Character Development in Star Trek Adventures

One of the best parts of Star Trek Adventures is how characters can change and grow through play. The inclusion of creating (and updating) Supporting Characters is a big part of this but PCs and Major NPCs can also change as a result.

Obviously, these changes are meant to reflect the sort of character development seen in Star Trek shows but it’s definitely a different sort of design from other RPGs. To show both how it lines up with experiencing Star Trek media and how it’s different from other games, let’s take a look at three different characters who appear in official Star Trek Adventures products at different points in their story.

Character Development: The Life and Times of Commander Saru

The best example of characters changing in a Star Trek Adventures game is your crew of player characters. Through the character development Milestones system of the game rules you can develop your character but very importantly this is not the same as “advancing” your character. Characters in Star Trek Adventures start off cool and they stay cool throughout in different ways. Only with “Arc Milestones,” which you can think of as the end of a season, do you permanently get better in terms of game. More often you are gaining something by losing something else: increasing one Attribute by lowering another, dropping a Talent to gain a new one, etc.

Image © Tilting Point

Instead, Milestones grow the character by changing them in interesting ways that reflect the ongoing story. Just like characters on television series will start off one way and change after significant events, your Star Trek Adventures character will face challenges and change accordingly (or dig in on their beliefs in the face of adversity). The pregenerated characters of the Star Trek: Discovery crew packs are a great example of this from official releases. Obviously I can’t talk about these changes without spoilers so if you are worried about that skip to the next section at this point.

Take, for example, first officer Commander Saru. In the Season 1 Crew Pack, Saru has four Values around trusting his crew: “Before We Can Care for Others, We Must First Care for Ourselves,” “I Am Surrounded By a Team I Trust,” “I Will Not Fear the Coming of Death,” and “Kaminar Will Always Be My Home.” He has an even spread of Attributes, and a high Discipline of Science (since he was chief science officer on the Shenzhou). He also has Cautious, Ganglia (Pre-Vahar’ai), On All Fours, and Reassuring as Talents (the middle two are Kelpien Talents if you don’t recognize them), plus a lot of science-related Focuses.

In the Season 2 Crew Pack, Saru has grown a lot already and changed mechanically. While the total of his Disciplines are still the same (16), his strengths have shifted to Command as he takes his position more determinedly and Security as he becomes bolder. To that end he’s also switched a point from Control to Daring, traded his Cautious Talent for Dauntless and his Ganglia (Pre-Vahar’ai) Talent for a Ganglia (Post-Vahar’ai) Talent. He also switched his Vahar’ai-related third Value for a pointed “I Will Free My People From the Lies of Their Past” which represents the revelations about Kaminar in Season 2. Most subtly, he’s dropped a Xenobiology Focus for Philosophy. All of this means that he’s less skilled at being a science officer but as the U.S.S. Discovery has more of those as Supporting Characters then he’s got different ways to shine in this role.

Lastly, in the Season 3 Crew Pack, Saru is now the Commanding Officer and has the rank of captain (which would have happened through one of the game’s two Reputation systems). His Values have shifted again since he did free his people so now he has “I Will Return Home.” This combines his commitment to Kaminar’s future with his ties to it as his home so his fourth Value has become “We Learn Our Greatest Lessons When We Pay a Heavy Price,” reflecting the widespread feeling of loss in the time-displaced crew of the third season. Previously he became more Daring but now that point has switched again to Insight as Saru settles into the subtleties of command. This is further shown by his Talents where he dropped both Dauntless and Reassuring for Quick Survey and Teacher, showing a man who is less prone to worrying and self-consciousness and quicker to action and leadership. He also switched out Starfleet Protocol for Team Dynamics which I think shows a focus on his ship instead of wider perceptions. Saru came a long way from the Season 1 writeup and his mechanical strengths are quite different here, but as portrayed on the show he’s still the same person with the same core.

Shifting Purpose: The Many Faces of Worf

Sometimes, though, the mechanics of a character don’t necessarily depend on a solid arc of development but might reflect different purposes at different times. A great example of this in official Star Trek Adventures products is Worf who appears in multiple books for multiple purposes. I’m not as concerned for spoilers for The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine but this is your warning.

Image © Tilting Point

Firstly, he appears in the Next Generation Crew Pack as chief of security on the Enterprise-D. He’s got lots of points in Daring and Fitness, Disciplines skewed heavily towards Security and Conn, and Focuses on combat, infiltration, and Klingon culture. He’s got four Values all centered on being the only Klingon in Starfleet: “Always the Outsider,” “A Warrior’s Rage,” “Legacy of the House of Mogh,” and “Proud and Honorable Klingon Warrior.” His Talents also reflect a combat-focused character with Brak’lul, Constantly Watching, Dauntless, and Quick to Action.

