Star Trek Adventures: Starships and Enemies

Last time I posted about the player characters of Star Trek Adventures, the main focus of the story, but there’s one character present in every Star Trek series that we haven’t talked about: the ship. Fans of Star Trek know that the bridge crew are people you come to love (or love to hate) but whenever there’s a battle or emergency that threatens to destroy the ship, that is when you’re on the edge of your seat. Star Trek Adventures understands that and makes sure that the ship is a fully-fledged character both narratively and mechanically.

Like the Firefly RPG and (ahem) other Star Trek games, the ship your characters inhabit has its own stats, Traits, Talents, and resources. It can be a location that you act in (like any other location) but it also can help you with actions like piloting through the Badlands, fighting enemy vessels, or scanning a planet for signs of life. Mechanically, it does this by acting as a helping character: you make your roll, the ship makes its roll, and then you add up all the successes together to see if you make it. It’s just the same as getting help from another crewmember, which is a pretty cool approach.

One thing the book doesn’t provide (and I don’t expect to see an official version anytime soon) is how to design and operate a starbase. I understand this not being a focus, but they specifically mention it in the section on campaign styles so it seems like a big lack in the rules.

Step 1: Service

The first step in making a ship actually has nothing to do with the ship at all! You want to decide what the date is for the start of the campaign, which to me seems like something you want to do before starting planning at all. If you’re starting with the ship it makes sense that you’d figure this out right away but there isn’t a similar step in creating characters… I guess you could have decided era (Next Generation, original series, or Enterprise) but not the precise date, but this makes it seem like that is the default decision. In short, this step confuses me.

I’m going to make this easy and pick 2371 as the service year, the default time for the game. This could go in any number of different directions so we’ll see how it goes. I think a story about exploration and diplomacy with some combat occasionally (like the Enterprise) would be really great.

Star Trek Adventures - Starship Construction
Image © Modiphius Entertainment

Step 2: Spaceframe

The “spaceframe” is the weird, stilted term for the ship’s class. Is it a Galaxy-class cruiser or an old Constitution-class ship? Maybe it’s a fast, new Defiant-class escort or a sophisticated Intrepid-class science vessel. There are nine Federation spaceframes in this book: the four mentioned above plus the heavily-armed Akira-class, the fast Constellation class (like the U.S.S. Stargazer), the sleek Excelsior class, the reliable Miranda class, and the small Nova-class science vessel.

The spaceframe decides the lion’s share of the ship’s stats including weaponry, starting Talents, Scale (which determines many other values as we’ll see), and the equivalent of Attributes and Disciplines. When making checks, starships use Systems rather than Attributes: Comms, Computers, Engines, Sensors, Structure, and Weapons. They also use Departments rather than Disciplines but these have the same names: Command, Conn, Security, Engineering, Science, and Medicine. You combine these and roll them just like Attributes and Disciplines but ships never roll on their own that I can see: it’s always helping the crew with a task.

Like with species, there aren’t stats here for non-Federation ships but the stats for NPC vessels (discussed later) allow you to use those ships for spaceframes with a little bit of back-calculating. Also, these spaceframes aren’t necessarily balanced against each other. A Galaxy-class ship is just flat-out better than an Excelsior-class ship… and that’s as it should be because it’s decades more advanced. Older ships get more refits, though so that should even things out (see below), and a super-powered ship like a Defiant-class frame also tends to have a smaller Scale and that evens things out too.

I’ve always been partial to look of the Excelsior class, so I think I’m going with that. That certainly fits with the wide-ranging and varied storyline I’ve been thinking of. This means I have Systems that are not so great right now (they’re all 8 or 9) but we’ll refit later. The ship also has Command +1 and Engineering +2, which are both good for long-term missions. The Scale is 5, it’s got phaser banks and photon torpedoes, and two Talents: Improved Impulse Drive and Secondary Reactors. It also means that the ship entered service in 2285 or a little after… so let’s go with 2286.

