Friends, what games do you typically think about when someone mentions TSR? Most assuredly Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson’s Dungeons & Dragons, maybe Marvel Super Heroes, The Awful Green Things From Outer Space, Indiana Jones, Gamma World, or even Top Secret? All of those are fantastic picks from the company from their wide selections of role-playing and board game titles – and while I do immediately think of D & D myself, I also think of one other game. That is their science fiction role-playing game entitled Star Frontiers which was originally released back in 1982. While most assuredly not as popular as Dungeons and Dragons or even the likes of the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game – TSR at least made sure that there was a commercial for Star Frontiers!
Of course… there is more than a small possibility that this could have been a TV commercial for Star Frontiers but I wonder if it was intended as an in-store sales tape instead. My history with that particular role-playing game was tied into my High School days – while the game had been out for some time at that point – I thought it might be great to get a role-playing club formed. The problem is that even thinking of having Dungeons and Dragons in such a club automatically got the death sentence – so those of us that wanted to create said club thought perhaps Star Frontiers would be more easily accepted. I had an appointment with the vice-principal during lunch to make my proposal for a role-playing club – making sure to bring along the Alpha Dawn box set for him to look over… and as soon as he saw it was a TSR product he shot me down in flames. If I recall correctly his words were as he handed the box set back to me – shortly after I had taken a seat to make my pitch:
“I see no academic merit or benefit of this role-playing club you are proposing, Vic. The school will not approve any such club where TSR might be involved – TSR games are also not to be played on campus, even during your lunch break or in the library.”
Which is of course totally why I immediately started running Star Frontier campaigns during lunch. We were crafty about it… we hid the rule books, character sheets and such in another role-playing game – that was 1985’s DC Heroes by Mayfair Games. Because what could be more innocent than a bunch of kids playing the likes of Superman and Batman, right? During one lunch our vice-principal made sure to check that we weren’t playing a TSR product – to be fair we did also play DC Heroes, thankfully when he did his inspection we happened to be actually using that product – so instead of character sheets showing Vrusks, Dralasites, or Yazirian races it was the Martian Manhunter, Batman, and Red Tornado.
I have a lot of good memories about being a referee for Star Frontiers – I’ll probably devote one of the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast to that game. What I have no memory of ever seeing is this 1983 commercial for Star Frontiers which you can check out below – did any of you happen to see this before?