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Thread: Dan's Review of the Player's Guide

  1. #1
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    Thumbs up Dan's Review of the Player's Guide

    I got my copy of the player's guide so I can at last give a review of it without violating any Non-Disclosure Agreements.

    Our group (and our dog, Loki), were part of the playtest so perhaps I can give some insight as to how the game actually plays. I really can't comment on any aspects of the playtest itself, like what changed, etc. without violating the NDA. This review is based on the final copy of the rules, not based on playtest copies so. Any comments on how the game plays are from aspects unchanged from playtest. I hope this review is readable, as it is largely stream-of-thought.


    Unlike LUG and FASA incarnations of the game, this game makes no assumptions as to what sort of character you play. Warriors of the Klingon Empire in the 22nd century? No problem. 24th century Starfleet Officers? Certainly. A band of Bajoran and Vulcan mystics on a pilgrimage to the core of the galaxy? Sure.

    The new game is very much a toolkit. Much like Dungeons and Dragons makes no assumptions about the sort of character you want to play, just that you are playing in a fantasy setting, so it is with the new Star Trek game. It gives you the Star Trek universe as your playground and lets you decide what sort of characters you'd like to play.

    So how does it work? Some people have commented it is like Dungeons and Dragons. I hesitate to do that - they are very different games. Certainly there are some similarities, but I'll let you decide for yourself.

    Your character has a bunch of attributes, with human characters typically having those attributes in a 2-12 range. These are pretty typical things for RPGs, stuff like Strength, Agility, Vitality, etc. You also have what is known as reactions - your ability to resist certain things. There are four reactions - quickness, savvy, stamina, and willpower. In place of a dodge skill, you use quickness. To resist poison, you use stamina. A Vulcan trying to read your mind? Use willpower. The initial ratings for these are based on your main attributes. Similarly, you have health, which is used to keep track of your ability to survive injury (unlike D&D hit points, you have various wound levels, much like LUG-Trek).

    You also have a species. This gives you the stuff you'd normally expect - some attributes go up, others go down as a result of the species you pick. You get neat things like Mind Melds, Vulcan Nerve Pinches, Betazoid Telepathy, etc. as a result of your pick of species.

    After choosing your species and generating your attributes (either random or via point-buy) you choose your "Personal Development". What did you do while you were growing up? Were you a colonist, a Starfleet brat, etc.? LUG had something similar. Rules are included to make your own. In this stage you can get purchase both skills and edges (more on those later).

    Next you choose your profession. This includes stuff like Diplomat, Merchant, Mystic, Rogue, Scientist, Soldier, and Starship Officer. If you are a Starship Officer you have to choose an "Elite Profession" such as Flight Control, Engineer, etc. Within a Profession you get Professional Skills and non-Professional Skills. Professional Skills are easier to improve, but no skill is forbidden to you. You also get special "Professional Abilities" - things that only members of a Profession can gain. None of these let you do anything "unique", they just make you better at things - being better at jury-rigging a repair, getting an extra bonus to the results of spending a courage point on certain tasks, good at hot-shot piloting, etc. You start off with one and can get more as you advance.

    When generating your starting character there are Professional Development Packages, used to indicate what type of a member of a profession you are. If an engineer for example, did you train as a Troubleshooter, Specialist, Starship Designer, or Systems Specialist? This gives you a list of skills you start out with, a list of Edges to pick from, and also the ability to improve five skills. But if you don't like any of the Professional Development Packages, you can easily (and on the fly) make your own.

    So I've mentioned Edges and Skills, how do they work? Edges are a lot like Advantages in LUG-Trek and most other games. They are used to buy "bonuses" like kicking butt in a sort of weapon, rank, traits like being charming or seductive, having contacts, being good at dodging, etc. One thing I like is instead of the many-tiered Department Head Advantage of LUG-Trek there is a two-tiered Command Edge - the first is being something like a department head but the person you report to is has easy access to you while the second tier is more of an independent command, like a starship, station, etc. You start out with one Edge, but you can get more. There are also Flaws (a good way to get more Edges). This is the usual stuff you'd expect as well - dark secrets, enemies, etc. Unlike LUG-Trek, things are a bit more specific - like what happens if your dark secret is revealed?

