I’ve written other “Ten Things to Know…” posts, and they’re always pretty fun. I see them as short lists you can send to a group to pitch them on a game you want to try or just prep them for a game you’ve already decided on. They’re short and sweet and today I want to give that treatment to Star Trek Adventures, a game that I’ve grown to love and appreciate.
1. This game is based on Star Trek.
It shouldn’t surprise you that the inspiration for Star Trek Adventures is the Star Trek franchise. If you already know the Star Trek series well, read on to other points for more context. If you don’t know it that well or you haven’t ever watched an episode of Star Trek, this is a very brief introduction to the setting. For a more thorough crash course, check out the Star Trek 101 series on the Continuing Mission blog.
In Star Trek Adventures, you play an officer of Starfleet which is an exploratory and scientific corps that serves the United Federation of Planets (UFP). The Federation’s capitol is on Earth but it is much more than a human endeavor and includes species from all over the galaxy. Although it’s main mission is one of exploration, Starfleet also serves as the Federation’s military by necessity, a dichotomy which causes some concern and argument throughout the series. All around Federation space are many alien species who don’t share the same beliefs and values as Starfleet does, and you’ll be expected to deal with them and represent your culture well. The militaristic Klingons, the isolationist Romulans, the autocratic Cardassians, and even the hyper-capitalist Ferengi are all aliens you can expect to interact with, as well as the expansionist Dominion and cybernetic Borg who hail from more distant parts of the galaxy.
2. This game uses the 2d20 system from Modiphius.
The 2d20 system is Modiphius’s in-house system that gets used for many of their games. Like many other RPG systems, the basics are fairly simple but the mechanics can expand to cover a variety of different situations and get rather involved at times. If you’re just starting, focus on these basics and you’ll be off to a strong start.
Your character has six Attributes (Control, Daring, Fitness, Insight, Presence, and Reason) and six Disciplines (Command, Conn, Security, Engineering, Science, and Medicine). When you attempt a Task the GM will tell you which combination of Attribute and Discipline to use and you roll a number of d20s and try to get that sum or lower, and they’ll tell you the number of successes you need to do the thing (the Task’s Difficulty). If you have a Control of 9, for example, and an Engineering of 3 then you would need to roll a 12 or lower for a Control + Engineering Task. If you roll a 1, then you get two successes. Normally you roll 2d20 (hence then name of the system) but you can use a game resource called Momentum to purchase additional dice and better your chances. If you roll more successes than the Difficulty you can generate more Momentum and spend it on more dice or interesting options.
3. There are no classes and no races.
In Star Trek Adventures, characters are usually built with a Lifepath system and at no point in that process do they lock themselves into a specific career. They have their training but they can move between departments on the ship just like characters in Star Trek series do. You’ll have to think about what your strong skills are but the system itself is freeform enough that you can have a few different strengths with ease.
There’s also no races in Star Trek Adventures, just species. This is a subtle distinction in terms of rhetoric (but one worth making!) though in terms of mechanics it means a few specific things. First of all, the mechanical impact of your species is relatively minor: just a few Attribute bonuses. You get access to some special options as well but those are entirely optional. You can also easily make a hybrid character, playing a Human-Vulcan or a Bajoran-Bolian just by saying so. There’s also the option of playing a character of one species raised in an alien culture, best handled by the GM adjudicating which of the aliens’ options you can make use of. Lastly, species are very quick to make (especially if you don’t want to have those optional bits) so you can make up your own alien species and define your own place in the universe!
4. You’re serving on a starship.
Again, not much of a surprise considering you’re supposed to be playing in the Star Trek universe. It’s worth considering, though, what it means to be part of a starship crew instead of an adventuring party. First of all, you have a role on the ship that you are expected to fulfill, whether that’s being the captain or the ship’s doctor or the chief engineer. You’ve got your part of the whole that you’re responsible for and you want to make sure that’s going smoothly. If you need some help in that regard, check out the player resources here.
You also aren’t alone in this! Besides your fellow player characters, you have a whole ship of Supporting Crew that can help in your missions. When your group splits up or you need a specific skillset, pick out a minor character from your Star Trek “series” who steps in to fill the gap. Sometimes this might be a full-on NPC but other times the GM might ask a player to control them, especially if that player’s Main Character is back on the ship or doing something else. You’re a team and you can utilize all the advantages of that!
5. Violence should be a last resort.
Though Starfleet serves as the Federation’s military more than some people are comfortable with, its primary goal is exploratory. This goes for your characters too and most of the time your missions will involve unraveling mysteries or understanding an alien culture. There will be combat, of course, but it tends to get serious quickly so both in- and out-of-game you probably want it to be a last resort. Any time things turn lethal, for example, the GM’s characters get a boost to their resource pool so you are handing your adversaries more power! Just try to talk things through and take the smart play over the direct one when you can.
