07 September 2017
Fate and Blades in the Dark publisher Evil Hat files for trademark
Star Frontiers, the classic 1980s sci-fi roleplaying game published by the studio behind Dungeons & Dragons, could be about to return – in one form or another.
The game was first put out in 1982 by TSR, the legendary RPG publisher founded by some of the minds behind D&D.
Based on a percentile system that used 10-sided dice, Star Frontiers followed groups of adventurers in a section of a spiral galaxy (similar to the Milky Way) called the Frontier Sector where the United Planetary Federation is in power. The main antagonists in the game’s core storyline were the alien Sathar, which players could battle against as members of the Pan Galactic corporation.
TSR was purchased by modern D&D owner Wizards of the Coast in 1997, and the TSR name was dropped by 2000.
As part of the buyout, Wizards of the Coast also owned the rights to Star Frontiers, but its ownership of the trademark expired on April 17th 2004, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The last update to Star Frontiers was a supplement for the d20 Modern system, which featured a remake of the game retitled to Star Law as one of its sample settings.
Now, Evil Hat Productions, the roleplaying publisher behind Blades in the Dark, the Dresden Files RPG and the ENnie-winning Fate series, has swooped in to scoop up the name for itself.
On July 2nd, the USPTO reports that Evil Hat filed for the Star Frontiers trademark, covering “Role playing game equipment in the nature of game book manuals; A series of fiction works, namely, novels and books featuring pen and paper role playing game elements and instruction manuals” – in other words, an RPG – and accessories, such as “Dice; Equipment sold as a unit for playing role playing games games; Equipment sold as a unit for playing board games; Board games; Role playing games; Tabletop games”.
Before you get too excited, know that whether this new Star Frontiers – assuming the trademark application is approved – will have any connection to the original is unclear, as the trademark only covers the use of the name itself, meaning Evil Hat may instead be planning to create a brand new system and setting.
However, it could be that the studio is ultimately able to use the Star Frontiers setting. Wizards of the Coast previously granted permission for fans of the RPG to release its rulebooks and supplements online for free, potentially opening up the chance for a more fully-fledged full revival of the much-beloved game in the future.
Will we eventually see a Fate-based Star Frontiers? Only time – and the approval of the pending trademark – will tell.