The referee is the most important person in a STAR FRONTIERS game. He runs the adventure; he must know the rules and be able to interpret them when necessary; he must determine the chances and effects of any special actions. The referee must prepare the adventure, get the players started, and then tell the story of the adventure. Most i mporta nt, he m ust make su re that everyone has f un du ri ng the ga me.
If you plan to referee a STAR FRONTIERS game, this sections explains your responsibilities and gives you tips on howtogetstarted. Sections on how to create your own adventures and how to create non-player characters and creatures are included.
How to Prepare for Play
As referee, you have three main tasks when preparing to play:
1. Know the Rules. You must be familiar with all of the STAR FRONTIERS rules. This does not mean you must memorize the rules, but you should know how to use them in play and where to look in the rulebook when players have questions.
2. Know the Adventure. Study your adventure thoroughly, so you know in what order events are supposed to happen. Reviewthe maps so you will know at a glance how the setting changes as the characters move through the adventure. Try to think about how players will react to a situation and how you should respond to their actions.
You may want to make notes about the important points of an encounter and what effect the encounter should have on the players. Then you can describe things to the players in the order characters would see them, and add descriptions that help convey the mood of the encounter. For example, you could make players nervous by telling them, "As you finish cutting through the door hinges, the door fa lls and snaps a power cable. You can't see anything in the darkness, but you can hear a faint shuffling sound coming from the ship's hold."
3. Be Prepared to Make Decisions. Players will try to do things you did not expect, and you must be able to decide what their chances to succeed are and what effects their actions have. Knowing your players' characters, their abilities, skills and equipment will help you make your decisions.
Being a Referee
A referee is many things in a STAR FRONTIERS game. To be a referee you must be a judge, a storyteller, an actor and a leader. The referee's goal is to make the game the most fun for everyone be performing each of these jobs well.
Be a Judge. The referee's job in any game is to ensure that the rules are followed at all times and that everyone is treated fairly, and to settle questions and problems that come up during the game. These are also your jobs as referee in a STAR FRONTIERS game.
Be a Storyteller. The players usually will not have a board or map to study where all of their challenges and choices are visible. Instead, they must make their decisions based on your descriptions of what they can see and hear. You are the players' eyes and ears, telling the basic story, but then letting the players decide which direction it will go by their choices. It is a challenge to tell the players only as much as they need to know to make a decision, but not so much that you make decisions for them. Tell them onlywhat they could see at a glance, and describe things further only if they ask specific questions.
Keep the Game Exciting. Make your story dramatic, with descriptions of an approaching storm, an ancient alien spaceship and the life on alien worlds. Add mystery and intrigue to your story. Not knowing what everyth i ng is or why someth i ng happens wi 11 drive players on in search of the answers. There is excitement in solving a puzzle and overcoming suspense to accomplish your goal. Don't let the game become boring with too much detail. When things start to move too slowly, move the characters on to the next challenge in the adventure. Don't make the players spend a lot of time buying supplies, traveling from one place to another or searching for clues where there are none; tell the players they finish what they are doing to their satisfaction and lead them on to the next challenge.
Play the Extra Characters. The referee acts the part of each nonplayer character and creature encountered. Playing these parts is a good chance to entertain and create fun for everyone. Each character is different and reacts differently. It is your job to determine how each character would react in a situation. Encourage the players to talk to you as if you were the characters they meet and answer them as each would.
For example, the player characters are trying to find someone who might know something about a missing PGC scientist. They want to question several NPCs who were in the area when the scientist disappeared. One is an old woman whose mind wanders and who never quite answers the questions. Another fellow has had too much to drink and wants the players to drink with him. The third is a bully who won't hlep anyone and wants to start a fight. The last is a policeman who warns them that strangers are not liked here; but he does remember seeing the scientist with two people the night he disappeared. You can make up an entire, interesting dialogue as the NPCs talk to the player characters.
Be a Leader. Make sure everyone participates. Give every player a chance to make decisions but don't let everyone talk at once. You might ask the group to choose one player to be its leader. When the players reach decisions, the leader explains their plans to you. This reduces the confusion that can result when everyone talks at once. When characters are acting independently, as in combat, you can ask each player what his character is doing. Make sure no one is forgotten.
Controlling the Adventure
As the referee, you must control many actions during an adventure. You must start the game and control the direction of the story; you must make decisions on special actions, determine any modifiers, decide on non-player character and creature reactions, conduct combat and keep track of time. Advice on handling each of these tasks is given below.
You start a game by telling the players the background of their mission, describing the setting and discussing how much theywill be paid if they succeed. Be prepared to answer any questions and give further descriptions as the players investigate. Let the players make their own decisions and try not to force choices on them. If they make a bad choice or bypass an encouter, Iet them; they may return to the encounter later. What you should try to do is make sure players understand what effects their decisions might have.