    Skills have a rank but there are modifiers. Edges and Professional Abilities often give you bonuses to skills. Attributes give bonuses to skills as well. Each skill has a default attribute, but I seem to recall reading that you can use a different one in unusual circumstances. To make a skill test, you roll 2d6 and add your skill rank and all other modifiers. Double sixes mean roll another d6 and you keep rolling until you don't roll a 6. (In the playtest, we once witnessed something like 6 sixes!) Some professional abilities allow you to roll 3d6 and keep the highest 2. Specialties give you an extra bonus of 2, though unlike LUG you don't always have one or more specialties.


    All this is enough to make a beginning character. But you also get "Advancements" and nothing prevents you from applying advancements to a new character if you want to make a more experienced crew. A lot of people seem to think Advancements = Levels. In a way they do, but not in the ways that everyone seems to hate. With an advancement you get five "picks". Depending on what you want to improve determines how many picks it costs. A professional skill costs less than a non-professional one. You can buy new professional abilities. You can up an attribute (very expensive). You can up a reaction or health. Though reactions and health are initially based off of your attributes, this relationship ends once you start applying advancements. If you are convinced it is like D&D, then picture what D&D would be like if it gave out "picks" with each level and improving hit points, saving throws, combat ability, spell use, and everything else were dependent on spending picks. In other words, everything you improve is bought with your picks. You can make a science officer with twenty advancements who royally stinks in combat and will be knocked unconscious by a Wesley Crusher love-tap.

    You don't pick a Profession to advance in. You have the profession you start in. In addition, as you progress, you can join one or more "Elite Professions". Anyone can join any Elite Profession, so long as you qualify. You can be part of more than one Elite Profession at the same time - why would you want to? Recall, your profession determines your Professional Skills and Abilities. Professional Skills cost less than non-professional ones. And obviously only members of an Elite Profession can purchase Professional Abilities (though some Professional Abilities allow you to borrow choose Professional Abilities from other Professions ) What are the Elite Professions? All of the Starship Officer types (command, flight control, science, medicine, etc.) and some - Adept, Ambassador, Assassin, Envoy, Explorer, Free Trader, Mercenary, Smuggler, Special Forces, Spy, and Weaponmaster. You can start as a Rogue and join Starfleet as a member of the Security Elite Profession. Or start out as a Science Officer in Starleet and become a Ambassador (Mr. Spock perhaps?) The only restriction is when you advance, you can only count yourself as a member of two elite professions at any given time.

    (Review copyright 2002 Dan Stack, permission denied to reproduce or repost this review without the author's permission. Review is my opinion only.)
    AKA Breschau of Livonia (mainly rpg forums)
    Gaming blog 19thlevel

  2. #2
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    Review Part 2 of 2

    The game has other standard stuff, like reputation and courage points, Courage is neat, giving you +3 on any test (+5 if you have certain Prof abilities) and you can spend multiple courage points on the same task.

    There's a chapter on equipment - standard stuff, but nicely done. Phasers are quite deadly on high settings - *poof*, you die. (Actually you glow bright green and vanish in TOS...) Tricorders no longer serve as a reason to have the Small Equipment Skill. Instead, they give you bonuses to other skills, like searching, physical sciences, etc. - it's now a tool to improve your skills, not a replacement.

    There are some great sections on background - timeline, details about the Federation, starships, etc., with suggestions on how to run various types of games, what various eras feel like, etc. Most games have stuff like this, but I was quite impressed with what was to be found.

    The art is nice, with all shows except for Enterprise well-represented (including a large picture of my favorite Trill, Jadzia Dax). Mainly pictures, though a few drawings. There's a simple map of the Galaxy, showing the major powers like the Borg, Dominion, Federation, Cardassians, etc. (I think it is from the DS9 technical manual). Pictures of Starfleet Rank Insignia from TOS and TNG thrown in as well.

    Not much in the way of rules - beyond the skill resolution section, just a brief appendix. This is plenty for you to play actual games though - we ran our playtest with just what was found in this book and had a great time. It's pretty simple - you want to beat a target number which varies depending on difficulty. You can do pretty much everything except for starship combat with the rules found in the Player's Guide. Action flows nicely, with skills determining your ability to hit something. You get two actions per round automatically and can do more if you have certain professional abilities or if you are willing to accept penalties. From playtest, I suggest avoiding combat with high-powered weapons.

    My personal opinion is that the rules work very well and the book is very well done. I'm normally a "rules-lite" sort of narrator but I was requested to really pay attention to the rules and give them a workout and so we did. Another player in my group tried her hand at running a game and was able to do an excellent job, despite lacking any "grizzled gaming veteran status".

