A few weeks back, I posted some thoughts about Star Trek: Adventures by Modiphius and then the other day I got a semi-final copy of the pdf from them. If you’ve read through that post you know I had some concerns about the direction things might be headed and now I get to see if those were justified or not. Let’s lay in a course!
I’ll say first things before we even get into the material of the book. First of all, it’s so cool seeing things in print. I’ve flipped through the Decipher materials ad nauseum and I also got into that line after it was already ended, but this is new territory with so much potential ahead of it. That out of the way, there are Okudagrams everywhere and a nice map (in the style of Geoffrey Mandel) which shows much of the Alpha Quadrant including Ba’ku, the Cardassians, and the ever-mysterious Tzenkethi, as well as enough of the Beta Quadrant to show Vulcan, Risa, and Wolf 359. If you couldn’t tell from the blurb on the back of the book, the default setting is the middle of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the impending Dominion War.
Oh, and it’s weird to have to say this, I’m going to make no effort to withhold spoilers. If you haven’t watched Star Trek to your heart’s content yet A) what are you waiting for? and B) you’ve had enough time and consider this your head’s up.
The book starts with an introduction which is… fine as far as these things go. I’m only ever excited by White Wolf intros so I’m going to breeze through this one. It sets the stage for what you can expect in this game including where this falls in the various series in the year 2371: the U.S.S. Enterprise D is about to stumble into the events of Star Trek: Generations (appropriately), the U.S.S. Voyager is about to start it’s (surely boring) mission of surveying, and the station Deep Space 9 (no one knows whether to italicize that or not) just got a brand-new Defiant-class ship to help find the elusive Dominion in the Gamma Quadrants.
In short, things are looking up for the PCs and things are looking like a ticking bomb to the players. Fun stuff.
There’s also a note pointing you to sections of the book for running things in the time period of the original U.S.S. Enterprise but we’ll get to those sections later. The authors apparently figure no one will want to run a game in the period of the Enterprise NX-01, which might be unfair but also a good guess. There’s a section for those who don’t know what an RPG is and another section about PCs being Starfleet officers but I’m skipping those in favor of the actual chapters later. You’ll need dice and some pencils etc etc and then there’s an example of play for the truly out-to-sea. And with that, we engage!
Let me just say now before you start this section that I will not be attempting a summary of a summary of a multi-decade TV series’ mythology. Check out Memory Alpha if you’re really a Star Trek n00b. What I’ll be doing instead is looking at what parts the authors have chosen to highlight here and what that says about the game’s intended audience and direction.
First off, the chapter is written as a first person narrative, meaning that you can use portions of it as in-game resources for your players. Are their characters trying to remember what they know about the Khitomer Conference? An average roll can get them these paragraphs straight out of the book, saving you time at the table.
Secondly, the maps and locations are pretty telling. Every mapmaker for Star Trek needs to try and mesh together all the disparate writers, plots, and hand-waving of the various series and try to make something coherent. Sometimes this ends up with a map of a tiny UFP surrounded by sprawling empires but others times, as in this book, you get a tangled, spidery Federation that stretches here and there to make contact with each pocket of adversaries in service to the many seasons of one-off plots and throw-away lines. You can probably tell which one I prefer, but with Star Trek: Adventures working with a huge Federation concise opposition forces this is not going to be Forgotten Realms in space. You’re on a strong side and there’s a lot of space to move around in. At least I hope that’s how they see it.
There’s info on Bajor, the Cardassians, the Maquis, the Breen, the Ferengi, the Tholians, the Tzenkethi, the Orion Syndicate, and various bit players in the Alpha Quadrant. The Beta Quadrant is (as always) much more concise with a long section on the Klingons, a long section on the Romulans, and a short paragraph on the Gorn Hegemony. Other threats like the Borg, the Dominion, and the Q Continuum are addressed but clearly they expect groups to spend most of their time in the Alpha Quadrant, at least until the later sourcebooks come out.
The History of the Federation is pretty interesting in that it’s presented as a collection personal logs, Starfleet Academy briefings, eyes-only records, and (sometimes) alien records. It starts with the Eugenics Wars, moves through First Contact and Captain Archer’s mission, then goes through the original series, Next Generation, and the start of Deep Space Nine. This is a little jumbled and doesn’t give you a complete picture at all, which to me says that they see the audience for this game being either Trekkies or people who are jumping in right at 2371 and don’t need much background. I think that makes sense, but if you’re a halfway fan you might need to do more reading up.
If you want the info on roleplaying in the 23rd century of the original series, though, this is where you’ll find a detailed section on that century and a sidebar summing up changes to make. Again, this is not going to be the focus… which is just fine with me.
This is a short little chapter but a really essential one for groups to set the stage of their games. There are eight different subsections here, each of which discusses part of why this will be different from RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons or World of Darkness.
Starfleet’s Purpose describes… well I think you can work that out. If the last chapter was about “how did we get here?” then this is the part about “what do we do now?” There are descriptions of the organization and images of rank pips but the specifics of your experience are in later subsections. There are three full pages given to The Prime Directive which might seem small but I think is a sign that the classic sort of philosophical Star Trek story where this comes into play is clearly a goal of the authors. There’s even an awesome sidebar from an alien whose homeworld was contacted in a way that made the Prime Directive impossible and the cultural trauma that caused.
The next subsections deal with Starfleet Academy and Assignment so that players can think about how they became Starfleet officers and what sort of role they might fill on the ship. This is all setting fluff material but it presents a great list of considerations for character generation, just prime for making into an Active Session Zero. In the Duties subsection they talk about different mission types (Science, Diplomatic, and Protection and Security with different types of each) and this goes farther than anything else so far to convince me this won’t be a combat-focused game line. Out of eleven kinds of missions listed here there are two which amount to “go to this place and take on the bad guys.” The authors clearly want more than 80% of the game to be non-military missions for a variety of crewmembers. Hopefully the mechanics support this too.
The subsection on Away Teams, which includes the awesome artwork above, goes into a little more detail for ground-based missions but also sort of reads as “if you’ve never seen Star Trek, here’s a thing they do all the time.”
Honestly, this is the crux of the book but I’m going to be skipping over it for the most part. Why? Well, first of all I gave a brief synopsis of the 2d20 system last time and I can’t do any better now. The other reason is that this is the RPG part and not the Star Trek part. By that I mean this is the basic action of rolling without the things that make it feel like Gene Roddenberry’s universe. I’d rather save room for the latter.
I will, though, go over the three different pools that characters have to work with just to refresh everyone’s memory and also because it becomes important later. Momentum is your character’s point resource that involves capitalizing on your success: you gain it by greatly overcoming a task and you spend it to help future tasks. Threat is sort of the opposite: you gain threat in order to build Momentum in a pinch and the GM can spend it to help NPCs. Determination is like Inspiration in D&D 5e: you gain it by playing your Values and you can use it to really push the odds in your favor.
Chapter Ten: Gamemastering
Wait, Chapter Ten?!?!? Yes, I’m skipping a huge part of the book here. This is because I can’t fit everything into one post of reasonable size and I want to get to some crunchy parts before I finish this first bite. So we’re skipping to the Gamemastering section to talk about the huge amounts of advice here and something I’ve seen a lot of people wondering about, the NPCs and crews of the system.
A lot of the advice here is standard fare: tell a story, arbitrate the rules, have fun above all, and so on. Some things that caught my eye as I was reading through here, though, are the styles of play and the advice for running character generation. Firstly, I expected styles of play to be about different eras (and there is that) but instead there are some suggested frameworks for campaigns that all sound pretty awesome. These Are the Voyages… is your standard Star Trek story with a ship and a crew and the stars ahead. Starfleet Needs a New Crew is similar but stems from the destruction of the Enterprise D late in 2371 which leaves room for the PCs ship to step up its game from previous missions. Lower Decks is also similar but is all about the junior crew members instead of the bridge crew, while A Port In a Storm is for a space station campaign. Lastly, Living on the Final Frontier is about Starfleet personnel on a planetary colony, something we haven’t seen much of in the series but which could sit better with more traditional gamers.
There are two long pages on guiding character creation, which I think is awesome, and three more giving individual advice for each crewmember role and how you can challenge them. In the Star Trek series, we often see episodes focused on a particular character with other bridge crew members central but a little out of the spotlight. I think the advice here is very in-genre.
Finally, with NPCs the GM is given a number of choices. Minor NPCs are throwaway characters who are meant to be pushed aside by the player characters. they can’t do much and they don’t have many mechanical resources either. Notable NPCs are a little more involved but clearly inferior to a full PC. Major NPCs are pretty much player characters for the other side of the screen, characters like Gul Dukat or Chancellor Gowron who are meant to be continuing adversaries, allies, or both. There are random generation tables for aliens-of-the-week and guidelines for spending threat against the PCs. The systems for using all of these are pretty streamlined so that you could conceivably pull something together at the table of the players go off the rails but it’s definitely going to be a better character if you can prep ahead of time. As we’ll see next time, there are rules for supporting NPCs that make the actual crewmembers of the PCs’ ship a lot easier to manage.
That’s all I have for this post but next time we’ll be focused on player characters: how you make them, what your options are, and even an example of my very first build! See you then!