I really want to like this game

As a bit of background, we got into D&D5e a few months ago and we really enjoy it. We went to Destination: Star Trek last week and saw this. We were pretty excited and looked forward to an alternative to 5e, especially one based on Star Trek, which we’ve been fans of for a long time.

We’ve done two sessions (1st session was most of the first act, boarding the Alcubierre, then the second was the fight in and around Main Engineering, finishing the first of the three parts), and while we enjoyed the first one, the second was mostly just a fight and it felt repetitive. Thinking back, everything seemed like it was the same mechanic. You add the Attribute to the Discipline, then roll a couple of d20s to see if it’s less than that score. There doesn’t seem to be much variation or scope for deviation.

I know that TTRPGs are essentially rolling dice and a lot of it is about collaboratively creating a story. However, in 5e, you have a choice on how to precede. Sure, it’s all dice and storytelling as well, but depending on what you decide, what you roll and even who rolls changes, your stats can be dynamic even in the battle itself. A fireball seems very different to scorching rays which is different to heroism, etc. We’ve found this system (2d20 as used in STA) difficult to get engrossed in.

I guess, my question is…is it going to change?

It could be to do with the Starter Kit. I know there are more rules in the core rulebook, division supplements, etc. However, I obviously don’t have access to those, and so I don’t know if they introduce rules, dynamics etc that make it more variable. Do the full rules do that? Or is it always “Here’s a problem. Ask your DM for the relevant Attribute and Discipline. How many dice do you want? Try to get at least x of them to roll under that number”?

Is it possibly just the specific adventure? It seems quite railroaded at the moment (possibly due to it trying to teach us the ropes) which might be contributing to a feeling of claustrophobia…maybe if the other adventures are more sandbox/open world style, it would be better? Are they?

Is it that we’re playing it wrong? We’re relatively new players to TTRPGs and brand new ones to STA, so I’m willing to concede that we might be monumentally ■■■■■■■■ things up. We really enjoy 5e, so I don’t think it’s our approach to TTRPGs in general (or we wouldn’t like 5e either), but it’s possible that we’re messing up on understanding the mechanics or something.

Or maybe it’s something else. I welcome any thoughts or explanations. As I said, I really want to enjoy this game, it’s a genre we love and the opportunity to carve our own little story into the ST universe is something that really appeals to me, I just have those concerns.

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I’ve played d&d for years (started in about 98 with 2nd ed), and I’ve played a couple of other systems, call of cthulu, star wars etc.

I find that there seems to be a bit more “hand holding” with some of the STA missions - A, then B, then C or D, and finally E - mainly due to the episodic nature of the missions (as in each mission, as written, is approximately one episode on TV). That’s also the main way my players have addressed it - you are the directors and actors, rather than GM and players.

It is possible to go off track with the mission; I ran “A Bluer Sun” (from “These are the Voyages” missions) and their approach to reaching their target ship wasn’t suggested in the Scenario - however it was a great idea and cinematically would have looked awesome, so I gave them a target and suggested what they needed to roll, and they collectively pulled it off.

It is also possible to go down the D&D route with an ongoing mission rather than episodes (more like Picard than TNG), but I would still suggest, as GM, having an idea what your ideal outcome is (save the colony, rescue Ship X, research Chemical Y etc) and let the players decide how they will get there.

Sometimes players need handholding, sometimes they don’t. The missions (and, I think the Starter Set) err more towards handholding if needed.

It’s important to frame the episode/adventure, though, e.g. “Investigate System Omega Alpha 3, and discover the source of Omicron particles”. Depending on the group, their opening scene might be a narrated Captains Log (giving them a bit more information why they are there), it could be them getting the orders from Admiral Hayes and navigating to the system (maybe something happens en route?), or it might be a shock opening ("as the unknown warship opens fire, sparks fly across the bridge. The Ensign at helm looks to their captain ‘Ma’am , what do we do?!’).

