Stardate 1978: A Look at the First Star Trek RPG

Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier

Author: Michael J. Scott
Publisher: Heritage Models
Available Formats: Very out of print

Modiphius currently has the license to Star Trek RPGs. They’ve done quite a bit with it, including many sourcebooks, adventures, and a few versions of the core rules (main core rules, Klingon version, original series-focused). They’re far from the first to hold the license—prior to them, the license was held by Decipher, Last Unicorn Games, and, probably most memorably, FASA. Any of those games would make for an interesting article—as would the history of Star Trek RPGs.

As it turns out, FASA did not produce the first officially licensed Star Trek RPG. That honor goes to Heritage Models’ Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier, copyright 1978. Its publication history is a little bit fuzzy. The general impression on the internet is it existed primarily to help sell the Star Trek miniature figures that Heritage had the license to produce. Nothing about its cover screams “Star Trek”—a 40-page softcover book with a purple planet on the cover. I can’t speak to the legality of my copy—something I purchased off of eBay that sure looks like a modern reprint.

Star Trek Adventure Gaming is a fairly simple game, with characters having a set of attributes ranging from 3 to 18, with most tasks being made by trying to roll equal to or under an attribute on 3d6. The attributes are Strength, Dexterity, Luck, Mentality, Charisma, and Constitution. “Mentality” is an example of a tendency for some rather odd word choices—as is “initiation” instead of initiative. Characters also have bonuses for hand-to-hand combat, ranged combat, and initiation.

The game is broken into Basic and Advanced rules. The Basic game has no rules for character generation; rather, pre-generated members of the Enterprise crew are presented and NPCs from the live-action and animated Star Trek series. Combat rules are presented for both hand-to-hand and ranged combat.

I did find the combat rules to be interesting. In hand-to-hand combat, the attacker and defender, each roll d6s, adding various bonuses. The defensive total is subtracted from the offensive one. If greater than 0, that is the amount Constitution is reduced by. In ranged combat, characters roll a d6 on a lookup table based on range and their Dexterity to see if they hit. Ranged weapons do a certain amount of damage dice (typically decreasing at greater ranges), and from this damage total is subtracted a single d6, with modifiers depending on the defender’s Luck.

The Advanced rules add character generation, more details for combat and equipment, and rules for generating creatures. Notably missing from either part of the rules are details on handling starship encounters and rules for character improvement (though there are no skills to improve in any case).

Two sample scenarios are presented, the first being a simple shuttlecraft crash, the second dealing with the exploration of Slaver ruins (the Slavers being from Larry Niven’s Known Space series and imported into Star Trek via his animated episode “The Slaver Weapon.”

The game’s tone can perhaps be best described as “enthusiastic clunkiness.” There’s clearly a lot of love for Star Trek that shines through, but the rulebook makes for somewhat awkward reading. It is almost pure rules—any details on the setting are from NPCs/creatures and equipment lists. There’s no real artwork save for maps in the sample scenarios.

Should you look for this? If you’re interested in Star Trek and RPG history, there may be some value in checking it out. Its main claim to fame is being the earliest Star Trek RPG. The Traveller RPG was already available, and I’d argue it presented a more complete and versatile RPG, with a basic skill system, spaceship combat, etc.

~Daniel Stack

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