So, it’s been awhile since I talked about colonies in Star Trek Adventures but there’s a reason for it. My first few articles were setting up the narrative part of things but I wanted to pivot to mechanics next. When the Klingon Empire core rulebook came out and I read through the rules for houses I started from scratch on this. Then I read the Dune RPG and its rules for houses and started over again. It’s been percolating for a little but I think I’ve got the best version of these rules. Let me know!
In Star Trek Adventures the starship or the station you are on has stats and acts as a character in its own right. That’s part of the draw for me and I want to make sure that stories set on a colony reflect this as well. At the same time, a colony is slightly different and harder to simulate so just using the ship rules and stretching them won’t do the trick. What follows is a hybrid of rules for an organization and rules for a crew of people working together.
Over time, colonies grow from a first site of a few inhabitants to (if they’re lucky) large-scale population centers. There are four different levels of development in these rules, though this is a very subjective topic in the universe of Star Trek, of course.
- Fledgling Colony: Just getting started, all off-worlders come to build a new place to live and possibly terraform the environment into something suitable.
- Established Colony: A foothold population and some of the comforts of modern life, though definitely rough around the edges.
- Notable Colony: Once a colony has reached this stage it is fairly well known in the sector which means it starts attracting trade routes and probably has multiple settlements with multiple strengths.
- Major Colony: These colonies are not really “colonies” anymore. There are large cities and major developments, a planetary population that is a big political force in the sector.
For a colony, you can pick any of these colony types depending on your preference and the story you want to tell. Mechanically, a fledgling colony has fewer domains and more Traits since it will be less helpful to characters as a base of power and more particular in its character. Smaller colonies might be Rugged, Divided, Family-Oriented, Rich in Minerals, or any other Trait you can think of.
|Fledgling Colony||Federation Colony* + 4 unique Traits|
|Established Colony||Federation Colony* + 3 unique Traits|
|Notable Colony||Federation Colony* + 2 unique Traits|
|Major Colony||Federation Colony* + 1 unique Trait|
Traits can make different situations easier or harder as normal but people associated with the colony can spend a Momentum to utilize that Trait on their own rolls for the remainder of a scene.
A colony has a number of domains determined by its Development which determines what makes that colony unique. Typically colonies start for a particular reason on a planet with opportunity, whether that’s a physical resource, a good climate, or a prime location. This sets their first domain but as they grow colonies will branch out into other areas.
|Fledgling Colony||1 secondary|
|Established Colony||1 primary and 1 secondary|
|Notable Colony||1 primary and 2 secondary|
|Major Colony||2 primary and 3 secondary|
Mechanically speaking, there are eight different domains for colonies in Star Trek, each reflecting a different sort of colony within the universe of the franchise.
- Artistic: These are colonies that are concerned with the fine arts of all sorts.
- Farming: These colonies grow foodstuffs that taste far better than replicator meals.
- Industrial: Manufacturing and technological development define these colonies.
- Military: Focused on security, these colonies are probably in a strategic location.
- Political: Bureaucracy and the management of systems are why these colonies exist.
- Recreational: Popular shore leave colonies attract tourists from all over the galaxy.
- Religious: With a spiritual center and history, these colonies are home to the faithful.
- Scientific: Research and the pursuit of knowledge define these colonies, possibly because of some strange quirk of the planet’s make-up.
Area of Expertise
Within a domain, there are many different ways for the colony to pursue that field of interest. Each of the colony’s primary domains has an area of expertise to further focus it. In the world of Star Trek there are, of course, thousands of different types of industry and resources that a colony could have. In this system, we’re going to focus on just four.
- Technology: Inventions and technological developments that help or support the domain.
- Production: Large-scale fabrication or growing of products related to the domain.
- Expertise: Specialists who are well-respected authorities within the domain.
- Understanding: Researchers on the cutting edge of what this domain can do.
These eight domains combine with the four areas of expertise to create 32 different strengths for colonies to have. This doesn’t even get into the multiple arrangements of different domain-expertise combinations as the primary and secondary concerns of larger colonies. Suffice it to say there is a lot of room for being unique when it comes to colonies.
Colonies have Departments just like starships and space stations, the same set of six fields that make up a character’s Disciplines as well: Command, Conn, Security, Engineering, Science, and Medicine. These are combined with Attributes for rolls to assist character’s in a Task just like a starship does, and just like a starship a colony is assumed to have a Focus that applies to the roll for purposes of critical successes.
A colony’s Departments start at 4, 3, 2, 2, 1, and 1 distributed however you like.
Like characters, colonies have Attributes to describe their strengths and deficiencies. There are four Attributes and colonies start at 10, 8, 7, and 7 distributed however you like.
Infrastructure is the physical structure of the colony, the buildings and computers as well as the research facilities, medical buildings, and other sites. Colonies with a high Infrastructure Attribute have well-maintained, easily accessed facilities in a wide variety of fields. Colonies with a low Infrastructure Attribute might have only specialized facilities, degraded systems, or both.
Characters might use Infrastructure with…
- … Command to present an impressive show for visitors or adjust a building to accommodate a particular visiting species’ needs.
- … Conn to service ships in need of repair.
- … Security to secure a building or area from a threat.
- … Engineering to create a new facility or service.
- … Science to provide the required energy for a new research project.
- … Medicine to create medical supplies or a novel vaccine quickly.
Might reflects the military capabilities of the colony, the weapons and force fields but also the training of security forces and the general rule of law. Colonies with a high Might Attribute will be able to defend themselves effectively against invasion or other dangers. Those with a low Might Attribute rely on an outside force like Starfleet to keep them safe.
