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Today we start checking out the setting chapters of the new Star Trek Adventures RPG from Modiphius!

This chapter talks about The United Federation of Planets as well as the various other known factions in the Star Trek Universe. It’s divided into four subsections that we’ll tackle in order:

Overview

As a newbie to the Star Trek universe, the Overview served as a swift introduction to the Star Trek Galaxy, with small sections talking about the four Quadrants and the various factions and races that live there, along with what the current situation is with each of them.

While some familiarity with the setting helps here, as I’m unable to tell a Bajoran from a Cardassian at this point (though I suspect I’ll figure that out once we get to Character Creation) the way it was written was clear enough to at least follow along and get the broad strokes as to the conflicts and issues plaguing each of these groups.

There’s also mention here of some of the other truly alien threats like the Borg and the Q, which I’m sure will be a cause of no end of misery (or amusement) to the players when confronted by these threats in the game.

Early History

In a surprising shift, the Early History section switches to a “show, don’t tell” approach by presenting this entire section in the form of several missives taken from various personalities from different factions.

These range from diary entries to excerpts of a lecture talking about the origins of the infamous Khan Noonien Singh, to entries from the personal log of Captain James T. Kirk. While each of these offers insight to a slice of time, and the mindset of their respective authors, the overall effect was a bit confusing.

I came out of this section feeling a little more lost than enlightened, and I wasn’t certain how to parse the information in the letters in a way that would help me run the game.

The Twenty Third Century

This segment deals with the role of Starfleet in the greater scheme of things, and the expectations of the people that serve in it. Rather than delve into the history of things, the section talks about the nature of those that serve Starfleet as explorers as a primary function.

There’s some fine talk here about the virtues of improvisation in the face of the uncertain, the importance of their jobs as Diplomats, Explorers and Peacekeepers. It’s a great read honestly, and one that helps pin down just what makes members of Starfleet so heroic in the way they uphold these virtues.

Recent Federation History

Here we go back to the letters and missives. Again while I do appreciate the insight, I wish that there was some more structure provided to give someone like myself who doesn’t have an extensive familiarity with the setting something to hold on to in terms of context for each of these entries.

Again, I suspect that these letters are great if you’re familiar with the setting, but for someone like myself, I found them to be something that I would skip over at least on my first read-through.

Next up we’ll be taking a look at the next chapter: Your Continuing Mission. This section details the more relatable details of being a member of Starfleet, and it’s a chapter that I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth into given the fact that I’ve always admired Star Trek’s focus on stories that revolve around the missions that don’t involve eradicating an alien species, but rather tackling the issues surrounding the nature of contact while working under The Prime Directive.


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After an overwhelming victory on votes against Shadowrun 5th Edition in a Twitter poll, we’ll be doing a Let’s Study on the freshly minted Star Trek Adventures RPG from Modiphius!

Disclaimers and Background

I was lucky enough to receive this electronic review copy from Modiphius. Also, I’m not all that familiar with the world of Star Trek, having only watched a few of the movies and some episodes of the original Star Trek, and Star Trek: TNG on local TV.

Introduction

“Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, ,to boldly go where no one has gone before.” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

As a geek of any stripe it’s not difficult to get goosebumps at this opening line, and in my head it rings with the same weight as Conan’s “Know, oh, prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis…”

It’s a daunting thing to tackle Star Trek, with such a heavy legacy from so many sources, but the book jumps right into it.  What I really appreciated is how easily they broke down the kinds of adventures you can expect. For those used to the lore of the setting, you can participate in any of the various hotspots of the Federation against its neighbors.

There’s mention of the U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D, the U.S.S. Voyager and the U.S.S. Defiant, as well as the conflicts and missions they were to encounter. These would be the template of the kinds of adventures that the player characters, as members of Starfleet can expect to participate in: from high-stakes politics, to first contact with strange and alien species and participating in exploratory and scientific missions.

The Basic Mechanics

Star Trek Adventures uses the 2d20 system that Modiphius has used in several other games, such as Conan, Mutant Chronicles and the upcoming Infinity RPG.

Whenever an action is taken with a risk of failure the character rolls a pool of 20-sided dice (usually 2, but that can be increased with other factors) and tries to roll below a value determined by their Attribute and Discipline.

Of course, there’s more to it than just rolling 2d20 under a target number, but we’ll talk about those as we run into them on the rules.

In our next installment, we’ll be taking a look at the setting and history of the Start Trek Adventures RPG. It’s a hefty chunk of the book but I’m looking forward to checking it out as I want to better appreciate the next bit after that Starfleet and Character Creation!


