Astral Projections – Star Trek Adventures Review

TM & © CBS Studios © 2017 Paramount Pictures Corp
TM & © CBS Studios
© 2017 Paramount Pictures Corp.

My earliest TV memories are of sitting on the living room floor beside my Daddy’s recliner, watching Star Trek (now known as Star Trek–TOS/The Original Series) first run. Dad & Daughter time at it’s best & geekiest. This set me up for a lifetime watching, reading, and gaming all kinds of science fiction, space opera, and fantasy. (So I guess my Dad and Gene Roddenberry share some of the blame for “Astral Projections”?) Unfortunately, I only got to play the FASA Trek RPG (1983-1989) a couple times and never got to try or read through Decipher’s version (2002-2007). Naturally, I was delighted to hear that at long last there was a new version, Star Trek Adventures, by UK publisher Modiphius (Achtung! Cthulu, Conan, Mutant Chronicles, etc.).

The core rulebook, releasing at GenCon 2017, is available for preorder for US $60, and the PDF is at DrivethruRPG for just under $16. The company recently reminded those on it’s email list of their guarantee: “You can pick up the core book pdf for just £11.99 / [~ $16US] here on DriveThruRPG. If you pick up the PDF remember the Modiphius guarantee – if you later want to buy the print edition we’ll discount it by what you paid for the PDF. All you have to do is email lloyd@modiphius.com with your DrivethruRPG order.” That is a pretty good deal. (The PDF is available now.)

I also checked out the other offerings on Modiphius. This looks to be an extensive line, with miniatures, deck tiles, GM screen set, and dice (3 ST themed D20s and 4 proprietary Combat D6s). While $60 is a pretty typical price for a hardcover core RPG book today, some of the accessories do seem a little pricey to me. For example, the dice sets are $24, vs. $15 (both Amazon and my FLGS) for an FFG SW dice set, and the GM screen set (screen, large 2-sided map, and 6 player reference cards)  is $40. There are some bundles that are good deals, on the other hand. One is a starter bundle of the core book and PDF, GM screen with map, and a set of dice for $106, or $152 with collector edition book. There’s also a PDF bundle for $106 that includes the core book plus 8 supplements/sourcebooks being published in 2017-18. Tl;dr: Modiphius is going all out on this line!

The book focuses on the TV series, more than the movies, but is usable, I think, for the movies as well. STA’s mechanics are based on the 2D20 system devised by Jay Little of Edge of the Empire fame. I found the combat and social combat systems made sense, and I don’t expect the Saturday Nite Skype group will have problems when we play. I do have one minor issue, and that is with Action Order (initiative). It is just too complicated, I feel. The GM chooses who starts, usually a PC, but there are exceptions, then the sides take turns. Until the next round, when the side that didn’t start goes first…I think…See what I mean? If someone like me who has been playing RPGs for decades can’t figure out how to do turn order, there may be a problem. I may suggest our group uses FFGSW Initiative rules, as we have done in other non-SW games, although it may require changes to a couple talents. But it is worth considering.

The system also has a lot of analogs to FATE, such as PCs’ Values and Traits (think Concepts). Advancement also has some similarities to FATE, with a 3 tier Milestone system that allows changes to one of your PC’s Values, Traits or Disciplines (STA skills), as well as the option to change characteristics of a ship or Supporting Character (a troupe PC, one shared by the players) instead of your own. A third similarity is zones in combat, which are same as the Fate and Fate Accelerated zones.

What I really like about this system is the character creation for PCs. As I hinted, there are 2 kinds of PCs, Main and Supporting. Main PCs are the players’ party, but there may also be what some other systems have called a troupe, less powerful/detailed PCs created by players to be used by 1 or more players as needed. STA suggests several uses, including when there are only a few players in the game group, and/or to fill in role and Discipline gaps. Supporting PCs are also suggested as a possible solution for 2 issues that come up over and over in groups: Somebody cannot make a session or one or two PCs aren’t involved in a long scene/encounter.

