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Product Overview: Star Trek Adventures

Star Trek Adventures Modiphius
Star Trek Adventures, by Modiphius Entertainment

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.

Character creation

Star Trek Adventures, by Modiphius Entertainment

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.

Support characters

Star Trek Adventures, by Modiphius Entertainment

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

Star Trek Adventures, by Modiphius Entertainment

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

Star Trek Adventures, by Modiphius Entertainment

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

Star Trek Adventures, by Modiphius Entertainment

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

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home theatrical release poster by Bob Peak

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.

Final thoughts

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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Using Tabletop RPGs for Social Empathy

I’m not really going to go about proving that science fiction sometimes gets used as a tool to pursue social issues. It’s well documented, and I don’t feel like I need to prove it. Star Trek is practically built on it. Fantasy novels aren’t immune from it, either. Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series bleeds social issues, perhaps even to its own detriment.

social tabletop RPGsTabletop RPGs aren’t exclusively fantasy and science fiction, but it’s hard to avoid their significant presence in the hobby. After all, we already live in a world of Houses & Humans.

Why would we want to spend four hours a week (way more than that for GMs) steeped in daily chores and making sure you include the TPS report cover sheet? It’s far more fun to enjoy something far outside of ourselves, usually with at least some fantasy elements, be it a western, superhero, or a horror game.

There’s actually another reason for that. As children, steeping ourselves in extraordinary worlds helps us learn about the real world around us. We’re able to experiment in a safe environment. As adults, that still holds true. In fact, I would argue that it’s more important for adults. Continue reading Using Tabletop RPGs for Social Empathy

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Blast from the Past: My favorite episodes of the original Star Trek

Amazon Studios
Star Trek Kirk Enterprise
Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk from the television program Star Trek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like a lot of kids who grew up in the 1970s, I watched a lot of Star Trek. I’m talking the original series here. This was when the notion of a Star Trek movie was just a dream, and the very idea of another television show (let alone a half dozen) was beyond imagination. But then Star Wars happened in 1977 and all things science fiction were suddenly cool.

Still, I can never forget those episodes, the ones I watched in re-runs late at night. To this day a number of them stick with me quite well. Below are my five favorites. Some minor spoilers are likely. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Balance of Terror

This might be my favorite episode from the original series. It involve the ship and crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise becoming embroiled in a deep-space battle with a Romulan Bird of Prey battleship. The story unfolds like that of a naval battle, with each side trying different maneuvers and tactics against the other. One of the most intense episodes ever.

Arena

This is another of my favorites. Captain Kirk and crew go into battle against an alien race known as the Gorn only to have the Metrons, a seemingly omnipotent race, force Kirk and the Gorn captain to fight one another in single combat, the winner being allowed to live while the loser and his crew to be destroyed.

Miri

In this episode, crew members of the starship Enterprise teleport down to a planet that looks exactly like Earth. Once down on the planet, the crew soon discovers a disease has wiped out all the adults, but leaves children unscathed. What’s worse, the disease still lingers in the atmosphere and the Enterprise crew and the oldest of the children are beginning to be affected.

The Squire of Gothos

English: Logo from the television program Star...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always thought this was one of the most fun Star Trek episodes, while still having a message to it in the end. A near-godlike being who calls himself the Squire of Gothos takes it upon himself to entertain Captain Kirk and some of the Enterprise crew on the planet Gothos, apparently a planet of the Squire’s own making. But the entertainment quickly turns to imprisonment and eventually Kirk finds himself having to physically confront a being who can do just about anything. What to do? What to do?

The City on the Edge of Forever

For many fans, this is considered the best episode ever of Star Trek. Entertainment Weekly and IGN.com have it listed as the first of the ten-best episodes. The plot involves Captain Kirk and a handful of his crew traveling back in time through the powers of the Guardians of Forever only to find themselves in 1930s New York City. Kirk falls in love with a peace activist, Edith Keeler, and then learns Edith will be killed in an auto accident. The captain wants desperately to save the love of his life, but it is revealed that if Edith is not allowed to die then Nazi Germany will conquer the world. What can Kirk do? Watch and find out. And yes, I have to agree this is one of the best episodes ever.

