The reason why I’m calling this a product overview, as oppossed to a preview or review, is because my intent isn’t really to do either. I haven’t had a chance to play a single session of it so far, although Nerdarchy Staff Editor Doug Vehovec, and Staff Writers Asa Kinney (who recently wrote an excellent article on paid GMs), Drew Murray, and I had an excellent Session 0, and we’re going to run a test game on September 24 (absolutely coincidentally the same day as the premier of Star Trek: Discovery).
I can’t exactly call it a review, but I’ve also had a lot of hands on with it. On top of creating my character, I’ve been working with Doug and Asa to pre-generate the entire crew of the U.S.S. Elpis, which is a Nova-class starship (where I’ll start posting their support character sheets as soon as we’ve completed the entire crew roster and organizational chart). So, this is more of a conversation.
Before I start, if you’d like my opinion, I’m really enjoying Star Trek Adventures. It’s a lot of fun in even the planning stages, and it’s my favorite character creation system to date.
I’ve never played any Modiphius game before, so I’m not sure how Star Trek Adventures compares to the rest of them, but the way that the character creation system takes you through your life and your career makes character backstory significantly easier. In fact, you don’t even need to have a character concept in mind at all.
As you make your choices, the character comes to life on their own. In my opinion, this is the gold standard which all future systems should seek to emulate in some fashion. In the tabletop RPG system that I’m slowly fashioning, there is no doubt that Star Trek Adventures will have a strong influence in it.
I’m also a huge fan of the way they determine roll targets. While I’m a much bigger fan of using stats as bonuses, I like the way they use Attributes and Departments to derive your target roll. It’s a rather simple system. When you decide to take an action, the GM tells you to add a specific Attribute and Department combo, then roll under that number.
So, if you’re a helmsmen trying to pull off a super tricky maneuver, you add your Daring attribute and Conn department to get the target number to roll under. If you’re a doctor trying to perform emergency medicine, you use your Daring attribute and Medicine department to get the target number to roll under.
It makes for some interesting uses, because it makes your scores more widely applicable, and allows each decision you make to be more customizable to the situation at hand. Even without playing Star Trek Adventures, it gives me a greater sense of the character and the ways they’ll approach each situation.
This isn’t something really useful in most games, but the Star Trek Adventures support character system is really nice. The idea is rather simple. Characters don’t have to be built to be good in most situations. There will be times your character won’t be useful for large portions of the game. In those situations, you can tap into a special support character that doesn’t start out as fully developed, but is likely to be useful in situations where your primary character is not very useful, or is unlikely to participate.
Asa’s character is a perfect example. Not only is his character the chief engineer, he’s rather averted to large gatherings and hostile situations. He has a lot of really fun character concepts that make him worthy of devoting a majority of his time to, and I have no doubt Drew (our primary GM) will make plenty of use of his character. But giving him access to a primary support character means he can play during the away mission scenes, too.
However, that’s not necessarily the only use for a support character. In my opinion, the captain is the one position that has to be a player character. Neither Doug nor Asa were interested, and I didn’t mind, so I volunteered to take the slot. [EDITOR’S NOTE: And a fine captain he’ll be, no doubt!] Being the captain, I’m generally going to be in the middle of everything, so I don’t necessarily need a primary support character, but then I realized that if I’m on an away mission, and there are things that require command decisions, I shouldn’t force Drew to have to make those decisions, so I created the XO to use for myself to be able to make command decisions regardless of what’s going on, because I can easily take one on an away mission and leave the other on the bridge.
Granted, I’m taking it one super scary step further, and pre-creating the entire crew, in an effort to gain a deeper sense of a living world, but a Nova-class starship only has a crew compliment of 78 crewmen. If we had picked a larger class of ship, especially the Galaxy’s 2000 crew compliment, there’s no way I would’ve even considered it.
Species and spaceframe options
Only the Federation is available in the core book, and even only a few ships from the 23rd and 24th centuries, being the Akira, Constellation, Constitution, Defiant, Excelsior, Galaxy, Intrepid, Miranda, and Nova class spaceframes. Only a handful of the more common Federation races, namely the Andorians, Bajorans, Betazoids, Denobulans, Humans, Tellarites, Trill, and Vulcans.
That being said, homebrewing species wouldn’t be that hard. The only thing unique they have are a bonus to three Attributes and a selection of two to three species-specific Talents. If you wanted to create a Klingon, as an example, I would give them a +1 to Daring, Fitness, and Presence, as well as the species Talents of Brak’lul, Warrior’s Spirit, and First into Battle (found on pages 317-319). That’s it. Homebrew over.
