Thursday, July 4, 2019

Retooling Our Star Trek Adventures Game

So our Star Trek Adventures campaign has evolved from a "taking stock" to a "we really should decide about how to tweak certain things" to a "let's retool this whole thing to make it run better" kinda situation. To be fair, it was only intended to be a quick test drive of the rules. It taking on a life of its own and running for a whole year was never the plan. At this point, we're all inclined to put what we've learned about this game into a new ship and fresh batch of characters. Besides, just about every Star Trek series so far has gone through a retooling at some point during its run. We're really just emulating the source material here.

I've learned a great deal about running 2d20 in general and Star Trek Adventure's version of it in particular. And I'm looking forward to sharing those insights, but not in the form of recaps and let's plays of specific sessions. It would take some time to reconstruct those sessions from my notes and I'd rather focus on lessons learned - what works and areas to improve on.

Where we're starting - or restarting - the game is character creation. The post-retooling campaign will carry over story elements and gamemaster characters from the USS Yamato campaign. There will be a time skip of about six months of in-game time, taking things from early to late 2371. The retooled campaign will take place on a new starship with a (mostly) new crew.

Our group began character generation with a look at the organization of a Federation starship.

Federation Starship Senior Officer Posts (Circa 2371):

  • Commanding Officer - CO; The Captain, but doesn't necessarily hold the rank/grade of Captain. Sits in the big chair right in the middle of the bridge and uses the Assist and Direct Tasks to tell other people what to do.
  • Executive Officer - XO; First Officer; the Exec. Sometimes has a seat to the right of the CO, sometimes has to find a chair wherever on the bridge. Basically the lite beer version of the CO.
  • Operations Officer - OPS. Sits on the bridge and spouts the scientific and technical exposition offered up by the Science Officers of previous centuries.
  • Chief Engineering Officer - Chief Engineer. Sometimes shows up on the bridge, mostly tinkers around in the bowels of the ship.
  • Chief Security Officer - Security Chief. Glares at people from the Tactical console on the bridge while waiting for a chance to shoot something. Sometimes gets to play gumshoe during mystery episodes.
  • Chief Medical Officer - CMO. Addressed as Doctor rather than by rank. Sometimes hangs around the bridge when sickbay's not too busy. Mostly waits for people to get sick or injured. 24th century medical science has progressed enough to motivate attempts to revive downed Security personnel rather than just declare them dead with a shrug.
  • Flight Control Officer - CONN. Combines the duties of Helmsman and Navigator from previous centuries. Sits up at the front of the bridge with the best sight line to the viewscreen and drives the ship.
  • Ship's Counselor - Addressed as Counselor rather than by rank. Not all starships have a Ship's Counselor aboard. Considering what starship crews go through, having a trained psychologist around to dispense advice is probably a good idea. That and/or a bar.

Of these posts, what was seen on the shows and our experience with USS Yamato indicates that the XO, OPS, and Security Chief tend to be most critical for Away Team missions. In the 24th century Starfleet, most Away Team missions are commanded by the XO rather than risking The Captain. However, this does depend on the ship's culture and the dispositions of the officers involved. OPS is vital to analyzing newly discovered phenomena. The Security Chief is there to deal with any threats to the Away Team. Other officers may or may not be part of an Away Team, depending on the mission, but these three end up going most of the time. My first priority was to divide up the XO, OPS, and Security Chief posts among the three players to insure that each of them had a place on almost every Away Team mission.

We opted to continue to have each player control two characters, something we implemented during the USS Yamato campaign. This gives the players plenty of narrative and tactical control. It also avoids the issue of running scenes where the majority of characters present are controlled by the GM.

The players agreed with my explanation that having the CO and XO being controlled by different players would be better for dramatic purposes. It's challenging to have a player argue with themselves. It also splits up the leadership responsibilities and the blame for things not going well.

They decided early on to not have a player character Ship's Counselor. This may be a duty informally filled by the CMO or a gamemaster character.

Having a player control the CONN officer gave the players direct control of maneuvering the ship. The post was filled by a Support Character in the USS Yamato campaign and it didn't feel as smooth running as a player making the decisions and rolling the dice.

The XO player expressed interest in combining the XO post with another post. Although this is a quirk of how the 22nd and 23rd century Starfleets ran things, it does simply the organizational chart. In this case, the XO post was combined with the CONN officer. By combining the posts, the total number of senior officer posts were reduced to six, giving the players control over all of them.

A couple of players expressed a desire to carry over characters from USS Yamato to the new starship. The six month time skip justifies reworking these characters as desired as long as the character concept is kept intact. In rules terms, this means swapping out Focuses, Talents, and Values that really didn't work out the first time around for more promising ones. By doing so, the players are able to use their greater knowledge of the game system to improve their characters. One of the characters also had a couple of points shifted around in their Attributes and Focuses to better suit the new role the character will be filling on the new ship.

Next time: Modifying the list of Senior Officer Posts for other time periods.

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