It’s also important to have a wrap up - I suggest having the players write a brief log either physically or on WhatsApp or Discord etc; this is important for characters development, because you may have noticed there’s no Exp! Character progression is via Milestones, Arcs, and Reputation. Your character learns from their experiences (or they might do!) which allows their stats or values etc to be adjusted. If they finish an Arc, they get a star boost - so, Worf hates Romulans (from Khitomer). He refused to give a transfusion to save a Romulans life in TNG. He fought along side Romulans in the Dominion War (eventually). He acknowledged that they fought “with honour” in Nemesis; if I were the GM for those examples, I would give that as an Arc. As his standing and reputation on the Enterprise improved, he got promoted, and he (likely) got several medals.

Starter Kits tend to do a fair amount of hand-holding to teach both the GM and the players the basics and give them a foundation on which to build from.

I don’t recall if the starter kit mentions this but I know other sources do. A character can suggest how they plan to address the issue or do the thing they want to through RP exposition and then the player can suggest what attribute and discipline they feel would best make that able to happen. The GM of course, ultimately, can disagree with the suggestion, and give a replacement but it puts far more power in the players’ hands to be active rather than reactive which can be quite typical in other systems.

STA is also more focused on a narrative style of play where the players are actively involved in filling out the scene and the events involved with them. If you come from a system that can be far more story-driven in a reactive-style of play which D&D can be, it can take some adjustment to realize the difference and then get comfortable participating in that form.

Short answer is “no”.
Long answer: These two games have two fundamentally different approaches. In D&D, everyone is an adventurer with at least some combat or magic prowess. In STA, you can be anyone, even someone who does not want to fight at all. The Momentum mechanic makes every character useful and can boost the success chance of rolls where characters are bad in.

One major strength of D&D have always been the spells. There are tons of spells which function differently and have exciting mechanics. The same thing basically exist in STA in form of futuristic technology. I would say you could mimic nearly all D&D spells with the right tech. However, this tech does not have so many spelled-out rules attached. It is entirely player driven what you can achieve with holograms, subspace radiation or multiphasic scans. And that is the fun for me as a GM: watching players come up with a solution I had not thought of.

But it requires that both players and GM are familiar with Star Trek episodes. So if you are Star Trek newbs, I can see why these adventures feel railroady. STA is heavily driven through the narrative, both from players and the GM. D&D is heavily driven though exciting combat encounters. Not saying that the opposite might not be true as well for certain adventures. But that is generally my experience.

The supplement books obviously include more stuff. But I wouldn’t say they are essential. More species and more talents are always nice, but nothing is so game changing that you would do a 180 on your opinion on the system.

Curiously, I oftentimes feel railroaded by D&D and find STA much more flexible. But I have friends who see it the exact opposite.

As advice I would say don’t focus on combat. Combat is just another skill test and thus can be boring if prolonged. Just because an enemy appears does not mean everyone should immediately begin blasting phasers. The CO can shout orders, the science officer can scan the enemy or the surroundings. The “Create Advantage/Obstacle” tasks are your friends. During encounters, I find it useful to have a good Momentum flow. Some characters generate it, some spend it.

If you like D&D and kinda like STA, maybe you should try Conan. It uses familiar skills and has more exciting talents. Also combat more detailed. I believe there is a free quick start guide available with an introductory adventure.

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5E really has one mechanic - you roll a d20, add modifier and try to beat a DC. That’s for skills, that’s for attacks (the DC would be the AC) and that’s for saves. Everything else is narration and set dressing.

Starter Kits are great for getting people into a game with minimal cost and prep but they are very, very hand-holdy and not indicative of the overall game.

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Yes, and no.

My own Background

I came to TTRPGs via D&D, too. After a brief encounter with AD&D back in the 90s, I really started with 3.5e and if my memories are correct, I haven’t been without at least one D&D group, for the last about 20 years. Interestingly enough, I stuck with 3.5e and just a few weeks ago joined my first group playing 5e. :slight_smile: So, I think I can compare the two systems a bit.

