A recent public playtest for Dungeons & Dragons has some wondering if a different tabletop roleplaying game is coming back in some form. Yesterday, Dungeons & Dragons released an Unearthed Arcana playtest for six new playable races, many of whom have ties to the classic Spelljammer campaign setting. TSR Inc. (the original publisher of Dungeons & Dragons) first published Spelljammer material in 1989 to provide players with a space opera-esque campaign setting where players traveled between planets on magic ships called spelljammers. Spelljammer wasn't TSR's first foray into science fiction, though. Nearly 7 years prior to the release of the first Spelljammer material, TSR published Star Frontiers, a tabletop roleplaying game with a totally separate rule system from Dungeons & Dragons.
So what does Star Frontiers have to do with the Unearthed Arcana playtest released this week? Well, three of the races featured in the playtest are "re-skinned" versions of the three playable alien races found in Star Frontiers. The Plasmoids are equivalent to the Dralasites, the Hadozee are versions of the Yazirians, and the Thri-Kreen are roughly analogous to the Vrusk.
To be clear, TSR was the one who first re-used the three Star Frontiers races in Spelljammer - Plasmoids, Hadozee, and Thri-Kreen have all appeared in canonical D&D material in the past. However, it's still quite interesting that Wizards of the Coast chose those races instead of races like the Dracon or the Grommam or the Xixchil.
Wizards of the Coast owns all IP associated with Star Frontiers, although a different company named TSR Inc. attempted to apply for the trademark to the Star Frontiers name earlier this year. The legality of that trademark could be disputed, though, given Wizards of the Coast's ownership of the actual Star Frontiers IP.
More likely than note, this week's playtest is just for Dungeons & Dragons and isn't a secret lead-in for a Star Frontiers revival. However, it's cool to see some old bits of roleplaying game history get revitalized in a new format and hope will always spring eternal for those hoping to see their favorite fictional space haunts return for a new generation of gamers.