Phasers to Stun! – Star Trek Adventures: Tricorder Collector’s Box Set

Star Trek Adventures: Tricorder Collector’s Box Set

Author: Nathan Dowdwell et al.
Publisher: Modiphius
Page Count: Boxed set, 308 pp. (main book)
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $40.00
Print/Digital Combo (Modiphius US)– $81.97 (currently out of stock)
Print/Digital Combo (Modiphius UK)– $81.97

Modiphius’s Star Trek Adventures Tricorder Collector’s Box Set is an alternate core set for their Star Trek RPG. While the rules themselves are era-agnostic, the art, background, sample ships, NPCs, etc., make an assumption of a game set in the 23rd century—the classic era seen in the 1960s Star Trek series and movies featuring the original cast.

The physical boxed set is currently out of print, though it remains available in digital form. The boxed set is in the shape of a classic Star Trek tricorder, complete with a carrying strap. The books and all handouts are full color and measure 6 by 8 inches. Within the box can be found:

  • Star Trek Adventures Rules Digest: A 304-page softcover book. The bulk of this review will cover this book.
  • Star Trek Adventures The Keyhole of Eternity: A 44-page, three-part mini-campaign nominally set in the year 2269 (though it could easily be moved to other eras). This will be discussed in a separate review.
  • USS Lexington and Crew: Six loose sheets detailing the starship Lexington and sample player characters representing the ship’s senior officers.
  • USS Enterprise and Crew: As above, this time with nine sheets, including Ensign Chekov and Nurse Chapel. While the backs of the Lexington crew have background details, the backs of the Enterprise crew have various condensed rules summaries (presumably, players are familiar with these characters).
  • Counters to keep track of Momentum and Threat pools.
  • Dice

Star Trek Adventures Rules Digest

After a brief introduction to the idea behind the game, the second chapter gives an overview of the setting as of 2269. This is presented in the form of in-setting texts—starship log entries, Starfleet Academy lectures, personal communications, intelligence reports, etc. It’s an interesting strategy—and one I’ve seen done poorly—but in this case, the in-universe text is done very well. As I’ve been a Trekkie since the 1970s (eek!) I might not be the best to judge if it would make a good introduction to the setting for one unfamiliar with it, but I think it does an excellent job of inserting the reader into the setting.

Chapter Three further establishes the setting, this time focusing on Starfleet, the organization player characters are assumed to belong to. Like the previous chapter, it, too, is written in the form of in-universe texts. It discusses things like the organization of Starfleet, the Prime Directive that prohibits interference with other civilizations, uniforms, equipment, landing parties, etc. It does an excellent job of discussing what your characters might be doing in a game.

I liked the introduction provided by these two chapters. In a world with Star Trek references like Memory Alpha available for free and hundreds of hours of Star Trek available on physical media or streaming, the more comprehensive approach you might find in older RPGs isn’t all that necessary. However, the two chapters bring you into the setting and avoid filling you with extraneous details and instead let you feel as if you’re a part of the Star Trek universe.

Chapter Four, the operations chapter, provides a basic overview of the rules. The Star Trek Adventures RPG uses an adapted version of the 2d20 engine, Modiphius’s game engine powering many of their games. To give a very brief overview:

  • Most tasks are resolved by rolling 2d20 (with options to roll more dice). You attempt to roll equal to or less than a target number on each die. Every time you do that counts as a success.
  • Some tasks require more than one success (i.e., the task’s difficulty). The target number is typically the sum of the relevant Attribute and Discipline (as discussed in Chapter Five).
  • Player groups have pools of Momentum that can be spent to benefit characters in task attempts. Additional successes beyond what is required generate Momentum.
  • The Gamemaster has a Threat Pool, used similarly to Momentum. Players who need Momentum and lack the points can add to the Threat Pool to gain Momentum Points.

This is obviously a very basic capsule. Star Trek Adventures also uses concepts like Traits, Advantages, Disadvantages. and Determination (a pool of resources available to each character). I would describe Star Trek Adventures as a moderately crunchy narrative game. There are a lot of pools, Traits, etc., to keep track of,  though most of them are shared pools vs. having pools for every player to keep track of.

Chapter Five brings us to character generation. A character in Star Trek Adventures has several characteristics.

  • Traits: A character starts with a single trait, their species. This provides bonuses or penalties under certain circumstances related to the species.
  • Values: Statements that define a character’s core beliefs. Using a value allows the use of Determination Points.
  • Attributes: A character’s mental and physical abilities. Control, Daring, Fitness, Insight, Presence, and Reason. They each have a numeric score ranging from 7 to 12.
  • Disciplines: Another series of numbered ratings represent the broad skills that Starfleet officers possess. They range from 0 to 5, though all main characters will have at least a 1 in each of them. The individual disciplines are Command, Conn, Engineering, Security, Science, and Medicine. And yes, those all scream Star Trek—you can probably figure out what color uniform your character will wear based on their statistics.
  • Focuses: A list of areas for which a character has specialized training. An example given in the game is Astrophysics, which most likely would be applied to Science tasks, but under certain circumstances, might, for example, be used when piloting a starship (i.e., Conn).
  • Talents: Various special abilities, rerolls, bonuses, etc., triggered under certain circumstances.

