I’m here today with a review of the Player’s Guide for Star Trek Adventures, an awesome resource for the whole STA gaming group. Last week I wrote a post on Continuing Mission about it but I only made it halfway through. You’ll have to go to that site for the first half but I wanted to bring you, loyal readers, the second and (dare I say?) most exciting part of it.
To be transparent, the text of this review first appeared on Continuing Mission but reprinted here.
One of the most interesting, slow-burn rules of Star Trek Adventures for me has been the character roles. They are part of the wrap-up at the end of the lifepath creation steps and seem to just confirm what you’ve already decided. By the time you are naming your character and double-checking the stats you probably already know whether you’re a science officer or captain or ship’s cook. So it’s just a matter of jotting that down on the sheet, right?
Wrong, and this chapter of the Player’s Guide shows why. There’s a discussion of what character role means in and out of the game universe and a rundown of each of the nineteen roles in the two core rulebooks (original and Klingon). Everyone from the captain to the ship’s counselor has tips for portraying that role, a quick build sidebar for making an effective character in this position, and reasons you might want to consider this role. I especially like the “Role Example” highlights where the role’s functions are seen on the show, describing the characters we know and love acting with STA mechanics to exemplify their role.
There are other notes for specific roles such as commanding officers keeping a log or how it’s different as chief of security on a space station, but rather than reiterate every section let me just point out a few awesome bits. A Klingon ship’s cook has a handy random-roll chart to describe different foods, there’s a case to be made for communications officers on space stations monitoring all the different comms systems, and the helm officer has a short section on maintaining a ship’s fleet of small craft. I was lukewarm on these roles before but now I want to play each of them.
Character Creation Options
Here’s where things hit warp. Chapter 6 of the Player’s Guide has the innocuous title of “Character Creation Options” and then starts off with a section titled “Beyond Starfleet.” So many posts and questions (some by me) have appeared during these first four years of STA asking about crews outside of the bounds of Starfleet and at long last here is an official version. There’s first a discussion of how non-Starfleet main characters have appeared in the franchise including some newer ones (although not the awesome Season 2 finale of Lower Decks, presumably for timing issues).
Various means of including non-Starfleet or KDF characters are discussed with great examples of each type. Allied personnel from joint missions and officer exchange programs like Kira Nerys and T’Pol are an easy way, especially if you want to use your Klingon corebook in your Federation corebook game and vice versa. There are also ambassadors and diplomats like Lwaxana Troi or the later careers of Jonathan Archer on Andoria, Spock on Qo’noS and Romulus, Worf with the Klingon Empire, and Kor, Koloth, and Kang at the Khitomer Accords. Civilian advisors and experts like Doctor Phlox, Neelix, Cleveland Booker, Garak, Quark, and Rom can fill any number of roles and family members like Wesley Crusher and Jake Sisko can be main characters in their own right. The Player’s Guide also points out that characters like Nog, Naomi Wildman, and Icheb start off as non-Starfleet characters but end up as officers later in the franchise (or as KDF warriors in the case of Alexander Rozhenko).
To help with this and generally expand options we’re also treated to a slew of new character roles! I mean most of them, there’s the ambassador and intelligence officer from the Command Division Supplement but aside from these are fourteen awesome new role options. An administrator is a role for the leadership of a colony or other civilian operation. An armory officer is a Starfleet version of the weapons officer in the Klingon core rulebook. A bartender and a chef are both civilian support roles for your Ten Forward (there’s also a fun “Catering on Starfleet Vessels” sidebar). A bodyguard is a hired security person for someone important and they have some cool options for protecting them. A child is an interesting role who shows up when least expected.
A civilian bureaucrat is part of a colony’s functioning and liaisons with other organizations. A constable is a security officer that focuses more on investigating scenes than locking down ships. An expert has a particular focus that might bring them onboard a ship for a time. A merchant has lots of stores and can come up with equipment easily. A political liaison is from an allied government like the Bajoran Provisional Government. A ship’s doctor is an alternative type of medical expert for smaller ships and civilian crews. A spiritual leader is… well self-explanatory. Lastly, a translator is an expert in speaking to other species and is useful in pre-universal-translator days and archaeological digs.
The next section of this chapter offers alternative tables for your lifepath journey at character creation. An alternative Environments table focuses less on the world your character comes from (as seen in the core rulebooks) and more on what sort of conditions they experienced as a child (such as a Utopian Paradise or Occupation and War). Likewise, an alternative Upbringings option focuses on characters’ aspirations instead of their families, so they might want to Discover or to Create.