    If I were to summarize the game, it would be a very well done toolkit with an excellent background. It doesn't tell you what sort of game to run - though it has lots of suggestions. Instead it gives you the background of the Star Trek universe and lets you do what you want to do with it.

    (Review copyright 2002 Dan Stack, permission denied to reproduce or repost this review without the author's permission. Review is my opinion only.)
    AKA Breschau of Livonia (mainly rpg forums)
    Gaming blog 19thlevel

  3. #3
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    Review materials?

    Dan, I've got a question: for the playtest, did you create your own adventures, or did Decipher provide them? If you care to provide any details about what sort of adventures you ran, I'd like to hear them. All assuming, of course, that you can reveal these facts without running afoul of the NDA.

    TIA

  4. #4
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    The actual specifics of the playtest would be considered part of the NDA I believe, so it'd be best if I stay silent on that front. Sorry.

  5. #5
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    Let's see if we can skin that cat without violating the NDA.

    Is there an adventure in the PG?

    Is the playtest adventure part of the PG?

  6. #6
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    Nerve Pinch

    Can a non Vulcan learn the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, or other species skills that are learned instead of inborn?

    Data could do the nerve pinch. And I believe Spock said he'd tried, and failed, to teach Kirk.

  7. #7
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    There is no adventure in the Player's Guide.

    From the rules, the Nerve Pinch is listed as a Special Ability of the Vulcan Species.

    That said, no rules for Data or other androids are found in the book.
    AKA Breschau of Livonia (mainly rpg forums)
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  8. #8
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    Other species cannot, generally, learn a species ability like nerve pinch (which is why Kirk and McCoy could never get it ;-)

    There may be an edge or professional ability in the future that allows you to do this, but I'm not making any promises.

  9. #9
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    Thumbs up there goes my 1/4 vulcan security officer.. :-)

    ::wiping up drool::

    mmm pardon me... little accident there..... my local store won't have the book in until tomorrow unfortunately..

    Anyway....How does it handle doing the "Mixed Species" stuff?

    I had an Icon character whose father was Half Vulcan, but because this human had a high psi rating and needed to learn control, was raised on Vulcan with the grandmother. He had both the Mixed Heritage and Alien Upbringing which gave him the Mind Meld, UC (Vulcan Nerve Pinch), etc. could something like that be done still?

    Tom

  10. #10
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    First, there is no Mixed Species advantage any more. If you want a half-breed, just roll him up using the rules on page 29.

    Second, there is no Alien Upbringing package. You can choose the Psionic Potential package instead.

    You should be able to create (or rather, convert) your character with little problem.

  11. #11
    A lot of people seem to think Advancements = Levels. In a way they do, but not in the ways that everyone seems to hate.
    I can't speak for anyone else, but what I dislike about levels is that they give you a big chunk of improvements altogether, once every three or four sessions or so. I prefer systems where you can get a small improvement at the end of every session, or can chose to save up for something bigger if you wish.

    Does Coda deal with this problem, and if so, how?
    Thanks.

  12. #12
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    Trotsky,

    Yes and no.

    On the one hand, advancements come after every 1000XP, so players will be getting thier improvements in a "lump".

    However- the improvements available from just one advacement is very slight-at most +1 in five professional skills (or +2 in 2 skills and +1 in one skill). As a result the progression is much more gradual than in, say, D&D.

  13. #13
    Yes and no.
    On the one hand, advancements come after every 1000XP, so players will be getting thier improvements in a "lump".
    However- the improvements available from just one advacement is very slight-at most +1 in five professional skills (or +2 in 2 skills and +1 in one skill). As a result the progression is much more gradual than in, say, D&D.
    Still lumpier than I'd like... still it doesn't sound that hard to change the rules to one 'pick' per 200 XP instead of five per 1000. It's a design flaw from my POV, no doubt about that, but one that can be circumvented without much difficulty.

  14. #14
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    What I would like to know is, how long does it take to get the 1000 xp/lvl you need to "advance?" If it is at a relative rate (say about 50 xp/ game new system, as opposed to 5/game ICON) to the ICON system you could be waiting awhile to (advance) go up a level.

    Similarly if you get alot (ie enough to "advance" in a couple of games) then that is too fast. I hope Dec found a way to balance the system.

  15. #15
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    From what I've seen on the internet chat, it takes about two missions for an advancement.

    BTW, this seems to be pretty close to the 2-3 xp/adventure that ICON used. In fact, I suspect that if you used 1 ICON xp = 1 pick you probably won't be too far off.

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