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Today we’re taking a look at the Storytelling chapters of Tales From The Loop, called Mystery and Mystery Landscapes.

In keeping with the tone of most of the book, Tales From the Loop tackles Mysteries in an interesting manner, presenting a framework that will work in the context of a TV series episodic format. To help a GM formulate a session, they provide six phases of a mystery:

  1. Introducing the Kids – Each Kid gets a scene from Everyday Life to establish who they are and what the status quo is.
  2. Introducing the Mystery – The Kids stumble onto the Mystery and begin to investigate.
  3. Solving the Mystery – By pursuing the Mystery, the kids get into and hopefully overcome Trouble to get to the truth.
  4. Showdown – Upon discovering the truth, the Kids are then compelled to do something about it to put and end to the threat.
  5. Aftermath – The Mystery is solved, and the Kids return to Everyday Life, as mundanity sets in again and the status quo is preserved
  6. Change – The Kids apply changes to their character based on the adventure, and grow and evolve accordingly

Each phase is clearly explained in the Mystery chapter, and I have to admit that it does lend quite a bit of solid structure to one-shots or episodic games. However, Tales From the Loop manages to also provide options for those who want to bring the game to a broader feeling campaign with the introduction of the Mystery Landscape format.

The “Landscape” term isn’t new to me as Symbaroum also used it for “Adventure Landscapes” to denote sandbox type settings that are peppered with hooks, but rely on the actions of players to move the plot forward.

Tales From the Loop uses the same principle, and provides a sample Mystery Landscape with NPCs, plot hooks and mysteries that Kids could stumble into and explore at their own initiative.

The Landscape in particular is very thorough, and I can see entire campaigns revolving around the sample in the book. That said it’s also a great starting point for your own kind of Mystery Landscape featuring your favorite city.

Mysteries

The book then proceeds to go into several sample Mysteries, each of which is good for several hours of play. I’d rather not go into too much detail here as to avoid spoilers, but there’s plenty here to get a campaign up and running, and to school new GMs and players in how the feel of a Tales From the Loop campaign works.

Review

Tales From The Loop was an RPG that came out of nowhere with a unique selling point: “Play as kids in the 80’s that never was.” Combining Everyday Life with Weirdness and Nostalgia to create a strange, heady brew, Tales From the Loop is able to convey their setting extremely well. The artwork and layout are stunning and easy to read.

The Kids as a focus of the adventures are highlighted by the elegant system. Mechanics are just enough to provide structure, but are invisible in play. Instead, character-based traits like Pride and Iconic Items help build up on the “Who” of the characters and use that as a basis for play rather than a character build.

All of this comes as a particular cost, however: Tales From the Loop is an extremely specialized game. Focused on the mood of a specific time, and for a particular genre of mystery/adventure, don’t expect to be given a lot of flexibility in terms of other kinds of games.

But that said, if you are looking for the perfect fit of 80’s mystery as kids then you won’t find anything better than Tales From the Loop.

If you’d like to follow along or get your own copy of Tales From the Loop, you can grab the PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $24.99

If you’d like to support me in making more Let’s Study Review series, then please consider contributing to my Patreon


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Welcome back!

Today we’re talking about Trouble. Trouble is the term Tales From The Loop uses to explain situations that are fraught with risk. Kids, being kids, tend to get into Trouble all the time, and most scenes tend to revolve around getting into (and out of) Trouble.

Conditions

Trouble comes in all sorts of forms, but some kinds of Trouble will grand lasting Conditions if you don’t overcome them successfully.

Overcoming Trouble

To Overcome a Trouble, the game relies on dice rolls. In Tales From The Loop, players put together a pool of dice equal to their attribute and skill. For every 6 you roll, you score a success. Most of the time this is all you need to overcome Trouble.

Items, Pride and Luck

Iconic Items can be used for a dice roll when appropriate to grant 2 extra dice to roll. It’s a nice boost, and one that can be used repeatedly as long as you can justify the function of the item.

Pride on the other hand is used once per Mystery to score an automatic success.

Luck is spent after a failed roll to force a reroll of failed dice.

Buying Effects

If you roll more successes than needed, you can sometimes spend leftover successes to get benefits that improve on your success.

Pushing the roll

Normally a failed roll basically means you don’t succeed and take a Condition for it. However, you may also choose to immediately retry the task by mentally or physically pushing yourself.

Pushing has a cost however, and inflicts a Condition in order to reroll. Needless to say, Pushing happens in the most desperate of rolls.

Skills

To wrap up this short chapter, the game also provide the list of skills with a short writeup of where they can be used, what questions can be answered by their use, and what bonus effects could be gained by rolling extra successes.

