[Let’s Study: Star Trek Adventures] Part 5: Reporting For Duty

Posted: June 24, 2017 by pointyman2000 in Let's Study, Reviews, Roleplaying Games, Star Trek Adventures
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Finally we hit the character creation chapter of the book!

Now that we’ve gone over the mechanics of play, it’s time for us to put together a character in Star Trek Adventures, learn how Supporting Characters work, and how Character Development is handled mechanically.

Needless to say, this is a huge article of nearly 3000 words, so I’m putting it all behind the jump.

Attributes

Characters in Star Trek are defined by six attributes: Control, Daring, Fitness, Insight, Presence and Reason. As mentioned before, the attributes range from 7 to 12, with 8 being “Average”

  • Control – is all about precision, accuracy and careful timing. Self-discipline and control of one’s emotions to ensure mechanistic precision falls under this Attribute. It can be a mixture of fine motor skills, coordination and familiarity with the activity
  • Daring – is about reacting to a new situation with doubt, hesitation or action. Daring covers gut instinct and quick reflexes
  • Fitness – covers enduring hardship and employing force. It governs physical conditioning, general health, fortitude and endurance.
  • Insight – is understanding people and their emotions, and being open to different ideas and ways of thinking. It covers self-awareness, wisdom and emotional intelligence.
  • Presence – is force of personality and the ability to command attention or respect. It is used for being diplomatic in negotiation, giving orders in a crisis or even being charming or seductive.
  • Reason – is about logic and analysis. Complex and thorough thinking and intricate planning is covered by this attribute. Observation and understanding and recall of facts is also part of this.

I feel that the attributes are a perfect fit to the Star Trek universe. I love the way that these are similar to Fate Accelerated Edition’s Approaches, where it’s a matter of measuring a character’s ability at tackling a problem through different means.

Disciplines

In addition to the Attributes, each character is also trained in six Disciplines. Each of these are rated from 0 to 5 with each rating representing a mix of training, expertise and natural aptitude. All Main Characters begin with at least 1 in every Discipline due to Starfleet’s extensive training to ensure that all officers have at least basic training in every discipline.

  • Command – this Discipline covers a wide range of interpersonal interactions, but most commonly leadership, negotiation and coordinating and motivating others. It’s also used for discipline and resisting coercion, as well as helping others resist fear and panic.
  • Conn – is the Discipline that covers piloting craft of all sizes from ground vehicles and shuttles to grand starships. It covers navigation and an understanding of Starship operations, as well as procedures and cultures of space travel and exploration.
  • Engineering – is the Discipline used in inventing, understanding, designing, repairing and maintaining technology as well as using technology not specifically covered by other Disciplines.
  • Security – this Discipline is the use of force during combat, as well as observing and analyzing threatening situations and watching for potential danger. It also covers interrogation and intimidation, stealth and infiltration as well as knowledge of weaponry, tactics and survival skills.
  • Science – is the understanding of numerous fields of scientific study, both in theoretical and practical applications.
  • Medicine – is the understanding of the physical makeup of life-forms, including knowledge of ailments and diseases, as well as how to cure them across a wide range of species.

The Disciplines continue the broad trend, and shrinks the traditional skill list to just six different items. It’s an interesting choice, but thankfully it seems to cover a broad range of situations, and I suspect that after a few games knowing which Attribute + Discipline combination to call for will be second nature.

Focuses

Focuses are a representation of a narrower specialization and is not tied to any particular Discipline. Main Characters begin with six Focuses, and are encouraged to make their own to suit their character.

Talents

Talents are additional benefits that a character has that define areas of specialty, advantages of their personal approach to circumstances and other decisive abilities. these often take the form of a bonus in the form of extra dice, rerolls or bonus Momentum.

Lifepath

The default character creation method for Star Trek Adventures is the Lifepath, a structured series of choices that give your character form based on their history. It’s a neat way of doing things, and feels much more organic. It’s a nice touch to make sure that the characters created are “baked into” the setting, as it were.

