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Today we’re taking a look at the Technology and Equipment Chapter for Star Trek Adventures.

Introduction

The chapter opens with a quick introduction to the nature of technology in the Star Trek universe, with a nod to the fact that many common items can be replicated, allowing for ordinary items to take the form of an Advantage. These Advantages allow for the owner to attempt Tasks that normally wouldn’t be possible without the right tools.

This means then that there aren’t any specific rules for a particular tool. If a tool is meant to enable a character to do action X, then if they have the Advantage representing that equipment, then they should be able to do so.

Obtaining Equipment

Most of the time, characters are assumed to either have their equipment on-hand, such as the items that they start play with, or will spend some minor effort to get the equipment out from storage.

For more urgent, time-sensitive acquisitions, the character must spend Momentum  to obtain it in time. This is regarded as an Opportunity Cost. Certain items have an Opportunity Cost, which denotes how much Momentum must be spent to acquire the item. Like in most cases, Players may also opt to add Threat to pay for the Momentum Cost instead.

Now, some items, like weapons, destructive equipment, or anything else that signifies aggression or preparation for battle, could have an additional or different cost. Called an Escalation Cost, it is paid by adding Threat, to represent that the situation is about to go dangerous.

When obtaining multiple copies of an item, Opportunity Costs must be paid per item, but Escalation Costs are only paid once.

Innovation

When utilizing technology, one cannot overlook that a skilled Engineer confronted with a problem can find ways to make technology do something more than it was intended to do. This calls for the Innovation mechanics.

Innovation calls for three steps: Design, Development, and Prototype.

Design

The first step to any innovation is for the characters to determine what they want to achieve. Once the character have a clear idea of what they’d like to do, they need to define a way by which they will use technology to achieve that purpose, and what technology they’ll use as a basis for their innovation.

An example of this is perhaps to plan to short out an enemy ship’s communications from the inside by jury-rigging an EMP device out of a Phaser rifle’s energy source.

Development

The GM then determines the cost of this innovation, these usually come from Time, Materials, Personnel and Location.  Once these are accounted for, the characters then create a schematic for the innovation. This is an Engineering Discipline Task, and will use the Succeed at Cost rule.

The GM takes note of any Complications that occur, but does not need to define them at this step.

Prototype

The final stage of innovation calls for the use of the Prototype. The Prototype serves as two Advantages for whatever purpose the device was created for. Of course, prototypes are hardly perfect, and the GM then reveals the drawbacks of the Prototype, based on the number of Complications generated in the Development phase.

These include:

  • Extremely large and bulky – Requires a Task to get into position
  • Massive power requirements – May need to be hooked up to a major power supply, diverting energy from other important systems
  • Distinctive energy signature – The output produces an easy to detect signature that can call attention to the use of the device
  • Burn out – The device is only usable a certain number of times
  • Mutually Exclusive – The innovation alters the base technology so much that the original functions of the underlying technology is not usable without effort in putting it back together the way it was.

Advanced and Primitive Technology

In their travels, it would not be unusual for members of Starfleet to encounter different levels of technology. Unfamiliarity with a different level of technology usually manifests as either a bigger Complication Range when using it, or limiting the scope of the Advantage that the device would normally provide.

Weapons and Gear

Weapons in Star Trek Adventures have the following stats:

  • Type – Melee or Ranged
  • Damage Rating  – A number of [CD] rolled, and one or more Damage Effects that trigger when an Effect is rolled. All weapons gain additional [CD] to their damage rating equal to the Security discipline of the character(!)
  • Size – Weapons will either be one-handed or two-handed. Two-handed weapons can still be used in one hand to make an attack but the Difficulty increases by 1.
  • Qualities – These are additional rules that provide restrictions or benefits that apply to the weapon’s use.