An Allied Military option allows you to skip Step Four of the lifepath and make a custom-built set of benefits to reflect your training as a Cardassian officer or Emerald Chain enforcer or what-have-you. Some templates for use here are Rank and File, Officer Training, Intelligence Training, and Militia and Guerillas. A large table with an official STA comparison of various ranks really helps in this matter. You can also replace Step 4 with training as an Ambassador/Diplomat (with a massive sidebar to help) and have Civilian Characters such as law enforcement constables, freighter captains, politicians, etc. Lastly, there’s an option for cadet characters and advancing them to full officers, and a full lifepath redo for child characters (about two pages, it’s more of a full-scale tweak). Obviously these are going to be used a lot more for supporting characters so the chapter ends with a discussion of how to do that effectively. Really inspiring.
This section of the book covers some more meta-rules to supplement the rules in the core Star Trek Adventures book. It starts off with a look at Attributes, going through each one and talking about how they can be used when faced with violence, a physical problem, an intellectual/emotional problem, or a social problem. If you have a high-Insight character are you just not as much use in combat? If you have a high-Fitness character is there nothing for you in a social struggle? The answer to both of those is a definite “no” and after this section you’ll know why. There are also tables for each attribute describing what different numerical ranges mean (If you have Daring 8 are you a total coward? Just a little cautious?) which can help keep the focus on the story even when you’re looking at the numbers.
A nearly-full-page sidebar on awareness as in “what Attribute and what Discipline do you use to notice stuff?” The answer is definitely it depends and this section goes way in depth into the whole subject. My only gripe is that it could use some notes on how different senses might play in, both because there are telepathic and ultraviolet-sensing characters in Star Trek and also because it could head off some ableist interpretations of the rules. There is another sidebar on telepathy specifically a few pages later so at least that gets a separate treatment.
Next, of course, we get the same treatment as Attributes got for the game’s Disciplines. There aren’t any situational notes hre but there is plenty of advice for how to play characters with high ratings in those Disciplines so that’s good. The next section deals with Ship Systems and Departments and describes how characters might interact with each of them. I particularly liked the sidebar on external versus internal sensors which is cool from technical, social, and storytelling perspectives. The trifecta.
Next up are Traits and how to make the most of them. The different sorts of Traits you might have (injuries, reputation, moods, beliefs, and, of course, species) are all covered in turns and hopefully this will elevate your characters’ Traits to impact your game meaningfully. I talked about this a little in my recent Dune review but I’ve always felt Traits in Star Trek could have a stronger impact and I hope this does it for your game. This is followed, of course, by Values which (in my experience) really do have a big impact. The material here is making good Values in a game, Values that are “understandable,” “troublesome,” “beneficial,” “evolving,” and even “clashing.” You’ll have to read the book for yourself to see how great this advice is but if you want some immediately useful tips then check out this great article by Continuing Mission’s own Michael Dismuke. As for what inspires good Values, the book has tips from species and culture, institution, and people plus how to use Values effectively in play for players and GMs.
A further chapter on Focuses has some similarly great advice, including Focuses not being permanent and how and when to change your character’s Focus. The first bit of advice for how to create a good Focus is to “watch Star Trek” which is just the sort of grounded and practical advice that this writing team excels at. They also advice to search the internet; they mostly mean technical areas of expertise but I think they also mean Continuing Mission. You can just tell. Lastly, there are suggestions organized by Discipline with some awesome and different ideas.
Finally, we have Talents. This section isn’t advice, there is a crowd of new and interesting Talents to add to your next character’s sheet (or your current one if you’re up for a Milestone). There are forty-four new Talents, organized as general Talents, Discipline-specific Talents, and “esoteric” Talents. Some gems include Second Wind (spend a Determination to remove all your current Stress), Well-Informed (add Threat to gain information from your network of contacts), Extra-Sensory Perception (one of those “esoteric” ones), Visit Every Star (bonuses in navigation), and Don’t You Die on Me! (use Determination to stop someone dying).
Further sections include guidance on using Momentum and including more Equipment in your games. Aside from an amazing index, that’s it… But certainly enough!
This book has a ton of information in it, very densely packed and ready to benefit your gameplay. It’s a testament to the design of Star Trek Adventures that I’ve never had a player have trouble making a character, even if we’re making a Supporting Character on the fly. It’s a great game system and having more options is really great so the extra roles, mechanics, and Talents are awesome here.
Of course, the real benefit of this book is in capturing that Star Trek feel. If you’ve ever been playing a game of STA and things just gelled where you thought “now this is what Star Trek feels like” then this book gives you the tools to make that happen every session all campaign long. Beautifully written, full of practical advice and new mechanics, this is a must-get for any Star Trek gaming group.