The computer and compter programming information given in the STAR FRONTIERS Alpha Dawn Game were introductory concepts for dealing with computers. In Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space, many more uses and needs for computers are explained. Computers are now categorized into three distinct types: Mainframe Computers (includes personal computers), Specialized Computers, and Personalized Body Computers (Bodycomps). The greatest advances in the Frontier civilization were accomplished through the use of computers. Microcomputerization changed the lives of virtually all members of the Frontier. Bodycomps and progits are readily available and have made vast arrays of knowledge accessible to Frontiersmen of all walks of life.


The mainframe computer is the workhorse of the Frontier. Personal computers and the computers that run starships, space stations, and cities are a vital part of everyday life on the Frontier. All but the largest types run on parabatiers, are portable, and are completely immune to local power failures or surges.

Mainframe Hardware: Mainframe computers come in six different sizes, ranging from Level 1 (home computers) to Level 6 (computers that run space stations and other large installations). Larger computers can run more complex programs and can perform more simultaneous operations than smaller computers. It is not possible to add on to a computer to raise it to a higher level. To increase computer capacity, a high-level computer or several computers of the same level must be purchased.

The mainframe computer, unlike the body computer, comes with its own processor unit. Certain hardware is provided with mainframe computers: monitor, access stations, printer, etc. Additional components can be purchased at increased cost (referee sets the price).


Once the hardware has been acquired, the programs that the computer needs to perform its special functions must be purchased separately. Programs are contained in a maximum programming unit, commonly called a maxiprog. A maxiprog is a 25-cm square by 10 cm thick Johnson Energy Field surrounded by an extremely durable plastic shell. This field holds gigabyte upon gigabyte of information. It is the most stable field known to the techexes of the Frontier and only an anti-matter field can disrupt the information contained therein.

Four blunt plurs are located on one of the large sides of teh maxiprog. These are plugged into a mainframe and the maxiprog immediately interfaces with the hardware and other maxiprogs that are part of the computer.

Maxiprogs are classified from Level 1 to Level 6, the complexity of the programming increasing with the level. The following brief guideline gives the referee some idea of the complexity levels of axiprogs. This is important, as the referee's decision usually determines what level of maxiprog a character or organization needs.


 Level  Maximum Extent of Control
   1    The needs of a single character or small household.
   2    The needs of a large household or small business.
   3    The needs of a medium business or small bureaucracy.
   4    The needs of a large business, a medium bureaucracy,
        or a small town.
   5    The needs of a mega-corp (in one field), a large
        bureaucracy, or a medium-sized city.
   6    The needs of a space-station, space ship, or
        specific field (such as traffic control) in a large


Maxiprogs are available for six different functional areas. A brief description of each area is listed below.

Analysis/Information: This type of maxiprog will perform one of the following functions: information storage, information access, cross referencing, analysis of statistics and facts, language capabilities, coordination of scanners and interpretation of scanner data, etc. Libraries, government information services, and universities use these maxiprogs extensively.

Creative: This type of maxiprog will perform one of the following functions: abstract representation of data, architectural tools and displays, engineering rools and displays, flight and combat holograhic simulation control, data on research and development, data on inventions, and general think tank uses. Military organizations, mega-corp research and development divisions, governmental patent offices, think tanks, and the like use these maxiprogs extensively.

Job: This type of maxiprog will perform one of the following functions: communications operations, robotics management, traffic control and transportation, medical operations, industrial uses such as manufacturing, assembling, packing, etc., and any other specific job function not covered in the other maxiprog areas. Industrial facilities, hospitals, starports and airports, installations, city governments, and the like use these maxiprogs extensively.

Maintenance: This type of maxiprog will perform one of the following functions: life support systems, automatic repair and maintenance on machinery or robots, monitoring a facility for general maintenance, power feed controls (both outgoing and incoming), waste management, and other general maintenance and repair functions. Almost every installation and large facility uses these maxiprogs, as to spaceships and space stations.

Security: This type of maxiprog will perform one of the following functions: defensive systems (internal, external, perimeter, vehicular, etc.), offensive weapon systems, coordination of offensive weapons and defense systems, coputer security, etc. Military organizations, law enforcement facilities, large computer systems, space ships and stations, and the like use these maxiprogs extensively.

Combining Hardware and Maxiprogs: When a character or firm wants a mainframe computer to help with work, security, or whatever, they must first decide what maxiprog functions are needed. Then the levels of those maxiprog functions are determines, depending on the amount of work the maxiprog must do (see Maxiprog Complexity Table). After the maxiprog functions and levels are determined, a sufficiently complex mainframe computer is purchased or rented.

Maxiprogs of different functional areas can be integrated into the same mainframe computer. Only in the larger mainframes do you find an entire computer given over to just one function.

The total number of program levels that a mainframe computer can run is the square of the computer level.