Step 1: Choose a Species

In the core book of Star Trek Adventures, the primary selection of characters hail from the following species: Andorian, Bajoran, Betazoid, Denobulan, Human, Tellarite, Trill and Vulcan.

For the purpose of our character, I’ve decided on making a female Andorian. This bestows the following:

  • Trait: Andorian
  • Attributes: +1 Daring, +1 Control, +1 Presence
  • Talents: Proud and Honorable

Step 2: Environment

At this step we define the world from which the character was raised on.

For our Andorian, I decided to have her grow up in a Starship, and is fairly comfortable onboard various ships and with a life of constant travel.

  • Value: “A Starship is a Home, its Crew a Family.”
  • Attribute: +1 Control
  • Discipline: +1 Command

Step 3: Upbringing

Here we define the kind of education that the character had during their formative years and the kind of influence their parents and mentors had.

For our Andorian, let’s have her come from a Starfleet background.

  • Attributes: +2 Control, +1 Fitness
  • Discipline: +1 Security
  • Focus: Astronavigation
  • Talent: Mean Right Hook (Security)

Step 4: Starfleet Academy

This is where we determine which track of the Academy the character joins: Command, Operations, or Sciences.

For our hot-headed female Andorian, let’s say that she chose to enter the Starfleet Academy’s Operations Track.

  • Value: “Always Prepared, Always Vigilant”
  • Attributes: +1 Daring, +1 Fitness, +1 Presence
  • Discipline: +1 Command, +2 Security, +1 Medicine
  • Focuses: Hand Phasers, Hand-to-Hand Combat, Survival
  • Talent: Dauntless

Step 5: Career

This is where we select how long the character’s career has been so far, young and inexperienced, or seasoned veterans, or somewhere in between?

I like the idea of our Andorian being an Experienced Officer with a promising career.

  • Value: “Nothing Better Than Practical Experience”
  • Talent: Supervisor

Step 6: Career Events

Determine two or more Career Events that have shaped the character’s life so far.

At this point, I get to roll on a Career Event Table that will determine 2 key events that have shaped my Andorian’s life so far. I rolled a 3 and a 20.

Result 3: Lauded by Another Culture

The character was involved in a mission that earned the official praise of a non-Federation culture; they are now considered to be a friend to that people.

  • Attribute: +1 Presence
  • Discipline: +1 Science
  • Focus: Klingon Culture
  • Trait: Friend to Klingons

Result 20: First Contact

The character was chosen to be involved in one of the most important of Starfleet’s missions: first contact with another culture.

  • Attribute: +1 Presence
  • Discipline: +1 Engineering
  • Focus: Diplomacy

Step 7: Finishing Touches

At this point the Andorian is almost done, and we get one last chance to add more to her.

  • Value: “The Klingon Have Taught Me Much”
  • Attribute: +1 Insight, +1 Reason
  • Discipline: +1 Conn, +1 Science
  • Stress: 12 (Fitness 9 + Security 3)
  • Damage Bonus: 3[CD]
  • Department: Security
  • Rank and Role: Chief of Security
  • Equipment: Uniforms, Communicator, Tricorder, Phaser type-2)
  • Name: Jhamel zh’ Azonan

Character Summary:

star_trek_series_2___15_by_chonastock

Andorian Cosplay from Chirinstock

Jhamel zh’ Azonan, Andorian Chief of Security

Attributes: Control 11, Daring 9, Fitness 9, Insight 8, Presence 11, Reason 8
Disciplines: Command 3, Conn 2, Security 4, Engineering 2, Science 3, Medicine 2
Focuses: Astronavigation, Hand Phasers, Hand-to-Hand Combat, Survival, Klingon Culture, Diplomacy
Traits: Andorian, Friend to Klingons

Talents:

  • Proud and Honorable
  • Dauntless
  • Mean Right Hook
  • Supervisor

Values:

  • “A Starship is a Home, its Crew a Family.”
  • “Always Prepared, Always Vigilant”
  • “Nothing Better Than Practical Experience”
  • “The Klingon Have Taught Me Much”

Stress: 12
Damage Bonus: 3[CD]
Determination: 1
Equipment: Uniforms, Communicator, Tricorder, Phaser type-2)

Overall I enjoyed Lifepath character creation. The rest of the chapter features a shorter “fast and loose” character creation method that starts with the basics and lets you play and build up the rest as you go, but I strongly advise going for Lifepath instead as the results feel much more organic.

