"Fuzzy studies"- Cultural Anthropology, History, Archaeology, etc

Long ago in the before times, when FASA, LUG and Decipher ruled the Trek RPG world each in their turn, there was a Klingon-based campaign. Pa’ muSHa’chugh vay’ mu’meyvam, quvHa’moH (Those who search the past for answers to the future) acquired an old ship and refurbished it for anthropological and archaeological expeditions. The crew was mostly made up of historians, lore singers and such… their mission was to travel the stars in search of the past. Who were the fek’lhr, the hur’q, the Old Kings? What threats might they or others pose the Klingon people in the future?

I’m planning to revive some of those ideas in a new campaign just starting, using a refurbished and demilitarized (for Klingons) D-5, set in the Shackleton Expanse in 2371. At this point the ship is centuries old, one of the early D-5s with hull armor, it was converted to a tanker and then eventually mothballed. Torpedo systems and primary disruptor cannons were removed during the tanker refit, and the hull reinforced. Now the fuel tanks removed it’s systems have been modernized or given modest upgrades.

My problem is, what department/discipline do you use for the “fuzzy” aspect of their investigations? History? The cultural aspect of Anthropology?

Carbon dating is science. Examination of skeletal remains of a proto-Klingon is medical.

What is used for knowing the legend of Muk’to who beheaded a fek’lhr champion with the jawbone of a pack animal at the Battle of the Greenfields, a place which cannot be found on, and which the legend implies is not on, Qo’nos at all… but would have occurred long before the Klingons acquired warp technology from the Old Kings. What is used to research the history of the legend, handed down over millennia, to determine as close as possible the legend’s original story, and what was added later?

Command? Science?

All versions of Trek seem to focus on the hard science side… where do philosophy, theology, history, etc come in?

1 Like

I personally would say mostly science for things like history & mythology… “Research” is science, whether it’s test tubes in a biology lab or reading old tomes. Depending on the nature of a specific roll, other disciplines could be used (e.g. scientist finds a passage that they can’t explain, conn officer interprets—since conn deals with knowledge of an organization’s operations, conn officer realizes it relates to a hypothetical ancient set of rules). (And of course any discipline your players successfully argue for is good to go.)

The biggest issue is philosophy, but that can be rolled from each character’s main discipline, I suppose, since it could be their primary paradigm in life. But even in this case the study of philosophy is more of a scientific endeavor.


My only problem with this is it means the monks on Boreth become really good physicists by studying Klingon theology…. or a human seminary student, or a Bajoran Vedic. Even without a focus, Science 4 or 5 is still Science 4 or 5.

Maybe it depends on the approach?

It definitely relies on the approach. With only 6 skills you have to make them rather broad and so your characters would seem to experts in things that don’t really seem appropriate.
A Mixed Martial Artist might have a Battle of 5, should that mean he can win the Marines shooting contest? No, but there isn’t any way around that in the STA system.

I would say that any skill can be used, though some are harder that others I admit.

  • Science & Medicine as you cite are pretty clear cut. (Especially in autopsies :wink: )
  • Security can be used in anything regarding weapons or soldiers. (Investigation of the legend of the Battle of Greenfields suggests a battlefield on a temperate planet with free flowing water… etc)
  • Engineering on buildings or vehicles, but also for knowing the styles of different races (Hmm… The flowing lines of this vessel suggest an Avian race with an instinctive desire for variable control surfaces on the wings)
  • Conn, anything to do with languages and how they develop. (This stanza talking about the battle of the verdant grass, describing a noble champion brought down by a treacherous attack using a skeleton weapon sounds strangely familiar)
  • Command is harder, but it could cover knowledge of governments and how to rule. Would things like Sun Tzu & Machiavelli fall under this? I can easily see knowledge of Klingon religion falling under Command.

It really depends on how imaginative your players are at being able to spin a yarn that the skill really is applicable. I tend to allow a lot of odd rolls at my table as long as they can make a decent argument and it is amusing.

