Roleplaying in the world of Star Trek

star_trek I still remember the late 70s, early 80s when I first watched Star Trek on TV. My parents actually introduced me to the series, since they were fans themselves back then. Luckily for me, Star Trek was shown in the afternoons, so I was able to watch it regularly. I didn’t mind the sometimes bad acting, weird scripts and the flimsy cardboard sets. I was thrilled by the idea of travelling to far away stars, meeting alien species and the science and technology that supposedly made these things happening. In a way Star Trek not only sparked my interest in Science Fiction but in science as well.

Although my all-time favorite SF series is Babylon 5, I still have a soft spot for all things Star Trek. When I stumbled upon a Microlite20 game based on the Star Trek Original series, I was overjoyed. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” looks exactly like what the doctor ordered: A set of lightweight rules set into Star Trek TOS era with some subtle tongue-in-cheek humor. But since I was working on other projects at the time, I put it back on the shelf.

During my vacation I stumbled upon this awesome game again and showed it to my girlfriend. She shares my love for all things Trek (even though she’s not generally a SF fan) and she told me she would love to play in a Star Trek campaign. Since I am currently not running anything myself, I started to make plans on how I could finally put Mike Berkey’s rules to good use.

I checked his site for some updates and noticed that someone actually created some awesome looking paper miniatures for that game, that really could come in handy. And of course, the miniature of the Captain has his shirt ripped. 🙂 Alas this didn’t help me to decide what kind of campaign to run.

I started doing some research on Star Trek ships of the TOS era and realized that the only Federation ship class actually shown in the series was the Constitution class. Some non-canon sources mentioned other ship classes as well, but alas even then the selection was quite limited. One of those ships that piqued my interest was the Daedalus class. Alas it was suitable for a TOS campaign since this class has supposedly been decommissioned in the 22nd century, several years before the USS Enterprise roamed the universe.

daedalus-aethernaut But why not run a campaign set between Enterprise (the pre-TOS series) and the Original Series? Since the Daedalus class was commissioned directly after the birth of the Federation and the end of the Earth-Romulan war it would be the perfect vessel for my player group. Because of the lack of information on that period I could easily design a campaign without having to worry about canon that much. There’s also a great illustration of the USS Daedalus that fits better into the Enterprise era. Perfect!

Alas there are some novels that might mess with that plan of mine, but I think I’ll just ignore those. Even the official Star Trek canon is full of inconsistencies and errors, so who’s going to judge my little campaign? 🙂

Rules-wise it shouldn’t be a big difference if I use “Where No Man Has Gone Before” for a TOS-era game or a game set 100 years earlier. But since the Enterprise series actually provides quite a lot of details to work with, a game set in the early 2160s is actually easier to prepare than a game in the time of Kirk and Spock. As my plans progress I will probably post a few updates.

Have you ever run a game in the Star Trek universe? If so, have you used one of the licensed games or a homebrew? And what are your thoughts on my choice of era?

As always I am quite interested in your comments, so please post your thoughts below!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

12 thoughts on “Roleplaying in the world of Star Trek”

  1. I did quite a lot of prep for a game using the Last Unicorn Star Trek game but people moved away so it never actually ran. Lots of tasty info in the source books though and some nice looking adventures too.

  2. That's easy. Download them from the site, print them on paper and optionally glue them on cardboard. Done!

  3. I've never been a huge fan of gaming in Star Trek. Too much Sci-Fi not enough magic. That said, my main concern about running a game during that period would be defining what can't be done. Certain bits of tech get introduced at various points in the shows' history. Like how holodecks didn't show up until Next Generation but the precursor to that tech is introduced way back in Enterprise. I'd always be worried that some cool thing I came up with was too advanced.

    1. That's why I will probably start directly after the end of Enterprise with my campaign and then I just extrapolate from there. If J.J. Abrams may throw canon out of the window, I can do so, too. 🙂

  4. The first Star Trek game I came across was the Prime Directive, it was just a review in a hobby magazine and the game itself was pretty elusive – suffice it to say I never managed to find it and I lost interest. Years later I stumbled upon a bargain sale of the Decipher ST game books, which I promptly snatched and they became some of my most prized rpg possessions. Sadly it is one of many games I own which is unlikely to feature at the table anytime soon. My current group just don't dig Star Trek, go figure.

