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WotC releasing Star Frontiers PDFs on DriveThruRPG

Last week WotC released a few scans of original Star Frontiers materials on DriveThruRPG.  They released the characters sheets for free and the first two modules, SF1: Volturnus, Planet of Mystery, and SF2: Starspawn of Volturnus for $4.99 each.  Since these modules have been available on-line at for years, I thought it would be useful to compare the newly released scans to the old ones.  I originally posted these up as a series of posts on Twitter but thought it would be useful to reproduce them here.

To make the comparison, I purchased the SF2 module as I knew that it had a 2-page map (inside the module cover) that was cut in half in the old scans.  I also compared the character sheets.  I don’t need any of these scans as I still have my copies of the modules I bought as a kid in the 80′s but it is interesting to compare them for those that are looking to get copies today.

Oh, and I should say I’m comparing these new PDFs to the scans of the originals, not the remastered versions available on

With that introduction, here are my thoughts on the scans:

  1. The newer scans are not as crisp on the text. They look just a tad fuzzy when comparing them side by side. You can see JPG compression noise around the font in the new ones, not so much around the old ones.
  2. The new scans have the advantage of being OCR’ed. The old ones are just images. The OCR isn’t great, I noticed several mistakes in the little bits of text I copied out, but it’s pretty good and better than nothing. And they didn’t OCR the text on the back cover.
  3. For the character sheets, the old scan has the advantage that the shading goes to the very edge of the page, just like in the printed version. The new one has a white border all the way around. It doesn’t seem to be just a slightly shrunk version, it seems to be trimmed.
  4. For the module, I’m looking at SF2: Starspawn of Volturnus, specifically because it had a two page map on the inside of the module cover. That was split in the old scans. The good news is than in the new version, it’s a single map.
  5. Cover art is cleaner on the new scans with better colors. You could definitely tell the old ones were scanned from someone’s personal copy.
  6. The new scans put the front and back covers first, then the content, and finally put the map from the inside of the module cover last. The old ones had the covers (and insides) in the order they appear but had the 4 pull out pages (15-18) at the end before the back cover.
  7. The new scans are a little straighter on the page. Some of the pages in the original scans are slightly canted. That may at least partially be a function of age. I know Acrobat straightens pages when it scans them these days, the older software may not have.
  8. The margins are a bit more regular in the new scans. Sometimes the pages in the old one are a bit off center. Also, the boxes around the boxed text are thicker in the new one but that’s probably related to the font being thicker and fuzzier too.
  9. The new scans preserve the grayscales of the interior art better but the lines are crisper in the old one.
  10. The files sizes are smaller for the older ones. But that only ammounts to about 2.5MB for the module. It’s 7.2MB for the character sheets but the new scan has all 36 pages while the old one only has 20 (It doesn’t repeat the character sheet as many times).
So that’s it for the comparison. Overall, the new one has a lot of advantages (OCR, uncut map, and better art reproduction). However, for just reading the text, the old scans win hands down. The fuzziness of the new ones are just hard on my eyes.
While only the three products have been released so far, DriveThruRPG has said that more on on the way but have not given a timeline.
As a personal opinion, based on the timing of this release, I suspect this is partially due to the fact that Evil Hat Productions has applied for a trademark on the name Star Frontiers.  We’ll just have to see how it plays out.

Categorised as: General | Review

One Comment

  1. Tim N says:

    Thank you for the comparison. I had created those .pdf’s years ago with WotC Legal team’s permission. OCR wasn’t great back then, and I haven’t had much call for updated ones. I know when I had taken down the .html versions, I was “yelled” at. Those took me days upon days to type those in manually.
    When scanning in the .pdfs, I had to make them as exact to the originals as possible – including typos, and everything — that was what the legal team asked of me at the time.

    Tim N.
    aka Zane M. Cole – WDC Ranger

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