Posts Tagged ‘Let’s Study’


Capture.PNG

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.


Capture.PNG

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!


Capture

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.

(more…)


Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 9.29.29 AM

Now that we’ve already had a chance to check out the setting and the purpose of Starfleet in Star Trek Adventures, let’s move on to the discussion of the game side of the equation with a look at the mechanics.

Introduction

This section is the primer for the most basic concepts of the game. Star Trek Adventures runs off the 2d20 system, which uses 2 kinds of dice: 20-sided and six-sided dice. The d20’s are used to determine successes, while the d6’s are used mainly to determine effect or to roll on tables.

Like in other 2d20 games, the d6’s are also called something else to denote their use when determining damage. Called Challenge Dice in Star Trek, rolling a six-sided die is read according to the following table:

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 9.38.14 AM

Bit of a typo on the title of the table there.

So, when rolling 6 Challenge Dice to determine damage, and you end up with a roll of: 3,5,1,4,1,2 then that means you score 5, plus 1 Effect (from the 5). Effects can be used to trigger all sorts of things, but are most common in triggering Weapon qualities.

To make life a little easier Modiphius sells challenge dice with blank sides and special notation to show Effects. Plus they look really spiffy.

Basic Operations

Moving on, we get to discuss some basic concepts of the Star Trek Adventure RPG:

Scenes and Encounters

Scenes are the first thing introduced in this section. Pretty appropriate given that the game is supposed to approximate the nature of the TV shows, scenes are a pretty vague slice of time where the characters interact in a way that has a significant impact to the plot. The players and the GMs are encouraged to gloss over the “boring” stuff and cut from scene to scene to keep the pace nice and punchy.

Encounters are defined as a special type of scene where a conflict between two or more parties is broken down into rounds and turns. Combat is the most common example of an Encounter.

Traits

Traits are a concept that will be familiar to gamers who have played games like Fate. Similar to Fate’s Aspects, Traits are single word or short phrases that describe a single significant fact about the subject that the Trait pertains to.

That said I’m much more partial to the Traits as they deal in objective facts as opposed to a phrase that can be re-interpreted in various ways.

Star Trek Adventures gives four rough categories of Traits:

  • Situation Traits are traits that state a fact about a (usually) temporary condition that affects a scene. Darkness is cited as an example.
  • Location Traits are traits that define the nature of a location that the characters currently occupy. Klingon Technology would be an example of a Location Trait if a team were trying to escape from inside a Bird of Prey.
  • Personal Traits are traits that apply to a given creature, and denote some innate quality. Human, or Vulcan are both examples of Personal Traits.
  • Equipment Traits describe a single piece of equipment and are in effect for as long as the character has it. This means, of course that the Trait can be passed on to a different character if they hand the equipment over.

But why are traits so important? Traits also help establish the Truth of a setting in three ways:

  1. The Trait has no effect on the tasks being performed and is solely descriptive.
  2. The Trait is beneficial, and can enable an action that would normally be impossible, or reduce its difficulty. These Traits are also known as Advantages.
  3. The Trait is detrimental, and can prevent an activity from being performed, or increase its difficulty. These Traits are also called Complications.

One last thing about Traits that it’s possible for particularly powerful Traits to count as multiple versions of itself. The book uses Subspace Interference 2 as an example of a particularly strong form of interference that will take quite a lot of effort to overcome.

Tasks

The basic resolution of a situation is called a Task, and Star Trek Adventures breaks Tasks down into the following variants based on the resulting outcome of success or failure:

  • Tasks to succeed or achieve an objective, or one that could be used to generate an Advantage or Complication Trait for the situation.
  • Tasks to avoid hazards or danger. Success means avoiding harm, while failure means taking some form of damage.
  • Tasks to succeed but with something at stake. Instead of being a simple test of being able to just succeed or fail, failure here comes with a hazard.

Attributes, Disciplines and Focuses

Characters in Star Trek Adventures are described by their Attributes, Disciplines and Focuses.

Attributes in the game are: Control, Daring, Fitness, Insight, Presence and Reason. These range in values from 7 to 12.

Characters also have six Disciplines: Command, Conn, Engineering, Security, Science and Medicine. These range in values from 1 to 5.

Characters also have Focuses, which represent specialized training within a specific field. Focuses do not have a rating of their own.

Performing Tasks

Attempting a Task in Star Trek Adventures is a fairly straightforward affair:

  1. The GM determines the combination of Attribute and Discipline to add together. This forms the target number of the roll, as well as any applicable Focus.
  2. The GM also determines the difficulty of the roll. The difficulty is the number of successes that need to be made in order to succeed at the task.
  3. The Player then rolls 2d20, and tries to roll equal to or below the Target Number. Dice that do are considered to be successes.
    1. Players may also add more d20s to the dice roll by spending Momentum, adding to Threat or using Determination (More on those later)
    2. Rolling a 20 is causes a Complication. (we’ll tackle this one a little later on too)
    3. If a Focus is applicable, then any die that rolls a result equal to or less than the Discipline being rolled counts as 2 successes.
    4. If no Focus is applicable, then any die that rolls result of 1 counts as 2 successes.
  4. If the number of successes rolled match the difficulty of the roll, then the character is successful. Otherwise the character is considered to have failed the attempt.
  5. Any successes rolled that are over the Difficulty then become Momentum.

