Archive for July, 2017


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Dinosaurs, time travel and weird science! With a combination like that, how could you possibly go wrong? Monte Cook Games’ latest Cypher System game, Predation has all three of these in crazy amounts, and author Shanna Germain tackles it with gleeful enthusiasm.

I’ve been lucky to have been given a Review Copy of the game, and I’m digging into it now to see if this will become my new favorite Cypher System setting.

In this series, we’ll be taking a look at the game, and see if it lives up to the hype. I appreciated Numenera and The Strange before, so I remain optimistic that Predation will be a great product that will appeal to anyone looking to fire lasers while riding bioengineered dinosaurs.

So, what are we in for? Let’s take a look at the marketing blurb:

Welcome to the Cretaceous. Our ancestors won’t climb down from the trees for another 66 million years, but here we are now. Time travel seemed like a good idea. Exploring the ancient world. Building. Creating an entire society here in the jungles of our primordial Earth. Until those SATI guys messed it all up.

We’ve got gear. We’ve got guns. We’ve even bioengineered a few dinos to our liking. And that’s good, because we’ll need it all to survive. History says there’s an asteroid headed our way, and there’s no one left alive who knows how to get back to the future.

Welp. Certainly sounds like a crazy time (and place) but I do like the fact that there’s already a self-imposed apocalypse in place in the form of said asteroid impact.

SATI

Thankfully the opening chapters of the book tell us exactly what SATI is. An international conglomerate, Space and Time, Intg. sent a group of bioengineers and paleontologists and other specialists back to the late Cretaceous period on top-secret missions.

The problem was, that within a decade, something went terribly wrong, and the time-travel process broke down, leaving the commuters (as they were called) stranded in time.

Now (or Then, but you get the picture)

That was a hundred years ago. The early commuters had to survive, and so they adapted to the harsh world, using their sciences to build communities, breed bioengineered dinosaurs, raised families and tried to find a way to get back home.

But with so much time passing, a new generation of humanity is coming to take over. Those born in this era, never having belonged to the future. This is home to them, and it is among them that your characters belong.

It’s quite a setup for a game, and I’m honestly intrigued. I’m hoping that Predation is able to do something new with the Cypher System, and isn’t just a reskin of Numenera. There’s a lot of promise to the setting as is, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be in for quite an adventure.

If you’re looking to join in and study along, you can grab a PDF of Predation over a DriveThruRPG for only $17.99!

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For games like Star Trek Adventures that are based on very well-established, and well-loved settings, it’s important to be able to have a solid GMing chapter that can guide even the uninitiated Game Master into being able to run it in a way that feels authentic. As one of those GMs who only know Star Trek at a casual level, I fully understand how intimidating it is to try and take on a setting that has so much love (and some would say, fanaticism to it).

Fortunately, Star Trek Adventures has a hefty GMing chapter that knows how to guide someone to confidence.

Rather than dip into each of the sections and echo each of the advice provided, here’s a quick glance at the main sections of the chapter:

  • Running Star Trek Adventures
  • Character Creation
  • Managing the Rules
  • Player Characters
  • NPCs
  • Experience and Promotion
  • Creating Encounters
  • Creating Missions, NPCs, and locations.

Along the way the chapter goes into providing ideas on Styles of Play, and possible themes to center a Star Trek Adventures campaign around, from the classic “These are the voyages…” type of stories to something centered on a starbase like Deep Space 9.

Each of the mechanics are given an examination as to why they’re there and how to best use them. I found the section detailing challenges and how (and why!) they’re structured that way to be very useful.

My favorite section of the entire chapter is a quick look at Star Trek Adventures and what makes it different from other RPGs. I’ll add the quick quote of the two paragraphs here as it sums everything up beautifully:

Star Trek Adventures and indeed Star Trek can be a
markedly different experience from other examples of
both the roleplay gaming and science fiction genres.
Where most science fiction stories focus on conflict,
wars, aggressive aliens, and Humanity as heroes, Star
Trek can be seen, on the whole, to subvert those tropes,
leaning more towards a future in which understanding,
cooperation, exploration, and discovery is the focus and
driving force of the its stories. The opening sequence of
the original Star Trek series begins with Kirk explaining the
five-year mission of the Enterprise “to explore strange new
worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations,” not for
war but for knowledge.