Step 3: Mission Profile

While most of the ship’s stats are determined by its spaceframe, most of the rest is determined by its mission profile. Federation ships (we’re told) are somewhat modular so when a shipyard starts with a new frame they add in facilities according to what the ship is expected to do the most. A ship that’s expected to see a lot of combat receives one sort of internal design whereas a surveying ship receives another. The combat one might do the occasional survey but its talents are better used elsewhere.

There are seven mission profiles to choose from: Strategic and Diplomatic Operations (a combination battle and envoy vessel), Pathfinder and Reconnaissance Operations (straight exploration), Technical Test-Bed (an engineering vessel for trying out prototype systems), Tactical Operations (fightin’ day and night), Scientific and Survey Operations (exploration with the intent of gaining knowledge), Crisis and Emergency Response (medical rescue vessel), and Multirole Explorer (a little of everything). Unlike spaceframes, this seems a pretty complete list for me.

As part of my efforts to make a well-rounded ship, I’m picking Pathfinder and Reconnaissance Operations for the ship’s mission profile. This provides solid Department stats (2s in pretty much everything) and some useful Talents: Improved Reaction Control System (helps with maneuvering), Improved Warp Drive (complementing the Excelsior class’s Improved Impulse), and Rugged Design (for those multi-year missions). 

Star Trek Adventures - Bridge Under Fire
Image © Modiphius Entertainment

Step 4: Refits

The Federation keeps older ships in service through refits that slowly hone them into perfected pieces of machinery (and certainly not for marketing purposes or to save on model budgets). This means you can play in the Next Generation era with something like Jim Kirk’s Enterprise but you can’t expect it to be as good as the new things right out of spacedock. To boost older vessels, the game has you apply a refit for every ten full years of service the ship has seen. A refit amounts to a +1 to one of the ship’s Systems (equivalent of Attributes) which means older designs (like the Constitution and Miranda classes) will have low System values to start but can be tweaked by players the same way Starfleet tweaks them in-game. Seems like a solution that is both simple and intriguing.

This ship entered service almost a century (85 years) before the game is set to take place. I imagine it feels a little stuffy to the crew but mechanically it means that there have been eight refits in the ship’s history. I’m going to put one of those towards each system, and the final two towards Engines and Structure respectively. This ship has been steadily upgraded throughout its existence but, considering its long missions, the most attention has been paid to keeping it moving and keeping it in one piece.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

As with characters, the last step here is to make sure everything is in order with the ship. You make sure all the Systems aren’t higher than Attributes (apparently Departments can get as high as you like) and add Talents to what it already has until they equal the ship’s Scale. The Scale also determines its Crew Support (how many NPCs the players can drum up), Shields, and Resistance (like ship toughness). It gets Power which can be spent like characters’ Momentum and it already has weapons from its frame so the stats for those can be noted down. All ships have a Trait describing their basic identity (like a character’s species Trait; Starfleet ships all have “Federation Starship”) but you can choose to add on one or more of the following: Prototype (new with maybe a few glitches), Legacy Vessel (like the Enterprise-D, following earlier Enterprises), Renowned (known to ally and enemy alike), and Long-Serving (tried and true but also old). These are very double-edged Traits so players can add them at will or skip this altogether.

Let’s cut the suspense and give this baby a name, something with mystique and vision: the U.S.S. AmundsenThe Amundsen‘s Systems and Departments are all below the caps so those are fine and it has five Talents already so I don’t get any more. Weapons are decided by class and Power by Engines (although its Secondary Reactors Talent gives it a +5 above normal). It has the trait Federation Vessel like all Starfleet ships but I’m also voluntarily giving it the Long-Serving Trait considering its 85 years of use.

Star Trek - USS Defiant and Deep Space Nine
Image © Paramount Pictures

 

One final bit of polishing involves the bridge stations. This is a detail that I really love, though I can’t explain why. There is a list of duties that need to be handled from the bridge of a starship: ten altogether but that doesn’t mean you need ten people on the bridge to operate the ship. There are two “bridge designs,” one for the 24th century and one for the 23rd, which list four and five stations respectively that determine the minimum bridge crew (including a commanding officer) that you’d need. On a 24th century Starfleet bridge, for example, the conn station controls both helm and navigational controls, the operations station can handle internal power as well as sensors, and the tactical station controls communications, security oversight, and weapons. You could have ten bridge officers if you want to be more efficient but concentrating things puts the PCs more in the spotlight and lets you make things different for different eras (and, potentially, different species’ designs).

