Monday, June 1, 2015

Make It So...

FASA's Star Trek RPG
In addition to Harry Potter, another major franchise that constantly circles my brain on a regular basis is Star Trek. Why isn't there a Star Trek RPG at the moment? With the anniversary only a year away, it just seems strange that there isn't a Trek RPG currently in production. I know there have been a couple of Trek RPGs in the past, the FASA one in the 1980s, and Last Unicorn Games' version in the 90s... but like Trek TV series, it seems like a very long time since the last one.

Maybe it's something about Star Trek's main themes that keeps drawing me to it. I backed out of writing Eden's Extinction RPG despite having worked for nearly three years on its predecessor Conspiracy X 2.0. Not because I didn't like the game, but because the task arrived just after my mother had died and I wanted to get away from games that were all about war, violence and killing.

Maybe it was because I worked for so long on Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, which encourages interaction, and using your brains and diplomacy when encountering a threat, rather than diving straight into a gun-fight.

And there has always been something about Star Trek that's been like that. Sure, there are fights. Sure there is constant danger and threat, and even death. But, the dominant themes are adventure, exploration and discovery. Races and sexes are equal, working in harmony (mostly) and finding new and exciting things. And, above all, it's fun.

I remember watching a few episodes as a kid of the original series, but I think I was too young to really appreciate it. Then, of course, Star Wars happened, and everything in my head was cool spaceships and science fiction. I have a distinct memory of my father taking me to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture at the cinema when it came out. And I have a more distinct memory of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - and being absolutely blown away by that one.

By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation started on TV, I was already a fan. So much so that I even attended the local (despite it being 15 miles away) official fan-gathering, the local "chapter" - the USS Kingston-Upon-Hull, where they fuelled my appreciation of the original series, and showed TNG episodes that hadn't aired in the UK yet - specially recorded and posted by fans in the US on videotape (this was before the wonders of the interwebs).

Of course, Trek stopped being on TV, but when JJ Abrams' revival movie hit in 2009, I was lucky enough to see a secret advanced screening and I was filled with excitement and wonder again. The classic characters were back, and it looked fantastic. Loved it. It's still one of those movies where I watch it over again if it happens to be on TV.

That was when I started thinking about a Trek RPG again. It's always been ticking away in the back of my head.
The mock up versions of the Star Trek RPG books I made for the following video, around the size of a Traveller LBB

Earlier this year, I posted a little about the size of books, even making a video about them and how the first RPG I played was also one of the cheapest, and one of the most economically easy to get into playing - Traveller. (Maybe skip to around the 4:00 mark)...

The Traveller "Little Black Books" (as they were called) used to retail for between $4-$6 each (usually about the same in UK £'s) which meant they were a good pocket-money price for those without a massive disposable income on gaming.
Cadet Book (mock cover)
for Character Generation

Which got me thinking about how a Star Trek game could work in a similar way - smaller books, cheaper price, maybe a boxed set to start you off if you want.

A Cadet Book would cover all of the aspects of character creation, defining who your character is before going to Star Fleet Academy, going through their training and assignment.

Then you can have books for the Sciences (which cover research, medical, and the scientific element of adventures) and Operations (detailing combat - both on a personnel level as well as basic ship combat). A Command book would round off the "core set", providing help for Command crew as well as Gamemastering.

Taking its design style initially from the Abrams movies, you could expand into more detail in further supplements. Supplements for races, planets, and advanced rules for ships could follow.

How about keeping the supplements small? You could do individual books for ships - featuring all the deck plans and specifications for a particular ship, or class of ship. A space station like DS-9 where you can set a whole campaign.

 What about retelling the episodes? You could have small books for each of the classic episodes, allowing GMs to run them as games. And, like the James Bond RPG, and the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG, the episodes can be presented with alternate options to change the story or the outcome slightly for those who are familiar with the episode, and present spin-offs and continuations for follow up episode ideas.

This wouldn't necessarily need to stick to classic Trek, it could continue through The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and the movies.

Of course, the other thing to consider is accessibility. Keeping the game simple, quick and fast, to emphasise the story rather than the rules. Remember the rules I discussed for the Harry Potter RPG I'd been posting about? Using a similar approach, instead of a mass of skills and numbers to concentrate on, everything could initially be boiled down to five Skills -

Command, Science, Medical, Operations, and Security

And like the Potter game, reducing the number of Attributes to a minimum is key as well... probably ones that tie in with key themes of the series, like Logic, Empathy, Bravery... that sort of thing...

Maybe one day...

We can dream can't we?

Until next post, stay multi-classy, and Live Long, and Prosper...


pookie said...

Technically there have been several Star Trek RPGs.

Heritage's Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier
Starfleet Voyages from produced by Terra Games Company
FASA's well-regarded Star Trek: The Role Playing Game
Prime Directive (based on Starfleet Battles) by Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.
Last Unicorn Games' Star Trek: The Next Generation Role-playing Game (et al)
Star Trek Roleplaying Game by Decipher, Inc.

Allen Shock said...

That would be a wonderful thing. I'm not sure we'l ever see a commericial Trek license again though.

David F. Chapman said...

Must admit, I'd not heard of the first two.

I know Prime Directive is still in print, but I do love me a shiny officially licensed bit of product.

John H said...

I've recently been acquiring books from the LUG Star Trek RPG whilst wishing there was something more modern that captured the essence of the setting. If I ever run a Star Trek game I'll probably end up using FAE or Cortex Plus.

This is fun though: