Tuesday, January 4, 2022

2022 Character Creation Challenge 4) Star Trek RPG (Decipher)

 Day 4 of the #Character Creation Challenge!

There are eleventy-skillion versions of the Star Trek game, but this is the one I actually ran. It's the one created by Decipher Games after they got the license and the entire work crew from Last Unicorn Games jumped ship to take another bite at the apple. (I'll be doing the LUG Original Series Star Trek next, which will be interesting.) This version is designed to cover the whole of Star Trek to date in the oughts, so you can play in the TOS, TNG, DS9 or Voyager timeframes and sensibilities, though the visual style of the book very much harkens to the 1990's era Trek. 

Character creation is a stylized multi-step process, where you pick a race, then a profession (and in the case of Starship Officer, a sub-profession) which determines what skills are available and what special abilities you might get, then a personal development that can gives you skills outside your profession and gives you an Edge from a small set, then your Professional Development in your profession which pre-spends some of your skill points as well as another edge from a small set. You can spend 5 more skill points on professional skills, and potentially take a drawback to get another edge, and you're in theory done – you have someone at the start of their career. 

But since Trek PCs are seldom at the start of their career there are also multiple rounds of Advances, based on how skilled the PCs are. Each one gives you access to more skills and edges, which include promotions, command ranks, contacts, wealth and the other things that the characters we follow on the TV shows might have. 

In practice, this turns out to be fairly convoluted, but it's also close to what Jorune's system would be built with if you designed it today. It gives you a very detailed history of the character up to the point of play. When I actually ran Trek, I let everyone play 2 characters, and gave them 6 advances between them. One player was both the broadly experienced Betazed Ambassador (6 advances) and the green out of the academy cadet (0 advances), while another was the Chief Science Officer (3 advances) and the visiting Anthropologist around whose work we hung the first season arc (3 advances). 

For today, I don't want to worry about advances: I'm going to build a PC at the start of their career, and since this version of trek is meant to handle anything (there is advice on running Klingon crews fighting for the empire, for example), I'm going with something unusual. A Ferrengi Diplomat. When he is inevitably questioned about a contradiction there, he uses his stock phrase of "I'm in the business of empires." I'm picturing him as a sort of freelance, neutral negotiator, an arbiter brought in to handle disputes in ways that are most profitable to both parties, with himself (and the Ferrengi Commerce Authority) taking a small fee off the top (or negotiating in some longer-term advantage). He's very good at what he does, and could easily be on a late TNG/DS9 or later Federation ship as an expert. 

Species: Ferrengi
This gives him several advantages: a flat +1 on the Business skill, immunity to psi powers, a further bonus on Business if he can learn Science (Mathematics), and most intriguingly, a racial ability that lets him Appraise any situation and find a possible profit angle in it. 

I see Ferek as being small, even for a Ferrengi, but smart and very charismatic and persuasive. Using the default distribution with species modifiers I get 
Strength 4, Agility 8, Intellect 10, Vitality 6, Presence 12, Perception 10. 

Profession: Diplomat
There's a dozen or so skills that the Diplomat can purchase in character creation, but the main thing is picking a special power from the 4 available to Tier 1 Characters (yes, there are tiers of advancement on top of everything else in character creation).  For maximal flexibility outside his core skill set I went with Bluff, which lets him ignore any test penalties when bluffing someone: he has enough of an order of gravitas that he can sell any idea without proof, at least in the short term.

Personal Development: Mercantile Upbringing 
This was a given, since I'm going outside the Ferrengi stereotype I needed to hook into the culture enough to get the all-important Business and Appraise skills, which are not in the Diplomat skills. I also got a point in Influence and System Ops (which is the 'all starship stuff' skill) as those weren't in Diplomat either. Ferek was raised in a perfectly normal small business family, where he learned to cook books, move product, and accept bribes from employees to stay employed. All normal stuff. 

The edge I selected for this development was Cultural Flexibility, which gives a +2 on all social rolls with other species. His father ran a business in a cosmopolitan crossroads, and Ferek got to know the buying and spending habits of pretty much everyone. 

Professional Development: Liaison
One the three options (the other two are Bureaucrat and Ecocultural Specialist), this one gave the best Negotiate (Mediate) score, and also felt like the best fit for the character. The Inquire (Fraternize) skill helps outside of negotiations in an investigation sense, so he has something else to do. 

The edge I selected for this development was Skill Focus – Diplomat, as it gives another +4 on Negotiate (Mediate) tests. When Ferek is doing his job – mediating a business dispute between two species – he has a +2 for his Intellect, +4 for his skill, +2 for the specialty (Negotiate), and +4 for this edge. +12 is pretty damn high and makes it likely he really is a professional, even if he's a bit narrow in his other skills yet. There's a Diplomat special power that gives Negotiate (Mediate) another +4, but I don't need that right now.

Last Steps
I have the option to take a Disadvantage in order to take another Edge. I really wanted to get Confident (Courage spent on social tests gives +5, not +3) because it fit the idea of someone who could walk in between a Klingon and an Andorian and be sure to bring them to an arrangement. The Disadvantage list is fully of stuff that's highly mechanical, but eventually realized how well Pacifist 1 fit: can't spend courage on attacks, will never attack to kill, will never leave someone to die. Of course you don’t leave someone to die. Dead people can't owe you favors. There's no profit in dead people. 

I'm not sure this is a character I'd want to play in a classic Federation game – he'd work as a walk on a few episodes a season – but if the game isn't a Federation one there's room for a lot of fun. 

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