It’s the one I’m asked about the most so I’m putting together the basics here, along with a link to the character keeper we’ve been using. I built it on Modiphus’ STA because it’s a solid and richly presented game. It has a ton of ideas and resources. I wanted something light, which matched how I liked to run, and easily lets me use the Star Trek Adventures sourcebooks and adventures.
I like Fate, but the kind of competency it has isn’t exactly what Star Trek feels like to me. Forged in the Dark was a possibility, with the ship in place of the crew. But that would need a lot of hacking and it wouldn’t handle the social interludes as well. PbtA also didn’t feel like the right fit—Star Trek isn’t about constant drama and costs. As well, building on STA allowed me to indulge my laziness.
This hack assumes you have the STA core rules. It’s been in a couple of bundles in the past and I know lots of folks have picked it up but haven’t had a chance to play.
Basic Premises & What Got Cut
- All rolls are player facing. The GM doesn’t roll. That means I also cut GM plot points.
- Set damage and effect. Degree of success determines potency. That means I cut the special d6 damage and effect dice. It means cutting the equipment and weapon tables
- Rolls and success simplified. Any particular roll has more weight. So in a stealth situation we have one person roll rather than everyone rolling. Rolls can resolve a scene. That means that we ditched all the different resolution modes (like several kinds of social tasks, deep systems for extended tasks, etc). We also ditch the large lists of action point spends.
- Easy character creation by tightening the number of Values and Foci. Cut prerequisites and tracks for talents.
We use the Star Trek Adventures Lifepath generator. It’s great and creates lots of interesting choices. We let players reroll if they got the same event as someone else. If I were running this a lot, I’d write an expanded version of the table. In the end players start with the same numbers starting number of Attribute and Discipline points as base STA. They also start with four Values and six Focuses. Players also start with four Talents.
Note: While I rewrote the basic talents—including cutting and adding some—I didn’t do that for all of the species specific talents. There are a lot of them. Instead I had the players choose their species and then just rewrote those. That’s something you’ll want to do.
Here's the character keeper. It includes all of the revised basic talents. If you've played STA, you'll noticed I eliminated separating them into distinct divisions as well as requisites. Players can choose talents based on what fits their character concept.
There are five basic actions:
- Attack & Defend: Do or avoid damage.
- Create Advantage: Establish a fact which changes the fiction in situation or can be used later to grant a reroll.
- Overcome: Get past an obstacle or change a situation.
- Discover: Ask a question.
A test has a difficulty number which represents the # of success you need. If you get that number, you do the thing. Depending on the situation the GM may say missing by one success gets you a partial success or a success with a cost. If you get more successes, those turn into Momentum which you can spend for effects.
The GM sets the difficulty for any action. They may set it based on their judgement and/or use a randomizer to vary things up. If you want to abrogate some responsibility you can use a couple of Fate dice or Fate cards to modify the difficulty.
To resolve a test, roll 2d20. Each task uses an Attribute and a Discipline (sometimes it will be clear what works, in others players may negotiate). Add Attribute and Discipline together; for each die which rolls that or below, you gain a success. If you roll a 1 you get two successes. If you’re doing something you have a Focus with, then you get two successes when you roll a 1-3.
Other characters may assist. They roll a single die and score successes according to their stats. Any successes gained add to the acting character’s. Players may also call on Advantages to reroll or add an extra die. Having access to equipment like ship’s systems adds an extra die.
If you roll a 20 on any test dice, a complication happens (aka a GM soft move). Multiple complications roll into one bigger problem.
Characters have Values. Once per mission you may use each once to get a reroll on a test after you roll.
When you score more successes on a test than you need, the excess successes become Momentum. You can spend Momentum immediately to enhance your effect or you can add it to the general pool. You can have momentum equal to the number of PCs+2.
What Can I Spend Momentum On?
- Add a die to your roll (up to twice).
- Add extra damage or reduce damage taken
- Keep from getting taken out (this costs two momentum)
- Add a minor benefit: do it quietly, learn something, do it quickly, impress someone, knockdown
- Add a major benefit (2 Momentum): disarm, evade all detection, create an advantage.