Homebrewing a spaceframe wouldn’t be much more difficult, but I’m not going into that. However, I will say the beauty is that you don’t have to achieve a specific balance. There are some limitations, which are outlined in the book, but for the most part it’s all about trying to determine the ship’s actual capabilities, bearing in mind your ship’s capabilities will be affected by when it was designed. As an example, the Constitution class (NCC-1701) Systems total is 46, where the Interepid class (U.S.S. Voyager) Systems total is 59.
History and lore
There’s an advantage any Star Trek RPG is going to have, and that’s over 50 years of continuity to play in. Currently, the Kelvin timeline and the Mirror Universe aren’t supported, and the core book focuses on the Federation, mostly centered around the year 2371. However, there’s so much history and lore to tap into that you don’t need to limit yourself.
Some people who’ve already started streaming have chosen to set their games in the 23rd century, although Geek and Sundry’s Shield of Tomorrow started in 2371 (but is currently in 2372). No matter where you set your game, there’s plenty to do. Whether you’re exploring, making scientific discoveries, fighting in epic wars, finding new species to contact, or being involved in intergalactic diplomacy, there’s an era for everyone.
That’s not to mention all the really interesting things you can do with it. Taking our Nerdarchy staff writer’s game, we’ve set it up that each of the players have been individually recruited by Section 31, but none of us know that any of the others are Section 31 agents. So Drew (our GM) will be giving us each secret personal objectives on top of the main story conflicts that we’ll also be contending with. Not to say that you can’t do that in any other game, but the very wide reach of Star Trek allows that to be a sub-plot we as players chose to come up with, and not the result of a forced mechanic.
Exploring the Star Trek universe
One of my favorite things so far is that there’s so much of the Star Trek universe that has largely gone unexplored. With the exception of the NX-01, even within the confines of Federation starships, the shows cover a very small portion of the missions going on at the time. That doesn’t include other governments or people.
That also doesn’t include other largely unexplored perspectives. In our primary game, we’ll be playing as the captain (me), the chief medical officer (Doug), and the chief of engineering (Asa). But being that all of us are GMs, each of us will take on GM duties from time to time. Partially to give Drew needed breaks, and partially because we’re each going to want to explore different things. They’ll be the equivalent of filler episodes, of course, but those can be fun.
Already, I have an idea to run an episode where the players are third shift crewmen, and they have to solve a crisis by themselves. The episodic nature of Star Trek Adventures lends us that capability that I don’t think most other games do without disrupting some kind of continuity, and I think that’s really cool.
Exploring Star Trek history
On top of that, Asa and I have begun to consider Star Trek’s history. We came to the conclusion that even though Star Trek isn’t actually our universe, our events ran largely parallel until 1986 (except the show Star Trek didn’t exist in the Star Trek Universe), when they started to diverge much more significantly. I’m not going to go into it at this point, because that’s not what the article is about, but we came to that conclusion because of everything that surrounded Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which mostly takes place in 1986.
So, we’ve been taking it upon ourselves to reimagine the history of the Star Trek Universe, and what impacts would’ve changed things. Some things change. Some things stay the same. And some things stay the same, but the connotations are different. As an example, the Beastie Boys’ song, “Sabotage” was released in 1994, which in the Star Trek Universe was in the middle of the Eugenics War (1992-1996), so it suddenly becomes a war protest song, and the connotations of the lyrics are dramatically shifted.
If you follow the Twitter feed for our ship, I post a Captain’s Log and a Personal Log every day, and you’ll get to see some of the world-building we’re doing for our game, which includes references to our version of Star Trek’s history.
As a writer, I’m really enjoying the possibilities of worldbuilding on this scale. Most times, you can’t really dive into some of the more esoteric elements of history or culture, because it’s too much for not a lot of gain, but we get to take what is and think about what could be because of how much there is already.
I think Star Trek Adventures has a lot of potential to be a lot of fun, regardless of whether you’re a fan. The truth is that while I like Star Trek, I’m not sure if I’m a fan. I have what I call My Little Pony knowledge of it, so it would be easy for people to make that mistake. But I grew up a Doctor Who kid, and I’m more into Firefly than Star Wars or Star Trek (though I do enjoy both).
My mom, who isn’t a fan at all, is getting roped into it because her best friend is a huge Star Trek fan, as is my dad, but after we sat down to create a character for her for a game I’ll be running for her and their friends, she started to get excited about the prospect of playing. She also likes how much easier the character creation process was than both D&D and Pugmire.
I hope you check out Star Trek Adventures, and enjoy it as much as I have so far. Until then, stay nerdy!
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