Star Trek Adventures is a tabletop roleplaying game set in the Star Trek universe, where people fly around in spaceships and do cool stuff. Star Trek is a franchise close to my heart, as I grew up watching the films and eventually came to be a die-hard fan of all the TV shows when they aired on BBC 2 at 6PM; which meant they came on just as I finished my homework. I’m also a big fan of tabletop RPGs, since my grandparents bought me the Dungeons & Dragons Dragon Quest box set back in the early Nineties.
So I’ve begun planning a Star Trek Adventures game to run on YouTube with friends, and that means I needed to remind myself how the game works. The rulebook is very well written but it has the usual RPG manual problem of rules being parsed out bit-by-bit so the newcomer isn’t overwhelmed. That’s very nice but it means there’s not always a simple guide ready to hand for anyone who wants to know how to run a Star Trek Adventures Game without pouring over every page of the manual and taking notes. Hence this article.
Let’s start with the basics.
Let’s say the Game Master (from now on I’m just writing “GM” or we’ll be here all day) has explained the scenario the players currently find themselves in and now it’s up to the players to decide what to do. One of them wants to attempt something to get them out of the current situation. It’s not a straightforward thing they want to do (the aren’t saying they just glance around, or ask an NPC a question, or something simple like that) so the GM needs the player to roll a few successes.
The lowest level of complexity for a roll like that needs the player to get 1 success but more difficult tasks could go as higher – perhaps even needing 5 successes for something really complicated (although we’ll cover that later because players usually only roll 2 dice).
Players have six attributes and one of them will be needed here. The attributes are:
- Control – Precision, discipline, detail-orientedness, etc.
- Daring – Courage and effectiveness under pressure, etc.
- Fitness – Health and endurance, etc.
- Insight – Instinct, gut reasoning, understanding body language, etc.
- Presence – Charismatic, strong personality, willpower, etc.
- Reason – Good observation skills, ability to put clues together, analytical skills, etc.
They also have six Disciplines. Again, one will be needed here. These are:
- Command – Leadership, reasoning skills, etc
- Conn – Flying the ship, using the controls, etc
- Security – Tactical knowledge, investigations, security work, etc
- Engineering – Building and fixing stuff, etc
- Sciences – Academic knowledge, scientific stuff, etc
- Medical – Medical knowledge, fixing people, etc
For each task a player is going to attempt, the GM needs to decide which Attribute and which Discipline is needed for that task. Sometimes that’s simple: flying the ship would be Control + Conn, while treating an injured crewmate’s wounds would be Reason + Medicine, but for more outlandish stuff, the GM will need to get creative.
The GM asks for the player’s Attribute and Discipline scores for the chosen stats and adds those numbers together. This forms the Target Number, which the player must roll equal to or less than on the dice in order to score a success. Rolling a 1 is the exception here, as a 1 counts as two successes. In this way, it’s possible to score four successes on just two dice (the usual amount a player will roll); although it’s unlikely.
If a player scores more successes than they need, those extras don’t go to waste. The extras become Momentum, which helps keep the game moving forward. A player can either bank that momentum into the Momentum Pool that all the players can draw from in a session; or use some of it right away. If the player uses it right away, they can spend a Momentum to get extra info to propel the story forward.
To go back to our examples from earlier, a player flying the ship could spend Momentum to find out more about why the ship is having trouble navigating at the moment (“we’re being pulled toward a spatial anomaly but our sensors can’t detect it!”); or the player treating a crewmate’s wounds could spend Momentum to tell what kind of weapon caused the injuries (“These look like Romulan disruptor burns, not Klingon…”).
Similarly, if the player chooses to bank the Momentum, this becomes accessible to other players (and this player, on a future roll). Spending Momentum makes it easier to get the successes needed on roll, since you can use it to buy more dice for that roll. You need to buy the dice before you roll, not after, and the cost goes up with each die (1 extra costs 1 Momentum, 2 extra costs 2 Momentum, etc) up to a maximum of three extra dice.
Momentum can also be used in other ways, as explained in the manual, but these are the more common methods you’ll see used in the game.
These are fun ones and they really help to flesh out a character’s backstory and personality but they also give each character a distinct advantage in certain situations, because they increase their chances of gaining a success on dice rolls.
Let’s say the characters are trapped behind enemy lines with broken equipment and the enemy is closing in fast. One character is attempting to fix a hand phaser so they can fire back at the enemy. Normally that character would roll Control + Engineering (an argument could be made to switch out Control for Daring, under the circumstances but the GM can discuss that with the player and reach a consensus). If the player happens to have the “Hand Phasers” Focus however, they can play that here.
Let’s say their Control score is 9 and their Engineering discipline is 3. Normally that would mean they have a Target Number of 12 and need to roll 12 or less to get a success. The Hand Phasers Focus means they can get an additional success if they roll a 3 or less; because the Focus runs off the Discipline score, not the overall Target Number. Yes it’s tougher to gain that success but every little helps when you’re in a tough situation.
The usual rule of rolling a 1 gets an extra success applies as well, so in this situation it would be possible for our phaser repair player to rack up quite a few successes. Any successes they gain over the required number can be banked as Momentum in the usual way; and they can also spend Momentum already in the bank to buy more dice before the roll starts, too.
So as you can see, it’s possible to massage the dice to make sure the game flows better and thereby avoid Total Party Kills that grind a story to a complete halt. This is the first in a series of articles I’ll be writing about Star Trek Adventures so while I’ve not covered everything here, I’m hoping I’ve given you enough to see how the basic flow of challenges in the game work, which means you should be far more at ease with playing.
It’s a game with a lot of potential and it’s really good fun, so I hope you give it a chance some time. My game (and no doubt many others as well) is open to players to drop in for a session here and there, so when I’m streaming, please to get in touch and I’ll try to work you into a session or two!