Supporting Characters

Supporting Characters are the other type of characters created and controlled by the Players during a game of Star Trek Adventures. Supporting Characters are by their very  nature, less detailed and are created as necessary within the game.

Supporting Characters represent the rest of the crew in play, giving Player Characters subordinates to command and provide the experience of being a senior Starfleet officer in play.

Like I mentioned earlier, this enables a “Troupe” style of play where players can take on the role of another character in order to either work on roles that aren’t present, or to participate in missions that don’t require their Main Character to be present.

At the start of a scene, a player may choose which character they are playing, their Main Character, or one of the Supporting Characters currently available.

To create a Supporting character, we have 5 steps:

  1. Determine the character’s purpose – Are they an engineer  or a doctor? Select a department for the character.
  2. Attributes – Distribute scores of 10, 9, 9, 8, 8 and 7 in any order and add Attribute bonuses from Species
  3. Disciplines – Distribute scores of 4, 3, 2, 2, 1 and 1 in any order. Their highest Discipline should match their purpose in step 1.
  4. Focuses – Choose 3 Focuses
  5. Finishing Touches – Add their equipment, tools and names.

Character Development

Rather than focus on levels of power, Star Trek Adventures focuses in the ways characters grow and change. This is done in tracking Milestones and Reputation.

Milestones

Milestones are meaningful events in a character’s life, points at which they are forced to reexamine themselves and change in response to their experiences. Milestones occur at the end of adventures, though a character is not guaranteed to always have a Milestone at the end of every adventure.

Only Main Characters can gain Milestones.

Milestones are broken down into three types:

Normal Milestones

A Main Character receives a normal Milestone at the end of any adventure in which that Main Character was present in at least half the scenes of the adventure and fulfills one of the following:

  • The character challenged a Value or Directive during the mission.
  • The character was injured by an Attack to kill during the mission.
  • The character used at least one Value or Directive positively or at least one Value or Directive negatively.

These Milestones allow a character to change and adapt to the game, rather than be a source of improving abilities. With a normal Milestone, the player may choose to:

  • Rewrite a challenged Value
  • Pick 2 Disciplines, increase a Discipline by 1, and decrease the other Discipline by 1
  • Replace one of the character’s Focuses with another Focus
  • Use any of the above options for a Supporting Character
  • Save a Milestone, which then allows it to be banked and cashed in during a game to gain a point of Determination.

Spotlight Milestones

These are Milestones that happen when a single Main Character is particularly prominent and significant during an adventure. At the end of an adventure, a GM may award a single Spotlight Milestone.

Should the GM elect to award a Spotlight Milestone, the players then vote among themselves to see who received it. Players may only vote players who would have normally received a Normal Milestone, and aren’t allowed to vote for themselves.

Spotlight Milestones grant one benefit from the Normal Milestone list above, and get to choose one of the following in addition:

  • Choose 2 Attributes, Reduce one by 1 and increase the other by 1
  • Choose one of the character’s Talents, and replace it for another Talent
  • Select a Supporting Character to receive any of the above options
  • Choose two of the Ship’s Systems. Reduce one by 1, and increase the other by 1.
  • Choose two of the Ship’s Disciplines. Reduce one by 1 and increase the other by 1
  • Choose one of the ship’s Focuses, and replace it for another Focus.

