Getting Started Guide
DISCLAIMER: This is not a tutorial for a specific map or captain class. It should help most Captains understand the basics of Star Traders Frontiers, but will not cover everything that is found in the game. If you choose to play on a difficulty with Perma-Death (Good on you!), it will not keep you from dying, but that's ok, because death is really the best teacher. Lastly, this guide is going to pretty much ignore the story. That's not saying you can't try to use it alongside the story, there just won't be any reference specifically to it here. And, if you really want to enjoy the story, it might be good to try out a few test Captains first, because learning all the ins-and-outs of STF and trying to save the galaxy at the same time could just cause your head to explode.We won't spend a lot of time on character creation and all that. It's pretty self explanatory. The one thing you may want to do as a new player, is use a Captain with a high Experience rating (Level A, B or maybe C), this will give you more talents to work with out of the box. So let's assume you've made it through character creation and map generation and read through all the story stuff and now you find yourself sitting in your ship above a system, wondering what in the galaxy you're supposed to do. Though there are story elements in Star Traders Frontiers, at it's core it's a big sandbox game, which means you're given a wide latitude to do whatever you want, or at least whatever you're capable of doing with the resources that you have.
- 1 Money
- 2 Crew
- 3 Take a Mission
- 4 Flying is Fun (if you don't die)
- 5 I though this game was about Trading?
- 6 Smooth Operator
- 7 I thought this was about fighting other ships?
- 8 Reputation Management
- 9 Endless Horizons
Money[edit | edit source]
One of the most important resources that you have is credits, cash, dineros, yen, that stuff. You'll see your current credits listed at the bottom left of the screen and, depending on your difficulty, you might have quite a few or just barely enough to keep you alive for the next couple of days. Regardless, you're going to need those for lots of things, like paying your crew, buying gas for your ship, paying for trade permits, fixing your ship, fixing your crew, buying stuff to sell for more credits, keeping your crew happy, improving your ship, keeping your crew from throwing you out the airlock (yeah, your crew likes your credits quite a lot), buying ranks and edicts and quite a few other things. So the first rule of Star Traders Frontiers is, Don't Run Out of Money! Seriously, you might not be able to die on lower difficulty settings, but you can still end up broke in a Starport without enough credits to fix and gas your ship. So while getting lots of money may or may not be your ultimate goal, making sure you don't run out of it is probably something you should be worried about right now. On higher difficulty levels, it's not always possible, but a decent goal early on is to keep a cushion of about $20,000. Don't spend that on upgrading your ship or meeting exotic new contacts or buying trade goods unless you're making a very short trip through friendly territory. Eventually you'll want to keep a cushion of $50-100k to recover from a bad combat or as operating reserves for long missions or big trades.
Crew[edit | edit source]
You're probably wondering about how to make money then, we'll get there, but first we need to talk more about your crew (while they talk about how to separate you from your money). Your crew are your second most important resource in the game. Let's face it, traveling around space in heavily armed metal tubes powered by hyper drives is inherently dangerous and you can't do it alone. So, one of the first things that you should do is to look at your crew.
Frank talk about skills[edit | edit source]
You'll get to the Crew Screen using the "Status" Button (lower rightish), so hit that now. Actually, you're not at the crew screen yet, but let's stop here before going any further. You should be looking at a picture of your ship and a listing of all it's statistics. On the left you'll see some blue bars that represent certain skill pools of your ship. If you look at a line you'll see something like "Pilot [22/16]" then a colored bar and then a percentage. In this case followed by the number "138%." To break these down; "16" is minimum pilot skill needed to fly your ship. That number can be changed by upgrading ship components, but that's not really important now. "22" is the number of total Pilot Skill Points provided by your crew. In this case, your meeting your need for Pilot Skills. That "22" is calculated by adding all of the pilot skills of all of your crew together. What's important to know here is that you don't ever want to be below 100% on any of these skills. You will be severely punished in the upcoming tests if you fall below 100%. You might also want to know that anything up to 200% will also help you (though not as much as the original 100%) but anything over 200% is wasted. So as you get going it's important to monitor these. If you're low, you can recruit the appropriate crew type at most Spice Halls to top up your skill pool. Your crew is also contributing skills to other pools which are found in the third column from the left starting with "Repair." These skills are important as well, but don't have to be balanced with ship components in the same way.