Total Maxiprog
Levels It Can Run

Therefore, a Level 2 Mainframe Computer, which handles up to four maxiprog levels, can either run four Level 1 maxiprogs, two Level 2 maxiprogs, or one Level 2 and two Level 1 maxiprogs. The number of maxiprog outlets that can be plugged into a mainframe computer equals the total maxiprog levels it has (so a Level 6 mainframe has 36 prots). No mainframe computer can run a maxiprog of greater level than its level.

Structure Points: A computer's weight is also its numebr of strutural points. Mainframe weights are listed in the Equipment Tables at the end of this book. Add the weight of each maxiprog attached to the mainframe to find the total structural points of the computer.

Power Sources: Mainframe computers of Levels 1 to 4 are powered by parabatteries of the same level. Level 5 and 6 mainframes use power generators type 1 and 2, respectively. Mainframe computers operate for at least one year before their batteries must be recharged. Power sources do not come as standard equipment with computers and must be purchased separately.

Mainframe Computer Controlled Attacks: Any defensive or offensive weapon or robot controlled by a computer starts on the Level +1 column to resolve its actions. The final attack column is arrived at by adding a +1 Column Shift for every level or Security maxiprogs the computer has, plus any normal combat modifiers. Therefore, a mainframe with a Level 3 Security (Defensive Weapons) maxiprog would attack on the Level +4 coulmn (subject to any normal combat modifiers).

Computer Skill Levels: A mainframe computer does not possess an individual skill unless that skill falls into one of the functional areas of the maxiprog. Much of this is left to the referee's interpretation of the maxiprog's function and level. A good example of this would be a Level 3 Job (Medical) maxiprog. The computer hassome knowledge and skills in the medical field, but would it necessarily contain the Medical Treatment: Radiation skill? A lot would depend on the location of the mainframe and whether the radiation poisoning was a rare or common occurrence there.

As a general guideline, the skills and skill levels are identical to those of the maxiprog's function and level. A Level 4 Job (Communications) maxiprog would have the skill equivalence of Communication Devices: Operate skill Level 4 (though not Communication Devices: Repair; that would require one of the Maintenance maxiprogs).

For more information on mainframe computer security and the use of character skills on a mainframe computer, consult the Skill section of this book.


Strongbox: The strongbox is a plasteel shell that can completely encase a mainframe computer. For each layer encasing the computer, the computer gains 50 structural points. Up to five layers can be added. Though opening are provided for operations and cables, the maxiprog is locked around the mainframe with a lock of Level 5 or greater.


Specialized computers are custom-made for specific tasks. All specialized commputers are powered by a sealed power cell built right in. The sealed power cell can be recharged at most energizing retail outlets at a cost of 100 Credits. The maximum capacity of a sealed power cell is 100 hours. There are four common types of specialized computers: file computers, CACs, lock compicks, and CASs.


The file computer records information. It is programmed for one language. A poly-vox or some other translation device is necessary if the character does not understand the programmed language. The unit is a 15-cm square that is 5 cm thick. It has a voice grid, random location indicator, and back of buttons on one side. It can store a remarkable amount of information in its memory, but all of it must be verbally enetered through the voice grid.

All Star Lawmen involved in criminal investigations must carry a file computer to record testimonies and statements. They are required to enter their files into Star Law's mainframe computers on a regular basis. Thus, Star Law is assured of a complete and up-to-date computer file of all cases being handled.

Most large computers have audio-transfer grids so that information can be easily exchanged with file computers.

Referees may wish to spice up their game by having a file computer found among the ruins of an old civilization or ship wreckage. The information on the ocmputer could be garbled or in a strange language. This should encourage players to seek out language experts or an alien race for assistance in translating.


This extremely important computer is the size of a 20th-century Earth computer keyboard. It comes with various connecting cables, speech synthesizer, and a universal adaptor that can adjust itself to nearly all known computer jacks. This is a standard unit used by nearly all computer technicians for entry into computers that have no fixed access keyboard or voice grid.

The CAC, once connected, adjusts itself to the computer language used by the host computer so the user can interface with it. This is how the computer skills for accessing and operating, bypassing and defeating security, interfacing, displaying infromation, and manipulating or writing programs are attempted when there is no obvious, easy access. Only those characters with the appropriate computer skills can operate a CAC for these purposes.

The CAC can also be equipped with up to four booster programs that assist the user. No more than two of any one type may be used at the same time. Each booster program adds a +1 Column Shift to the character's success rate when using the skill. The available programs are:

Computers: Access & Operate
Computers: Bypass Security
Computers: Defeat Security
Computers: Display Information
Computers: Interface
Computers: Program Manipulation
Computers: Program Writing
Computers: Program Bodycomp

A special CAC for characters with robot skills also exists. Booster programs, with the +1 Column Shift modifier, for these CAC RV (robotics version) include:

Robotics: Alter Functions
Robotics: Alter Mission
Robotics: List Functions


A lock compick resembles a file computer, but comes with five credit card-sized remote broadcast circuit cards. This device is illegal and its possession can bring 5-10 years on a penal asteroid; it is only at the disposal of Star Lawmen on rare occasions. In the hands of a character with the Security Systems: Open Locks skill it can potentially open any card lock.

