# How can I remove momentum and threat and change the task mechanic

First off, I love Star Trek and I have respect for anyone who makes a roleplaying game system.

The difficulty I have is that I’m not a fan of momentum and threat in my star trek games. I could just say that we don’t use momentum or threat but that raises problems because one of the main uses of them is to buy extra dice for tasks. Without extra dice, getting 3 and 4 successes is harder or just impossible without assistance.

If I remove momentum and threat, it means that, without a character using a Focus, they can get 2 successes with a small chance of rolling 1 and getting 3 success.

With extra dice, the probabilities are difficult to determine. I’ve used Any Dice to see how things change with rolling 3 or 4d20s and the probabilities are just confusing e.g. if you had 10 attribute and 3 discipline and roll 3d20, I doubt anyone could tell me the probability of getting 3 or 4 successes without going away and working it out.

Momentum and extra dice are hard baked into the 2d20 system. So if I did remove momentum, I’d need a completely different mechanic for task resolution.

Without giving up on the system completely, which I don’t want to do because I like Star Trek, is there any way to change the task resolution mechanic to needing to roll over or under a specific value or roll 3d6 or d10 or something else instead of 2d20 or change the attributes to modifiers?

Thanks.

Short answer is no. The whole System revolves around Momentum. The name of the system should really be “Momentum” and not “2d20” because it’s the core mechanic. If you don’t like Momentum, you should look into other systems.

That said, if you want to get rid of it you could just say that players start with like 5 Momentum in their pool and gain 1 Momentum each scene automatically (but not from rolls). This way you still retain Momentum as kind of a meta currency, you just get rid of the ebb and flow.

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So, to calculate the probabilities of a single die, multiply the target number by 5. So, in your example of having an attribute of 10 and a discipline of 3, the target number would be 13, multiply that by 5 and you’ll get the percentage chance of succeeding - in this case 65%.

For multiple dice, turn the percentage into decimals by dividing by 100, then multiply them together. So, in the same example but for three dice, I’d turn it into a decimal, 0.65 for each die, then multiply them all together, 0.65x0.65x0.65 which is roughly 0.27. We can then turn that back into a percentage by multiplying by 100, 27%.

The real question is why you don’t like the system. I don’t mean that as an interrogation - why you don’t like it is important, because there are ways around it, but what the problem is will dictate which will be best. For example, you might not like the flavour of how it’s implemented, or you might not like rolling so many dice, or something. What you dislike about it is important in trying to fix it for you.

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Speaking in terms of the GNS theory we have an S-heavy gamer playing an N-heavy game with the G-elements streamlined to support the N-focus, sometimes blatantly ignoring S-plausibility. Does not always work.

@Shadowblayde as @Shran adequatly put, the narrative currencies (Momentum, Threat, Determination) are the core mechanics of the 2d20 system. Omitting the currencies and changing task resolution would mean, frankly speaking, to play a completely different game.

Which is completely fine and nobody here will be offended or question your respect for the developers or your love of Star Trek. Sometimes something is just not one’s cup of tea.

Yet, if the core mechanic of 2d20 isn’t your style of play, you might want to look into other incarnations of Star Trek TTRPGs. There’s been a few.

Another approach would be to reflect on what you actually like about the 2d20 system, in the next step trying to put emphasis on these aspects, tweaking Momentum/Threat/Determination only so much.

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To add onto the request for more information about what in 2D20 may be the issue.
How do you apply or use momentum/threat?
When I originally was playing 2d20 it was with Conan and most encounters with momentum were combat related. When we first started playing STA, we slipped into the same way of playing. The problem was Trek is not a combat heavy setting and the way momentum/threat worked seemed to be radically opposed to non-combat use. Then we realized that it really wasn’t if you split up the momentum pools. I have several heavy 2 inch d6’s that we place on the table to track momentum. In addition to combat, we start separate momentum pools for different non-combat tasks that we run as extended tasks. I ran a session where we had security types trying to hold back an aggressive life form (momentum pool #1), the engineer trying make repairs to the runabout so they could leave (extended task #1 plus MP#2) and last but not least, the science officer trying to shut down the research outposts unstable power reactor so it didn’t blow everyone up before they could escape (ET#2 plus MP#3). All three things were happening at the same time involving all the players in tense action. The use of extended tasks and momentum make non-combat as tense and action packed as combat does.

Of course it could be the game just doesn’t “click” for you. I have the same issue with several of the “popular” games out there.

Gosh. I’d forgotten about the post from November.

Yes, I’m still struggling with the concept of momentum. I get that it is just a mechanic but it just won’t fit in to how I see Star Trek.

The reason that it bugs me so much is that, in the Star Trek universe that I see, there is no cosmic balance. There are consequences to people’s actions but not like what I perceive to be how threat works. If a character does something daring, the universe is not going to have something happen to balance it out. So buying dice with threat doesn’t make sense to me.