6. The default time setting is just before the Dominion War.
There are a number of different Star Trek series and movies, so the designers here had to pick a time to set this game. The default setting is midway through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and just before the start of Star Trek: Voyager, which also puts it before the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. Crucially, this also puts things just before the war with the Dominion which makes it a time of tense politics and endless potential.
The Federation has made contact with the powerful Dominion through the Bajoran Wormhole, a bridge to a distant corner of the galaxy. The Klingon Empire has recently been attacking the Cardassian Union and the hostilities have put both governments on edge with regard to the Federation. Meanwhile, there are plots brewing which could take down the Romulan Star Empire and through every political balance in half the galaxy into disarray.
If you’d rather play in an earlier time period, the rules also strongly support games set during the time of the original Star Trek series with Captain Kirk (and so also the time period of Star Trek: Discovery) as well as even earlier during the events of Star Trek: Enterprise. You can find rules for all of these periods right in the core rulebook and can pick your exact flavor of Star Trek to suit your gaming group.
7. Your character is defined by Values, Focuses, and Talents.
Characters in Star Trek Adventures have the six Attributes and six Disciplines discussed earlier, but they are most uniquely defined by three other elements on the character sheet. The first is Values, those ideals which are at the core of your character. You will make them during character creation but they tell you and the GM exactly which sort of situations your character will feel most strongly about and they serve as the equivalent to alignment in this game. You can also use a game resource called Determination when acting on your Values, and the benefits gained by that resource are very powerful.
More commonly, though, you’ll rely on your Focuses which are one- or two-word phrases that detail what niche topics your character is best versed in. Some of them might be training (like Transporters or Hand-to-Hand Combat) while others might be personal interests or cultural practices (like Dancing or Meditation). When a Focus can apply to a situation, every time you roll your Discipline value or lower you get double successes, meaning that doing Tasks that involve your Focuses are a way to succeed wildly.
Lastly, you have a set of Talents which are your special abilities as a character. These abilities allow you to break the rules or get an advantage on a certain type of situation, abilities which can allow you to fulfill your role on the ship better. Two PCs might have high Engineering scores, for example, but you’re the one with a Talent that lets you reroll bad results while fixing things. Talents are also the way that you can do the incredible things seen in Star Trek from telepath to nerve pinches.
8. This setting thrives on incredible technology and technobabble.
There’s a certain camp factor to Star Trek and the game runs best when you really get into it! Make up crazy-sounding parts of the ship! Reference wild sports or strange alien drinks! Go to Risa in between missions! This also comes up tactically when you are thinking of ways to overcome the obstacles that the mission lays out. When you are faced with an enemy ship that has you at an extreme disadvantage, think of ways you can use the transporters or the deflector dish to turn the tables. When you need something or just want to change up the narrative, turn to the replicator and figure out how to create it from thin air. Technology in Star Trek is miraculous in many ways and don’t worry about sticking strictly to scientific theory. Throw out crazy ideas and have fun with it!
9. Ask lots of questions and don’t hoard resources.
In keeping with the Violence should be a last resort and Your character is defined by Values, Focuses, and Talents, this game encourages more player questions than some other RPGs. In Star Trek, characters are constantly asking questions and figuring out what they can do in a given situation. Ask your GM what your options are, what clues might mean, and if you can bring any of your Values or Focuses to bear. One way to help with this is to use your Momentum to Obtain Information, an option that lets you spend a Momentum and ask the GM one question. When you complete a Task, considering chipping in some Momentum towards this to get a better sense of what you’re dealing with.
With that said, don’t hoard your resources. You’re a Starfleet officer and that means you have training that’s amazing. Spend that Momentum to give yourself extra dice so that you can do amazing things. Sometimes you’ll be out of Momentum and need to give the GM resources in order to pay for that extra dice and that’s alright! You’re just amping up the tension so that you can be a big success. In some games, spending a resource pool down do zero and then building it right back up again is a volatility that makes the party nervous. In Star Trek Adventures, that’s a dynamic that’s to be expected.
10. This is based on Star Trek but it’s your game.
This is a big one. There are so many Star Trek episodes, movies, novels, comic books, and games. There are people out there who are experts in this universe, and you might be one of them! Don’t let all of that canon mess with your game, though. If you like playing with the established elements of the setting, then by all means stick to it as well as you can. If you’d rather play a game where Captain Picard unexpectedly retires and hands over command of the Enterprise-D to a fresh set of bridge crew then that can be the reality in your setting! This is an established and beloved universe but it’s also the setting for your game so it should be yours. Discuss with your group ahead of time how closely you want to stick to canon and then find ways to make other people’s preferences part of the game. It can only help!