Admittedly there’s not a lot more to say about the Trouble Chapter. The mechanics are striaghtforward, and refreshingly so. It’s good to see that Trouble is the mindset you’re looking for instead of “Conflict” Trouble can take many forms, most of which might not necessarily involve combat, violence or a direct confrontation.

If you’d like to follow along or get your own copy of Tales From the Loop, you can grab the PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $24.99

If you’d like to support me in making more Let’s Study Review series, then please consider contributing to my Patreon


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To play Tales From of The Loop, the player characters must take on the role of the kids. Character creation in Tales From The Loop is pretty straightforward, as it was in Mutant Year Zero, and Coriolis, and follows several very quick steps. These are:

Choose your Type

This isn’t a romantic decision, but rather a choice of what Archetype your Kid falls under. For the sake of this article, I’ll try to reconstruct myself from the 80’s.

For my Type, I choose Computer Geek. In doing so, I get the following:

Key Skills: Calculate, Program, Comprehend

In addition, I also make picks for a whole bunch of character-shaping decisions. I’ll just streamline it to the selected items below:

Iconic Item: Computer (Commodore 64)
Problem: The Tough Guys hit me.
Drive: Peer pressure makes me do it.
Pride: When the shit hits the fan, I don’t back down.
Anchor: Science Teacher

In addition to these, there are also choices made to define relationships to the other Kids and to NPCs. Since I’m making this character in a vacuum, I’ll skip those for now.

Choose Age

Choose an age between 10 to 15. Age affects attribute scores and the amount of Luck Points you have. Higher age means you get more attribute scores, but lower Luck, and lower age means you’re more Lucky.

I’ll go with a 12 year old me.

Define Attributes

Kids are defined with four attributes: Body, Tech, Heart and Mind. You get to distribute a number of attribute points equal to your Age to these stats. Starting scores cannot be higher than 5 in any attribute, and each attribute has to have at least a score of 1.

I’ll go for Body 2, Tech 3, Heart 3, Mind 4

Luck Points

Kids start with 15 Luck Points minus their age. This brings my Luck down to just 3 points. Luck Points are spent to re-roll dice.

Skills

Each Attribute has three skills associated with it. The level of a skill ranges from 0 to 5, and corresponds to how many dice you roll when you try to overcome Trouble in addition to the dice from your attribute. We get to spend 10 points among skills. For character creation, you may take up to 3 levels in the three key skills of your Type. For everything else, the maximum is 1.

Given my Type as Computer Geek, that means that my skills look something like:

Sneak 1 (BODY)
Move 1 (BODY)
Program 2 (TECH)
Calculate 2 (TECH)
Charm 1 (HEART)
Investigate 1 (MIND)
Comprehend 2 (MIND)

Problem

Problems are essentially built-in plot hooks to signal the GM that there are stories around that particular concern that the player would like to play through.

Drive

Drives are the reasons why these Kids go out to solve Mysteries.

Pride

Prides are means to further help the player get into the shoes of the Kid they’re playing. In-game they can be used as a carrot or a stick to get the player into a mystery or into doing something that feels reckless!

Relationships

These define how the Kid gets along with other people in his life.

Anchor

Anchors are special people that help the Kid get over any Conditions that they may have suffered from their misadventures.

Conditions range from Upset to Scared, Exhausted, Injured to Broken. Failure, frustration, fear and other emotional or physical trauma can result in Conditions, resulting in penalties to your rolls or your Kids inability to participate further in the Mysteries.

By spending time with their Anchors, the Kid can bounce back from their conditions.

Favorite Song

This is more for flavor than anything else, but we also get to pick a favorite song from the 80’s. For this Kid, let’s go with “The Reflex” by Duran Duran.

Hideout

In a neat bit, the group is encouraged to put together their Hideout. This is a sacred space where only the Kids are aware of it. This is where they can decompress, recover from their Conditions and build bonds. Trouble doesn’t normally find them there.

I really should have been more prepared to be this impressed with character creation, given that Mutant Year: Zero blew me away when I first reviewed it too, but here we are!

Tales From The Loop’s character creation is incredibly easy from a mechanics standpoint, but serves as an excellent gateway to learning to get into character. By focusing your efforts on choosing aspects of a character’s personality, motivation and weaknesses, you take the decision making away from questions of “What will make an optimal point spreads?” to “Who do I want to play?” And that deserves a round of applause.

If you’d like to follow along or get your own copy of Tales From the Loop, you can grab the PDF over at DriveThruRPG for only $24.99

If you’d like to support me in making more Let’s Study Review series, then please consider contributing to my Patreon