As a long-term but casual fan, I've never been tempted to try a Star Trek RPG before, despite the previous incarnations; but I am glad that I have run Star Trek Adventures as this game has become a staple at my table. As one would expect with game built on existing intellectual property, it presents ways 'to boldly go', exploring the galaxy and the myriad of tales and encounters that such a rich franchise offers. The default time period is Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it provides plenty of advice for adapting the game to other parts of the Star Trek chronology.
The book is remarkably comprehensive in both the types of Starfleet roles, and alien races represented across the organisation. Equipment and starships runs the list of the iconic and easily recognisable, essentially giving you all the tools to make this feel like an episode of Star Trek.
Character creation is a points-buy system modified by Life Path. We found the Life Path extremely useful to generate quirks and to shape broader views for each character that really provides a spark of life and key ideas around which any player can anchor the portrayal of their character. There is flexibility in the Life Path to either roll for a result, or select a result that directly aligns with the players ideas. This is a rewarding part of character creation; and gave some great motivations for the characters at our table (from the Bajoran Medical Officer who studied medicine after his village was ravaged by disease, to our Vulcan overcoming an 'illogical' distrust of transporters after an accident almost left him dead).
Where the system really excels is in the inclusion of Values. As the word suggests, these are core beliefs that influence a characters’ behaviour and how they respond to situations. They require a lot of thought from the player, but offer a rich yet simple tool for role-playing. Interestingly, they come into play by offering some advantages when a character acts in accordance with their Values, but can cause internal conflict if situations arise that challenge that Value. For example, a Medical Officer with the Value ‘No One Dies On My Watch’ is vigorous in the defence of life and will exhaust every opportunity to preserve personnel. However, what happens to this character if a member of the Away Team willingly sacrifices themselves for the team? Lots of potential for storytelling and good roleplaying here.
The system uses the 2D20 system, and players use a combination of Attributes and Disciplines to generate the Target Number under which they must roll to succeed. Difficulty is achieved by increasing the number of successful dice rolls, and this streamlines the system well. The mechanics I enjoyed most was Momentum, and Threat – the two enjoy a symbiotic relationship that provides a good flow and pace for the game. Momentum points are generated by extra successes (or agreeing to add Threat points to the pool), can be used to buy more dice for a roll, and are accessible by all players. They can also be spent for a range of in-game effects too. Threat, on the other hand, is spent by the GM to introduce challenges, reinforcements, complications, and the like. As such the two pools work to create a dynamic play environment.
We played a long session of the game to try it out and found that character creation took about half an hour, and it took about that long again to completely pick up the rules smoothly. I created a ‘cheat sheet’ of the main rules and page numbers in advance (took me about an hour), and the session moved at a good pace – almost as though we’d been playing for months. The game mechanics supported the feeling that this was a game of Star Trek and it was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
The only point for improvement I noted was the book layout. There’s a lot of white space, and random deck plans, images, and communiqués inserted that don’t add a lot to the text. The section on the chronology of the universe wasn’t especially helpful; presented as a series of in-universe documents that the reader needs to contextualise. I found the Memory Alpha wiki timeline to be a great replacement for this chapter, which is a shame, because casual fans like myself don’t have an in-depth working knowledge of the universe – we just enjoy it as entertainment, and now want to game in the same universe. That said, it’s an easily remedied situation, so it should not stop you from buying the book.
I highly recommend this book, as it makes the universe highly accessible to fans who want an enjoyable, thematic win when experiencing the opportunity to boldly go where no one has gone before.
[4 of 5 Stars!]