July 28, 2017

To Boldy Go...

And now for something completely different...

So a couple weeks ago, I opted to pick up the PDF of Modiphus Entertainment's latest RPG, Star Trek Adventures, mostly at the urging, subtle and otherwise, of a couple members of my usual Skype group.  Bear in mind that in the never-ending Wars vs. Trek debate, I generally land on the side of Star Wars.  That's not to say I dislike Star Trek in general, but of the two franchises I prefer the one set in a galaxy far, far away.

The PDF cost me just under $16 from the DriveThruRPG, and I'll admit it's pretty snazzy looking.  Now it's worth mentioning that the general look draws from the Next Generation era of Trek, as does the majority of the artwork.  Now, maybe I've been spoiled by the amazing artwork that FFG has used for the entirety of their Star Wars RPG line, but the artwork in Star Trek Adventures generally just isn't all that amazing.  There's a couple of decent images of starship combat, but the rest of it tends to hover around acceptable for me.

Now it's worth noting that Star Trek Adventures uses a streamlined version of the 2d20 system that Jay Little (father of the narrative dice system used in Star Wars and Genesys) created for the Modiphus' Mutant Chronicles RPG.  The 2d20 system doesn't quite have the multiple axis of success/failure, instead going for a bit more of a binary pass/fail method, though the better you do on a task, the more impressive your success becomes due to the concept of Momentum.  Also interesting in that you generally want to roll under your target number, which itself is determined by how good you are at a task.  I'm still not 100% sold on the system, but I'd probably need to play it at least once.  Then again, I wasn't completely sold on FFG Star Wars' narrative dice system at first, and now it's probably one of my favorite RPGs on the market.

One element really do like is that use of Traits, which bear a lot of similarity to FATE's Aspects.  For instance, the game effects of your character's race is primarily tied into a Trait, which doesn't offer any discrete mechanical advantages or drawbacks, but can be invoked to give scene-appropriate bonuses or penalties.  This alleviates a recurring problem with races/species in many RPGs where some are just flat-out better at certain roles/classes/careers than others.  So it's quite possible to build an Andorian Science Officer that's just as capable as a Vulcan or a Human would be, or conversely build a Vulcan Command Officer that's not inherently handicapped at being a leader in comparison to a Human or a Betazoid.

Character creation looks a lot more daunting than it really is, since the standard creation method pretty much walks you through the process each step of the way, delivering each element in bite size chunks and offer a decent variety of options to choose from.  As I said earlier, the book pretty much focuses on the 24th century, so almost have the races available are from that era, with the number of available races dwindling the further back you go in the Trekverse's history.  I should mention that there is zero mention of the Abramsverse films, so for those purists that dislike the direction the reboot films take, you can rest easy that your classic Trek timeline remains intact.

I do like that all PCs start with the same value in attributes (7) and skills (1 rank), and that as you go through the character creation process, you simply add modifiers based upon which background options you selected.  You also get to add Values (pretty much identical to Traits) at specific steps along the way, as well as Talents which offer a minor (but handy) benefit in certain situations. It's worth noting that the game runs on the default that the PCs are all Starfleet Officers that have graduated from the Academy, as has been the case with the majority of Star Trek media.

Now I've not delved all that much into the combat chapter, but at first pass it doesn't look all that complicated, at least for personal combat, which isn't super deadly but unless your a Main Character it's quite possible to be taken out with a single lucky shot. Starship combat however is another matter, as it seems is often the case with RPGs that delve into such matters.  Since a PC group are by default all bridge/senior officers aboard their starship, there's a lot of options available depending on what station your PC is currently manning.

I think it bears mention that while the PCs, or Main Characters as the book calls them, are all bridge officers and thus the ones generally in charge of the ship, there is the option of what the book calls Supporting Characters.  These are generally pulled from the list of no-name rank and file crew, given a name and run through an abbreviated version of the full character creation process that's pretty quick, and a minor bonus if this is the first time they show up in the current adventure.  That way, you can avoid running into the classic problem of the original Trek series where the senior officers were beaming down into dangerous situations.  There is a limit to how many Supporting Characters a group can pull into the adventure, generally based upon the size of the ship the players are in charge of.

The options provided for starships are fairly broad, but again are centered on the 24th century with a few throwbacks to the 23rd century, with the famous Constitution-class being the oldest starship model available to players in the core book.  One nice touch that can help keep older ships viable is the idea of refits; in short for every 10 years past the ship class' launch date that the campaign is set in, the PCs ship gets a small boost to reflect the minor upgrades and refits the vessel would have undergone to keep it in service.  Another nice touch is that each Starfleet vessel gets the option of choosing a role for the ship, from a Pathfinder/Recon to Tactical/Patrol to Science to the Multirole Explorer (the game text notes that Kirk's Enterprise was of this type), with the role providing a set value of ship skills and a Talent to reflect the role it plays in Starfleet.

Overall, I have to say I like Star Trek Adventures, and am kind of eager to give the game a whirl.  There's been talk amidst my Skype group of trying at least a one shot or two, but right now our focus is on completing the Curse of Strahd adventure module (we're now at 9th level and still no PC deaths, though our Dragonborn Bard has had a couple close calls) before we really start seriously talking about doing one-shots for other systems.

Still, that hasn't stopped me from coming up with a crop of pre-gens, done so that I can get a slightly better feel for the system and how various numbers might work.  I'll probably do a later post walking through the character creation process for a couple of different characters, just to give a demo of how it works.

So, if you're a Star Trek fan looking for an RPG to let you game in the Final Frontier, then Star Trek Adventures is definitely worth checking out.

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