For Main PC creation, there are 2 options, one being Creation in Play, the “quick-start” generation, if you will. Pick a Role and Species, assign numerical Attributes from an array, choose 2 Disciplines and 1 Value. The other Disciplines and Values–along with all Talents and Focuses–are left to be chosen in play, when you decide what you need to help during a scene. The other, Lifepath Creation, for a fully-developed starting PC, is what I love most about STA (so far!).

Lifepath takes you through the whole 7 step process in a way I found very engaging. I have played other games that did something similar (such as original Cyberpunk) and they all got me thinking “Where did this gal come from? Why is she involved?…” But none of them got me quite as enthusiastic as STA’s Lifepath. One of the guys in my game group created a PC for me based on some ideas he had. He included notes on what he’d done at each step, and when I opened the chapter and retraced his path, I found myself reading each section and thinking “I think it would be cool if I changed X event to Y event, then I could have [details] in her backstory!” and “Wow, I want to make a ___ Officer of that species!” and several more ideas. And I wasn’t the only one in the group who got the urge to build PCs.

The Lifepath steps–Species, Environment, Upbringing, Starfleet Academy, Career length, Career events, and Finishing Touches–give you tables to either pick from or roll randomly. If you’re picking and can’t decide, go ahead and roll for that step. Each of your six Attributes starts at 7 out of 12 possible points, and the 6 Disciplines all start at 1 out of 5. The PC has no Talents, Focuses, or Values yet, but at each step you will add to one or more of these. At most steps, the Attribute and/or Discipline scores will go up. Every step encourages you to expand your character’s backstory–and it certainly worked with me. Note that one of your Values must be about a connection to another Main PC. Yes, I liked that too, since I do like developing character relationships.

I also enjoyed the Stellar Phenomena section of Chapter Six: The Final Frontier. Very detailed and some of it is real astronomy! I haven’t looked much at a lot of the other fluff chapters, since I have been a Trekker since early childhood. These cover the United Federation of Planets; Starfleet; and classic friends, foes, and frenemies–from Borg to Romulans. As you might expect, there is a chapter on starships, starbases, and the like, plus one for tech and other gear. There is a Gamemastering Chapter, which includes very limited NPC building rules. What there is covers new alien species, which are done with just a couple Traits. Yet another Fate call-out. Perhaps there is more on NPCs I missed, since I only skimmed Chapter 10: Gamemastering, as I am not planning on running STA.

There were only two things I really didn’t like about the book. First was the lack of attention to proofreading in some sections. Most of the errors were Cut and Paste mistakes in mechanics. A subsection on Disciplines, for example, would say “Traits” in the text. It was clear that the identical Trait mechanic had been copied over but the characteristic wasn’t changed. I hope that these and other errors were remedied before physical books were printed. It is easy to figure out what is meant, but it looks sloppy and hurried. The second issue is the font colors used in some parts of the PDF. Sidebars use a lavender text font, and on my tablet, a Kindle Fire, it is nearly impossible to see against the white background, even with the screen brightness lowered or Blue Shade (night mode) active. The gold font color used for examples in the main text is just as hard to see. The gold and lavender text is somewhat easier to read on my laptop at its usual brightness, however.

I am looking forward to playing at least some one-shots with the rest of my RPG group–and then giving you, my readers, an account of how it plays. Meanwhile, check out my good friend and gaming buddy Donovan Morningfire’s recent pair of STA articles on his blog. Dono’s review of the game system includes comments on the ship section and other parts I haven’t touched on here. His second article is a must-read, taking you through character creation for both a Main PC and a Supporting Character. Here’s hoping some of you will also decide to “boldly go where no one has gone before.” (Star Trek: The Next Generation opening credits voice-over.)

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Linda Whitson

Linda Whitson

Contributing Writer & Copy Editor at D20 Radio
Linda Whitson is a long-time RPGer, amateur musician & artist, & an officer in the Rebel Legion Star Wars costuming club. Linda met her husband in an AD&D game and they have 2 teenagers, an anime fangirl daughter and a son who plays on his university's quidditch team. She is the Lead Mod of D20 Radio's forums and Copy Editor for the blog. Linda can be reached at GMLinda@d20radio.com
Linda Whitson

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