Taking A Look At The "New" POD Versions of Star Frontiers And The D&D Rules Cyclopedia
  • Taking A Look At The "New" POD Versions of Star Frontiers And The D&D Rules Cyclopedia


    With the rise of PDF and POD (print on demand) publishing powering more role-playing publishers, one thing that I have advocated for a while now is that there is really no longer much of a reason for games to go out of print. Today I am going to look at the new POD versions of Star Frontiers and the D&D Rules Cyclopedia available via the OneBookShelf sites.


    I will note that the biggest reason why older games are not available would be rights issues. In cases where there are rights issues due to legal reasons, it is understandable that games are no longer available. As a critic, it makes me sad, but I can understand it.

    I picked up both of these books at the same time from OneBookShelf. The preview image is a picture I took of the Star Frontiers book. I got them in softcover because writing about role-playing games doesn't pay that well. I tend to prefer getting my POD books in softcover anyway because I find that I have few issues with their binding over time. Living in Florida you have to take the fact that most of the time we have ridiculously high humidity into consideration with your book purchasing. As you'll see in the picture comparing the thickness of the POD Rules Cyclopedia to the one that I bought back in the day, you're going to start getting some curling regardless of how well you take care of things.

    The physical stats of these books are pretty good. Both of these books used the Standard Heavyweight paper, so the paper had a good heft to it. Because of this, the POD version of the Rules Cyclopedia is actually thicker than the original book that I bought when it was initially released (and I have been lucky that the binding issues that plagued a lot of people with the original edition were spared from my copy). The Star Frontiers book is black and white, with full color maps and scans of the original chits from the boxed set in the back of the book. The Rules Cyclopedia is two color, black and green. The leafy page element at the bottom of each page has green in it, and the tables use green for its shading. The maps in the back of the Rules Cyclopedia are also full color. If you want table usable versions of the big map and chits from Star Frontiers, I would really suggest getting the PDF and taking it someplace where those pages can be printed on cardstock (for the chits) or a large format printer (for the maps).


    Really, the main benefit to having these books available in print again, via POD, is so that they can be experienced by newer or younger gamers who hear about these older editions, but can't find them because they are out of print or go for extravagant prices on places like eBay. I think that it is always as good of an idea to know where gaming has come from as it is to know where it might be going.

    This will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I wish that Star Frontiers had been available in book form previously. It takes up a lot less room than my older boxed set, and is easier to protect.

    Of the two books, the print quality of Star Frontiers is the better of them. But, this is probably down to a scanning issue. Star Frontiers was a set of black & white booklets with nothing but text and line art to scan. The scanning of the Rules Cyclopedia had more screens and gradients to deal with, which would make scanning more complicated. The Rules Cyclopedia is still readable, but the printing in Star Frontiers is crisper in both the POD book and the PDFs that are up on the site. Some pages of the Rules Cyclopedia are better than others (the less complex pages were an easier scan I would imagine than the pages that were table heavy).


    The covers of the two books are laid out differently than the originals, more so with the Star Frontiers book than the Rules Cyclopedia. The logo for the Star Frontiers book prominently features "The Original" atop it. The cover layouts for both books seem to have been designed with an eye towards salability. Hopefully this means that OneBookShelf will get into selling their wares at conventions. I remember RPGNow having a booth at Origins years ago offering up POD versions of a few of their more popular PDF offerings of the time (perhaps the only time some of these were offered in print).

    Would I have picked these up if I hadn't had wanted to write about them here at EN World? Most definitely. I already have a friend who wants me to run a game of Star Frontiers now that I have this book. I might end up taking him up on that. I will definitely default to using my new POD version of the Rules Cyclopedia, and not press my luck that the binding on my originally might finally implode. I haven't run a game using the Rules Cyclopedia in a long time, but it is one of my favorite versions of Dungeons & Dragons (even if it doesn't have any devils and demons in it), and it would be the retro version that I would be most likely to run now. The nice thing about having this book available in print, and why I would like to see the compilation edition of the Basic and Expert books for Dungeons & Dragons compiled by Tom Moldvay, is so that I can use the actual games with people who have never played them before, rather than someone else's interpretation of those books via retroclones. The early editions of D&D have their own warts that should be experienced, rather than the smoothed over versions of them reconstructed through open content and the OGL. The rise of POD and PDF publishing in gaming makes this possible, even if it makes the producers of retroclones obsolete.

    With Steve Jackson Games getting the rights back to The Fantasy Trip, I hope that we will see the classic game available again in PDF form. Knowing the history and how a game has developed over time helps to better inform criticism of where the game is at in its current form. I would like to see the early editions of TSR's post-apocalyptic Gamma World released back into the world, just like Wizards of the Coast is doing with these PDF/POD releases, and like how they have started to do with the old Amazing Engine game line. The Moldvay Dungeons & Dragons B/X books in an official combined edition (like how they combined the materials of the Star Frontiers box into one book) would be nice, too. I would buy that, and I'm sure that I wouldn't be alone. The new Chaosium has slowly, but surely, been releasing PDFs of the old Runequest 2 books, and seeing some of these in POD would be great too.

    There is a lot of role-playing's rich history that is ripe for rediscovery and reissuing. There are, admittedly a good number of stinkers among the early role-playing games, but I think that we can learn from the low points as well as the high points in game design.
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. Skywalker's Avatar
      Skywalker -
      Photos of the interior pages would have been appreciated.
    1. StarFrontiers's Avatar
      StarFrontiers -
      The cover of the Star Frontiers book is actually an exact replica of the cover of one of the 3 versions of the boxed set. It actually wasn't laid out differently at all.
    1. Tranquilis's Avatar
      Tranquilis -
      “The rise of POD and PDF publishing in gaming makes this possible, even if it makes the producers of retroclones obsolete.”