1 Like

Let the player make his argument to justify discipline.
For me History is a social science not a science. Anything that is taught on a letters campus command, on a law campus conn, on a medicine campus medicine.
My main concern is about art and music.
One possible. option for rolls representing life experience is. to use the Status stat from alternative experience.

Yeah, fair, but that’s where the GM comes in. There are several options, including: bump the difficulty up (so a historian has difficulty 1 on reading history books, and difficulty 4 (or higher?) on interpreting a mass spectrometer readout), or even just declaring the character can’t do a thing at all (so a historian trying to make sense of a complicated stellar scan is only able to tell that it’s a scan of a star, and nothing else).

You can also give them high Insight (faith) but a poor reason (believing in an invisible, intangible, omnipotent god is totally unreasonable in star trek universe, it is a Q, a Ferengi con artist, an alien life form like the Prophet or the Shepherd none worthy of worshiping). Also without focuses no critical.

Your definition of religion is narrowminded (only a few Earth religions even fit it, who knows about alien ones) . Case in point: The first Klingon killed the gods who made him. So neither invisible, in tangible nor omnipotent. Likewise the Old Gods of the Norse or the gods and enlightened beings of Hinduism.

Ghandi would take offense to your characterization of his intellect.

That would be up to the potential worshiper. Someone else telling someone what is or is not worthy or worship… that’s really just being a priest, right? A priest of atheism, perhaps.

Worf told Bashir and O’Brien that whether Davy Crockett existed isn’t the point. If you find Davy Crocket a worthy role model, use him as one… whether he, or any one else, actually walked the Earth is irrelevant.

Lack of a critical isn’t critical.

In Star Trek universe humans are secular humanists. And there’s many many episodes where gods are at either non-existent, advanced aliens, federation ship seen by pre-warp people, ways to make money.or accumulate power.Monks need faith (insight) but not reason (they will not listen to reason anyway because they already know they are right)

There are multiple examples of humans having religions and spirituality of various stripes throughout Star Trek, even if they are a minority. Regardless, saying that a monk has no reason (or a low reason stat) willfully ignores the role of theologians and those who actively study their own religion, and the existence of places like seminaries.

I’m also not sure that a character’s attributes (whatever they are for any reason) is entirely relevant to the original question: how a person who is an expert in something like archaeology can somehow also perform well at another scientific discipline like stellar cartography, given that their “science” stat is 5 regardless of area of study. Both monks and secularist can study both of those fields and get their science stat up to 5, no matter their attributes.

It’s a good question, and one I hadn’t thought of, since Starfleet scientists are often very much generalists. I think my proposed solutions of difficulty increases for out-of-field tasks or even entirely disallowing a roll take care of the problem. Reading the “Expert” role in the Player’s Guide makes me think of another: increasing complication range for tasks that fall outside of the area of expertise.

(The specific line from the PG that made me think of it: “…this may lead you to ignore or overlook things that fall outside your knowledge, or result in an obsession that causes you to prioritize your work over other concerns.”)

That depends on how you define task difficulty: is it absolute or relative? I.e.: Is it difficulty 2 for everyone or difficulty 2 for a starfleet scientist with sound knowledge in physics but difficulty 4 for a monk on Boreth?

You can always rule out specific combinations or even a roll if the task is impossible to solve for someone or you can require a Trait/Advantage (i.e. a physics book on a PADD) to try.

And there is always Threat to increase difficulty and/or complication range.

Very cool campaign setting, by the way! Love it!!

Without going sideways on the specifics of the campaign (interesting idea, btw), one can probably think of several other examples where the same type of questions apply. In the show, disciplines like science and medicine are often portrayed as being broadly applicable across subfields, but that might not work for a given storyline where a task should require specific knowledge to make sense. Your case points out general issues with the lack of social studies/humanities as a discipline, much less all the possible subfields.