Just like D&D is “you roll a d20 and add a number to see whether it’s equal or above a target”, STA is “you add the Discipline to the Attribute, then roll a couple of d20s to see whether they’re less than that score”.
Sorry, that’s it, and both games will not change.

So much for the provocative part of my answer. Let’s delve into the mechanics a little bit more.

You’re completely right, yet, I, personally, would argue that STA is even more flexible than D&D. First, in STA, stats are not stats. There are a few rolls that are pretty pre-defined, just like Control+Security for ranged combat, but in essence the roll depends on how a problem is solved in the narrative. Thus, the same problem can ask different characters for rolls on different combinations of attribute and discipline. (Yes, just like there were classes in D&D 3.5e that allowed for adding different attribute modifiers to combat rolls than strength or dexterity.) Add Momentum, Threat, and Traits (esp. Complications) to the scene and you have a metric ton of flexibility for dynamic change.

Some examples: If Commander Lenaris rolls to coordinate the away team for a specific task, he uses his presence/command skill. Lieutenant T’Prel, on the other hand, would use presence/medicine for the same task, using her Doctor’s Orders talent. In case Commander Lenaris would assist her (imagine T’Prel setting up an improvised emergency field hospital for a large group of injured persons and Lenaris backing her up with his authority of rank), she(!) could also re-roll one d20 for free, using his(!) Advisor talent. Or see Lieutenant Commander Zharath: If she wanted to detect an ambush, I would let her roll insight/security against 3 or 4. The same roll would be difficulty 2 or 3 for Commander Lenaris, for he has the Constantly Watching talent.

D&D has spells and feats, STA has talents (a mixture of both, mechanically, if you ask me). See the examples, above. Depending on the narrative (the strategy to solve the problem the character uses in the story) attributes and disciplines to roll, change. Depending on who rolls (and their talents), they change again and/or change difficulties. Some characters are affected by certain traits/complications, some are not (or differently). Yes, a fireball is different than a scorching ray because opponents save against a fireball and the caster tries to hit with a scorching ray. I think the concept of “saves” is not part of STA (I might be wrong, though) and the neares thing are Opposed Tasks, i.e. both roll, higher roll wins. So, yes, combat is different. But, if you ask me, also more flexible than D&D if you use traits in interesting ways.

It would be monumentally arrogant to say that you are playing it wrong. On the other hand, you don’t have fun, so maybe you actually are. :wink:

Anyway, D&D and STA are fundamentally different in their approach to TTRPG. It’s like running and swimming – both are sports that include movement, but you wouldn’t enjoy swimming very much if you tried to run under water (and vice versa). So what you might actually suffer from is trying to take concepts that work well in D&D and use them in STA. It does not necessarily work. Regarding theory, you might want to give the “GNS” Theory by Ron Edwards a read; in my humble opinion, D&D takes a very “gamey” approach while STA focuses very much on the narrative. So it might actually be that you look at STA’s mechanics from an unfavourable perspective.

STA’s mechanics are so simple as they’re not in the focus. Rolling itself is a much smaller deal in STA than it is in D&D because there’s much more focus on setting up the rolls. Sticking with combat (you should follow @Shran’s advice to not focus on combat): Both systems are very flexible, but in different approaches. In D&D you choose between a variety of different “roll set ups”, i.e. you choose whether you attack (scorching ray), the opponent defends (fireball), or you improve a friend’s odds (heroism). In STA you narrate to get a fitting combination of attribute/discipline, how all the different traits have an effect and whether you can apply a Value, or not. Then, you roll, but the outcome is more interesting than the roll itself.

It’s a different philosophy.

Honestly, I can’t tell. Just like @Shran, I always felt more constrained and railroaded in D&D adventures then I do with STA adventures. But your mileage may vary. I, personally, would never use the words “D&D pre-written adventure” and “sandbox” within the same sentence. But if anyone does, I’m happy for them. :slight_smile:

The difference I see between D&D adventures and STA adventures is the following: D&D adventures focuses on strategic problems. Defeating a mindflayer is very different from defeating a beholder, a giant, or an owlbear. That’s what the mechanic support well, the rest is roleplay.