Characters might use Might with…
- … Command to effectively coordinate starships in the system.
- … Conn to jam enemy vessels in the area and prevent them from coordinating their attack.
- … Security to defend against an invasion of your colony.
- … Engineering to build planetary defenses.
- … Science to scan the area for hostile groups, enemy vessels
- … Medicine to incapacitate hostile forces through sedatives or biofeedback fields.
Organization is how well the colony pulls together, what its unity is like. Colonies with a high Organization Attribute are able to come together in a common purpose quickly and efficiently. Those with a low Organization Attribute struggle to get support from the general populace.
Characters might use Organization with…
- … Command to organize community efforts to deal with a crisis.
- … Conn to facilitate a busy space port with ships coming in and out of orbit.
- … Security to send security forces to find and apprehend a fugitive.
- … Engineering to construct a large-scale project.
- … Science to conduct a planet-wide survey of different biomes.
- … Medicine to deal with the outbreak of a virulent disease.
Resources are the goods and assets that the colony has access to. This includes food supplies, energy reserves, databases, and (outside the Federation) money that the colony has. Everything that is physically part of the colony is Infrastructure, everything moving through or held by the colony is Resources. Colonies with high Resources have plenty to spare for everyone, while low-Resource colonies might be under rationing conditions or rely on regular shipments without which they would collapse.
Characters might use Resources with…
- … Command to redirect colony materials to a project that needs them.
- … Conn to provide navigational data to ships in the region.
- … Security to provide intelligence data on criminal activity in the colony.
- … Engineering to prioritize energy to a specific part of the colony.
- … Science to coordinate research teams in an ongoing project.
- … Medicine to manufacture a vaccine for a virus sweeping through the colony.
The colonists can operate separately, supporting the actions of the Main Characters in their missions. When this happens, create a target number by adding together one of the colony’s attributes and the colony’s department and roll a single d20, as per the rules for assistance. In essence, the colony is working as a single unit if it’s possible for a group to help you in the task given the situation and timeframe.
- If one of the colony’s domains applies to the situation, they roll 2d20 for assistance instead.
- If one of the colony’s areas of expertise also applies, they gain a wider critical range as with character Focuses.
Note that the areas of expertise are tied to the domain and can’t be used independently. So a colony that specializes in Farming Production would not gain advantages on producing an Industrial product. This also means a secondary domain can only benefit from the first advantage.
This also works for projects that happen in the background. If the players want to have long term goals these can be included as Extended Tasks with work tracks (or Extended Consequences as presented on pages 208-210 of the Gamemaster’s Guide) which can be accomplished just like projects on a starship. Even if the Main Characters aren’t working on these tasks, the colony can roll a single d20 to gain some progress. This will obviously be slower and shows that the project is not a priority at the moment (since resources are shifted instead to whatever project the Main Characters are putting their attention on) but it still shows things happening in the background.
Another way to make use of the colonists generally is to call up a team that can help directly with a project. This is good for when you need immediate help, not the long term help of the colony in general but the presence of a specific group of assistants and collaborators. This works just like the personnel on a starship (see page 185 of the Star Trek Adventures core rulebook and page 148 of the Klingon Empire core rulebook) and effectively turns the colonists into an Advantage. Most colonists have an Opportunity Cost of 1 to include them in a scene with you but armed teams (including security forces) have an Escalation Cost of 1 instead.
Consider an archaeology project going on at the colony Magora IV. For the better part of a week the Main Characters have been narrowing in on the location of an important archaeological site using the planet’s developing orbital sensor network. To show this work, the GM has the characters engage in an Extended Task with the colony assisting with Infrastructure + Science. The work track has been completed and the Main Characters have found the site, now they want to make a detailed scan of the site to plan out excavations.
This is represented by a single task but there’s enough time to involve different groups of colonists so it’s assisted again by the colony (once again by Infrastructure + Science) as they gather what they need. With the dimensional scan in hand, the Main Characters see an ingress where they can access some of the site directly. Gathering a group of archaeologists from the colonists (mechanically serving as an Advantage) the Main Characters set out to the site to begin direct excavation.
Colony Supporting NPCs
Players can bring supporting NPCs onto a scene just like on a starship or space station. In those situations NPCs can be brought in by spending Crew Support points determined by the ship or station’s size. On a colony these points come instead from the colony’s domains. Every colony has 3 points of General Support points that can bring in any sort of supporting NPCs the players want to make use of (using the standard rules for Supporting NPCs). In addition, every primary domain provides 2 specialized Support points and every secondary domain provides 1 specialized Support point. These specialized points can only be used to bring in NPCs that can reasonably be connected to that domain.
|Colony Base||3 general|
|Each Primary Domain||+2 specialized|
|Each Secondary Domain||+1 specialized|
For example, the colony at Magora IV has a primary domain of Scientific Technology and two secondary domains of Scientific Understanding and Religious Understanding. Magora IV has three general Colony Support points for three separate NPCs, plus two Scientific Technology Support points for sensor specialists or lab scientists, one Scientific Understanding Support point for a researcher or theorist, and one Religious Understanding Support point for a spiritual leader, religious scholar, or other expert.
The next installment of this series won’t be long in the future, I promise. Next time I’ll be getting into some specific ways to use these mechanics for your colony. Unlike a starship or space station, colonies are expected to change and grow so we’ll be looking at Colony Projects. In case you’re wondering, this is also how colonies might gain more Traits, domains, and changing Attribute and Department values. See you then!