pages, you’ll see the word “frontier” mentioned a lot. This is intended to help give you a specific feel. A frontier feel. As interstellar cultures go, your setting might be as diverse as you can imagine. But it should have a certain atmosphere to it – a feeling that characters are alone against the universe, exploring and encountering and being challenged and succeeding (and sometimes failing).
In a frontier setting, resources are never what they could be. You’re always rationing your character’s bullets and food. The medic will run out of medicines and other provisions long before your characters run out of ways to get hurt. Innovation and creativity are what makes characters succeed in a frontier.
The frontier is a place of action and adventure, and it is way bigger than just your characters. This should also be part of the feel of the setting. As opposed to fantasy settings where players become the movers and shakers of a fantasy realm, in a frontier setting there are many worlds with many movers and shakers all their own. Your characters are important to the story – and can make a difference in a major way – but they are just a few people doing what they can… small fish in a great big sea.
A frontier is deadly. Just as earlier settlers in the American West had to face animals and other dangers intent on causing them harm – so too must players guide their characters through danger. Players should always be aware that the threat of dying out in the frontier is real, and it should be a real fear that they may end up food for alien scavengers, lost and forgotten.
A frontier is dirty. Spaceships are held together by the inventiveness of the mechanics and technicians who work on them. The frontier isn’t clean cut with sharp corners and crisp technology, perhaps with the notable exception of the decadent region of Galactic Federation space. The characters should find themselves with dust on their boots, stuffing oily rags in life support ducting to keep it from venting precious oxygen into space. Many vehicles and buildings are industrial-looking, designed for function rather than form. This is not to say the frontier is boring or without its luxuries, but players should get a vision in their minds that spaceships are just big vehicles, weapons (even the energy ones) get scratched and dented, and a life in the frontier is not necessarily a clean one.
A frontier is isolated. Characters don’t flip on a computer or television and instantly see what’s going on dozens of light-years away. Signals take hours to days to get from one place to another, while people and cargo takes days to weeks. Information is important and carefully guarded, but not instantaneously accessible. Characters should feel isolated out in the frontier.
The frontier is vast. Although spaceships exist and can travel faster than light, travel of this nature is not quick. Days or weeks can pass while your characters are out in the great vast blackness of space. Maneuvering and docking can take minutes, not seconds. Slipping into orbit around a planet takes hours, not minutes. Space is vast, and the frontier feel helps keep it that way. In a frontier feel, time is not always your friend. You will appreciate the scale and scope of the setting while you fear the fast-paced nature of the danger that lurks there.
The frontier is alive. People push on against adversity and defy the obviousness of their limitations. They live their lives doing industrial or laborious work for corporations and governments. They huddle around spaceports and try to seek passage to the next system. They fight and they love and they die… but above all else, despite the vastness, despite the isolation, despite the dirt and dust and danger… the frontier is alive. And that makes it worth fighting for.