In that sense, Star Trek Adventures is not your usual
brand of roleplaying game, in which most time spent at
the table is engaged in armed conflict with monsters or
antagonistic races. Star Trek Adventures’ missions and
campaigns focus on exploration and discovery, with each
Player Character having a key role in supporting that
effort. This section will tell you, as the Gamemaster, how to
highlight those individual roles in a game on the frontier of
the Star Trek galaxy.

It pretty much summarizes what impressed me about Star Trek Adventures. All the sub-systems revolving around discovery, engineering, diplomacy are there because there was a deliberate design intent to craft a game around stuff in addition to combat.

No longer will non-combat tasks be simplified to just a single roll, players who take on the duties of a Scientist will actually be able to sink their teeth into something, and for all the complexity of the book, this is what made Star Trek Adventures impressive for me.

Aliens and Adversaries

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This section is the “Bestiary” section of the game and details a whole host of NPCs that a Starfleet crew can interact with. These feature about 3 different types of npcs: Minor, Notable and Major. The level of detail for each entry varies, with Minor being barely detailed beyond combat stats, to Major characters having full backstories and Values.

Here we see examples from:

  • United Federation of Planets
  • Klingon Empire
  • The Romulan Space Empire
  • Borg Collective
  • Ferengi Alliance
  • Cardassian Union
  • The Dominion
  • Alien Artefacts
  • Beasts of the Galaxy

Summary Review

*Sips iced tea*

Where do I even start? I knew of Star Trek before from some of the movies and a few of the original series and TNG episodes I’ve watched before, but I wasn’t really a fan. So when I got the preview pdf offer from Modiphius, I wasn’t certain I would understand the appeal of the game. But since I was sold on the 2d20 system from my experiences with Conan, I figured it can’t be that bad, right?

Fast forward to now and I’m practically gushing about the game mechanics to my long-suffering wife, who even now nods patiently in understanding while I type this out and she reads it over my shoulder.

Art and Layout

Fans of the aesthetic of Star Trek will find plenty to love here, with the layout mimicking the user interfaces of the ships. However, I have to admit that adjusting to reading white text on dark background on screen was a little difficult at times, and I found myself wishing for a black and white version for readability.

There are a few typos in my preview copy, but hopefully those will be dealt with by the time the final product rolls out in stores.

The artwork is pretty evocative, and I didn’t really cringe at any of them. The Starships are probably the highlight of it all, and I did find myself wondering why there weren’t any more images of Starfleet in more relaxed situations. There’s a lot of Starfleet guys running / shooting / dodging explosions, but you’d be surprised at how hard it was to find an image to go with the Social Conflict article.

Mechanics

This is a mechanics-heavy game that will take repeated exposure, careful reading and more than a few goofs to internalize. While the basic mechanics are easy enough to grasp, there’s a ton of subsystems to cater for different styles of play. GMs will have to spend a bit of time really studying the system to get the most of it. Hopefully this series of Let’s Study articles can help future GMs learn faster!

I found the ship combat to be pretty heavy, and I’ve yet to try it out to see how things turn out. It promises a lot of explosions and show-appropriate destruction, so I’m looking forward to it.

Review & Conclusions

Buy it.

If you can afford the collector’s edition, get that.

If you can afford the Borg Box, then by all means, get THAT.

Star Trek Adventures has made a fan out of me out of the sheer amount of love and care put into creating a game that delivers on the promise of playing through and experience that is true to the series. This isn’t D&D in space in Starfleet uniforms. Modiphius knows what it’s doing whenever it works with a licensed setting.

Every rule exists to enforce the physics and ethics of the setting. There’s not a sign of lazy game design anywhere here, with each rule and subsystem carefully considered before it was added to the final product.

My only concern, if any, would be the fact that it’s a big read with a fair amount of complexity. But if you’re willing to put in the time to go through it and understand the systems, you’ll see the elegance behind it.

At this point, I’m wrapping up my Let’s Study series on Star Trek Adventures. I hope that the entries have been helpful, and informative, and if you’d like to show me a bit of love, then please consider supporting me on Patreon.

If you’re interested in buying it on PDF, you can purchase a copy of Star Trek Adventures over at DriveThruRPG for only $15.56!

Thanks for reading everyone! See you all in the next series!