Traits and Task Difficulty

Standard Difficulty for most tests is 1. But Traits can come in to modify that difficulty, by either lowering it or raising it depending on the circumstances.

Improving the Odds

As you can tell, succeeding in a Task with a Difficulty of 2 or higher is going to be very difficult with just 2d20 as a basic roll. Because of this, characters have some means to add dice to their roll to a maximum of 5d20.

  • Spend Momentum – Momentum is a special resource generated by rolling successes over the difficulty of a roll. This is then banked in a special pool that can be used by all Player Characters in a group. The first die bought this way costs 1 Momentum, the second costs 2 Momentum and the third costs 3 Momentum.
  • Add to Threat – Threat is a GM resource that increases as players add to it at the same rate as Momentum.
  • Talents – Some talents bestow a bonus d20 to a roll where the Talent applies.
  • Determination – In certain situations, a character is allowed to spend Determination. Each point of Determination spent adds a d20 to a roll, except that this is assumed to have rolled a 1, therefore automatically adding 2 successes to the Task.

Complications

Rolling a 20 on a task generates a Complication. This is a Trait that is detrimental to the situation and can make success more difficult or certain actions impossible to do. If a player doesn’t want to take a Complication, this can be bought off at the cost of 2 Threat.

Success at Cost

Sometimes, a GM may allow for a roll to succeed at cost. In these cases, the player still rolls, but a failed roll can be turned into a success at cost of one automatic Complication. This is on top of any 20’s rolled in the attempt.

Momentum

Momentum is one of the key mechanics that I enjoyed in Conan, so I’m happy to see it back here. As mentioned earlier, rolling more successes than the difficulty translates those successes to Momentum.

In addition to buying more dice to add to a roll, Momentum can also be spent to:

  • Create an Advantage – By spending 2 Momentum, a player can produce an advantageous circumstance relating to the action taken. This can also be used to remove a Complication in play, or generate a Complication for an opponent
  • Create a Problem – A player can declare that they are spending Momentum to make a task being performed by an adversary more difficult, at the cost of 2 Momentum per level of Difficulty increase.
  • Obtain Information – By spending 1 Momentum, a player performing an investigative or research task can ask the GM one question relating to the situation, or item, object or creature being studied.. The GM is compelled to answer truthfully, though not necessarily with complete information.

Threat

Threat is the GM counterpart to Momentum and is usually spent in a similar way to empower opponents. The difference is that Threat can also be spent to add reinforcements to the bad guys, or to trigger environmental effects that could create Complications for everyone in the scene.

Determination

Determination is a rare resource for characters of Star Trek Adventures. Each Player Character begins a game with 1 point in Determination with a maximum of only 3 points of Determination at any given time.

The use and gaining of Determination relies on a Player Character’s Values.

Values

Values are short phrases or statements that describe the attitudes, beliefs and convictions of a character.

Should a character find themselves in a difficult situation where their Values can come into play, they may spend Determination to do any of the following:

  • Perfect opportunity – Grant a Task a bonus d20 that counts as having rolled a 1
  • Moment of inspiration – Reroll all the dice in a dice pool
  • Surge of activity – Perform a second Task immediately after the first
  • Make it so –  Automatically create an Advantage in the scene

Values are core components of a character however, and as such they can be tested as well. If a character is put in a situation where their values would make a situation more difficult, the GM may offer a point of Determination to compel the character to act in accordance to their Value, at the cost of a Complication. This is an optional offer, and it is up to the player to accept it.

Once per mission, if a character is put in a situation where their Value negatively impacts the situation, the character may choose to challenge it, striking it out of their character sheet and rendering it useless for the rest of the mission. In exchange they get a point of Determination. At the end of the mission, the player may then replace the challenged Value with something else that reflects their new worldview.

Advanced Training

The Advanced training section introduces Challenges and Extended Tasks, two optional subsystems for emulating long-term or multi-step tasks, such as “Reach main engineering and shut down the drive core.”

These are presented in terms of structures for tasks, including variants for timed, linear and gated challenges that I can see use for in Engineering sections of Starfleet just to keep a ship going.

Okay, that was a long read. Star Trek Adventures is clearly sitting on the Rules-Medium end of the spectrum, but the rules are clearly well thought out and have a place in the world. While I was worried about Momentum mechanics making them feel too pulpy, in the end the altered Momentum Costs, and the necessity for the Values to come into play before enabling spends of Determination help adjust that to a more human level of play.