Back to Crew[edit | edit source]
So now that you know something about skills, lets look at your crew. Use the "Crew" Button on the bottom center-left of the Status screen to get there. Here you'll see a list of all your crew members, beginning with your Captain, followed by your officers, on down to your lowest Crew Dog. When you get started, your Captain and Officers should be ready to level up (you'll know this because they'll have the little golden chevron marker next to their image). They will each have one job at the moment, some job points and possibly some talent points to spend. Most of the time, you will start with three officers who will be a Doctor, a Quartermaster and an Engineer. Officers are unique because they can have up to three jobs, while regular crew can only have a single job. Officers will also get more job and talent points to spend. So first, let's spend those job points you have. To keep this simple here, instead of leveling up existing job, let's give each of your Officers and Captain a second job. Click on one of them. Top-rightish there will be a button that says "Train Job". Click on this and you'll see a list of possible jobs that they could cross-train into. The jobs we want to add are Doctor (or Combat Medic if added to the existing Doctor), Smuggler, Pirate and Merchant. Feel free to look at the officers and their stats and see if any of them might have skills that would fit with any of those particular jobs. At the moment, however, it's not ultimately important who gets what job. If your Captain already has one of these jobs, either pick another one or just increase the level of the job he or she has.
Along with levels in jobs come talent points to spend and each Job offers unique Talents. Once you've assigned your extra jobs, go ahead and look at the talents screen for each of your captain and officers. Early on, with the jobs that you've chosen, you're going to want to get a few key talents. For your Doctors (or Combat Medic) get Medical Staff and or First Aid. For your Merchant get Market Confidant and Wise Counsel if you can. For your Pirate get Icy Stare. For you Smuggler get Hideout or Cunning Slip, or both if you have two talent points. Use any other talent points as best as you see fit. If you don't have enough talent points, get the preceding talents the next time they level up. We'll get to why these things are important soon.
If you want, feel free to take some time to look at the rest of your crew. To start off, with you should have a pretty balanced load of basic crew that will meet all the skill requirements of your ship. You'll notice that they have different traits, some positive and some negative. You'll notice their attributes as well. Attributes are not as important for regular crew as skills, though they do help determine things like Morale and Hit points. As the game progresses, your officers and crew will continue to level up and gain talents. Allocate these as best as you see fit, giving special attention to getting a good number of the skill save talents early on. But now, you're probably getting eager to start flying and making money.
Take a Mission[edit | edit source]
There are numerous ways to make money in STF, but one of the surest ways, especially early on, is to do Missions for your Contacts. Along with cash, missions also provide you with Reputation with your contact and his or her faction and they will also increase your contact's influence, allowing them to offer you better services in return. So the first thing you need to do is find a contact. You should have a few in your starting quadrant. Go ahead and get back to that first screen you were looking at with your ship above a planet (this is known as the Quadrant Map by the way). If you look around at the different systems you might notice that some of them have a little round, orange icon with three people on it. That tells you that you have a contact in that system. You can also use the Contact Button (lower-leftist, blue with those same three people), to see all of your known contacts and learn more information about them.
Click on the Contact Button and bring up the Contact Screen, if you haven't already. On the left is a picture your contacts, their name, contact type, faction and your reputation with them. Clicking on each one will bring up more detailed information on the right. Look through your contacts and find the closest one that offers missions, which is one of the first things listed on the right. There may even be one at your starting system. Once you've found one, click on the "Action" on the top left and select "Set Waypoint" and return to the Quadrant Map. Whether you have a contact at your starting system or not, you want to go into orbit around it. This will tell you zone stats, which will be very important later on when we get to trading. Normally you will auto-enter orbit when you arrive at system, but if you don't, like now, just click on your ship over a system and you will go into orbit. If your contact is at that zone, go ahead and click on the "Land" button below the zone name (if there are multiple zones, look for the one with the orange contact icon on it). If you contact is not at that zone, use the "Back" button (bottom right) to get back to the Quadrant Map. Since you've already set the waypoint, all you need to do is hit "Navigate."
When you get to the zone with your contact, they will be displayed in the lower left corner. Clicking on them will bring up all the services they offer. Look for the box that says "Missions" and click on it. You can read the text there, then click on "Mission" in the "Proving Your Charter" box. A mission offer will appear on the left. Clicking the "Mission" button again will give you another mission so you have some choice about what to take. With more reputation a contact will offer you more missions to choose between and you'll also be able to take more than one mission at a time. Unless you're following the story, you will be offered some pretty easy delivery missions at first. Look at the offered missions and then use the "Actions" button on the top left to take one of them, if you there is a "Return Shipping" mission choose this one.
