Last year I rediscovered the little red notebook bearing the title, “Star Frontiers Book” that dates back to the very early 1980s – probably 1982 or 1983 because we played the game as soon as it became available from TSR.
For some reason today my mind has been drifting back to the contents of that book, which includes a series of hand-written character sheets for 34 characters all written up by me. Amusingly, there is even a character whose name is my name.
Here are two characters in longer full-page format from page two and three:
I can’t remember much about the rules of Star Frontiers now – I’ve not played it in more than 30 years – but I do remember the characteristics were percentiles and that I loved the feel of the game a very great deal.
Looking at examples of the short-form characters – which form most of the book – it is nice to reflect on how little I needed to have written down to play the game.
I remember that I was focused on making cool characters and playing them in the universe of the game. I remember Volturnus and our crash landing there. I remember encounters with the evil Sathar. I remember loads of details about the encounters and stories that arose from play. I don’t remember the rules.
Perhaps the fact that remember the world, the characters, and the stories that arose is because I wasn’t focused on the rules. I was focused on the adventures we were sharing as a group.
Knowing what I do about cognitive learning theory, I know that what we focus on and think about tends to be what gets remembered. It’s interesting to me that games from nearly 40 years ago in Star Frontiers are more memorable than sessions I played in February. Perhaps it’s because nowadays I spend more time focused on and thinking about the rules.
You see, I remember these characters. I don’t remember what all the numbers on the page mean… but I do remember some of the key moments during the games I played back when I was a kid. What’s interesting is that my memory of the stories shared is inversely proportionate to the knowledge I had of the game system at the time of play.
I wonder how it might feel different if I was able to let go of focusing on the game rules – as a player – and instead just spent time thinking about my character and the shenanigans the party gets up to in my next session. If we could somehow focus on what matters – which to me is the emergent story and learning about the world – perhaps I would enjoy the games of today as much as I did the games of 1983.