STA adventures, on the other hand, focus on moral problems. Is it right to kill the owlbear? Is it possible to reduce it’s natural anger (e.g. via genetic engineering)? Is it right to do so, especially taking into account that owlbears are the result of a genetic experiments, in the first place? And, finally, how to deal with the enraged peasant that took a phaser rifle to kill that frickin’ owlbear all by himself while we were talking out the ethical implications? That’s what the mechanics support, the rest simply rolling.

And if the group finally decided whether to kill the owlbear or to stun the peasant – then it’s no more important which side rolls what. It’s only the final scene, after the story’s been told, after all. :slight_smile:

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This is such a great answer!

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Indeed a great answer.
I would like to add something new but can’t think of anything.
They are just different games, each great in their own way.

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Railroad adventures can suck the life out of any game. I’ve killed my characters sometimes in railroads because it was the only thing in my control! :grinning: Every prewritten STA adventure I’ve ran has been heavily modified to fit the campaign and characters.

As for rules, Call of Cthulhu has some of the most basic rules ever and it’s been played and enjoyed for decades. For me, it’s the motive for combat that matters. You can use threat and imagination to mix up a boring fight if needed.

STA is a decent game. I don’t need any more rules for it other than the main book. It’s not for everyone I’m sure. After 4 hours of tracking momentum my brain hurts. But everyone has had fun and wants to play again.

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I may be reading between the lines a bit…

It could be to do with the Starter Kit. I know there are more rules in the core rulebook, division supplements, etc. However, I obviously don’t have access to those, and so I don’t know if they introduce rules, dynamics etc that make it more variable. Do the full rules do that? Or is it always “Here’s a problem. Ask your DM for the relevant Attribute and Discipline. How many dice do you want? Try to get at least x of them to roll under that number”?

But you left out the single most important step in that - Narrate what you’re doing to solve the problem.
(Really, the advice in fortune in the middle games should be “Narrate what you’re doing up to the point it may fail” - leave room for failure so that the GM or player has room to take the input from the dice.)

And one part needs be called out as not correct:

Ask your DM for the relevant Attribute and Discipline. How many dice do you want? Try to get at least x of them to roll under that number”?

Per the core, you can pick the combination that makes sense, and narrate how your character is doing that. THe GM may or may not agree with the match of narration to intended roll, but the choice of approach is key. So key that it’s in both corebooks, and in the Player’s Guide and the GM’s Guide add ons. Multiple times in the two guides, even.

The GM shouldn’t be deciding what the roll is before the narration of the attempt is made.
As a way too experienced GM, I am quite used to this facet; it’s not well called out in the starter set.

Now, if the choice seems a small stretch, such as using one’s transporter specialty on an attack roll… the GM should not say “No” right away… they should instead ask, “How?”
THe GM in any RPG should be willing to make difficulty adjustments on the fly (Even when the difficulty is “Yes, Maybe, or No” (such as Apocalypse World)

So, I suspect that the wording of the starter is what’s tripping up the process, making it feel rigid.

Also, the standard tasks can be overridden if the GM feels there is a really good reason.
Control+Security isn’t reallty a good fit for, “I poke my phaser hand over the top and shoot where I expect they should be…” but Insight fits. Insight and Security. Plus a step for the pseudo trait “No line of sight”… and maybe another for “that sounds hard”…
ANother character might use a different narration, “Listening carefully, I calculate where they must be, and, keeping my body in cover, set for wide beam and fire in the direction calculated.” (Imagine that in Tuvok’s voice.)

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Oh man. Now I want to watch a Yoyager episode where the entire thing is framed as Tuvok narrating a film noir-esque case he solved, potentially illogically, at a hearing.

Anyway, this has been a great thread to read as an aspiring GM of this game. I know I would have been far too busy planning far too many skill tests with predetermined Attribute+Discipline combos, that I would have missed out on what makes this system fun, and an excellent fit for my D&D group in the first place.