Damage Effects and Weapon Qualities

Star Trek Adventures has the following Damage Effects and Weapon Qualities

Damage Effects:

  • Area – The attack affects a wider area
  • Intense – The attack is designed to inflict massive harm, the cost to Avoid an Injury is increased by 1 per Effect rolled
  • Knockdown – The target is knocked prone, this can be resisted by adding Threat equal to the number of Effects rolled
  • Piercing X – The attack ignores X points of Resistance for each Effect rolled
  • Vicious X – The attack deals X points of additional damage for each Effect rolled

Qualities:

  • Accurate – Aiming allows for this weapon to reroll all their d20’s instead of just 1.
  • Charge – If a character performs a Prepare Minor Action before attacking, they may add one of the following to the attack: Area, Intense, Piercing 2 or Vicious 1
  • Cumbersome – The weapon cannot be used to attack unless a Prepare Minor Action is performed in the same turn.
  • Deadly – The weapon is designed to be lethal, any attempts to make a non-lethal attack increases the Difficulty by 1.
  • Debilitating – Medicine Tasks to perform First Aid on characters Injured by this weapon or to heal Injuries caused by this weapon increase in Difficulty by 1.
  • Grenade – The weapon is a throwable explosive or device. This cannot be used to attack enemies in Long or Extreme ranges. Grenade weapons are assumed to have enough grenades to make three attacks with them per scene.
  • Hidden X – The weapon is easy to conceal, and any search of the character requires a Difficulty X Insight + Security, or Reason + Security Task to find it.
  • Inaccurate – The character gains no benefit from the Aim Minor Action when attacking with this weapon.
  • Non-lethal – The weapon is debilitating rather than deadly. Attempts to make lethal attacks with this weapon have the Difficulty increased by 1.

Armor

Armor in Star Trek Adventures is fairly straightforward, and bestows a static Resistance value to be used against damage rolls.

Equipment

The chapter concludes with a quick description of a whole host of various items common to the Star Trek universe ranging from the ever-present Tricorder to the more exotic Artificial Sensory Organs like Geordi La Forge’s VISOR. These count as Advantages and each entry has an accompanying Opportunity Cost.

Add another subsystem! This time to the benefit of the Engineers of the crew. Innovation is a cute system though and I do like how it ties in well with the Science subsystem in Star Trek Adventures.

I have to say that despite the heavier-than-usual mechanical considerations in the game, I’m actually quite impressed at how many ways they’ve thought to engage players of different types. Given that combat isn’t the first order of business in a Star Trek game, it’s imperative that you find ways to gamify actions that would otherwise be reduced to a single roll in most other settings. That way, everyone, regardless of character type has something they can engage in and feel like they’re able to contribute even if doesn’t involve maiming the opponent.

Next up, we’ll be looking at one of the most important aspects of the game: Starships and Starship rules for combat!


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This time we’re taking on the rules for Combat in Star Trek Adventures. We’ve already discussed Action Order in our last article, so let’s get right to the rest of the rules!

Zones

In Star Trek Adventures, a combat environment is made up into several zones based on terrain features or natural divisions in the area. For example, a building or starship interior would treat individual rooms and hallways as different zones.

Distances

Movement and ranges fall into four categories and one state.

  • Reach is a state where an object or character is within arm’s reach to another. Characters need to enter Reach to interact with objects manually or to perform melee attacks or otherwise interact via touch.
  • Close range is defined as being the zone where the character is currently in.
  • Medium range is any zone adjacent to the character’s current zone.
  • Long range is defined as objects and creatures two zones away from a character’s current zone.
  • Extreme Range would be creatures and objects beyond Long range.

Movement

Moving to anywhere within Medium range is considered a Minor Action. Moving further requires a Task. Though it normally has a Difficulty of 0, the presence of difficult terrain features or other complications may increase the Difficulty accordingly. Failure may result in the movement stopping prematurely outside of their intended destination, or even suffering damage from hazards.

Cover

Cover represents objects that interfere with the character’s line of sight or attack. Cover provides additional Resistance against Attacks. A zone will either grand cover universally, or the GM may denote features within the zone that count for cover.

Each instance od Cover will grant a certain number of of Cover Dice and may have additional benefits or drawbacks based on the nature of that cover.