Make Decisions. During the adventure you must decide what happens when characters try unusual things, and how likely they are to succeed. This might include deciding whether a building blows up, or if a skimmer is damaged by driving across a rocky field. You may have decided before the game what will happen when certain things are done, or you may have to make a decision during play. Your decisions should be based on what you think would happen in real life. A character who tries to leap from one roof to another may make it, but if he fails he probably will fall and get hurt.
If a character tries an unusual action, you probably can link his chance to succeed to one of his ability scores. Then you can have the player make an abilitycheckto see if the character succeeds in his attempt. If an action can not be linked to an ability, you should just assign a percentage chance from 1 to 100, based on how likely you think the action is to work.
When players ask if they can do something, don't answer them "yes" or ''no." Tell them to try and see what happens. Letting players try anything will make the game more unpredictable and full of surprises for everyone.
Most important, you should make your decisions quickly. It is more important to keep the adventure moving and the players interested than to consider every possibility.
Using Modifiers. As referee you will need to determine how easy or difficult an action is and how this will affect a character's chance to do something. You must use modifiers to reflect the difficulty of an action. If an action is easy you can let the player add 5 to 30 points to his chance of success; if it is difficult, you could tell him to subtract points.
To determine whether a character should get a positive or negative modifier, you can compare the action being attempted to the character's normal limits. For example, a character can leap 5 meters with a running start. If a character tries to leap 5 meters without a running start or with a heavy pack on his back, his chance to succeed should be reduced. If the character is jumping with a strong wind at his back or from a higher to a lower surface, his chance to succeed should be increased.
Your own judgment is very important when deciding whether to assign a modifer, but you always should have a reason for choosing the modifier you assigned.
NPC Reactions. You will need to decide how non-players characters and creatures react to player characters when they are encountered. NPCs should act intelligently and react according to their personalities (are they friendly, suspicious or hostile) and on the basis of what they know and how the characters act. Creatures usua I Iy react according to their instincts and the characters' actions. You may decide ahead of time how they will react or you can decide randomly, using the rules for character and creature reactions in the sections on Creating NPCs and Creating Creatures.
Conduct Combat. Combat will occur many times during the game between player characters and NPCs, creatures or robots. It is the referee's job to see that the combat sequence is followed and that everyone gets a chance to do something. He must also decide whether character's are in a position to attack. Ask players what they aredoingoneatatime, sonoone is missed. It is importantthatyoudo not forget any of the opponents, either; they deserve to have a fair chance. You must keep track of any damage the NPCs and creatures take so you know when they are killed.
Keeping Track of Time. The referee must keep track of how much time character's spend on an adventure. Time effects how much energy gets used, how far characters can travel and how often characters must rest. Time also determines how long characters' food lasts, and how many points of damage they heal. Graph paper can be used to keep track of time. Decide how much time each box represents (6 seconds, 10 minutes, 1 houror 5 hours are convenient) and then simply cross off boxes as the adventure moves along.
AN EXAMPLE OF PLAY
The Pan-Galactic Corporation has hired four player characters to find and capture the leader of a band of space pirates. There is one player character of each race in the group. Their search has led them to a run-down part of the city. Everyone the characters have talked to so far has been unpleasant or gruff. The group is walking down a street toward a cheap tavern, looking for a short, overweight man.
REFEREE: You are about 30 meters from the tavern when you see a short, fat, dark-haired Human wearing a skein-quit. He is across the street, about 25 meters away and moving toward you.
JARDlN (Human): Hey, that guy looks Iike the slug we're trying to find!
YALUA (Yazirian): Let's grab him!
DARTHA (Dralasite): Wait, you two. We're not close enough to see if it's him. This description could fit a lot of Humans.
YTTL (Vrusk): Dartha is right. Let's just keep walking casually down the street until we get behind him. Then we can follow him and see where he goes. I want to watch him carefully, in case he talks to anyone.
REFEREE: He doesn't talk to anyone, but you do notice that he is wearing a red scarf around his neck.
DARTHA: Didn't the other pirates wear red scarves?
YALUA: That's gotta be him! Let's go!
JARDIN: I'm going to go to the right, cut through the alley and try to sneak up in front of him so we can't lose sight of him.
REFEREE: Okay. The rest of you manage to cross the street and get behind the man without him seeming to notice you. You follow him for about 60 meters, and then he ducks inside a restaurant.
YALUA: We'll follow him in.
REFEREE: Jardin hasn't gotten through the alley yet and doesn't see the man go in the restaurant. He'll have to spend three minutes finding out where you went. You walk in the door and know immediately that this is not a normal, law-abiding place. The furniture is shabby. The lighting is bad, so you can't see into the far corners. The customers look pretty rough. When they see you, they stop talking.
YALUA: Never mind all that. Where's the guy we were following?
REFEREE: You don't see him anywhere.
YTTL: Are there any other entrances or exits that we can see?