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There’s a term of art used for the intent: Story First
(I think it’s often overused. But it is a great reminder of how to approach things.)

Let the fiction determine when to use the mechanics.

One other bit, more general: encourage players to narrate only up to the point where the roll should go; if they constantly overdescribe into the success description, it can cause them to feel picked upon when a failure (or even success but insufficient momentum for the effect described) has to be renarrated by the GM.

I’m having that overdescribe issue with a player in one of my groups right now…

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this is major. I had a player. Who just quite unfortunatley. but this was his major downfall. He would give great details about what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it but unfortuanatley it was always asuming success as well as doing way to much for 1 character using 1 to 2 tasks can reasonably acomplish solo. Or at other times it was the difficulty of stated task.

It is so important that your players be familiar with what is reasonable and not expect to simply always succeed but to let the dice descide

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It is so important that your players be familiar with what is reasonable and not expect to simply always succeed but to let the dice [decide].

Well said, CaptainT. That players should remain reasonable in their actions is a part I’d not mentioned.

I instruct new gamers with, “You control what your character attempts, the dice, rules and GM together decide what they accomplish.”
It’s also fine for the GM to ask a player, “What are you trying to accomplish?”

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To be fair, that advice is not unique to Star Trek Adventures, it applies to most RPGs :smiley:

What I like the most is that if players have too crazy ideas you can say “sorry the episode doesn’t have the budget” (or momentum since gear is momentum), or if choices are too immoral "sorry but the censure committee (or the producer) doesn’t approve the script (and add threat to the pool in the process if non trek actions are taken or even spoken about).

Yes. Every one I have played so far atleast. somtimes it is the most difficult part for players (mostly new players) to grasp though. Some of it has to do the fact in this day and age there are so many stories/experiences posted throwout the interwebs of amazing game moments. This of itself is great; since it builds exitment and interest. But if all your opinions of how a TTRPG should go are based on reading these you will be in for some shock. Since most of those stories leave out all the failed attempts, the character builds, and even probably the circumstances around whatever great feat was accomplished.

It can be likened to watching a professional’s career highlight reel of a sport you are thinking about playing. Then assuming you will do everything seen in that highlight reel in a single game (in our case campaign)

So are these things possible? - most likeley. But when it comes to dice are they probable? - likley not. And that should only make it that much more epic when it finally does happen

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So after a hiatus to finish off our 5e game, we came back and played it again. This time we enjoyed it a lot more. I think partyly because rhe combat was a lot better - we weren’t constantly missing - and we grasped the mechanics better which made it easier to do well. I think I overall prefer 5e, but this is a good alternative for while we have breaks etc.

I have a question though. There are necessarily spoilers, so if you don’t want to know details, then i guess stop reading. At the end of the adventure, there is a fight. It was 8 Romulan Ulahns and a Romulan Commander against the party. That is about 2:1, and the since they were upgraded due to parasites, they seemed to have better stats than the players. They only had to survive two rounds (but didn’t know that), but that seems very…difficult. does that seem right to you? Even though I wasn’t playing them intelligently, I had to basically eliminate half of them in order to stop the party from getting wiped out.

On a related note…it says that they recover 1 stress per turn, does that mean after each turn taken or each turn that specific character takes (so effectively once per round, timed at the end of their turn)?

Combat in STA is designed to be quick and it can be brutal.

Yet, if the players act clever, they can quickly turn the tide. The possibility of setting up initiative order is a huge asset of the player, even if they’re out of momentum. A single Threat invested can end up with a full momentum pool. Yet, still, this is much to ask from players still getting a grasp of the game.

I ruled in the way of the latter.

Could you expound a little on those two points? I’m unsure of how the mechanics could do either? I’m wondering if I’m misunderstanding the rules. I’m not sure I see how 1 threat can realistically lead to 6 momentum, or how choosing who goes first would change things that much?