Completing missions is pretty straight forward, especially these early ones. When you get to where you're going there will be a Mission tab on the bottom left of the screen very similar to the Contact tab. After taking a few delivery missions, you will probably see some more variety and farther away missions appearing. A few things to note. If a mission involves Spying, Patrolling or Blockading, they will be completed in orbit of a zone. You'll see the same mission tab appear there. Also it's probably a good idea to avoid missions that involve ship combat early on. If you're on a very low difficulty and put your Experience at priority A and Ship at priority B it may be possible, but most of the time it's best to wait until you've upgraded your ship a bit and have a decent reserve of cash for fixing it up.
Missions are just one way to progress in the game, but they are a very good way of doing. There's nothing wrong with focusing exclusively on them, especially if you goal is to be a Hero of one faction or another. You will probably want to specialize your ship and crew for completing certain types of missions. In STF, there is nothing preventing one type of Captain from taking another types missions, so as you play it's important to read the text and take note of what skills are being tested. If there is a type of mission you prefer, build up your skills and talents in that direction.
Flying is Fun (if you don't die)[edit | edit source]
Deep Space Events[edit | edit source]
So taking a Mission is going to require flying around the quadrant a bit. One of the first things you'll notice as you fly is the scrolling Event Log near the bottom right. Perhaps surprisingly, flying around space is pretty dangerous. Pipes burst, reactors overheat, micro-meteors and non-micro-meteors pummel your ship, tempers flair, orders are questioned and eventually chairs get thrown and then somebody raids the weapons locker and it's all over. That scrolling log gives you some insight into all these things and how your crew is dealing with them. So the second rule of Star Traders Frontiers may be, Pay Attention to the Event Log and Adjust Your Crew to Pass Those Tests!. Every time you fail one of those tests something bad is happening to your ship; it is being damage, crew are being wounded or killed or they are losing morale. This is why we spent time talking about skills above and many of the Talents we chose were to give us auto-saves to pass those tests. So as you fly around, watch the log and pay attention to what you're not passing and also what auto-save talents you're relying on most heavily. Ultimately, you want to get your crew to a place where they never fail a test. As your crew levels, adjust their skills, jobs and talents to get what you need to pass those tests. You may even need to upgrade your ship components to help you build a strong dice pool to do it.
Ship and Crew Management[edit | edit source]
There is already a good guide to Crew Management which gives a lot more detailed info than will be provided here, but let's look at the basics. All that flying around, not to mention any other activities you engage in are going to take a toll on your ship and crew. They will be damage and injured, maybe even killed or worse than that, your crew may get unhappy through low Morale and abandon the ship when you land or even rise in Mutiny against the Captain. The good news is that most of these can be corrected if you pay attention to what is happening and give adequate attention to your crew. Keeping an eye on the Status Bar will let you know when it's time to give your ship and crew some TLC.
Zones (planet locations) provide services you will need to patch up ship and crew, but not all zones provide all services so you will need to get familiar with those little white circles by each zone. From top to bottom they are Fuel, Repair, Doctor and Spice. If the circle is empty, the zone does not offer this service. Fuel and Repair are accessed through the Starport once landed. These obviously will keep your ship happy and in good shape. Doctor and Spice are provided at the Spice Hall. It is important to note that HP and Morale, which can be recovered at the Doctor and and by spicing respectively, are limited by certain ratings which you can read more about under Spice Hall Services. This matters because if you are visiting planets with very low Spice or Government ratings you may not be getting maximum HP or Morale recovery, thus setting yourself up for more problems as soon as you fail the next event test or enter combat.
Spice Halls are also the place to recruit new crew members. As crew members die or desert, or you increase your crew capacity you can look here to hire many of the basic crew types. Not all types are available from all planets so you may need to look around find just the right crew. More specialized crew may also be recruited from various contacts. If a contact offers certain crew this will be listed in their description in the contact menu. It is very important to recruit if the Status Bar is indicating that you are understaffed on certain skills, which can happen easily if you lose crew early. If these indicators appear proceed to the nearest zone to make sure you are 100% staffed.