REFEREE: There's a back door directly across from the entrance where you're standing.
DARTHA: Okay. Let's check it.
OTHERS (all together): Right!
REFEREE: As you approach the door, two very large Yazirians step in front of you and lean against the door. They are looking at you with nasty smirks on their faces. One of them has one hand hidden behind his back.
YALUA: Is he holding a blaster?
REFEREE: You can't tell. Do you want to draw your weapon?
YALUA: Not yet.
REFEREE: The Yazirian with his hand behind his back says [with a sneer) ng, gruff voice], "Well, lookee what we got here. A dumb bug, a blob and one of our big, bold brothers. You fellas wouldn't be looking for someone, would you? We don't like nosy people in here."
DARTHA: What are the other customers doi ng? How big is th is place?
REFEREE: The restaurant is about 9 meters wide and 18 meters from front to back. You are standing about 2 meters from the back door. There are about 20 customers in the place. Most of them have gotten up and are heading for the front door, but five of them are slowly forming a ring around you. (toJardin): You arrive at the front door now.
JARDIN: I'll sneak in while the customers are leaving.
YALUA: It's a trap. I'm going for my blaster!
REFEREE: Okay. Roll for initiative...
The referee then shifts to combat turns, and the players resolve the fight.
Pay and Experience Points
Pay. At the start of each adventure, player characters will be hired to undertake a job. Before accepting a job, characters will want to know how much they ar. going to be paid. You, as referee, will have to decide.
Pay should depend on the skills of the character and how much danger they will face. Characters with high skills earn more, and dangerous jobs pay more. Payment is given as pay per 20-hour day (10 hours of work). The typical work week is five days of work with three days off. One way to determine how much to pay is to pay 10 credits per level of skill per day plus 10 to 100 credits per day depending on the danger. You probably should pay no less than 20 Cr/day and no more than 500 Cr/day.
Pay does not have to be just credits. You may agree to pay for medical care, or you could provide equipment with the understanding that characters get to keep it when they finish the job. You should always provide free transportation to the starting point of the adventure.
At the end of an adventure, the characters will return to their employer to collect their pay. You Shouid pay them according to their degree of success, paying less if they failed to complete an important part of the mission, or paying a bonus tor excellent work or delivering more than was expected. In this way, you can use pay to encourage players to complete a job. Remember that half ot their pay should go to cost of living. If a character is unemployed during any week, he can find a job that will cover his cost of living and give him an adciitional 5 Cr per week.
Experience. A character learns things and improves himself through his experience on adventures. At the end of an adventure a character gains experience points (XP) which he can use to raise his ability scores, to gain new skills or improve old skills.
The referee awards experience points at the end of an adventure or evening of play, based on how well the person played during the adventure. This reward encourages good play. Experience points are awarded for accomplishing each goal of an adventure. A character who survived but did not contribute anything to the group's success should receive only 1 XP for that goal. If a character accomplished his job and nothing more, he should receive 2 XP for the goal. If a character did an excellent job or contributed greatly to the group's success he should receive 3 XP for the goal. On the average, player characters should be receiving about 3 to 7 XP each during an average evening of play. The referee should never award more then 10 points for one adventure.
Be a Good Referee
A good referee never tries to beat the players, but tries to create exciting challenges for them to overcome. You must match these challenges to the abilities and resources of the player characters. If the challenges are too easy, players will lose interest. If they are too hard, player will be frustrated and no one will have fun.
Be fair when you make decisions, and treat all characters the same. You must be flexible; if players are having a hard time with the adventure or are missing important information, adjust the situation so they still have a chance to succeed.
A good referee takes notes during an adventure. You must remember anything that can affect the course of the adventure: did the characters turn off the alarms on their way in? Have they seen these poisonous trees before? How did they treat this NPC the first time they met?
Is it hard to be a referee? Your ability to be a fair, decisive, thoughtful referee probably is better than you suppose, for you already have a number of tools you can use. You can use your imagination to create interesting events and to deal with unpredictable actions by your players. You can use your players' imaginations too. Listen to the things they say during the game; they might give you some ideas to use later. You can also get ideas from stories you read and movies you see.
As the referee you are the final authority in the game and you can use that authority to make decisions and settle arguments. You also can control the game so that it is fun for everyone; don't let dice rolls decide how the game should be run if it just slows the game. Use your own judgment about what is fair. You can use your knowledge of how things happen in life to help you make decisions about the game.
As referee you also control how the characters will be re`.varded, and you can use rewards to encourage good, thoughtful play. If they succeed through good decisions, you can give them extra experience points or a pay bonus.
Remember that you have a major advantage over the players. You know everything there is to know about the adventure and just why something happens. The players know only what their characters have discovered. You can use this knowledge to create mystery and to make fast decisions when your characters do something unexpected.
Finally, a good referee tries to make the game fun for everyone.