As another example, say you want to have an encounter with a new alien species who are incredibly knowledgable in a specific sub-field of science – say botany – but have very little knowledge of other sub-fields – say, subspace physics. Their chief scientist could accompany the group for a mission and easily assist with tasks involving reforestation efforts on another planet, but they can’t possibly use their rating 5 in Science to determine how to collapse a subspace anomaly threatening the ship.

As for how to deal with it, there have been many solid suggestions in this thread that I like. Pertaining to historical knowledge, you can allow different disciplines to include an assumption that they would apply to historical knowledge (e.g., a strong Security rating could allow a Character to have insights into historical battles and weapons). I also like the idea that the GM could adjust a difficulty depending on the situation to make the mechanics work.

I’d suggest that you make sure you and your players pay close attention to the Focuses of each character and make that a major part of your game dynamics. I was thinking you could even “adjust” a given rating based on the character’s focuses and the task at hand (e.g., a subspace physicist with 4 Science can only use half of that rating when attempting an important task involving chemistry). However, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea that the Difficulty of a task can be set relative to the Focuses you have. The GM could define a Task as having a special Trait such that the difficulty depends on how well a character’s focuses apply to a specific area of knowledge. It makes sense that a Task requiring specific knowledge in historical Klingon battles wouldn’t be simple (or might even be impossible) for a character who has no Focuses or implied background in Klingon history, regardless of their high Security rating.

All-in-all, its a good question with broader implications in STA gameplay, and I think the approaches suggested here can be used in those broader contexts as well.


Beta, I think if you’re assuming “all humans are X”…. or all anything is anything…. you may be missing the whole point of Star Trek.

To everyone else, I think what I’m going to do for this campaign is break Science into 3 specialties: Physical, Planetary, Social. Your Science discipline is at full value in your specialty, half value outside it.

Physical Science will cover physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc. Planetary science will cover biology, planetology, physical anthropology, etc. Social science will cover history, sociology, cultural anthropology, etc.

I think this will help define character roles better, since so many main characters are going to be “science” types.

1 Like

Nice idea! It immediately sparked an idea for an adaption in me: modifying the “career” talents. Instead (or maybe additional) to choosing a career/experience in character creation (I’m referring to young officer/experienced officer/veteran officer), in this approach, characters choose a “science specialisation” and thus choose one of the following talents:

Specialist Scientist
Requirements: Science 2+
The character received thorough general training in sciences, but delved deep into a (still broad) specialised topic. Choose one of the following specialties: physical, planetary, social. If a task involving the character’s Science attribute relates to the specialty chosen, roll normally and if successful, receive one Bonus-Momentum. For any other task relating to the Science attribute, treat the attribute as being only half its value (rounded down) and do not receive Bonus-Momentum from this talent. This talent cannot be swapped out via character development options, but the specialty chosen can be changed as if it was a talent.

Generalist Scientist
Requirements: Science 1 or 2
The character received only basic Science training. The character gets a free talent, yet can only raise their Science attribute above 2 if they swap out this talent for the Specialist Scientist talent.

One could even think of a third talent requiring e.g. Science 4+ and the Specialist Scientist talent that grants a second specialty that allows to use 2/3 of the Science attribute for the second specialty (so it would be full/two-thirds/half). One could adapt the “threat of additional threat” of the Young Officer talent for the “dump-specialty” in some way.

I think it’s important to give players choice in “using only half of a score” and include some benefits (hence the bonus Momentum, which could of course also be combined with the Young Officer mechanics, see above). Also it makes chracters with low Science a bit more versatile as “stand-ins” which seems a bit more trekky to me. :slight_smile:

Art and music depend entirely on what you’re trying to do. By default both are form of communication, if you look at them from that perspective it helps.

Art, especially what the art is made of, can be very helpful. So, if its a painting what are the pigments made of, when were they used most commonly. Was a particular painter fond of making their own paint and thus had a secret recipe of Klingon blood pink?

If you want some good examples watch The Art Detectives. I believe its a BBC program, but should be available on most public access networks like PBS. One of their researchers has a PhD in art history, but spends most his time getting bits of paint chemically analyzed.

1 Like