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Ideas for improving and creating better ship based missions?

I love all the ships in star trek and am gettting ready to run a extended campaign. I was wondering if there are any good ideas for both helping to simplify starship combat and tasks to allow every player to be involved and keep things moving smoothly. As always any ideas are appreciated

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Couple of ideas here. The obvious, is to have everybody with a back-up, or even have two characters. This can also liven up the dialogue aspect and make the bridge and engine room seem more lively. Plus, if a response to something comes to mind that would be too out of character for one, it might fit your other.

The other option lies in the versatility of all characters. One of mine is an “ambassador” from a civilization that died almost three hundred years prior. He has no bridge station. But when it comes to fending off boarding parties, he is very effective, and more to your (presumed) point, he has high Control and Science ratings. Great for research and analysis.

Besides, you never know when that one focus or value will tip the scale. Or the least likely person do something amazing. I once saw a young science officer head-butt a Klingon at one of their border colonies to stall for time while the security guy was occupied.

Versatility, man. I would suggest that is the key.

And he still carries the imprint on his forehead!

Yeah, my three player game has everyone with 2 characters - one bridge, one elsewhere. We focus on the “elsewhere” three (security, medical and engineer), but the helm, navigation and captain exist for when they’re needed.

I probably would have used the supporting character system for this.

We considered that, but it was easier to start with fully-fledged characters. We’re using supporting cast in the usual fashion…

I actually don’t agree with this, as I feel like it would make the players less invested in an individual character. NPCs are more than capable of filling an voids, especially if you spend a little time building them out.

To answer the OP - as far as simplifying combat goes, it really depends on what you are finding complicated. Sometimes it’s fun to run a combat encounter as a cinematic rather than a full blow by blow. Others it’s very useful to have a combat feel like a grueling battle of attrition.

Keeping everyone involved can sometimes be a challenge whether you are ship based or on a planet. I think its worth working out which roles you find it easy or hard to right for, and nudging players towards those easier positions. Subplots and back story tie ins are also very valuable tools

I’ve found that I often have players who can’t decide which of their character designs they want to play.
We’ve run several games where players have 2 characters each and decide at the start of a mission who they are playing that time. It has the advantage that you can change around the party dynamic each session.
A party consisting of the Captain, Chief Engineer & Science Officer will approach things differently to say the Captain, Chief of Security & Medical Officer.

This style works best when you have a mission based or episodic game though and for smaller groups of 3 or so. I’ve not tried it with 5 players and I expect they would end up on each others toes too often, as well as trying to remember everyone’s names.

As ever this is dependent on your group. Players who want to develop their character deeply it may not be suitable for. But a group that wants to experiment and change up who fills which role it can be good.

Most Star Trek series beyond TOS focus on a larger group of characters (typically 6-8) than the usual group of players (often 3-5), so some method of consistently having more characters (primary or supporting) is very much a ST thing.

Right, but the same actor doesn’t tend to play different/multiple crew members. Although that is a very flawed comparison for sure.

To be clear, I’m not telling people that they are wrong and are breaking the system, or anything like that. If it works for you, then sure. I just don’t agree with it as an approach for the reasons I provided.

@CountThalim, do they tell you well in advance or just when they turn up to the session? The latter would surely make it extremely difficult to run character based sub plots, or even character episodes, which I personally see as a vital part of an extended campaign

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We normally work it out at the end of the previous session. Though I do occaisonally put requests that a player use a specific character if I have a plan for them in that episode.
I tend to run my games in an episodic manner with downtimes done at the end or between sessions where characters can mix more freely.

As you say it works for my group but there is as many ways to run a game as there are groups out there. It is just a matter of finding the way that works for your group and for that game. We don’t use this method on every RPG we play.

Well, let’s go more flawed…

Voice actors often do play multiple characters in the same series. Since playing a character is more about voice time than face time, it’ll do.

More characters/ bigger cast: realistically in high tech environments people narrowly specialize.

