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Thread: Complete Newbie GM

  1. #1
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    Complete Newbie GM

    Hello, everyone! I am a complete newbie to Star Trek RPGs, and I would like some advice on which version to buy. I wish to GM a Star Trek campaign. Here are some criteria which may make it easier to narrow down:

    • Series/era: Ive only ever really watched TOS, and thats what I like. Just TOS, not even the movies, though TAS is okay too.

    • Previous games Ive GMd: OD&D, AD&D 1e. Ive played other RPGs, but my tastes lie somewhere between OD&D and AD&D. I like rules-lite, classes rather than skills, an emphasis on adventure not on character building, and general old-school feel. Familiar mechanics are a plus (ability scores of 3-18, for example) but not necessary.

    • I envision a campaign very similar to the show. The PCs are Kirk, Spock, and the other bridge officers and medical staff of the Enterprise, or original characters in a similar situation.

    • Adventures would emphasize landing parties exploring a planet-of-the-week, but not to the complete exclusion of on-board adventures or ship-to-ship space combat.

    • Use of published modules/scenarios would be a major boon, as I dont expect to have a lot of prep time. But ideally they would be modules with good/plentiful maps and not railroady story modules that tell you what will happen next.

    These are the published Star Trek RPGs that I know of:

    1. Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier
      Heritage Models
      1978

    2. Enterprise: Role Play Game in Star Trek
      Tsukuda Hobby
      1983

    3. Star Trek: The Role Playing Game
      FASA
      1982

    4. Prime Directive
      Task Force Games
      1993

    5. Star Trek Roleplaying Game (ICON)
      Last Unicorn Games
      1998

    6. Prime Directive (GURPS)
      Amarillo Design Bureau
      2002

    7. Star Trek Roleplaying Game (CODA)
      Decipher
      2002

    8. Prime Directive (d20)
      Amarillo Design Bureau
      2005

    I have some ideas about which one(s) might be better for me, but Im not ruling anything out. I want to hear what you have to say! Thanks.

  2. #2
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    I'm partial to the ICON version. They published an excellent TOS core rulebook which is the only book you absolutely have to have to run and play the game. And they absolutely nailed the feel of TOS adventures; it's one of those RPG books you can read for fun even if you never get to play the game.

    The mechanics are rather different from D&D, but if you've played other systems you ought to catch on quick. It does involve a lot of in-game skills, but it also has classes and packages to guide you through the skill-building process. I find it's a good compromise between a class-less GURPS-type character build (which gives you very little guidance in character creation) and a class-centered D&D-type (which can force you to shoehorn your square character concept into a round character class - I hate that!).

    If you want something more rules-lite than ICON, you could also check out Cortex. It's the same mechanics as the Serenity and BSG RPGs, but in a universal package. There's a few people posting good rules for a Trek adaptation of the system and I think it ought to be a good fit. www.cortexsystemrpg.org
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  3. #3
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    Thanks. Although as a rule I am happy to homebrew, this time around I feel like having a printed book that is explicitly Star Trek for players and I to just delve into. (Prime Directive is close enough, it looks like.) So Ill rule out Cortex for the time being, although I am familiar with the system (played in a Sovereign Stone campaign, and rolled up a character for Serenity but never got to use it).

    ICON does sound like the most popular system around here, but Id like to hear more opinions before delving deeper into it. Regards.
    Michael Falconer Old School Star Trek Role-playing
    Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?

    A man may do both. For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day! J.R.R. Tolkien

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    CODA is the only Trek RPG I have owned and I like it a lot. I haven't any real complaints about broken rules or not enough resources, although that is not to say I haven't had to make some tweaks... my small changes have only made my games better.

    There is one complaint out there that I can say is true, character gen is kinda clunky due to the book layout. But, if you go to PGoodman13's website, you will find an excellent downloadable form to aid in chargen.

    Good luck and have fun!

  5. #5
    I have only ICON, but I love the system. You can either play it as is, but it is easy to modify it to your tastes once you get the basic formulas worked out. In addition, there are many netbooks available that can be used to add to flavor and feel to the game with some specializing in particular eras that haven't made it into the official books.