The broadcast circuit is inserted into the card lock like a normal passcard. Once switched on it emits a changing electromagnetic pattern that will eventually open the card lock. Some machines have a timer security system built within their cardlocks. After 10 or 15 minutes, these machines will retain any nonfunctioning card, securing it for later inspection. This is why five cards come with the copmuter. Extra cards can be purchased, but they cost 1000 Cr each and require a week to attune to the lock computer. The time required to open the lock depends on the color of the passcard.

See the Security items section for further explanation of card locks and passcard.

 Card Color      Time Required
    Grey         1d10 minutes
    Blue         1d10 + 15 minutes
   Green        1d10 + 30 minutes
   White        1d10 + 45 minutes
   Silver         1d10 + 60 minutes
    Red          1d10 minutes + 2 hours
   Black         1d10 hours
 Not Marked  1d20 hours

The referee should secretly roll to see how long the lock compick wil take to open the card lock.


The computeriezed analysis scanner is a highly specialized and sophisticated piece of equipment. It can scan for information, compile the information and analyze it, and then present that information to a character familiar with its functions in a concise readout. Each CAS is covered with microswitchs and small gauges and lights, along with a voice grid that is used for vocal commands and audio replies from the computer.

Limitations on CAS use are detailed in the individual skills that apply to them. For each CAS listed below the referee and players can assume the following:

Atmospheric-CAS: (Formerly vaporscanner) An atmospheric-CAS indicates what levels of radiation, gas, and spores are in the atmosphere surrounding the CAS, what effects they would have on different life forms, and the most likely causes of these atmospheric conditions. This CAS has no skill bonuses.

Chemical-CAS: A chemical-CAS scans an object (up to a metric ton in weight) and indicates what natural an synthetic chemicals and compounds compose it. This CAS adds a +2 Column Shift to the Chemistry skill when used on chemical samples.

Demolitions-CAS: A demolitions-CAS can scan explosives, bombs, or mines within two meters, through all materials except federanium, and indicate what ype of explosive it is, what detonation devices are attached, and give suggestions on how to defuse it. This CAS adds a +2 Column Shift to the Weapons: Demolitions skill when defusing.

Electro-CAS: An electro-CAS is used to scan eletrical circuitry and power sources. It displays how a machine is wired, indicates any breaks in the wiring, and gives suggestions on how to repair it. This CAS adds a +2 Column Shift for the Security Systems: Open Lock skill, if the lock is electrical.

Fauna-CAS: (Formerly bioscanner) A fauna-CAS is used to scan bioforms. It indicates if the bioform is alive, what type of organism it is, whether it is edible, and extensive information concerning its physiology. This CAS adds a +2 Column Shift to the Zoology skill when used on zoological samples.

Flora-CAS: A flora-CAS is used to scan plant life. It indicates if the plant is alive, it is can be a threat to any of the PC races, it if is edible, and how it interacts with its immediate surroundings. This CAS adds a +2 olumn Shift to the Botany skill when used on botanical samples.

Geological-CAS: (Formerly geoscanner) A geological-CAS can scan up to a metric ton of geological smaples. It indicates what minerals the samples contain, whether there are likely to be valuable minerals, gas, or oil deposits nearby, and suggests possible geological and mineralogical difficulties associates with these combinations of minerals. This CAS adds a +2 Column Shift to the Geology skill when used on geological samples.

Magnetic-CAS: A magnetic-CAS can scan up to a metric ton of metallic structure. It indicates what metal and metal alloys are present in the structure, the structure's weak points, strong points, how it reacts to certain stress, etc. It can also indicate whether any sources of electromagnetic radiation are within 10 meters of the CAS, their strength, direction, and likely source. This CAS adds a +2 Column Shift to seismic disturbance analysis when using the Geophysics skill. A +2 Column Shift is added to the following skills when building a device: Engineer: Hydraulic; Engineer: Mechanical; Physics.

Mechanical-CAS: A mechanical-CAS can scan a mechanism up to a metric ton in mass. It can show the internal working parts, cracks or breaks, and give suggestions on maintenance. This CAS adds a +2 Column Shift to the Machinery: Repair and Vehicles: Repair skills. A +2 Column Shift is added to the Security Systems: Open Locks skill if the lock is mechanical.

Medic-CAS: A medic-CAS is used to scan a patient or victim. It indicates the patient's physical condition, diagnoses ailments, estimates time of survival under present conditions, etc. This CAS adds a +2 Column Shift to the Medical Diagnosis skill.

Robo-CAS: The robo-CAS is a unique combination of several different scanners. It indicates a robot's physical conidiotn including suggestions for maintenance, estimated time for repairs, etc. This CAS adds a +2 Column Shift for the Robotics Repair and Robotics: Modifications skills.

Duo-CAS: These units are slightly thicker than normal CAS and can handle two of the functions listed above in one unit, usually in a logical combination such as Electro/Mechanical-CAS. In some instances the referee may wish to modify the bonuses when functions are combined. The cost for a duo-CAS is the combined costs of both CASs plus 20%.