Encounters[edit | edit source]
While you are flying around space, you're likely to bump (metaphorically we hope) into other space fairing ships. Most of them are much like you, a Star Trader pursuing whatever ends they have chosen as a means to greatness and glory. Many of them will be relatively peaceful, but for some of them greatness may included robbing humble merchants or scuttling enemy faction ships (have you made any enemies yet?), or maybe that's your definition of greatness? Either way, when you encounter a ship a screen will appear with various options. First, next to flag of the quadrant owner, will be a description of the ship, it's type and faction and then it's hostility rating. Type and hostility ratings are going to determine the options you have in a given situation. You'll see that their initial hostility will be modified by various factors including the quadrant owner, the enemy captain's faction and possibly quadrant rumors.
When you're just getting going it's important to know that STF combat can be very brutal and unforgiving. This is no side-scroller where one hero plows through legions of enemies. The enemies in STF have parity with the player, so it will take some serious strategy and focus to make fighting profitable. Early it is best to avoid fighting when possible. So if you have the option to Acknowledge that is great (this requires positive rep with the other faction). If you have the option to retreat, that is good to. Depending on enemy ship type and faction retreating may cause minimal rep loss with them. This can often be avoided by bribing the opposing captain, but you'll have to decide what's more valuable your rep or your money. You may also have the option to surrender if you are facing captains such as Military Officers, Pirates or Bounty Hunters. I can be painful to hit surrender, but it's pretty important to figure out how to do that early on. Fighting every ship you come across instead of surrendering is a recipe for disaster. Surrendering to Pirates will most often result in you losing all your cargo. The same may also be true for other captain types if you're carrying unpermitted goods in their territory. With repair bills going up to 20,000 for a bad fight it is often cheaper to lose a load of cargo.
If you don't want to lose that cargo, or you have no other option but to fight, it may be best to escape immediately from combat. There's a whole guide on ship combat, so it's sufficient to say here that if you want to escape, when you start combat select "Escape" as your move, you might as well fire a few torpedoes in case you don't escape and then use a Talent such as Sharp Steering that will increase your escape chances. If you think you're up for it and you really want to fight we'll talk more about that soon.
Hopefully, by this point you're starting to get the hang of doing some basic missions, flying around the quadrant, maybe even making a Hyperwarp jump and keeping your crew mostly happy and alive while doing so.
I though this game was about Trading?[edit | edit source]
At this point you might be thinking "I bought this game because I thought it was a space trading game, maybe I can still get a refund?" Don't be too hasty though. STF has a rich economic engine along with all the other things going on. For those who want to be a big fat happy merchant shuttling goods around the galaxy to all your friends and contacts you won't be disappointed. You'll just need to understand the Trading system a bit. Even for non-merchant Captains understanding trade to supplement your other activities can greatly increase the profits of a particular mission. Trading also has some advantages over running missions or other activities. If you avoid trade conflicts, it can gain money without destroying rep with other factions, and with Garner Favor a level 5 Merchant Talent it can even gain you rep. Trading can also be done almost anywhere and at any time, unlike mission which can often require just the right contacts.
Supply and Demand[edit | edit source]
The primary driver of trade is supply and demand. Certain zone types create goods that other planets want and also demand goods that are, in turn, produced by other zone types. When visiting an exchange you will be presented with a list of goods that are for sale on that planet. These are determined by the zone type (farming, industrial etc.). You'll notice that each good shows the price it is for sale at, the overall range of prices it is sold for around the galaxy and a letter grade. The letter grade basically shows how low or high the good is priced on that planet in relation to what is sold for on all the other planets. So generally buying things at A's and B's means you getting it at a pretty high value. It should be noted though letter grades do not tell you much about the overall margin of a trade. Filling your hold with Biowaste at letter grade A won't net you nearly as much as a half hold of Clothes bought at letter grade C, in most cases. Lastly, when you click on a good it will tell you which zones that good is generally in demand on. So a good practice, if you have a mission, is to look at the target zone type for that mission. Say it's an Industrial zone. You then want to look for goods are demanded by Industrial zones and fill up with as many of those as you can, especially the ones that fetch the highest prices. You're already flying that way, might as well not fly with an empty hold.