After the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf went on to become the strategic operations officer on Deep Space Nine and in that Crew Pack as well. Still constructed as a player character, there’s a lot that similar to his Next Generation appearance but the character has a different role and the tone of the series is very different. We don’t need a skull-cracking Worf, we need a Worf who can play up the political situation with the Klingons and be a foil to the warrior culture of the Jem’Hadar. As a result, Worf’s second Value has changed to a more nuanced “Glory Only Comes Through Victory” and since the House of Mogh arc is decided he’s found love with “Jadzia Is My Second Heart.” He also has a fifth Value connecting to a major NPC in “Martok, Like Warriors from the Ancient Sagas.” He shifted a point from Conn to Command because he’s in a red uniform now and he’s replaced his Constantly Watching and Dauntless Talents with a second Klingon Talent (R’uustai) and a Personal Effects Talent to give himself a mek’leth blade.

Lastly, we see Worf written up in the Klingon Empire Core Rulebook where he’s in a very different role: from player character to Major NPC. This Worf is the Son of Mogh who briefly left Stafleet during the Klingon Civil War and served as liaison to the Klingon Defense Force with General Martok during the Dominion War. Now he has more balanced Attributes and Disciplines, which makes him useful to the GM in all sorts of situations and his Focuses range from Diplomacy to Hand-to-Hand Combat to Starship Tactics which achieves the same. The special rules are a mix as well with Bold (Command), Brak’lul, Dauntless, Tough, and Warrior’s Spirit showing an NPC who’s not going to be knocked out of an encounter easily.

He has completely different Values as well since now he’s an outsider to the Klingon Empire instead of to Starfleet. Half of them are Klingon-related (“the True Test of a Warrior is Within” and “Today Is a Good Day to Die!”) and half deal with this split (“A Klingon Warrior and a Starfleet Officer”). In the Klingon Empire book, this same character with the same motivations can be seen but the mechanics reflect a man straddling two worlds who might have to throw down with some Klingon warriors and/or lead a group into battle.

New Directions: Gul Dukat and the Pah Wraiths

Saru and Worf are two characters who have big arcing stories. You can go back to the beginning and see the story poised there to take over and wind up in a very different spot. Sometimes, though, characters go through marked changes with some very distinct and sharp corners. An excellent example of this is Gul Dukat through the run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (you should know the spoiler warning by now) who starts off as the prime example of Cardassian cruelty and complexity, turns into an unlikely ally against the Klingons, turns again into an enemy when he aligns with the Dominion, and then out of left field becomes a cult leader for the fringe worship of Bajoran pah-wraiths.

Image © Tilting Point

In Star Trek Adventures, we first encounter Gul Dukat in the Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook (and also the Iconic Villains pack) where he is very much in his early role as “Exemplar Cardassian.” He has a Value of “A Disciplined Cardassian Mind” as well as the complicated Value of “One Man’s Villain is Another Man’s Hero.” This is after he’s been assigned to captain the Groumall so there’s also “Everything I Have Lost, I Will Regain” and “They Don’t Know What It Means to be my Enemy.” He’s got good stats with high Presence and Daring, high Command, Focuses that are mostly military with also Bajoran Culture, the commonly seen Special Rules of a Cardassian officer (Ambushes and Traps plus Ruthless), as well as Supreme Authority and Bold (Command). In fact, you could build a character like this pretty easily by starting with Gul Tremak in the core rulebook and making a few changes (particularly with Values).

In the Gamma Qadrant Sourcebook, Gul Dukat is at a different part in his story. He’s joined with he Dominion, taken Deep Space 9, lost the station and his daughter, had a mental break during which he discovered and was possessed by a pah-wrait, then released that wraith into the Bajoran Wormhole and disappeared. It’s been a time. Stats-wise he’s lost some Control (shocker) and traded more of his Focuses for Bajoran- and religion-centered ones. He also dropped his Bold (Command) rule for an Interrogation one, indicating his less of a leader but just as vicious. The big changes are in his Values, the first two of which are replaced by “Anyone Who Stands in Our Way will be Destroyed” and “Cardassia will be Made Whole.” These are similar changes to Worf’s adjustments between roles but it represents dropping a lot of strengths to inhabit a very different narrative role in the game.

Conclusion

Characters in Star Trek Adventures are designed to change with time. This doesn’t mean that they get more powerful or that they gain new abilities (not necessarily) but that they fundamentally shift as the story and narrative demands. The fact that PCs and Major NPCs are already functionally at their power limit when they start means that any additions require removing something else. You aren’t allowed to stagnate in Star Trek Adventures, or to entrench in a position and not react to what’s happening.

I love this part of the game and if you do to then sound off in the comments with cool ways that your characters have changed over time!

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