Base Star Trek Adventures has multiple modes of Social Conflict. We treat this instead as just another form of conflict. The choice of abilities used depends on the situation. Only use Extended Contests for rare, set-piece interactions (like a trial or diplomatic negotiations).
If you need to track initiative and actions on your turn: you can attempt a single Task, freely make a quick action (like drawing a weapon), and Move. While the original game has set ability combinations, in practice we tend to be looser. We consider those like Fate Approaches, figuring out the right combo based on the situation.
Common Combat Tasks are:
- Create Advantage (D2)
- Direct (commander only—give successes to others)
- Recover (D2 Fitness + Command to heal yourself= to successes)
- First Aid (D1 Daring + Med to heal another person= to successes)
Ranged attacks roll Control + Security
When you’re attacked, roll Daring + Security vs. attacker’s damage to reduce what you have to mark. If you spend your action Guarding, gain 1 automatic success towards your defense roll.
On a successful hit, you do your weapon’s damage. You can increase this with Momentum. Rarely someone will have have armor which subtracts from this. Attacks may be stunning or non-lethal, Complications can mess with this.
When you take damage, you mark it as Stress. You have 12 stress. Every third point of stress taken is a Dramatic Wound. These heal just like regular stress.
- DW1 = gain a momentum (once per scene)
- DW2 = increase difficulties by 1
- DW3 = reroll one die for free on actions.
- DW4 = Injured or taken out.
- This version has a much lower RPS (Rolls Per Session) than standard Star Trek Adventures. Individual rolls should solve problems rather than just making some progress. That gives you more time to play with character interactions. Because there’s slightly less momentum generation for the shared pool, there’s no mechanic for it going down between scenes.
- Use common sense when setting difficulties. As I mentioned above, if I’m unsure I set the difficulty at D2. Or if I want a little randomness I use a Fate Deck or dice to modify the difficulty.
- A player using the Discover action should at least a direction forward on a partial success. On a full success, you should give them a good picture of what they’re looking at. The extra questions from momentum spends are open-ended. If you feel a question might fall outside of what the PC is examining, ask them how they gain the info. If they’ve got a good response, give it to them.
- I’ve been giving an advance every other mission. Players can pick two: add a talent, raise an attribute by 1, raise a discipline by 1, add a focus. Alternately they could spend a pick to rewrite any or all of their values and focuses.
- I have been abstracting ship combat, but Star Trek Adventures has a rich system for this. It’s one area that the hack definitely needs to develop a new approach.
(some of which may be obvious)
- Lean into the tropes. Talk about what your new intro credit sequence looks like. Focus on missions rather than sessions. If you split a mission, choose someone to say "previously on Star Trek X..." and then have everyone narrate a few seconds of highlights for their character from the last session. Every time you go to a civilized planet, describe the matte painting they use.
- Related-- let folks describe what the new cool tech for your series looks like. Yes, we might be in the STNG timeline, but the production and set design departments have a bigger budget and want their show to stand out.
- Keep the core conceit of a mission simple, but give lots of npc opportunities. Have just a couple of sound stages. beyond the ship.
- Have guest stars. You can find lots of pix of actors photoshopped into ST uniforms, use those. Or use actors in sci-fish costumes as non-Star Fleet characters. We had Katie Sackhoff as a pirate ship captain.
- Each episode should have an explicit and collaborative B-Plot. Rotate who gets their B-Plot for the episode (or have two at the same time). These should parallel, comment on, or intersect with the main plot. Example B plots we've had: One of Sherri's subordinates bristles at her authority because she's young, Patrick's former Captain shows up and he's having a breakdown, Rich has to do a bunch of personnel tests while there's a crisis going on aboard the ship, etc.
- Everyone eventually has to decide what their personal holodeck program is.
- Letting players come up with their own B-Plots is the best, especially when you can surprise them by making connections to the main in play. Recently we had bottle episode where I actually had each player come up with the B-Plot for another's PC. The ep has been bouncing around those and then a physical crisis happens on the ship which shakes that up.