Other RPG System Inspirations

STA is only my third foray into TTRPG systems (after D&D and Shadowrun), so I feel like there’s a large knowledge gap of systems that came before and informed some of the design behind STA. I’ve been trying to correct this by reading up on other TTRPG corebooks with similar features and seeing how those games are run and what they focus on.

Burning Wheel’s Beliefs and Instincts, *FATE’*s Aspects and Fate Points and success-based Tests, they’re all super-informative and give a great deal of perspective on the why’s of these systems and how to run them well. I’m hoping to use this added insight to bring better stories to my STA table and work better with what the STA system brings to the table.

Do you all have any other suggestions of other TTRPG systems that I can become familiar with in order to run better games? Not limited to systems similar to STA; any insight is good insight!

It all varies on which version you are talking about with D&D and Shadowrun. The rules for each of those systems varies (sometimes drastically) between versions. For example, in 2nd edition D&D, there was THAC0. In order to hit Armor class 0, you had to roll a certain number. I’m not as familiar with 2nd edition as I am 3/3.5. Pathfinder is similar to 3.5 D&D, and 3rd edition of Shadowrun is a lot different than 4th edition and later.

If you are just wanting to take a peek at other games and how they run, there was a site online a while back called XXXX that hosted a lot of older systems on it like GURPS, Traveller, 7th Sea, Legend of the Five Rings. I am not sure if it is still out and up, but it may be a good resource to look at to get an idea of how different games work with different mechanics, and that site also had a few of the older Star Trek games on there as well, like the Last Unicorn Games, Decipher, and maybe even some of the FASA books.

Those could be good idea-generators for your STA game. (I’m using part of an old LUG player handbook to generate the starbase my players are using and sub-plots to mix in with living campaign missions.)

Well, some of my biggest inspirations for STA, and for the 2d20 System in a broader sense, are:

  • Fate - as you’ve pointed out, Aspects, Fate Points, and a number of other elements (including zones) all have similarities to elements of STA.

  • Cortex Plus - a series of (now out-of-print) games, including the licensed RPGs Leverage, Smallville, Marvel Heroic, and Firefly. There’s a new version of the system in the works as a generic “build your own game” toolkit, called Cortex Prime, but it’s not out yet. Smallville and Marvel Heroic had a GM resource similar to the Threat pool (“Trouble” in Smallville, “The Doom Pool” in Marvel Heroic). Smallville was also a game that focused on relationships and personal drives over physical prowess and competency (what you were doing was less important to the game than why you were doing something), and elements of that inspired the Values in STA. Leverage characters were defined by 6 attributes and 5 roles (Hitter, Hacker, Thief, Grifter, Mastermind, echoing the show’s protagonists), which directly inspired the use of departments as the main ‘skill groups’ for STA: I’d pondered using those exact roles for a Cortex Plus Star Trek homebrew years before I worked for Modiphius, and it was an idea that just worked when I got it to the table.

  • 13th Age - the abstracted movement in 13th Age (which is a fairly interesting take on the D&D-style heroic fantasy RPG, by a couple of former D&D designers) was one of the inspirations behind the zones and abstract movement and ranges in the 2d20 System. Momentum also tends to serve a similar purpose to 13th Age’s Escalation Die mechanic, though in a very different way.

  • Also, the initiative system was inspired by the turn system used in GW’s old wargame Epic: Armageddon, though that used a dice roll to keep the initiative rather than resource expenditure.


It’s still up. I was actually digging up some older 2nd Edition and FASA Trek stuff in the last two days.

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Ah, awesome! I’m going to see about tracking these down. Thanks much!

Please, lets not refer people to pirate sites. I modified your post to not show the name of the site.


Apologies. If you unlock it for me, I will remove the reference.

The (old!) World of Darkness in general and Vampire: The Masquerade in particular. The old White Wolf game. I hear someone has re-done the setting, but I did not test (yet?).

It was one of the first games I ever played. It is, compared to D&D and Shadowrun (regardless of edition, each), very focused on a narrative game style and I very much liked the idea of ‘humanity’ as a game mechanic to prevent players from being too much of a murderhobo (especially useful when playing with 14-year-old boys with low self-esteem…). Basically, if the character does gross things (like the things you see in From Dusk Till Dawn by Tarantino), the need to test whether they lose humanity or not. If they lose all humanity, they are nothing more than mere wild beasts and unplayable. Thus, a murderhobo-style of play makes your character unplayable by design.

They also say Call of Cthulhu is a thing. There’s a mechanism that is probably called sanity and works in a comparable way. But horror’s not my thing (yes, says the one who likes VTM, “a game of personal horror”) so I did not yet play that particular game.

Everything’s cool. I took the liberty of editing your post and just xd out the reference.

The main «inspiration» (more than that 2 be sho) for 2d20 is the (actually called) Genesys system by Fantasy Flight Games. Both by the same author, I believe.

I’m sure Last Unicorn’s and FASA’s StarTrek versions had some input in this one.


Close, but not quite. The basics of the 2d20 System were in development before Jay Little (who designed the system that became Genesys) was brought on board - the original core of the system was devised by Chris Birch and Michal Cross, with Jay Little, Benn Graybeaton, and myself joining the project during development.

So, while there are common threads and a similar approach to Genesys is part of the system… it’s far from the only one.

Actually, no. I led rules design for Star Trek Adventures, and I specifically didn’t research or reference any prior Star Trek RPG, because I didn’t want to be influenced by the way those games handled various things.


FATE will be very helpful - Values in STA are very similar.

If you can locate them, the narrator’s toolkits for the Last Unicorn incarnation of the Trek game had some superb advice on running games that feel like TV episodes - pacing and the like. Pulp-focussed games (FATE again, Savage Worlds are ones I’m familiar with) will often have good advice for running more cinemetic situations without killing off too many player characters.

GURPS has always been an amazing resource, even if you are just using it for source books. But the game itself is the OG of DIY game-mastering. For thematic games, like Star Trek and Alien, I find that genera specific systems are more enjoyable. STA is a great system (although the GURPS man in me would love a more detailed fleet combat system, lol).

Oh, my God. Those books are just about the best GM advice books I’ve ever read.

Although I would love to ask the authors why they chose the “Q gives Riker godlike powers” episode of TNG as the example of how to run an episode of the show as an adventure. That’s just about the very last episode that comes to mind as one that would make a good RPG scenario.

Ashen Stars gives terrific advice for building tv series like adventures.

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I’m glad you put XXXX, I’m afraid of what people would find if they tried X X X… :wink:

New to the system, but reading the core book felt very familiar since I’ve been running Fate Core for a few years.

Eden Studios gave us the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel RPGs. Both are out of print, but they give relevant advise on how to set up your adventures so they feel like a season of a show. This certainly applies to the STA way of emulating a ST show over a ST simulation.

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The Buffy one did have an influence on me back in the day. We treat a lot of our games as though they were part of a TV series now because of it.

If you can find a copy I agree it is worth it.

Both the Buffy and Angel RPGs are on DriveThruRPG as PDFs.