It’s time for me to start a new campaign. While I greatly enjoyed Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, the group had lost too many members and finding new players for a relatively unknown game posed challenges. Our group had decided on the system on the fly when we reached an ending point of our last story. This time, I wanted to take some time and find something that really suited me in terms of genre and system.
I launched a plan to play a new system every other month. I wanted to explore current offerings and see what would attract players. This month, I brought together four players to try out Modiphius’ recent release, Star Trek Adventures, and their living universe scenario, Tug of War.
One of my regular players dug out her Star Trek uniform
The game generated a lot of excitement among my stable of players and group of friends. One person came out of a two-year role-playing hiatus and the session convinced a longtime friend to finally join me at my table. One of my regular players dug out her Star Trek uniform and dressed up her ears to play a Vulcan science officer.
Tug of War puts an away team in position to investigate the mutual destruction of two interlinked species. Ancient weapons complicate the story when the crew and their starship attempt to break orbit. The adventure offers a fascinating puzzle without combat encounters. It struck me as a module in the spirit of Star Trek and I looked forward to giving the story and the system a try.
While we had a great time together, I don’t think I’ve found a new campaign in Star Trek Adventures.
It felt like the system played against the narrative
Star Trek Adventures describes itself as a narrative system, allowing players to add to the story with their descriptions and actions. The system allows a party to build momentum through the being of a session to match the building of dramatic tension present in an episode of the famed science fiction show. In general, especially at the climactic moment of the second act, the system worked well. However, at times, it felt like the system played against the narrative, especially when making rolls for ordinary tasks and what I considered unnecessary complexity. The structure of this particular adventure did not suit my players particularly well.
The party builds momentum by achieving additional successes on rolls. To build up a pool for use later in the session, the system encourages players to make rolls for zero difficulty tasks. Instead of just describing an action, players will interrupt the flow of the game to make a roll.
Honestly, I’m still not sure I got it right.
From the character sheet to receiving damage, Star Trek Adventures the party found itself confused by different, similarly named game elements. The system defines characters with attributes, disciplines, focuses, talents, and disciplines. Each of these items interact in different and confusing ways. Figuring out damage to a starship looked so intimidating, I decided to figure it out in advance of the session to prevent a major interruption to the flow of the game. Honestly, I’m still not sure I got it right. Figuring out personal damage looks just as puzzling.
The game also requires a sense of dramatic timing more akin to a television episode than gaming “reality.” Divided into three scenes, my players and I struggled with the pacing Tug of War. From a story perspective, the first scene serves as exposition and a set up for main conflict. If watching it on television, it would last until the first commercial. The first scene engrossed my players and extended much longer than subsequent acts. Quick thinking by our Vulcan science offer rendered the third act completely unnecessary. Great timing and action for a gamer, but not really fitting a three-act story.
(Don’t worry about us. We used the extra time to play a game of Flashpoint.)
My search will continue. Not as smooth as many of the narrative games out there, such as FATE or PDQ#, nor as easy to understand as something more simulationist, with an adventure structure out of sync with my player, Star Trek Adventures will go back on my shelf.