Minor Actions

In a Turn, a character may attempt a single Task, and several Minor Actions. Minor Actions do not require a roll, and are often taken in support of a Task, such as moving towards a better vantage point for a shot. A character may take as many Minor Actions as they wish, but only the first one is free. Each additional Minor Action costs 1 Momentum. Furthermore, each Minor Action may only be performed once each Turn.

Minor Actions include:

  • Aim – A character may re-roll a single d20 made on an Attack before the start of their next Turn.
  • Draw an item – The character may pick up an item within Reach, draw a weapon or other item stowed in their gear. If the item requires no Task to use then it can be used immediately.
  • Drop prone – The character drops to the ground to make themselves a smaller target. While prone, a character may re-roll any number of Cover dice, and increases all ranged attacks against him from Medium range or further by one step. However, melee and ranged attacks at Close range gain two bonus Momentum against the character, and the character may not make any movement-related tasks.
  • Interact – Interact with an item. Complex interactions may call for a Task.
  • Movement – Move to any point within Medium range. This may not be taken if the character performs any movement-related Tasks. If there are one or more enemies within Reach, then this action cannot be performed.
  • Prepare – Ready to perform a Task. Some Tasks require this Minor Action to be taken before the Task can be attempted.
  • Stand – If the character is prone, he may take this action to stand.

Combat Tasks

As noted above, a character can normally attempt a single Task once per turn, but there are ways to enable a character to perform a second Task. Regardless, a character cannot attempt more than two Tasks in a Round. These methods are:

  • Determination – Spending one Determination to take a second Task during a Turn.
  • Momentum – Spending two Momentum from a successful Task to attempt a second Task; however, this second task increases in Difficulty by one.
  • Leadership – Some characters have actions that demonstrate their prowess as leaders, granting an additional Task to characters under their command as per the Direct Task, detailed below.

The following Tasks are common to Combats:

  • Assist – Perform an activity to grant an ally an advantage. Nominate an ally they can communicate with, and declare how they are giving aid. During the nominated ally’s Task, the character assists with the declared Attribute, Discipline and Focus as normal for assisting on a Task.
  • Attack – The character attacks an enemy or other viable target and attempts to inflict harm.
  • Direct – If the character is the commanding officer or designated leader in the combat, then they can nominate a single other character present and allow them to immediately perform a single Task, assisted by the commanding character. This can only be used once per Scene.
  • Guard – The character prepares for an attack. This is a Task with Difficulty 0, and success increases the Difficulty of any attacks made against the character by +1 until the start of the character’s next turn. A character may nominate to take this action on an ally’s behalf, raising the Difficulty by 1 and the benefit lasts until that ally’s next Turn.
  • Pass – The character chooses to not attempt a Task. If the character takes no Minor Actions this Turn, then the character does not count as having taken a Turn, and may act later in the Round instead.
  • Ready – The character declares that they are waiting for a specific situation or event to occur before attempting a Task. When the triggering situation occurs, the character interrupts the turn to resolve the readied task. If the triggering situation does not occur, then the Task is lost.
  • Recover – The character ducks behind cover and takes a moment to ready themselves for more fighting. This is a Difficulty 2 Fitness+ Command Task (reduced to Difficulty 1 if behind cover). Success means that the character gains one additional Resistance for each Effect rolled on Cover Dice and regains their ability to Avoid an Injury. Further, the character may regain 2 Stress per Momentum spent.
  • Sprint – The character attempts a Difficulty 0 Fitness + Security Task to move one zone (to any point within Medium range) and one additional zone per Momentum spent.
  • First Aid – The character attempts to stabilize an injured character within Reach. This is a Difficulty 1 Daring + Medicine Task where success means that the injured character is stabilized and will not die at the end of the scene, but remains incapacitated. The character may spend 2 Momentum from this to get the patient back into the fighting right away, exactly as if they’d spent Determination to ignore the Injury.