When you land on a planet with goods in your hold, the exchange screen will immediately open up to the "Sell" view (tabs on the bottom). You'll see your goods and just like the buy screen you will see their price on that planet, the range and a letter grade. You will also see the profits or losses you stand to make on those specific goods based on the price you bought them for. High letter grades mean "This is a good place to sell this" lower letter grades mean "you might be able to do better somewhere else." Though it's rarely worth traveling all over just to find the best price, if you can sell now for a profit and buy something else to sell. Remember flying takes gas and crew wages which can eat into your profits quickly.
A few quick trade routes that can be done early without permits are:
Mining -> Refining -> Industrial, Orbital or High Tech Industrial -> Population or back to Mining/Refining.
Farming -> Population, Refining or Industrial -> back to Farming
It's important to know that trading will affect the levels of supply and demand in a zone. Both buying and selling will drop the price of goods, which means you can't keep running the same route over and over again. You will need to keep moving around, trading different goods to different planets, and visiting other quadrants to trade as well. Eventually supply and demand levels will return to what they were and you can return to your original trade routes while the others resupply. A final note about supply and demand is that factions like exotic goods. Trading across faction lines increases profits by 25%.
Permits and Legality[edit | edit source]
You'll probably see early on that different exchanges offer a lot of goods that are Permit Restricted. Permits are what factions use to control the trade of more lucrative and dangerous goods. To trade these goods, you'll need a Trade Permit. There are up to 4 levels of Permits that can be bought from a Contact. You'll need higher reputation to buy the various levels of Permits, but they are generally always worth buying. Permits only apply to the faction that issues them. So an Alta Mesa permit won't help you at all in a De Valtos zone. Merchant players will want to prioritize getting level 4 permits. Non-traders will probably still want level 2 permits with most of their friendly factions.
If you've bought goods and landed at a planet you may have also discovered that you can't sell some of them because they are illegal. Legality is completely unrelated to Permits and is a stat specific to each Zone. Each Prince sets the trade laws of his world to determine what can be bought and sold on his or her world. Early on be very careful buying low legality goods (say 6 and below) as they can be hard to find a planet you can sell them on. If you end in this situation you look for low Trade Law planets (Tradeways are good) or Indy planets, which generally have lower legality. Sometimes you may even need to sell at a loss to empty out your hold to buy more salable goods. Illegal/non-Permitted goods can also be stashed in a Wild Zone until a suitable market is found for them.The Golden Rule for Legal Trades is:
[Good legality ≥ Zone Trade Law] + [Good permit level ≤ Captain's Permit with the Faction] = Legally Saleable Goods
Smooth Operator[edit | edit source]
Now you've got two ways (missions and trading) to keep your captain from being a sad broke-ass spacer haunting a foreign starport begging for handouts from princes and fellow Star Traders. The good news is, there are still lots of other that you can be doing to keep the game interesting and the credits rolling in. There are 4 or 5 other things known as Operations that can generate revenue, add diversity and also play a part in completing missions. These are Spying, Patrolling, Blockading, Exploring and arguably using Black Markets. By now, you've probably noticed the first three as options when in orbit of a zone. Exploring is done on the surface of a wilderness zone and accessing Black Markets is done through contacts that offer it as a service. All of these Operations use a card game to give the player different positive or negative results. Black Markets are somewhat different in that the game is not so much an end in itself, as the point is to access a market where you can then buy and sell otherwise restricted goods.
Since each of these operations have are already explained in full detail in their own articles we're just going to hit the important points for a newer player and how you might incorporate them into an overall strategy for greatness. Each Operation really allows a player to play a specific character roll, because each of game brings unique risks and unique rewards. As a long-term goal the player may want to build towards really dominating one or the other of these activities. In the early game, however the player needs to be careful about biting off more than they can chew. The good news is that you can take a look at any of the hands before you decide to play them. So early on, what you want to be looking for is low hanging fruit. As you fly around and stop at various systems. Take a look at the hands you are offered. If they have a good ration of risk to reward, and no extreme risks give it shot. If the risks are too high or there is little to gain then it's time to fold and look for a better hand.
As you fly around trying your hand at all the hands your given, start paying attention to the game, it's risks, rewards, planet stats and rumors that affect them. If you're enjoying one, start building your Captain and crew towards specializing in those games. There are Talents that will allow to modify the hand that you are given, by rerolling, removing or improving the cards you are dealt. Refer to the article on each Operation to figure out how to get better at them.