TV series/ movie solution: have everyone unrealistically cross capable, and focus on a small cast as if they were best at everything and ignore the 400+ other crew unless you need someone to die.

Smaller ship: everyone has to be cross trained to some extent.

The small ship is my preference. I played a campaign as the crew of a runabout assigned to exploration of Scotty’s Dysom sphere.

Interesting but how does that make for many ship engagements. The runabout is such a low end ship. Essentially a “double wide” shuttle craft. I was wanting to include borg engagements, voth city ship, and fleet engagments. The runabout seems so limiting in the ship department. Do you do much on board it or is it just to get you from point A to B and store equipment

Ok here’s my idea. Disclaimer, I don’t really totally understand the concept you’re going for.

What about a hybrid of regular PCs, supporting characters, and NPC handling of ships.

Key assumption - I recall from somewhere that most Starfleet vessels are not commanded by officers with the rank captain. I don’t remember where so I’m not going to cite. This is a game about a fiction anyway. This sort of makes some sense, right? You don’t need to be Picard to command a Miranda class in the TNG era making supply runs or doing geological surveys.
Addendum: p.11 Command specifies that most but not all captain positions are Captain ranks.

Your crew are some of Starfleet’s best. It makes sense that in some scenarios some of Starfleet’s best need to take on some leadership roles, commanding some ships.

So - each player has a main PC, and a supporting character or two. While in usual times, the PCs crew their one, noteworthy, starship.

Now, each commands their own, with the usual captain acting as Fleet Captain (p. 15 Command Division). You’ll probably want to use the fleet operations rules that follow.

Your main story ship gets refit for Strategic and Diplomatic operations, or a different ship for this. I’m going Sovereign class, in my mental image.

So, your chief engineer? They get a command. Something rugged, crewed by a heavily engineering focused crew, there to keep the other ships in the fleet in top shape. Another player’s supporting character is here. I’d have someone play support as this ship’s chief engineer maybe. I’m imagining an Excelsior or Constellation class with Technical Test Bed as good fits.

And so on. Science officer commands a Nova class, Tactical officer does the same for an Akira or Saber class. Everyone plays a different role than their PC, who is of note on a fleet ship not under their PC’s command.

I would not fill out every ship’s senior staff. One supporting character per, maybe two. Everything else, NPC ship rules.

You didn’t ask for ship engagements, you asked for ways to improve ship-based missions.

However, you could do almost the same thing with a Saber or Defiant.

…or you could have an “upper decks” cast, and a “lower decks” cast.

…and you could simply ignore the book.

In peacetime most ships of the line will be commanded by Captains, everybody needs that major combatant command time for advancement.

In wartime almost anything goes. Historically on earth capital ships in wartime were often commanded by commander-equivalents (light cruisers and destroyers, sometimes larger), non-capital combatants (corvettes, mine sweepers) and support ships were often commanded by lieutenant commanders and even lieutenants. Dax commanded Defiant as a lieutenant commander in wartime, and Worf as a commander in peacetime.

My rule of thumb is: Size 4< Captain 3> Commander… for auxiliaries reduce by one, in wartime reduce by one… so a wartime supply Miranda could very well be commanded by a Lieutenant.

Sisko keeping Defiant as long as he did, and coming back to command an invasion from her bridge, in real life would be a horrible waste of resources… Sisko would be far more valuable on the bridge of a major combatant, and coordinating an invasion from the bridge of a corvette is sub-optimal, plus it took up a valuable development slot from a junior officer AND put a major chess piece at unjustifiable risk.

In any conceivable real life scenario Sisko would have ridden out Operation Return on the flag bridge of a Galaxy seated next to Ross… and there would have been at least one other admiral slated to assume command, with their own staff, has Ross’s ship been destroyed and the Admiral killed.

It was done for cinematic and casting reasons… which is why my view of all the shows and movies is that they are cinematic recreations of actual events.