The second thing is that, if I successfully put my ship into orbit, doing it “really well” (roll 3 successes on a difficulty zero task) should have no effect on me being able to override the (level 4 difficulty) command protocols of a security system an hour later. Doing things should depend on a characters skill, not something that someone else did elsewhere.

The third thing is that players take on the role of a character. They aren’t the narrators of the story. So using momentum to change the circumstances feels wrong. That wouldn’t stop them from doing things like repairing a system to restore gravity so people weren’t floating around in zero G which had caused things to be more difficult.

If someone can argue that there is a cosmic balance in the star trek universe and that Sulu putting the ship in orbit helps doctor McCoy save the life of ensign Riley or that a character can manipulate the universe to change things then I will rest my case.

I don’t know that I can address the root of the concern, since metacurrencies are deus ex machina devices as far as the mechanics go. …but on the other hand, everything a GM does is arbitrary deus ex machina stuff, so… I dunno.

In this case, it’s not “the universe.” It’s the writers of the Star Trek episode you’re playing out in your session(s). And because a good RPG is a collaboration between GM and players, everyone at the table is a writer of the episode. Players get to have a little more say/agency in the way the episode is written than just “my character says X or does y” when they use momentum. If your payers are abusing it to have over-the-top ‘rule of cool’ moments then sure, cap it, but allowing a player to say ‘at this dramatic moment in time my character digs deep, taps on their reserve of inner strength, and saves the day’ is fun, and a good narrative moment.

Also, threat isn’t just reactive to players. It’s a way for a GM to up the stakes even more than they normally would, or outside the bounds of their original scenario. Yes, a GM can just do that anyway, but it might seem unfair to players if things suddenly get more difficult for no reason. Threat puts a cap on the amount of arbitrarily crappy stuff a GM can do to players regardless of what players do (since there is a set amount granted at the beginning of a session). It also allows players to make a calculated risk if they add to the threat pool, which adds to player agency (although you seem to not want to give players agency?). But you could just do away with allowing players to add to threat, or do away with threat entirely, if you don’t like it.

As noted above, that’s not necessarily true, and I think games are richer when players and GM collaborate to make a narrative. But if you don’t want your players doing anything other than reacting to GM scenarios, make momentum a “GM grants permission” kind of thing. That way the players aren’t changing their circumstances unless the GM/sole writer of the episode wants them to. The momentum in that case represents the writer of the episode deciding that it’s plot expedient for a character to do well at a task, or to bring up some previously unannounced knowledge in a subject, or whatever.

Not directly, no. But getting a ship in orbit quickly grants the away team extra time for the mission—the momentum spend could represent that extra time being used to bypass a security system before it permanently locks down, or before guards come by. And one person doing something well can have an inspirational effect—the security officer is going to be excited to be part of such a competent team, and wants to contribute in their own competent way (or is competitive and wants to show off how cool they are after the navigator did so well at their job).

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You’re welcome.

Just watch a random episode. I predict that in the Star Trek Universe, the good guys of Starfleet will eventually win. That’s the cosmic balance in the Star Trek Universe. Trust me, it exists.

It most certainly doesn’t (unless Ens. Riley is suffering from some environmental effect that’s not present in the orbit, but that was most likely not what you intended as an example).

Yet, Sulu putting the ship in orbit with a finger’s snap is not dramatic, building up the potential drama for another scene. That might just well the scene with McCoy fighting for Riley’s life.

Momentum/Threat/Determination are a meta-currency with no actual representation in in-universe. It’s a game-mechanics-action at the table, just like a throw of the dice.

Without being Q or an Organian, that is? There are so many godlike beings in Star Trek that Memory Alpha even bothered to compile a list. In the end, Star Trek is a Space Opera with Science and plausibility following the plot. Sorry.

The way how 2d20 is designed: they are. And that’s where the meta-currency fits in (and very well, if you ask me). Just like @Felderburg explained to the point, it is the currency of how much they are the narrators. In STA, as written, everyone is in part a narrator of the story, paying for their influence on the story with Momentum, Threat and Determination. Just like the writers in the writers’ room say “and then the character takes a phaser out of their console that just so conveniently hid one” the player pays two Momentum and one Threat to say “oh, and btw, I have a phaser, because that’s cool for the plot”.

That’s what I meant by characterising STA as a “N-heavy” game. The rules of the game are designed to create/support a dramatic story. As Star Trek is a drama series (more precise: a space opera) that fits very well. The rules of the game are not designed for a simulation.

Again: If that’s not your cup of tea, that’s completely fine. No offense intended.

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I see where you’re coming from.