      Oh, really? Wishful thinking on your part?

      I wouldn’t worry about that too much. The genie is out of the bottle (and has been for almost a score of years). Nothing can undo that, nor should it.
    1. Achan hiArusa's Avatar
      Achan hiArusa -
      I don't need POD copies of either as the originals are both on my book shelf.
    1. Skywalker's Avatar
      Skywalker -
      Quote Originally Posted by Achan hiArusa View Post
      I don't need POD copies of either as the originals are both on my book shelf.
      IME if you actually play them, PODs provide a nice way to preserve the originals whilst still having copies for the table. And its great to allow players to grab their own copies if they need them
    1. EthanSental's Avatar
      EthanSental -
      I picked up a Hardback of the cyclopedia to replace my worm out original, along with the softback Creature catalog. Nice scan on the creature catalog and as Chris mentioned with the Cyclopedia, some pages better than others but overall a good print.
    1. closterphobia's Avatar
      closterphobia -
      I'm involved in a Star Frontiers campaign right now. We bought four of the hardcovers and the quality is a lot better than I feared it would be. The pages aren't glossy but the paper is nice and thick and will hold up against the beer I will end up dripping into it at some point. The best part though is mentally time-travelling back 30 years (roughly) to when we first played several session of this game in between AD&D sessions.
    1. Hussar's Avatar
      Hussar -
      My nostalgia gland is so kicking into overdrive. I really, really want to play Star Frontiers again.
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      I wonder about a reboot of the franchise mixing it with Star*Drive (Alternity Settin) because with a tittle you will miss races and factions from the other.

      In the right hands, a old and almost-fogorten fantasy or sci-fi franchise could be a true gold mine. Let's remember the blockbuster transformers movies, for example, or the marvel superheroes before and after "Blade", the famous dhampyr vampire-hunter.

      But sciecie-fiction is a genre what get old very soon, and this is the reason some sci-fi writters now would rather writting tittles of fantasy.

      * What if I wish to create a mixture of Star*Drive, Star Frontiers and Spelljammer?
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      Quote Originally Posted by StarFrontiers View Post
      The cover of the Star Frontiers book is actually an exact replica of the cover of one of the 3 versions of the boxed set. It actually wasn't laid out differently at all.
      Not in the copy I have, which is why I made my comment.
    1. vpuigdoller's Avatar
      vpuigdoller -
      I got the POD hardcover of Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn, the other Star Frontiers book (Knight Hawks) is also available in print on demand as is one or two of the adventures. I love the quality of it, to be honest, I was really surprised with the quality of the product.
    1. Cameron Guill's Avatar
      Cameron Guill -
      I bought both as pdf and POD. My print copy of Rules Cyclopedia has sections that are so blurry that they are almost unusable. They actually give me a headache if I try and read more than a paragraph or two at a time. The problem doesn't seem to be an issue in the pdf, so I am working with them to try and get the issue resolved. They have been good in the past, so I have faith the issue will be resolved.

      I was glad to have a new copy of the RC so I don't have to wear mine out even more taking it to a gaming table or using it for conversions. The SF is new to me. I never got a chance to play it years ago, so maybe I can get it at a table sometime in the near future.
    1. StarFrontiers's Avatar
      StarFrontiers -
      Fair enough. I thought there was a problem with the Knight Hawks cover too (I have the hardbacks) until I noticed that there were different box covers. I happen to have one of each of both of those. My Alpha Dawn box looks just like the cover they used on the books (I have the original non-pink one as well).
    1. Darren Richardson's Avatar
      Darren Richardson -
      I think there was several editions of Star Frontiers, which is why it looks different to some people, I have the 1980 purple box set and Alpha Dawn isn't referanced once on it, I'm more interested in weither or not it cames with the 'Crash on Volturnius' module?

      This is an example of the edition I have https://goo.gl/images/GSnvES


      Here's an example of the later edition https://goo.gl/images/NQnPPz
    1. vpuigdoller's Avatar
      vpuigdoller -
      Quote Originally Posted by Darren Richardson View Post
      I think there was several editions of Star Frontiers, which is why it looks different to some people, I have the 1980 purple box set and Alpha Dawn isn't referanced once on it, I'm more interested in weither or not it cames with the 'Crash on Volturnius' module?

      This is an example of the edition I have https://goo.gl/images/GSnvES


      Here's an example of the later edition https://goo.gl/images/NQnPPz

      Yes the module Crash on Volturnius is included.
    1. closterphobia's Avatar
      closterphobia -
      As vpuigdoller said, yep, it comes with Crash On Volturnus. That module, the basic and expanded rules, and if you feel like cutting up the book there are also counters and a few colour maps.
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      Quote Originally Posted by closterphobia View Post
      As vpuigdoller said, yep, it comes with Crash On Volturnus. That module, the basic and expanded rules, and if you feel like cutting up the book there are also counters and a few colour maps.
      Or just buy the PDF as well, and print them out onto some cardstock.
    1. closterphobia's Avatar
      closterphobia -
      Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Helton View Post
      Or just buy the PDF as well, and print them out onto some cardstock.
      Yep, the way to go for sure. Our GM had the PDFs before we had the books, so he was able to get decent maps printed out before-hand.
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      I've had the Rules Cyclopedia PDFs for forever. I picked up a bundle of them and Gazeteers on a special a year or so ago.
    1. closterphobia's Avatar
      closterphobia -
      Not that I would hack up my book, just being cheeky. There's books I've had 30+ years, read multiple times with nary a spine-crack (I'm a little anal that way.)
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