I’m seeing a lot of influences from Fate’s Aspects and even a couple of ideas from Exalted Intimacies in play here and I really like what they’re doing. Star Trek isn’t about the phasers and neat space ships alone after all, but the struggle to do the right thing in difficult circumstances with little to no support.

Next up, we’ll finally start getting busy by building our first Starfleet character with our Let’s Study of the next chapter: Reporting for Duty.


Capture

Moving on from the discussions on the history of the Federation, we’re taking a look at the chapter that best displays the kind of thing that Starfleet actually does. Much like in the prior chapter, Your Continuing Mission is broken down into subsections.

Starfleet’s Purpose

For those unfamiliar with Starfleet’s role in the setting, this section breaks it down into what Starfleet is, as both a scientific and exploratory organization and one that is also saddled with the task of peacekeeping.

I like that the setting is well aware of the paradox of being a “neutral” force armed with enough weapons to scour a planet if need be, but for the sake of being ready for anything they might encounter in the frontier, Starfleet should be able to defend itself should the worst come to pass.

There’s also a short segment on Starfleet’s organizational structure. It’s handy to know and they’ve kept it short and to the point and more importantly playable without devolving into too much detail that won’t see play.

The Prime Directive

Allow me to take a moment to say that I LOVED this section. As a fan of moral / ethical dilemmas such as the classic Honor vs. Duty of Legend of the Five Rings, Star Trek Adventures tackles Starfleet General Order One, or the Prime Directive head on for what it is.

To those who don’t know of it, The Prime Directive is a guiding philosophy behind Starfleet that prevents their personnel from interfering with the natural development of other civilzations by abusing Starfleet’s technological superiority.

It was put in place to avoid contaminating the development of pre-warp civilizations and letting them grow on their own.

Naturally, this is one directive that is fraught with a tremendous number of ugly realities. Non-interference looks great on paper, but many Starfleet captains have erred on the side of getting involved for the sake of their crew, or their own morals.

In many ways, this is the soul of Star Trek, and one that I find to be a crucial part of the Star Trek Adventures RPG as it helps paint the conflicts that every Starfleet crew will encounter in their voyages.

Starfleet Academy

This section details the entire experience of going through Starfleet Academy. How they select students, what the time spent in the Academy is like, what bonds they foster among contacts and what values they foster in their students.

It’s a great look into the training that happens before the characters come into play, and I can totally see this working as source material if the group wanted to play a Starfleet Academy game where the players are all still students trying to make the grade.

Assignment

The various departments of the members of Starfleet are described here. Depending on the training and course of study, graduates of Starfleet Academy are assigned to: Command (gold shirts), Sciences (blue shirts) and Operations (red shirts).

This section also discusses the way that Starfleet personnel are assigned to various ships and perhaps on a per mission basis.

Missions for the ships are also discussed here, from the original “five-year mission.” to longer, open-ended deep space missions made possible with new technologies. Some examples of missions and Directives are provided as examples, and these span from more broad statements like “Explore Strange New Worlds” to more specific ones like “Patrol along the Romulan Neutral Zone.”

Duties

This section gives a more detailed look at the various missions of Starfleet ships, and serves as a very fertile ground for GMs looking a what kind of adventures to throw at his intrepid crew of Player Characters.

These are broken down into Science, Diplomatic and Protection and Security missions, each of which has a thorough list of examples. Fans of the series will recognize many of these as near-tropes but they’re definitely endlessly repeatable.

Away Teams

As part of Starfleet operations, sometimes it’s important to put actual boots on the ground. As such the practice of putting together highly-skilled Away Teams that perform hands-on operations for the mission was established.

This is a high-risk assignment, and only the best of the crew are selected based on their capabilities and the nature of the mission. Given the broad range of various missions that the Away Teams can be sent on, I imagine that you’d be sending a different team on certain types of missions.

I might be pre-empting stuff that might be brought up later in the book, but I can certainly see a case being made for Troupe-Style play where players might have 2 or 3 different characters on the ship to make sure that no matter what kind of mission they’re on, they’ll have someone to participate in the action.

After my slight disappointment with the sections in the history chapter, this one blows me away. I’ve always been a fan of the sense of wonder and optimism of Star Trek, but as a much older geek, I also recognize that The Prime Directive can’t cover all situations.

There’s a lot of information in this chapter that answers the central question of RPGs, which is “Okay, but what do the player characters do?”

There’s clearly a lot of work done in Starfleet, and only the best are called to serve. This chapter has me stoked to run a game right now, and that can only be a good thing.

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at the mechanics behind the Star Trek Adventures RPG, and see how the 2d20 system was adapted to best emulate the Star Trek’s brand of action and adventure!