Star Trek Adventures & The 2d20 System

Modiphius Entertainment recently released the core book PDF for their latest roleplaying game product, Star Trek Adventures. It was big news when Modiphius announced the license for Star Trek last year and this is their big release, along with Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of.

The new Star Trek RPG uses Modiphius’ in-house system, the 2d20 system. The basics of the system are that you have an attribute and a skill that are added together and you roll 2d20. For each d20 that rolls under the total of the attribute plus skill, you score a success. If you roll a 1, it counts as 2 successes. That is it from a very basic standpoint.

There are a lot of additional bits that go into it as well, such as the ways you can get additional d20s and what you can do if you exceed the number of successes needed for a task. But that is the basic mechanic.

Modiphius made the decision for the 2d20 system to be it’s in-house system back when they were working on Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition and there had been discussion about how it would be adjusted to go along with each game that uses it. Mutant Chronicles was mentioned as being the system at its crunchiest, while there was talk that the John Carter RPG would be at the light end of the crunch continuum.

I own Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition and Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of and I’ve found the crunch of those two games to be fairly intimidating. In addition, they are pretty similar in how they use the 2d20 system.

Now Star Trek is the first game from Modiphius to use a much lighter version of the 2d20 system and really show how the system can be modified to fit the property.

This iteration of the 2d20 system is very streamlined in comparison to Mutant Chronicles and Conan. Mutant Chronicles has 8 attributes while Conan has 7 and they are all pretty traditional. Star Trek has reduced the number of attributes to 6 while providing names that fit Star Trek, such as Daring, Control, Reason, and Insight.

Where there were significant skill lists in the previous games, Star Trek has it broken down into 6 disciplines, which are areas that encompass a large number of skills and cover what a Starfleet officer would be trained to know. These disciplines include Command, Conn, Security, Engineering, Science, and Medicine.

The streamlining of the system is really noticeable at this point. Star Trek uses the same basic resolution mechanic: Attribute plus Discipline (skill) and roll 2d20.

Here is the difference: in Mutant Chronicles and Conan, each skill has two parts, Expertise and Focus. Expertise is the number that gets added to the attribute while Focus increases that chance of a critical success – remember where rolling a 1 generates 2 success. If you have a focus of 2, you score 2 successes on a roll of a 1 or a 2.

In Star Trek, this has been simplified. Character’s still have focuses…uh, foci?…but they act as specialties under a particular discipline (such as Trauma Surgery or Phaser Operation) and don’t have a numeric value. If you engage in an action that uses the focus then your discipline level becomes your crit range.

For example, Doctor Bashir is performing trauma surgery on a Ferengi. He has a Control of 12 and a Medicine of 5 which means that he has to roll under a 17 on each d20 to score a success. Since he has the trauma surgery focus, he will score 2 success if he rolls a 5 or lower, as opposed to only getting 2 success on a roll of 1 on a d20.

There’s no need to track two different ratings for each skill. I find that to be brilliant!

There have been other modifications that have made the system much easier, while there are Talents there are no longer Talent trees.

There are also Traits which have the flavor of FATE aspects in the sense that they can be an Advantage or a Complication. Characters, situations, environments and locations can all have Traits.

In the system, an Advantage may reduce the difficulty of a task by one or make it possible to do something that wasn’t possible before while a Complication may increase the difficulty of a task by one or make something impossible to do in that situation. Either way, it is a very way of dealing with situational modifiers, possibly right up there with D&D5E’s Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic.

There is one more area that I want to discuss which has to do with character creation. Modiphius has used lifepath systems with most of their games…at least with the games that I own…and Star Trek Adventures is no exception here.

Upbrining is one stage of the Star Trek lifepath system and the part that really impressed me is that the character can either accept their upbringing or rebel against it and it will impact what attributes are increased.

I’ll give an example that brings this home for me:

James T. Kirk would have the Starfleet upbringing since both his parents were Starfleet officers. In the TOS timeline, he was apparently accepting of this upbringing while in the Kelvin timeline, he clearly rebelled against it…at least until Captain Pike dared him to do better.

So TOS Kirk would receive a +2 to Control and a +1 to Fitness. Meanwhile, Kelvin Kirk would get +2 to Daring and +1 to Insight.

Again, this whole idea of accepting or rebelling against an upbringing is just great and something that I don’t remember seeing in any game before.

Overall, Star Trek Adventures is the first 2d20 game that’s really been changed to fit the property that is using it. The simplification of the attributes and skills (disciplines), as well as the changes to the system itself completely fits the feel of Star Trek and improves the pace of the game.

There are other parts of the game mechanics that I haven’t reached yet, such as their social challenge mechanics, as well as their mechanics for exploration and discovery which continue to support the Star Trek feel but I just had to write something about this now.

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