  6. #6
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    On the matter of ICON and CODA... I've noticed that both systems have their fans and detractors, and they seem to be rather evenly distributed around here.
    I tend to favour CODA a tiny bit over ICON (mainly because of the dice system and starship combat rules), but in your case, ICON may be more suited, because of its TOS corebook (CODA goes to great lengths to be playable for every Trek series, so the part specific to TOS is then proportionally reduced). I tend also to like ICON combat rules better (especially for brawls, which should happen often if Kirk is a PC).
    On the other hand, CODA has some (superficial, in my opinion, but not everyone agrees) similarities with D20, so it may seem easier to use with a D&D background.

    You could also try FASA. I've never played it nor read any books about it (and I don't know if it's easy to find them), but after all, it was created when the only Trek series around was TOS, so it may perfectly fit with the kind of games you intend to run (who need rules that can encompass Constitution-refits, Galaxy and Intrepid classes if you intend to play only with a plain NCC-1701 ship anyway ?). But as I said, I can't give you any other advice on this system, as I don't know anything else about it (but that's not the case for everyone here).
    "The main difference between Trekkies and Manchester United fans is that Trekkies never trashed a train carriage. So why are the Trekkies the social outcasts?"
    Terry Pratchett

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    The FASA Star Trek RPG is basically what I would have gone to by default. I dont have any actual exposure to it other than just it being around for most of my life as the Star Trek RPG. Just in terms of amount of support material its gotta be the heavyweight, no? There have got to be more opinions about it out there...

    I snatched up a copy of the original Heritage Models RPG on eBay and am waiting to see it. I know not to expect too much from it, but I am definitely intrigued. Regards.
    Michael Falconer Old School Star Trek Role-playing
    Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?

    A man may do both. For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day! J.R.R. Tolkien

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    The biggest problem with FASA is the lack of advantages/disadvantages or traits to individualize a PC. I personally think the Action Point mechanism is a bit clunky, but it isn't insurmountable.
    "For to win 100 victories in 100 battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." Sun Tzu - The Art of War

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    My personal experience is limited to FASA, LUG and Coda. My personal favorite is the Coda system. It works for me because A) I actually LIKE d20 systems (just not too fond of WOTC) and B) if you want starship combat this is the system for you! Not since the glory days of Star Wars revised and expanded d6 has vehicle combat emulated the genre without an avalanche of minutae to simulate "realism."

    We all have different tastes, and if you are not into the d20 feel mechanics you might like ICON or FASA better. Just my 2 cents.
    Crimson Hand Gamers...why have your own site when there's Facebook?

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    So no love for Prime Directive?

    I sort of get the sense that everyone would really like to see a d6 Prime Directive, but the existing systems as such dont excite anyone. (Well, thats my feeling.) The other issue of course is that the Star Fleet Universe is based on TOS and TAS only, but as I said, that is exactly what I am going for.

    Since Im going for a retro game, Im thinking a good purchase would be the Star Fleet Technical Manual and Star Trek Blueprints made by Franz Joseph in the 70s. I will share more thoughts as they come to me! Regards.
    Michael Falconer Old School Star Trek Role-playing
    Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?

    A man may do both. For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day! J.R.R. Tolkien

  11. #11
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    No love for PD here. I'm not even sure if it should be considered Star Trek. More like ,modern US with advanced technology. Even the cover of PD, where they are phasering the native kind of shows the difference in tone.

    And just how close can it be to TOS when phasers can't disintegrate anything, and hit more like pistols.

  12. #12
    I seem to recall that one of the sample scenarios in PD included Romulan zombies...
    Portfolio | Blog Currently Running: Call of Cthulhu, Star Trek GUMSHOE Currently Playing: DramaSystem, Swords & Wizardry

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    I like the original PD. The system has alot of similarities to ICON to be honest. But they only ever published 2 adventures and one of those came with a GM screen if I recall. I think in all honesty FASA would be a good choice for you. There is an abundance of adventures and they are all set in the TOS era. The rules are simple and strightforeward. Any racial abilities you want to throw in can be simple role playing aspects or simple bonuses to a skill. It would get my vote. The only downside is starship combat. And they are available as pdf's in a number of places.

    The simulator is fun as a tactical game but it is hazardous to PC health if used for the rpg. So you would have to come up with something on your own which is fine as if you are trying to recreate the show it's more of a storytelling aspect than agame mechanic I found. The CODA starship combat is the best of the bunch but you'd have to retrofit it onto the FASA system somehow.