Character generation is done via a Lifepath, where you choose a species, childhood environment, upbringing, time at Starfleet academy, the length of your Starfleet career, specific character events, and finishing touches. This rulebook gives as possible species: Andorian, Denobulan, Human, Tellarite, Trill, and Vulcan. Like most Lifepaths, you get a character with a history ripe for mining in adventures. You might have spent part or all of your childhood on a failed colony like Tasha Yar or James T. Kirk. Like William Riker on USS Pegasus, you might have found yourself betraying your ideals for a superior officer.

By going through all these steps, you will have a competent Starfleet character, fully started out. It is generally assumed your character will be the captain, first officer, or department head aboard a Starfleet vessel, though the rules support other campaign frameworks,

The character generation chapter also has rules for supporting characters. The idea here is that there might be scenes where your main character isn’t present or you need additional expertise—you can pull in another crew member who gets further developed through gameplay. This represents characters on Star Trek, like Lt. Riley on the original Star Trek or Chief O’Brien on Star Trek: The Next Generation (with O’Brien being a great example of a supporting character who graduates to main character status).

This lengthy chapter ends with a section on character advancement. The Star Trek Adventures RPG has had two advancement methods—the original advancement method in the original (and still available and useful) core rulebook and a new, log-based advancement method found in the Star Trek Adventures: Klingon Core Rules and this book. You record a single log entry for every adventure. As your character advances, referring to instances of earlier log entries in play, you will reach milestones and complete story arcs, allowing you to improve your character (and your starship).

Chapter Six, “The Final Frontier,” returns to background information, describing different kinds of planets, stellar phenomena, and scientific discoveries and advancements. This last section also has some game-related information, discussing how characters might use sensors and invent various gadgets in adventures.

Chapter Seven, “Conflict,” discusses both social and physical conflict. These rules are specialized uses of the rules introduced in Chapter Four. Like more narrative games, physical conflict is played out using zones. Opposed to a rigid grid defining locations.

Chapter Eight, “Gear and Equipment,” details what equipment characters might use. Generally speaking, tasks assume characters will have the proper equipment—for example, scanning for lifeforms without sensors or a tricorder is somewhat problematic. All characters are assumed to start with basic equipment for their role. They can have additional equipment, often at the cost of Opportunity or Escalation. Opportunity is used for more advanced/non-weapon equipment and requires the expenditure of Momentum to obtain. Many weapons have an Escalation cost which adds to the Threat pool. Additionally, setting phasers on kill (or performing similar actions) adds to the Threat Pool. This chapter also covers more or less advanced equipment—like a 23rd-century character needing to use 22nd-century gear.

Chapter Nine, “A Home in the Stars,” details starships. In Star Trek Adventures, starships are treated as a type of character—the players’ ship will begin with its own unique characteristics, distinguishing it from other ships of its class, and over time players will be able to further customize it. Combat is handled similarly to individual combat, as detailed in Chapter Seven. When a starship does something, it uses its own stats in conjunction with the player character’s stats (as a sort of “aid another” task). The following Starfleet vessels are available in this book:

  • Archer Class – A small, 14-person scout (from the Star Trek Vanguard novels).
  • Constitution Class – The class to which USS Enterprise belongs.
  • Hermes Class – A scout class from the 1970s Star Fleet Technical Manual.
  • Miranda Class – Like USS Reliant, hijacked by Khan in Star Trek II.
  • Oberth Class – Like U.S.S. Grissom as seen in Star Trek III (and destroyed by one shot from a Klingon Bird of Prey….)

Outside of Starfleet vessels, the following alien ships are detailed:

  • Klingon D7 Battle Cruiser
  • Klingon B’Rel-class Bird of Prey
  • Romulan Bird of Prey
  • Gorn Raider

Chapter Ten details gamemastering. It has detailed advice and guidance for handling all facets of the game—running adventures, detailing encounters (like building zones and the like), creating missions, handling experience, character creation, etc. It’s a lot more detailed than these sorts of chapters usually are. For example, when detailing a more complicated challenge (a “gated challenge”), a specific example is given, shutting down the warp core. Guidance is provided to make sure that all characters have something to do. There are also rules for creating NPCs and new worlds, with special details for both.

Finally, Chapter Eleven contains NPCs and creatures—Starfleet allies, Klingon warriors, tribbles, mugatu, alien artifacts, etc.

Final Thoughts

So who is this book for? If you absolutely hate Star Trek… you probably want to pass. Though I imagine it would burn very well if you’d get enjoyment out of that.

But… assuming you actually like Star Trek. It’s a great core book. While the core of the game is Modiphius’ 2d20 engine, everything about the rules feels like it is designed to support a Star Trek game. Aside from the presentation, it’s the same game, though I did find this book an easier read.

This is the book I recommend for a classic-era Star Trek game. The art strongly evokes the feel of the original Star Trek. The text really takes you to the Star Trek universe. The rules feel very well optimized for Star Trek, and the game has an overall sense of fun adventure.

If you’re planning a game in a later period, the rulebook still works just fine. You might find yourself missing some species and starships found in the original core rules, but aside from some additional options, the rules and character generation remain the same.

If you’re a little on the fence—Star Trek Adventures: Tricorder Collector’s Box Set—in my experience, the setting can work rather well for a gaming group, with a mobile home base and a wide variety of adventures and campaign frameworks possible.

~ Daniel Stack

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