Making An Attack

Attacks are going to be the most common action taken in a Combat situation, so let’s take a look at how they’re handled in the rules

  1. Attacker chooses the weapon they plan to attack with.
  2. Attacker nominates a target for that weapon.
  3. The Attacker declares if the attack is intended to be non-lethal or lethal. If the attack is Lethal, add a single point to the Threat pool.
  4. The Attacker attempts a Task, determined by the type of Attack being performed:
    1. Melee attacks are a Difficulty 1 Daring + Security Task opposed by the target’s Difficulty 1 Daring + Security Task. If the target wins the opposed Task, then they are considered to have made a successful attack instead.
    2. Ranged attacks are a Difficulty 2 Control + Security Task. Unlike Melee attacks, this is not an Opposed Task.

If an attack is successful, then the attacker inflicts damage with the following procedure:

  1. Roll the number of [CD] for the attack or hazard’s damage rating. The total rolled is the amount of damage the attack or hazard inflicts.
  2. If the target has any Resistance Dice (like [CD] from Cover, etc.) those are rolled and added to any static Resistance that the character has. The total is the character’s applicable Resistance to that attack.
  3. Reduce the total damage rolled by one for each point of Resistance. If there is any damage left over, then the target suffers one point of Stress for each point. The character may also suffer an Injury should any of the following occurs. If two or more of the following conditions take place, the character suffers two Injuries instead:
    1. If the character suffers five or more damage from a single attack or hazard, after reduction from Resistance.
    2. If the character is reduced to 0 Stress by that attack or hazard.
    3. If the character had 0 Stress before the attack or hazard, and the attack or hazard inflicts one or more damage, the character suffers an Injury.

Injury

When a character suffers an Injury, they are incapacitated and unable to take any minor actions or attempt any Tasks until the end of the scene. If a character would suffer two Injuries from a single attack, resolve each Injury one at a time.

If a character was already Injured by a non-lethal attack, then another Injury of any kind immediately turns that into a lethal Injury instead. If a character has already been injured by a lethal attack, then another Injury will kill the character instantly. At the GM’s discretion, a dead character may be disintegrated entirely.

Avoiding Injury

Needless to say Injury is bad news. Thankfully all Player Characters have a limited ability to fend off mortal wounds, by diving aside at the last possible moment, ducking into cover, or otherwise dodging out of the way. This desperate act can’t be done all the time though.

When a character suffers an Injury, they have the option of avoiding it. This allows them to suffer no effects from being Injured and they may continue to act as normal, but it does not remove any other effects from the attack (Stress is still lost, the character may have been knocked prone, etc.)

Choosing to avoid an Injury costs 2 Momentum. Alternately, a player may opt to pay for it by adding 2 Threat instead. Another option is to pay for Avoiding Injury by taking on a Complication, which represents a minor injury, or some other consequence of the attack like damage to nearby equipment or some bystander getting hit.

Avoiding an Injury can only be performed once per Scene, however. The only way to get an additional chance to Avoid an Injury is to perform a Recover Task, as detailed above.

Dying and Healing

Injured characters are effectively out of a fight for the scene unless something happens to them. Thankfully, they can’t be targeted by further attacks unless the attacker adds one to Threat (or an NPC spends one Threat) to make that attack. Inflicting an Injury to an already injured character kills them immediately, if the attack was lethal.

If a character is Injured from a non-lethal attack, then they recover at the start of the next Scene automatically.

Characters Injured by lethal attacks however are at risk, as they will die at the end of the Scene, unless they receive first aid.

Healing Injuries can only be attempted outside of combat and is a Difficulty 2 Control +  Medicine Task. Success on the Task removes the Injury completely as well as any related Complications.

Combat Momentum

Momentum is a valuable resource in combat. When a character spends Momentum, they can trigger a whole host of effects that can help his team or hinder his opponents.

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Needless to say, managing the flow of and generation of Momentum should be a consideration made by the entire team in a fight.

The last part of this chapter goes into some Weapon Types and Qualities, but I’ll hold off on that and revisit those later when we get to the Equipment Chapter.

