Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From the Attic: Star Trek's the Roleplaying Game.

There has been a lot of talk on the various forums about roleplaying in the new Star Trek continuity. The sheer energy in the new film has invigorated interest in Star Trek Roleplaying. I refereed a lot of different RPGs but there are only a handful that I am good at. FASA's Star Trek the Roleplaying Game was one of them.

In the mid 80s FASA was one of the hot 2nd tier RPG companies by breaking away from it's Traveller roots and coming out with Battle Tech and Star Trek the Roleplaying Game. The initial version of the Game was strictly Original Series. It was very much a RPG put out by wargamers with a rules heavy combat system using action points. Character Generation echoed Traveller as you generated a history of your service in Star Fleet as well as your character.

The best part of the game was the Starship Combat System. It runs down a similar path to Star Fleet Battle in that you have damage tracks for various system and weapons do points of damage that have to wear down shields before hitting the vital stuff. Where it genius comes into to play is that unlike Star Fleet Battle is is deliberately designed so that multiple players perform vital ship functions.

For years I wondered how the simulations of space flight could be any good at various Space Camps as their computer hardware and props were often primitive to say the least. Then I was able to participate in one a few years back and found out why. The main issue isn't the tech, although it important, it is communications. Getting everybody working together to solve problems in real time. Being in mission control trying to get the guy on the other end of the line to take a reading on the meteorite detector while he too busy playing with the remote arm.

This what make the starship combat system of ST:RPG so golden. The captain players is giving orders, the enginneer is allocating chunks of power to each station, the individual players at the stations have to take these chunk and try to do what the captain is ordering. The actual rules of the combat system is far more basic than Star Fleet Battles and easily grasped by players of any skill level. Fun chaos erupt as Captain realizes that phasers aren't firing that should be firing and fine out it because the enginneer forgot to give the 1 extra point that was needed. When everybody clicks and start working together there is a real sense of accomplishment.

4 comments:

James Maliszewski said...

FASA's Star Trek RPG remains the gold standard for the license in my opinion. It was a thing of beauty.

Barking Alien said...

While my favorite incarnation of Star Trek in the RPG hobby is the simple, cinematic and elegant Last Unicorn Games ICON version, no game holds that special place in my heart that FASA's does. Not even OD&D.

D&D got me started in the hobby but it was really just stalling time until FASA came out with Star Trek to keep me in it for these past 30 years.

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Barking Alien

shimrod said...

I recently played a board game, and one simple enough to be played with the family, that encapsulates that whole coordination, communication & control dilemma/challenge in a super fun way. It's called Space Alert:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/38453

Highly recommended

Robert Saint John said...

The TCS and its integration with the RPG is not only the best part of the game from a design perspective, but it's practically essential to any Trek or Trek-like game where players may have different ranks and so on. The only downside (not for me, but for many gamers of today) is the notion of stepping outside the RPG and messing with hexes and counters.

"Back in my day, we always gamed with hexes and counters, and our dice were made of rocks, and we had toplay in 6 feet of snow, and we LIKED it like that!"

That coordination and teamwork aspect is something I'm trying to incorporate on a more abstract level into my own Trek game using Thousands Suns.