The U.S.S. Amundsen has a 23rd century bridge layout thanks to its original service year meaning that the layout of stations is different than on a Galaxy-class or Defiant-class ship. This is a small detail but if I were the GM I would have every visitor comment on it, ideally making the players defensive about people “picking on” their home.

Enemies

I’m going to finish up this post with a quick overview of the enemies provided in the book since you might naturally be interested on what threats you’d come up against. The book presents these in two different sections (ships and NPCs) but I’m separating them out by species (or government) since that seems easier for an overview. I’ll also mention that NPCs and NPC ships can use the full ruleset or you can used some streamlined versions of wounds, breaches, etc. Specifically, this is in case there are “a number of ships” which seems like they are encouraging huge space battles. I love that, although I wish they included some mass combat rules in this book. Oh well…

Star Trek - Galaxy-class Cruiser
Image © Cryptic Studios

The Federation has no additional starships (you got plenty in the PC starship section, you greedy monsters) but you do get stats for runabouts and shuttles to fill your launch bays. There are plenty of NPCs, though, including imminently killable junior officers for each non-Command Discipline: Conn, Security, Engineering, Science, and Medical. You can easily make these into junior crew members on other ships, by the way, by changing their Trait from Human (you should probably vary that anyways) to whatever is appropriate and switching their weapon to a disruptor or whatever. You also get a pretty fun Section 31 operative with lots of surprises, as well as some ready-to-use blank slates for a Federation captain (rival or friend?) and a rear-admiral (to boss around your players).

The Klingon Empire is represented by the original series D7 battle cruiser (which you can refit to the later K’t’inga-class battle cruiser), the classic B’rel bird-of-prey, the larger K’vort bird-of-prey, and the heavy-duty Vor’cha attack cruisers. Klingon NPCs are the ubiquitous warrior, the battle-hardened veteran, and Moq’var, Son of Koloth: a blank slate captain ready to be a reoccurring adversary in your game. The Romulan Empire similarly has ships from across the series from the UFO-like bird-of-prey and the mean-and-green D’deridex warbird. For NPCs you have the lowly uhlan, an experienced centurion, and Major Verohk of the Tal Shiar (another character ready for your preferred history). Both of these empires benefit from cloaking devices as well, the rules for which I think are complicated enough to be interesting but not so much that they are impossible to use. Well done there, these could have easily become the grappling rules of STA starships…

Star Trek - Excelsior vs. Klingons
Image © Paramount Pictures

The Cardassian Union has, of course, the Galor cruiser with NPC stats for a soldier, a glinn, and an example gul. The Ferengi Alliance has their crescent-shaped D’kora marauder that can be surprisingly tricky in combat and they have a menial worker, experienced salesman, and cunning DaiMon as NPCs. The Dominion has the small Jem’Hadar attack ships and the larger Jem’Hadar battle cruisers seen during the Dominion War, both with advanced transporters, polaron weapons, and anti-cloak sensors. They will be pretty tough to take on, which fits the series well. For NPCs they have a Jem’Hadar warrior, a Jem’Hadar First, and a Vorta overseer. Lastly, the Maquis have two ships (the Defiant-sized raider and the small fighter) but no NPCs.

The Borg also have two of their classic ships: the Borg cube and the sphere seen in First Contact. These ships are… How do I say this neutrally? They’re f-ing bananas. There’s a sidebar of common special abilities including regeneration and the ability to take multiple turns in a round. Cubes are further augmented by the ability to adapt to weapons and a special ability called “Colossal” which could just as easily read “Run For Your Life.” I’d have to playtest some more but they seem pretty unbeatable… again, matching the series well. Three Borg NPCs are given, each with the “Borg” Trait and a Trait of their original species (nice touch): there’s the tactical drone, the technical drone, and the medical drone. These, unsurprisingly, have many special features and are just as deadly and probably lethal as their ships.

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