Arc Milestones

Arc Milestones represent the culmination of a story that drives a character’s growth an development: a story arc. This represents a major change for the character, and as such Arc Milestones have the biggest impact.

To become eligible for an Arc Milestone, a character must earn a minimum number of Spotlight Milestones first. As shown in the following table:

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So, in this example, you’d need two Spotlight Milestones first, to be able to transform their third Spotlight Milestone into an Arc Milestone.

Receiving an Arc Milestone bestows all the benefits of a Spotlight Milestone, plus one of the following:

  • Choose a single Attribute, and increase it by 1. This cannot be increased above 12
  • Choose a Discipline, and increase it by 1. This cannot be increased above 6
  • Select one additional Talent
  • Select one additional Focus
  • Select one additional Value
  • Select a Supporting Character to benefit from any of the above options.
  • Choose one of your Ship’s Systems, and increase it by 1
  • Choose one of your Ship’s Disciplines, and increase it by 1
  • Select one additional Focus for the ship

Reputation

In the world of Star Trek Adventures, Reputation is important. Reputation reflects how their peers and superiors regard them, and the kind of opportunities and considerations they receive.

Main Characters begin with a Reputation score of 10.

Reputation is measured along a scale with 0-4 being a poor record and their future in Starfleet is in question. While 15-19 is a fine record with commendations for exceptional performance.

Actions taken in accordance to Starfleet’s values and standards will increase your Reputation, while choices and actions that reflect poorly on Starfleet will reduce your Reputation score.

Gaining and Losing Reputation

At the end of a mission, the GM should consider the outcome of the adventure, the decisions that were taken, and decide how those actions affect the character’s reputation.

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Once the influences have been chosen, the character makes a reputation check. This is resolved by rolling a number of d20’s equal to the number of Positive Influences against a target number of the character’s Reputation. Dice that roll lower than their Reputation count as 1 success, while those that roll below their Rank’s Privilege score 2 successes.

If the number of successes scored is less than the number of Negative Influences, then the character has lost reputation. Reduce the character’s reputation by 1, plus an additional 1 per die that did not roll a success, and a further 1 for each die that rolled within the range of their Rank’s Responsibilities.

If the number of successes scored is greater than the number of Negative Influences, then the character has gained reputation. Increase the character’s Reputation by 1 for each success scored over the number of negative influences.

Promotions and Disciplinary Action

Should a character have a Reputation of 15 or higher, then the captain (or the Player of the commanding officer) or the GM may offer them promotion rather than in increase in Reputation. If the promotion is accepted, then the character’s rank increases.

If a character would drop below 0, then the character faces disciplinary action. Discplinary action is handled by the ship’s command and means that the character is punished or detained and face a court-martial.

Okay, and I thought that the Mechanics chapter was a big article.

There’s a lot to digest here, but I will say that I was flat out blown away by how characters here were built not merely as a collection of skills and numbers, but by their Traits and Values.

Modiphius has done a stellar job of taking elements from more “Narrative” games and incorporating them to the crunch of 2d20 in a way that just works. While I knew going in that Star Trek wasn’t your usual space opera show, the fact that the entire Experience system is built on challenging your character’s understanding of the world and their growth in reaction to their Values being tested is nothing short of brilliant.

Seeing the numbers on the characters clued me in that the game wasn’t going to be built on gaining stats very quickly. That said, being able to see how Modiphius moved the goalposts to encourage gameplay that has characters facing the unknown and challenging their Values and being rewarded by Reputation and character development was something that left me very impressed.

That said, I do have a slight reservation in this that the GM is therefore burdened with the job of making sure that every session has something that challenges the status quo, or forces the players to learn something new. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s also an additional burden, that not all GMs might appreciate. I’m hoping that when I hit the GMing chapter they’ll have solid advice on how to pull this off.

EDIT:

Thanks to Nathan Dowdell in the comments for pointing out that my previous update made a mistake in the number of Values and Talents I had. I retraced the Proud and Honorable Talent from Step One: Species, and took out the Value I added in Step 3 by mistake.