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Science fiction, fantasy community not immune to 2016 celebrity deaths

Carrie Fisher
The three lead protagonists of Star Wars, from left to right: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Fisher passed away Dec. 27, 2016, after suffering a stroke. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2016 has become known to many as something of a tragic year for celebrities and public personalities. The entertainment industry seems to have had more than its share of deaths this past year, with the world suffering losses of the likes of Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, George Michael and many others.

Continue reading Science fiction, fantasy community not immune to 2016 celebrity deaths

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2016 Nerdy gift suggestions for the holidays

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up in a matter of days, the holiday shopping season kicks off big time. But what to get for your nerdy, geeky, and gaming buddies this year? Last year you might have opted for the familiar, rules books and dice, etc., but this year you would like to do something different, something special, something unique. Do not fret, True Believer, as Nerdarchy is here to help you find some uncommon gifts for your crowd of pals. Check out the items below for gifts that are just a little different.

Papa’s got a brand new bag

nerdy star trek D&D Bags are handy. Within pretty much any Dungeons & Dragons gaming adventure, most characters will be carrying around some kind of bag to hold their loot, extra weapons, potions, spell books, and so forth. In the real world, bags are great for school, work, and for holding all your dice and books and other gear for any role-playing session. So, one can always use a new bag, right? Look no further, then, than the Bag of Holding from the fine folks at ThinkGeek. Named for the famous D&D magic item, this bag features multiple compartments, a sturdy canvas body, and a size large enough to hold most 17-inch laptops. What gamer couldn’t find a use for this?

One ring to rule them all

nerdy star trek D&D Ever find yourself stumbling upon an impromptu game of D&D or some other tabletop RPG, and you don’t have your dice with you? Or maybe you’re just tired of carrying around all those dice? Don’t worry, as there is another way. Check out the dice rings from CritSuccess. As a gift, your friends might appreciate this one as it allows them to keep dice at their fingertips literally all the time.

To boldly go where no pizza has gone before

nerdy star trek D&D But maybe your friends aren’t all gamers. What to do then? Could some of them be Star Trek fans? If so, ThinkGeek strikes again with another great gift idea. This time it’s the Star Trek Enterprise Pizza Cutter. Yes, you read those words correctly, “The Star Trek Enterprise Pizza Cutter.” And guess what? There’s an NCC-1701 cutter for fans of the classic series, and an NCC-1701-D cutter for everybody else. And if you don’t know the difference, your Star Trek pals can explain it to you.

You don’t know the power of the chopstick

nerdy star trek D&D Some of your friends might be Star Wars fans, so what better to get them than Light Saber chopsticks that actually light up? Even if your pals don’t like to eat with these chopsticks, the chopsticks can make a great novelty item. These chopsticks come in a variety of colors, so pick out your favorites or the favorites of your gift receiver. Now get out there and save the universe. With chopsticks.

For love of chocolate

nerdy star trek D&D Let’s get away from food items for a moment. Okay, maybe not. Well, sort of. Kind of. Not exactly food, but definitely food related, there is the Hershey’s Collection of candles from Hanna’s Candle Company. Here you’ll find not only candles, but aroma beads and scented waxes that smell like not only Hershey’s chocolate, but Twizzlers, Whoppers, York Peppermint Patties, and Almond Joy, as well as other scents. And if you have to wonder why these candles are appropriate for nerds and gamers, then you’ve obviously not sat around a gaming table loaded down with snacks of all kinds. If you want your friends to skip the calories while still enjoying some familiar snack smells with their dice rolling, these candles could be just the ticket.

Just roll with it

nerdy star trek D&D The folks over at ThinkGeek have done it again. Yes, they provide yet another fine product for the role-playing gamer in all of us. This time I’m talking about the Critical Hit D20 Rug. Yes, it’s a rug shaped like a D20, and it always rolls a 20! Perfect for any gaming room or just about anyplace to fill a spot on the floor with a warm rug, the Critical Hit D20 Rug measures 43 inches by 38 inches.

Okay. There we have it. Some gifting suggestions for 2016. If you have some suggestions of your own, feel free to recommend them in the comments.

Until next shopping season, Stay Nerdy!

2016 Nerdy gift suggestions for the holidays