Okay, so this was a giant chunk of mechanics to look into. But despite all the lists, it’s actually quite speedy once you get used to it. Fans of tactical combat with a lot of options to play around with will enjoy all the little details baked into the mechanics.

I’m used to Conan, so the use of zones and abstracted ranges are okay with me. They do speed things up and allow for the use of crude maps without having to count squares.

Based on my experiences with Conan, the players will enjoy working on generating Momentum for use in the various spends.

As a GM, the combat system gives me a lot of ideas for Dynamic combat situations that complicate life for all the participants. Smoke and fire hazards in a pitched firefight in the Engineering Deck, as a basic example, further complicated by explosions or even the loss of gravity or life support.

I will say however that my impression of the Star Trek Adventure game as a rules-medium game is slowly sliding towards rules-heavy. Given where we are now in the Let’s Study series, we’ll still have to look at equipment, weapons and more importantly: Starships.

We’ve technically hit the halfway mark of this series, so let’s hope you’re all not bored of me yet!


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Welcome back! Today, I’m working on a tight deadline today so I’m going to be breaking up the coverage of Chapter 7: Conflict into two parts. This article will go over the Social Conflict Rules of Star Trek Adventures.

Action Order

Before that however, the chapter goes into a very brief look at determining Action Order for Conflicts. Combat will likely use this more than Social Conflict. To put it simply, unless the GM has a reason  to take the first turn, the GM will always choose a PC to start combat.

Once the PC has completed their turn, then the PC will then hand the action to the opposing side, who will choose a character of their own to act next. Alternately, the player may choose to spend 2 Momentum to keep the initiative and hand off the turn to one of their own. Nobody can that side can keep the initiative again until the opposition has taken a turn of their own.

If all characters of one side have taken a Turn, then the rest of the characters on the remaining sides complete their actions in any order. Once all characters have taken their turn, then the action goes to a character on whichever side did not take the last Turn.

Social Conflict

Star Trek Adventures defines Social Conflict as the collective term for Tasks and Challenges that are resolved through deception, diplomacy, bargaining, intimidation and a range of social skills.

To put it simply, Social Conflict occurs when you have two sides, and one wants something from the other. This can be material objects, cooperation or some other commitment.

The basic step is to determine how reasonable the request is. Trivial requests that don’t involve a lot of effort or is within the normal range of activities of the party being asked are likely to be agreed to automatically. Likewise, requests that are of considerable effort or which is completely contrary to the normal activities of the person being asked are likely to be refused automatically.

For those requests that fall in between however, will likely require a Persuasion Task to convince the party to take action in your favor. The Difficulty of the Task is determined by the GM.

Social Tools

To help a character when performing a Social Task, they can rely on a number of Social Tools, or approaches that they can utilize to alter the circumstances and context of the request to move things in their favor.

The Social Tools as outlined by the book are: Deception, Evidence, Intimidation and Negotiation.

Deception requires an Opposed Task, where the acting character attempts to implant a lie to the target. If successful, then the party being lied to receives a Trait, which represents the lie that they know believe to be true. This will color any future Persuasion Tasks made to convince them to undertake a given course of action.

Evidence is the straightforward approach of providing evidence to support your request. This is normally automatically successful, but if the recipient is expecting deception, then this may require further Tasks to convince them of its authenticity. That said, each piece of evidence is a Trait that represents a fact proven true.

Intimidation clearly requires an Opposed Task, with difficulties determined by the relative strength of both sides. It’s easier to intimidate someone from a position of obvious strength or superior numbers. A successful intimidate attempt imposes a Trait on the target, representing their fear of the threat.  Like deception, this can then be leveraged to make successive Persuasion Tasks easier, or even possible.

Negotiation is the most equitable of the the Social Tools, and requires that both parties offer something in exchange for what they want from the other.  This is represented mechanically by creating an Advantage to represent the favorable side and a corresponding Complication to represent the cost of the offer.

All of these social tools can be used in combination with each other, such as utilizing Deception first to convince another party that you have something that you really don’t, then Intimidating them with it.