Thanks to Murder-of-Crows for pointing out that I forgot to add 1 point to each Discipline on the writeup!

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Comments
  1. […] Study: Star Trek Adventures] Part 5: Reporting For Duty @Modiphius philgamer.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/let… https://t.co/6n4IJqYxxd […]

  2. Nathan Dowdell says:

    You might want to look over your example again – you’ve got one more Value and one fewer Talent than you should have.

  3. Allen Shock says:

    Have preordered this and I want the PDF so badly! It sounds like this will be an amazing game!

  4. Murder-of-Crows says:

    Your final write-up for Jhamel zh’ Azonan, Andorian Chief of Security is missing six Discipline points. Looks like you forgot to add the starting 1 in each Discipline.


  5. https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI’m a huge Star Trek fan, and having been running RPG campaigns in the Star Trek universe since 1982, or 3. I’ve read through your series of posts with much interest. In the end, I don’t think this game is for me, which makes me kind of sad. I’ll stick with the Last Unicorn Games version. It seems easier to make a character, and as a GM it feels like a smoother running system. I will stick check out the STA core rulebook, and will likely get any interesting supplements on PDF.
    Thank you for doing this series. It has been very enlightening.

    • Hi there! Wow, that means you’ve been running Star Trek since I was two years old! I’m glad the series has helped you come to a decision about the game.

      Having never read the Last Unicorn Games version, I’m coming into the Star Trek RPG universe just now, and I’m glad Modiphius is doing this. I wasn’t much of a Trekkie before but this book definitely helped me appreciate the franchise a whole lot more!

    • Stephen says:

      As one who’s been running the system in testing for Modiphius since December, I have to say it beat my expectations. Modiphius will be putting out a quick start in July for free that will help people try the game for themselves and decide. At the very least, I’d suggest you give it a try when that quick start becomes available.

  6. Harlock999 says:

    Like Barking Alien, I’ve been playing Trek RPGs since the mid-eighties (namely FASA and then later LUG). And like him, I just see this system’s mechanics as being a bit too complex and unwieldy, as if the game designers tried to fit the square 2D20 system in a round Trek fan-friendly hole. Nearly every other review I’ve read makes it seem like GMs are having to struggle to create a narrative game as opposed to rolling and rolling and rolling and trying to make sense of these numbers and corresponding skills/disciplines.

    I still like the “flavor” of this game, but life path character creation is nothing new; both FASA and LUG used the same method. So I’ll probably just stick with those. (Fortunately, I still have a bunch of FASA material and the three core LUG books.)

    Hopefully, more reviews will emerge, and I’ll be able to judge whether picking up the core STA book would be worth it…

    • I agree that the rules sit squarely on the rules-medium / rules-heavy side of the equation so far, but I’ve had a chance to run the Conan RPG by Modiphius and I’m fairly confident that their games run much faster than they read. I’m placing my bets on this iteration because its new, readily available and to my eyes quite awesome!

      That said, you guys have the advantage of gaming in the Star Trek universe for decades now, so I’m sure you’ve found your sweet spot to scratch a particular itch. I imagine that I’ll be experiencing a similar dissonance once Fantasy Flight Games decides to bring out a new Legend of the Five Rings RPG, so I think I can sympathize with how you feel.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the review!

  7. Charles says:


    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI am reading this series of articles with great interest. I have been playing in the Star Trek universe since FASA, then LUG, then Decipher… as well as elaborate adaptations with Hero and GURPS (not the Prime Directive stuff). I was privileged to participate in playtest early on for STA (until real life took up too much time). I find the system mechanics refreshing and look forward to the game’s release (spent $500+ on the full Cube). I have no doubt that others my age may be put off by new mechanics, but I also believe the system will attract newer players… which is what we need to help the hobby grow and flourish. I am certainly rooting for STA. I am thankful for your series of articles, they represent a concise summary of mechanics that I wish I had early in the playtest.

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