Tabletop game designer Modiphius Entertainment last month officially launched the playtest of Star Trek Adventures, a pen-and-paper role-playing game slated for publication in summer 2017.
Modiphius is hosting the free and open playtest over the next few months to allow fans and gamers to offer feedback as the developers polish the game’s mechanics and elements. Game developers Chris Birch and Nathan Dowdell, who were kind enough to answer several of our questions, said the initial playtest materials focus on presenting the core concepts of the system.
“As much as anything else, we want to make sure here that we’ve got a solid foundation – and playtesters who understand that foundation – before we start piling on things like starships, supporting characters, playing senior staff, and so forth,” Birch and Dowdell wrote in an email.
The initial playtest materials, released just before Thanksgiving, include five downloadable PDFs that total roughly 75 pages of rules, character sheets, setting information and an adventure scenario. The packet doesn’t cover rules for starships or for character generation but instead includes a dozen pre-generated characters from which players may choose. The pre-gens represent a range of species from throughout Star Trek’s 50-year history including human, Andorian, Tellarite, Denobulan, joined Trill or Vulcan.
Each pre-generated character sheet outlines that character’s six attribute scores along with some accompanying skills and focuses. Characters also possess a limited number of talents, or special abilities, and weapon and attack entries for combat situations. The character sheets also provide players with several personality “values” for each character, which will give players some guidance on how to role play.
Modiphius also has provided playtesters with a survey to provide feedback about their experience with the first batch of materials. Birch and Dowdell said they want players and games masters to adhere to the rules as they’re written as closely as possible rather than suggest alternatives. “House rules,” while a long-accepted tradition in the tabletop RPG hobby, don’t help developers in a playtest situation, Dowdell and Birch said.
“Try and explain why you think something doesn’t work, and try to be clear about the difference between a rule you don’t like and a rule you don’t think works, and they tell us different things,” they wrote.
The developers also want to know if playtesters think the rules support the thematic elements of Star Trek storytelling.
The adventure included in the playtest materials, titled “The Rescue at Xerxes 4,” opens with the player-characters crash landing a shuttle on a remote planet after encountering an intense ion storm. The crew will have to repair the damaged shuttlecraft while trying to rescue a stranded science team suffering from bizarre environmental effects. The scenario, while fairly short and linear, incorporates some exploration and problem-solving themes as well as a dash of TOS-esque pulp adventure.
Future playtest materials will weave together a larger meta-story set in the Shackleton Expanse, a vast area of largely unexplored space. The meta-story will allow players to man one of three Next Generation-era Starfleet ships: the U.S.S. Venture, the U.S.S. Bellerophon and the U.S.S. Thunderchild. Crews that prefer classic Star Trek can take part in a mission aboard the TOS-era U.S.S. Lexington.
Modiphius has enlisted Dayton Ward, a New York Times bestselling author familiar to Star Trek fans for his entries in the novel universe, to contribute to the playtest’s storyline.
“As each phase of the playtest progresses we’ll be tailoring the plot based on the progress of the playtesters and sending them a communiqué from Starfleet written by Dayton Ward touching on some of the highlights of the big events in the story,” Birch and Dowdell wrote.
Star Trek Adventures runs on the 2d20 system, a game engine designed by Modiphius that also drives several of the company’s previous rpg lines. The system’s main task resolution mechanic requires players to roll two 20-sided dice, attempting to roll as low as possible to achieve successes. The playtest’s 40-page rules document also outlines a narrative-driven momentum and threat mechanic that encourages players and games masters to ratchet up the drama of the story through narrative improvisation.
Players score momentum when they roll successes beyond what their immediate task requires. They may spend earned momentum to get a bonus or they can save momentum in a pool to be used later. Likewise, the games master has a pool of threat points to be used to create complications for the player-characters or to allow their foes to unlock certain special features. The system comes with a bit of a learning curve for the uninitiated, but it allows for players and games masters to craft a more dynamic and exciting story on the fly.
If you’re interested in joining the pre-release fun, Mophidius’ playtest is still open for signups at their official Star Trek Adventures website.