    I would be interested what campaign format you decide on with your game. I gather that following the TOS model yours is likely to be an episodic campaign of exploration and the characters will be Federation ship crewmembers. Which is not a bad idea – certainly ST is designed just for that. However, despite my love for the show, a typical bridge-crew-centric felt a bit constraining to me, sort of like an equivalent of a dungeon crawl if you know what I mean. Characters are in a hierarchical relationship from the get go, and the scenarios (with minor deviation) may follow a well trodden path of USS Whatever encounters a problem/anomaly/mystery and the crew springs into action using the no so modest resources of the ship. In the process, a few red-shirts are vaporized, photon torpedoes are launched, fazers fired, eventually the solution is found, and the ship plus the crew carry on at warp speed. It works for the TV show but not sure about the rpg. Further, I feel that this sort of campaign requires players to be intimately familiar with the setting – if they are the command crew (i.e. expert specialists) they should really have a good grasp of the resources available and what can and cannot be possible with what they've got (with Star Trek that's kindda not common sense issue). So if you have a group of players who at the same type are solid trekkers – that might just work. I'm not a StarTrek guru so my homework as a GM would have been gargantuan (even more so with the Next Generation timeline setting). If I had that luxury and were to run a Kirk era campaign it would be similar in atmosphere to Star Trek 6 (another favorite of mine), a political thriller set in Star Trek universe; obviously with a touch of paranoia from the Wrath of Khan. On the other hand DS9 type of campaign might have been better suited for me and my players; loosely affiliated characters with very mixed backgrounds and agendas in a setting that they do not know all that well; emphasis on intrigue more then exploration, that could have been it for me, possibly as enjoyable as the series itself (ha, can you tell that I'm biased 😉 ).

    Oh and Happy New Year!

  5. In 1986 my friends and I came across the Star Trek Starship Combat Simulator by FASA. Been fans of Star Trek, we learned to play the game and had more than a few amazing battles, we develop house rules to fix holes in the system and added fun with boarding rules and three dimensional combat. But we were missing the role playing, so I acquire the Star Trek Role Playing Game by FASA and we rolled characters and combined the two games into one. I was a hardcore game master back them and had different groups of players and all of them played Star Trek with me so, these are all different campaigns, some of them lasted up to five years from 1986 to 1996. (I think I may be forgeting one or two crews but this is what comes to my memory right away. )

    USS Guardian – A Reliant-like research ship commanded by a female Andorian in the times of the TOS movies. Gaming group of 4 almost all of the females.
    USS Devastador – Another Reliant-like research ship commanded by a Vulcan male in the times of the TOS movies. Gaming group of 6.
    USS Excalibur – The crew of the Devastador upgraded to an Excelsior class battleship in the times of the TOS movies. Gaming group of 6.
    Goddess of Dead – A rogue group of ex-starfleet officers turned pirates in the times of the TOS movies.
    Wolf’s Dagger – A Klingon Bird of Prey full of –surprise!- Klingons! in the times of the TOS movies. Gaming group of 5.
    Starlost – An Orion merchant shuttle with a mixed crew of rogues and mercenaries in the times of the TOS movies. Gaming group of 6.
    USS Excalibur – The same Excelsior class battleship but with a different crew (and a different gamming group) in the times of TNG. Gaming group of 6.
    USS Enterprise – We played a series of adventure as the crew of the TNG Enterprise with a gamming group of 6 covering almost every character and position on the bridge.

    We had a lot of fun developing our characters, taking decisions based on the core information provided by the Star Trek episodes, movies, novels and comic books. We collected a lot of books like the Star Trek Encyclopedia and the Technical Manual. We even organize the gamming room with the table and the chairs in the same place as in a federation bridge. It was a lot of fun and my players still remember those times as the best science fiction role playing ever played.

    Right now we are playing a d20 Future campaign based on many science fiction worlds merged in an amalgam of adventures and I think we can relive those times. Warp factor eight… Engage!

  6. Hi Michael

    Congratulation to this great idea !

    I mastered a Star Trek Session in 2006 called Star Trek 2206 based on a civil ship for an extrapolation minig company. I tried an LARP session on a school ship last year and got my uniform for the second
    encounter in march last week
    (for anybody interested (sorry, german only)

    So I'm insterested in your experience. Maybe you can tell me at your next "Kellerkinder" meeting in Limburg.

    regards, Bernd

    1. Thanks for your comment, Bernd. I am still in the very early planning stages of that campaign. Currently I am happy playing Deathwatch. When my GM needs a break I want to be prepared though. That's where Star Trek comes in. 🙂

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