    I was REALLY looking foreward to D6 PD but that appears to be vaporware to be honest.

    Ok, that's my take on things...
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  14. #14
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    Thanks for all the thoughts.

    I would probably have to see an example of how starship combat is handled in some of these RPGs in order to at all understand how it might be handled. I dont anticipate it being a major aspect of the campaign, but something has to be in place just in case. Im leery of a wargame sort of setup which seems to me it usually assumes each player controls one or more vessels. What happens when all the players are aboard a single vessel? It would be the GM vs the Captain, with everyone else being irrelevant? (Possibly the Second Officer, since the Captain and First Officer have beamed onto the planet and left him in charge, heh!) This seems an aspect where Battlestar Galactica would be more exciting, since every PC could be flying his own Viper.

    With regard to hand phasers, what do you do with the fact that you can be disintegrated with a single hit, even if only a nick on the arm? Coming from OD&D where trading blows is an essential part of the drama of the game, I dont like that the instant a hand phaser is drawn, it leads to instant surrender or death. Granted, this meant a lot of fist fights on the show, which is great, but how do the players or the GM resist pulling hand phasers whenever they want to have their way?
    Michael Falconer Old School Star Trek Role-playing
    Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?

    A man may do both. For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day! J.R.R. Tolkien

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Falconer View Post
    Thanks for all the thoughts.

    I would probably have to see an example of how starship combat is handled in some of these RPGs in order to at all understand how it might be handled. I don’t anticipate it being a major aspect of the campaign, but something has to be in place just in case. I’m leery of a wargame sort of setup which seems to me it usually assumes each player controls one or more vessels. What happens when all the players are aboard a single vessel? It would be the GM vs the Captain, with everyone else being irrelevant? (Possibly the Second Officer, since the Captain and First Officer have beamed onto the planet and left him in charge, heh!) This seems an aspect where Battlestar Galactica would be more exciting, since every PC could be flying his own Viper.
    FASA, ICON and CODA all have rules for having mutiple player characters running a ship the way they do in the series, with players manning the helm, sensors, engineering and so forth.

    If you are winging it, make sure to give the PCs task to do, and run the battle according to how they perform on those tasks. For example, if shield operator rolls to see how well the shields soaked the damage, a helmsman will roll to maneuver the ship, helm or tactical roll to fire weapons and so on.


    Quote Originally Posted by Falconer View Post
    With regard to hand phasers, what do you do with the fact that you can be disintegrated with a single hit, even if only “a nick on the arm”? Coming from OD&D where trading blows is an essential part of the drama of the game, I don’t like that the instant a hand phaser is drawn, it leads to instant surrender or death. Granted, this meant a lot of fist fights on the show, which is great, but how do the players or the GM resist pulling hand phasers whenever they want to have their way?
    Welcome to Star Trek. It isn't OD&D, and if you have your heart set on running a half dozen battles each game session, you're in the wrong game. In Trek you probably won't see phasers get used all that often. Kirk and Compnay don't get into a phaser battle each week.

    That said, there are some ways of mitigating their lethality:

    1) Phasers are rarely set on disintegrate. It uses a lot of power and is usually overkill. It also could leave a PC up on charges if the use of deadly force couldn't be justified.

    2) Phasers do have a stun setting. It is almost as good for taking people down, and allows the capture of and later interrogation of prisoners.


    3) FASA Trek had a LUC roll that was made when someone was about to be disintegrated. If the character made the roll they were only grazed and took some damage instead of being vaporized.

    4) ICON and CODA Trek have courage points that characters can spend to adjust die rolls. These tend to reduce the chances of a PC or important NPC getting vaporized.

    5) A big lifesaver is to use tactics. Real world weapons main and kill regularly, and soldiers, police and other combatants in the real world act accordingly. Things like dining behind cover and taking aimed shots make a big difference. I once ran a FASA game where the PCs got into a phaser fight with Klingons, and got slaughtered. After the battle, I asked them what they thought went wrong, and they had no idea. THen I asked one of the players, who was a marine in real life to view the situation as if everyone was armed with M-16's and AJK-47's instead of phasers and disruptors. Immedialty he ntoiced how all the PCs were standing out in the open, rather than using the doorways and corridors for cover. I reran the battle and the PCs trashed the Klingons.

    On a similar note, things like "charging the archers" are suicidal outside of D&D.

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