I have to admit, I was excited that Modiphius Entertainment was putting out a new Star Trek RPG. This stems from a few places. First, I have been a Trek fan since the original series (yes, I’m that old.) Second, one of my first writing projects in the gaming business was for FASA’s Star Trek RPG back in the 1980’s (yes, I’m that old part II.) I wrote support books, rules, and scenario packs back in the day. I’ve even gotten to write game walk-thru books for several of the computer games for Star Trek. Third, we’ve been in a weird glut of Star Trek RPG’s. There have been some good attempts in the past to rekindle this franchise into a game – but they all more or less fizzled.
So I pre-ordered the game and slotted some time to play at Gen Con. I lightly read the rules before Gen Con and I’m glad I played the game to clear up some of the ambiguity in the book. That brings me to one point, some of the rules and examples are not entirely clear. I struggled a bit with some of the core concepts until I played.
The rules can be a little confusing. So if I made any mistakes, those are on me (and the gamemaster that led us on our adventure). Once I got into the game there were some bits of brilliance here along with some, “what the hell?” moments reading/playing this as well.
Something brilliant – the use of momentum and threats poold. This is a pool of points that you build by over-succeeding on tasks. They are a group pool you can leverage to roll extra dice to try and succeed, or to up the ante (so to speak) on a certain situation.
The counter to that is the threat pool which his owned by the gamemaster. This is the ying to the momentum pool’s yang. The gamemaster can leverage this pool to his advantage, allowing him to toss in complications such as NPC’s recovering faster from damage. The two pools interact with each other but are critical to the play of the game. It does open up some questions from time to time as to whether a character should leverage the pool or not – but this forces good teaming with the players.
The game system itself is very simple. But there are some strange things embedded in here. For example: The damage your phaser does is not just the weapons listing, but factors in your Security Discipline. So if you are a red shirt using a phaser, you might do more damage than someone who has a low Security Discipline. This makes sense on a “to hit” roll, but not on damage. Weird eh?
There were other things that seemed a little lopsided in play. I had an Advisor Talent with my character, which meant I could lean over your shoulder and help your character perform a task. The thing was, there’s no real limit to it. So I helped a pilot navigate an asteroid field, helped coach a fellow officer in disarming a bomb, and even acted as an Advisor when someone was shooting. It allowed players to re-roll a die for a task but this simple Talent feels like it needs some boundaries. There were only so many times I could say, “Atta Boy!” while being an Advisor.
The game isn’t about killing but incapacitating. I am changing that with my players. Red shirts die – look it up. It’s an easy hop to turn the damage into hit points.
The rules have a lot of fluff text (easily 1/3 of the book). It safely presumes you know the Star Trek universe. While the system is set up to play in all but the new films eras, there’s not a lot of guidance about what is different from a gameplay perspective. The fluff text is great stuff, wonderful little nuggets for Trekkers, but these nuggets take you all over the place. There’s no comprehensive timeline to help players only familiar with one era to jump in.
The rules for starship combat work but are pretty abstract. Your skills apply to combat situations, so it does work. I still long for the old FASA system and may revert to that for my players. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of Modiphius Entertainment – or the one.
Some rules seem missing – or at least I haven’t been able to track them down. When they talk about Reputation for characters, they have a table listing the number of Responsibilities that a character has. They never really explain this and the table seems contrary to Star Trek, “I have the lives of 430 crewmen I’m responsible for!” According to the table Captain Kirk, you’re only responsible for 17-20…17 to 20 what, I have no idea.
Go to the index you say? Yeah, good luck with that. The index is one of the biggest weaknesses in this rulesbook. It is only four pages-ish long and far from complete. I hope Modiphius releases a comprehensive one online soon. As it is, this index is worthless and frustrating.
The book is graphically laid out with good artwork and a LCARs Star Trek interface. That’s nice. With a black background the white lettering can be a little hard to read at times.
One minor nit – there’s no ship blueprints here. I don’t need a Constitution Class ship – I’d setting for a Danube Runabout. Yes, you can score these things online with no problem, but it seems lacking. As a sidebar, the Danube Class ships are shown as a graphic image, but no game stats for them appear in the book – another minor nit.
Star Trek Adventures is destined to be hard to run. Players that know Star Trek can go down a lot of rabbit holes and whip out a lot of technical stuff that can imbalance play (I know, I’m one of those people!) It’s a big universe so things can get out of hand quickly. This is one of the few games where your inside knowledge of hundreds of hours of TV and films can force your gamemaster to pull out his/her few remaining hairs. This means you have to craft your adventures very carefully.
So is it worth $58 dollars US for the book. I think so. I heard a lot of people griping online that the game is too pricy. It is no more than any other high end RPG. There’s 384 pages of stuff here, so there is a bulk value. I love the star maps in the end pages, which is very useful and kind of fun to read. You will pay this much for almost any game system out there these days and this is on-par with the Star Wars RPG, though I found that system more technical than Star Trek – which favors true role playing.
The manufacturer is releasing miniatures for the game – but seems to be skipping the Star Trek II Wrath of Khan figures, which easily had the best uniforms we saw in Star Trek.
I have already prepped two adventures for my player group to go through. So I like the system enough to continue to play it. I hope they (Modiphius Entertainment) are planning some good sourcebooks to refine the rules for the eras.
Out of five stars, I would give this 3.9. I love the momentum/threat pool system and there’s a lot of simplicity here that makes it relatively easy to learn. I am hopeful they will supplement this system to fix some of the rough edges.