STA has almost as a central conceit that it’s more like an episode on TV rather than a sandbox where you’re playing an avatar and trying to win. You’re not so much trying to overcome the challenges, but trying to tell a story (note, by story, I mean more akin to Klingons telling war stories around a campfire than a recounting of factual events). You and the GM are working together.to create that story, with your primary focus being on your character while the GM primarily focuses on the world and plot. From that point of view, it makes sense that we have these “meta tools”, where we can spend momentum increase the chances of success etc. We’re not playing as Link in Legend of Zelda and trying to solve puzzles, we’re more like directors trying to tell a story and using limitations to keep it grounded.

It seems that you don’t like that style. And that’s fine. Not everyone will like a given game. I don’t like chess - it’s not that it’s a bad game or anything, I just don’t like the intensely head-to-head aspect of it, so I prefer to play something else. I’m not sure there’s an easy way to fix STA for you. You could rule that momentum gained has to be spend in a logical manner according to how you gained it, but that would be hard to track. Ripping momentum out completely would not only fundamentally change the game, but also leave a rather obvious whole in the game. If you can’t bring yourdelf to enjoy the momentum system, then maybe there are other systems you can enjoy. I don’t mean that as a gatekeeping thing, but I’m just not sure how you could realistically play 2d20 without momentum without morphing it into something else.

The only alternative I can suggest is to perhaps run a system where instead of the number of dice being determined by momentum, you determine how many they get by how well they plan and implement a solution to the problem. If they come up with a really detailed and great plan, then they get 5 dice. If it’s really off the cuff, then they get 2, etc.

As an aside, re threat; I don’t require threat to be spent in order to create a detail. For example, if it makes sense that a place is foggy, then it’s foggy. What I use threat for is if the party is finding things too easy for my liking, I can make changes to what I’d planned - Eg I use threat to have a fog bank roll in. The threat mechanic allows me to do that while keeping things restrained, I can’t go nuts, and forces me to think carefully about how I respond to the situation.

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Exactly! The GM sets the scene. Then the scene is set, the story commences. Any change of the scene is paid for with narrative currency.

That’s how the system is intended to work. When the GM sets the scene they also set what Traits are in effect. Threat is used to modify the scene, not create it.

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2d20 Probability Chart - Dice Pools in the 2d20 System – Mephit James Blog

Something I find makes a difference is that for our group Star Trek Adventures is not a science fiction RPG, it is a science fiction TV show RPG. Momentum and Threat are pacing tools for the players (including the GM) to use to make for an exciting and dramatic episode. That change in view helped our group immensely to get the right feel for things.

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I think there are a couple of interesting things in here that I’d like to address. I’m not sure if looking at things from a slightly different angle will help you at all, but I also don’t know that it wont.

Firstly, I don’t think that momentum and threat represent a balance mechanic. It’s more a case of consequences (which I’m aware can be similar) in a relatively direct, if abstract way. Using threat to buy dice isn’t necessarily the character being daring- it’s the character taking risks in order to succeed. The threat that is generated is there to represent either and escalation or the haphazard nature of the attempt.

The best way to make use of that threat is to relate any spend back to how it was generated. If they spent threat on a task to persuade someone- that person might have been persuaded, but doesn’t have to be happy about it. Spending threat to have them get their own back later makes perfect sense.

In this way, the mechanic is simply encouraging transparency over GM fiat.

On your difficulty zero check example - just don’t let/make them roll that check. If theres no consequences, then its a bit of a wasted roll anyway. D0 checks have their place, but they aren’t a catch all. It would also be very easy for you to just remove this element of the mechanic from your game, if that worked better for you.

That said, there are plenty of example situations that could be used to support how momentum is meant to work. In a d20 based game, for example, you might give a group advantage on a few checks after their leader makes a rousing speach to insipre their efforts. In 2d20 the momentum generated is a hard coded alternative, not requiring the GM to just decide to give a bonus. Again, this is adding transparency in place of fiat. Losing momentum at the end of the scene makes sure that the benefit isn’t infinite. Not every situation will be as obvious, but that is the thought process.

Finally, on your third point - this IS a joint storytelling game, so narative control is shared. There are always extreme examples of how people can abuse this sharing of control, but there is also a lot of benefit to that method. Again, as a counterpoint - the intention isn’t for the players to simply spend momentum to remove complications in that way, at least not purely from a momentum spend. Thats the other half of the collaborative nature- its a conversation between everyone in the group (GM included), and you’re all trying to tell a fun story that makes sense.

From the sounds of things, i get the feeling that you might have some luck just from tightening control over how threat and momentum mechanics are used, rather than removing them entirely. There might be ways you can remove them entirely (using create advantage rolls to improve odds instead, for example), but it might be easier to port in different systems to the setting instead.

However it shakes out, I hope you find a way to play a game that you enjoy in this fantastic universe!

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