Take note that Social Conflict is not always reduced to a single roll. In making it a Challenge, the game can then have a protracted series of Tasks as both sides work on getting the other to submit to an agreement that is more favorable to one side than the other.

I’m glad they put in a Social Conflict system in Star Trek Adventures. If anything, given all that Starfleet stands for, it would be remiss for them to not acknowledge that talking things out is the preferred first step of the Federation.

That said, the use of Traits, Advantages, Complications are in full swing in these mechanics. I like how they provide a means by which you can leverage your arguments, and are forced to take on different approaches to get what you want, while fending off the attempts of the other party to render your efforts useless. Tracking Traits and Advantages might be an issue, but I’d need to play through it to really get a feel for things.

In my next post, I’ll be moving on to the rules governing Combat.


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After two very long entries, we’ll be taking a brief look at the next chapter: Strange New Worlds, which discusses the various strange encounters that a member of Starfleet can expect to run into in their voyages.

Strange New Worlds

The first section discusses the various planets and environments that the explorers of Starfleet can find themselves dealing with. This section opens with a rundown of the various Standard Planetary Types, from Class D “relatively small, airless moons and asteroid that are essentially barren balls of rock” to Class Y demon planets “noted for dense, toxic, highly corrosive atmospheres, surface temperatures that exceed 200C and periodic thermionic radiation discharges.”

It’s a great catalog of the different kinds of worlds to explore and is a quick reference for a GM looking for ideas to spruce up their player’s next leg of their voyage.

Alien Encounters

This section talks about the dangers of different creatures that can be encountered and the threats they represent, ranging form large, aggressive creatures to the dangers of unseen parasitic life forms that can wreak havoc on a crew.

Stellar Phenomena

This section tackles the various “space weather” encounters that can complicate a voyage. Ranging from Nebulae, Radiation Storms, Gravitational Distortions and Black Holes there’s plenty here to keep a crew on her feet to make sure that they safely make it to their destination.

Scientific Discoveries and Developments

This section introduces a Research & Development subsystem to the mechanics that come into play when working on tweaking tech as well coming up with new theories and ideas when encountering strange new phenomena.

Step 1: Observe

When encountering a new phenomena, the characters participating in the effort figure out which of the Disciplines this phenomena falls under. The character with the highest rating in the Discipline will then be denoted as the “Research Lead.”

Step 2: Hypothesize

Players then throw out their ideas on what might be happening. The Research Lead then chooses 3 to 5 of these ideas, which are tagged as Hypotheses, and this is explained to the GM.

The GM then determines if any of the Hypotheses fit the truth. If none of the Hypotheses presented fit the actual problem, then the GM immediately gains a point of Threat, and can tell the players to come up with new Hypotheses.

If the players are onto something, the GM then tells them that they are, but NOT which Hypothesis is correct.

Step 3: Testing

The GM then assigns a number of successes needed to determine if a Hypothesis is correct. This ranges from 1 to 10 depending on the difficulty of the research and the problem. This is also often accompanied with a deadline in terms of how many intervals they can work.

The Research Lead then determines which Hypothesis to pursue, and roll for it, in order to try and reach the target number of successes before they run out of intervals.

If they roll enough, then the GM can tell them if the Hypothesis they’re pursuing is successful, or is clearly the wrong one.

This chapter was pretty utilitarian, plenty of useful information to go around, but the Scientific Discoveries sub-system was interesting. I can see it being very important in a “Space CSI” sort of way, given how Star Trek relies more on puzzles rather than overt force to serve as the source of tension.

It’s also a good nod to the team members who put a lot of effort into being the smarter guys of the team, Science Officers will be very happy to be of use, and utilizing the system is a great way to ensure that they’ll make a Spotlight Milestone.

Next up we’ll be taking a look at the chapter covering Conflict, detailing Social Conflict to Combat and if we have enough time, we’ll send our Andorian Security Chief to do some fighting as well!


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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.

Read the rest of this entry »