About a year ago, I started thinking about a new Star Trek RPG. First I made my own version (based on the Cypher System) but I’ve since taken that down. I still really want to play in the Star Trek universe, however, and I’m hoping for an RPG whose design is a little more recent than the Decipher version which is why I’m eagerly watching the updates of the new Star Trek: Adventures RPG from Modiphius.
A lot you probably already know something of this project, but here are the basics. The game uses one of Modiphius’s in-house game systems known as 2d20. The basic mechanic of this system is rolling 2d20 (unsurprisingly) occasionally with an extra d20 or more to represent an opportunity of some sort. You’re rolling to beat a Target Number which is a sum of an Attribute plus a Skill. If you roll under this TN on a d20 you succeed and if you roll under your Focus (a specialty of the character’s) then it’s a double-success. If you roll a 1 that’s a critical success and if you roll a 20 that’s a critical failure.
This system is used for several different games by Modiphius: Conan, Mutant Chronicles, Infinity, and Star Trek: Adventures makes four. The system has its critics but also a community of loyal support and as the fourth game ST:A has a lot of feedback to draw from. Modiphius plans to release a long series of books, listed in the PDF collection if you want to preorder them all now, which are (in release order) Star Trek Adventures Core Rule Book, These Are The Voyages (mission collection), Command Division Supplement, Beta Quadrant Sourcebook, Operations Division Supplement, Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook, Sciences Division Supplement, Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook, and Delta Quadrant Sourcebook.
So far from what is in the playtest material (I’m sure you can still sign up if you like) there is a lot that is really exciting. The Skills (see summary above) are the familiar divisions of Starfleet, two each from the red, blue, and gold uniforms: command, conn (pilot and navigation), science, medical, engineering, and security. Your character will have some ability in all of these which means that, unlike D&D or Call of Cthulhu, you won’t ever be faced with a task that you have no ability with. This might not be super-realistic but it’s exactly what’s seen on the show: given a choice, Geordie’s definitely the one to fix a blown warp coil but in a pinch Captain Picard can maybe muddle his way through.
The playtest also makes it clear that Modiphius is interested in exploring all parts of the Star Trek universe as they ask what sort of missions you want to try: science, exploration, or combat. They also are clearly eager to support both the 23rd century and the 24th century which should excite a large crowd (I’m firmly 24th century or even 25th but I can appreciate the old stuff), and the default time period is right before the start of Voyager in the opening moves of the Dominion War. A great and thoughtful establishment in the lore… and I’m sure you can play in the alternate timeline if you really want.
One thing that jumps right out at me is page count… Not too exciting a topic but maybe revealing. Out of the 41 pages of Version 1.2 of the playtest rules, 18 of them are taken up by rules for combat. This is almost half and I don’t necessarily want half my Star Trek game to be about trading phaser beams. These are quickstart rules which can’t really be held as the definitive characteristic of the game and in the system basics it should be no surprise that the colorful things like crafting scenarios or creating alien civilizations would be left out. I know they’ll be more representative in the final ruleset but I also know that those other 2d20 games like Conan and Mutant Chronicles are very combat-heavy and hopefully that doesn’t bleed over too much.
The second thing is actually in contrast to the last paragraph of the “Good Stuff” section: I don’t see easy support for non-Starfleet characters. In the original Star Trek series, all the main characters are in Starfleet and in The Next Generation almost all were (shout out to Guinan!). However, every rendition since then has seen an increasing number of main characters outside of Starfleet. If the initial descriptions of Star Trek: Discovery are good indications of the show, this will extend to traditional enemies as well. I don’t think the rules need to accommodate Talaxian chefs and Bajoran militia with equal ease as Starfleet officers but right now there seems to be no way to have characters outside the traditional rank structure, let alone civilians.
What I Hope For
Some of this should be evident from the paragraphs in the last section: I hope there are ways to make non-Starfleet characters, I hope they have more than equal support for non-combat scenarios, and I hope that it captures the feel of Star Trek. This last is the hardest hope to actually measure and it will depend on the reader and the gaming group. Even claiming that there’s one feel to Star Trek is disingenuous… So maybe what I mean is that I hope the game can emulate a wide variety of episodes, plots, and eras.
I also hope that the sourcebooks in the list (both the divisional sourcebooks and the quadrant sourcebooks) include plenty of player options as well as GM options. In a Beta Quadrant sourcebook, for example, I want information on making Klingon and Romulan characters or mastering Vulcan meditation techniques. A write-up on Risa and a map of the Neutral Zone is great, but I want it to expand the scope of the game not just the list of possible missions. Likewise, if it’s just Monstrous Compendium: Beta Quadrant and a gazetteer of planets that will feel like a missed opportunity. What does a Neutral Zone campaign look like? What are the major factions in the Klingon Empire? I want tangible things to build from.
Lastly, I hope that these books start coming out soon! I’ve already preordered my pdfs and I’m ready to leave drydock so let’s get this started.