Saturday, July 27, 2019

Star Trek Adventures - A Look at Disciplines

This post continues with the insights gained from our USS Yamato campaign. I passed on some experiences previously when I described the USS Yamato campaign and discussed retooling the campaign with a new ship and mostly new crew. The notes that these posts are based on should provide enough material for a couple more "lessons learned" posts. After that, I'll likely clean up and publish my notes for 2371 and then move on to the retooled campaign. There might be some non-Star Trek Adventures posts in there as well.

Finally got around to putting all of the Divison books together to form this image. They're in a heap of trouble, aren't they?

Let's take a look at Disciplines. For those not familiar with Star Trek Adventures, each character has six Disciplines representing their training in various areas. These are Command, Conn, Engineering, Security, Science, and Medical. Naming the Disciplines after the departments on a Federation starship is no coincidence. It reflects the game's default assumption that the player characters are Starfleet officers. Having those names right on the character sheets help to maintain the feel of playing in the Star Trek setting.

Having six Disciplines instead of a more traditional skill system is an inspired touch. It simplifies character generation by not requiring the players to go through a long list of skills to figure out what they want their characters to be able to do or what they are good at. (Note that players still have to pick six Focuses, which represent what the character is really good at.) Disciplines also streamline play - a gamemaster and player don't have to review a skill list to see which one fits the Task that the player wants their character to perform. Instead, they just have to pick which of the six Disciplines represents the training that the character needs at the moment.

Applying Disciplines is usually straightforward:

  • Issuing orders, engaging in a little diplomacy, or dealing with a Byzantine bureaucracy? Command.
  • Navigating a dense debris field in a starship? Conn.
  • Navigating a dense debris field in a shuttle? Still Conn.
  • Fixing that sparking and smoking console? Engineering.
  • Need to use a handheld phaser? Security.
  • Need to use the ship's phaser array? Still Security.
  • Waving a tricorder at something weird and getting exposition to advance the plot? Science, unless its alive and then it might be Medical.
  • Finding the cure to those strange rashes that everybody's broken out with? Medical.

A few Disciplines have applications that can seem a little odd at first glance, but work well in play:

  • Command covers a wide range of personal interactions, not just leadership as the name implies. A player who wants a character who is charming, relies on salesmanship, or is the Ship's Counselor needs to put points into Command even if they won't be a leader.
  • Conn doesn't just deal with operating vehicles, it also represents a character's EVA training (including the use of spacesuits and moving around in microgravity), ship recognition skills, and familiarity with Starfleet culture. That last could be described as "military protocol" - how to act towards other individuals depending on their relative status in Starfleet, who does what on a starship, and other organizational knowledge. Note that knowledge of specific Starfleet rules and regulations is part of Command.
  • Security covers law enforcement and tactical skills like moving with stealth in addition to weapons use. Investigations usually fall to the Security Chief when a mystery episode shows up in the various Star Trek series. Questioning witnesses, examining evidence, and interrogating suspects all fall under Security.

Let's suppose a player wanted a character who has an affinity with computers but is totally not a hacker. Pretty much all the player would have to do with Disciplines is put three to five points into Engineering. Making sure that Science isn't their dump stat might help with the more theoretical aspects of computing, but that's as much as the player needs to do with Disciplines. The player can then move on to other aspects of their character that would be helpful to a cyber information specialist.

Now, our computer specialist is going to end up highly qualified in other technical areas due to that moderate to high Engineering Discipline. It might seem odd to some to see a character who spends their days working on the ship's data networks suddenly tearing into the warp drive for emergency repairs. This actually fits the setting. Starfleet officers are usually depicted as extremely well trained in a wide variety of skills. However, even our computer specialist has a minimal number of points in one or more Disciplines. No one can be good at everything and Starfleet expects its crews to operate as teams.

Next Time: Our computer specialist gets into trouble.

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