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Starfleet Academy Hack

(Moved this from the product wishlist thread so as to not clutter it up even more)

Bonus, if there’s an adapted lifepath-system included to allow player-character cadets to grow into officers but, as freshly commissioned officers don’t have the stats of Captains with years of experience under their belt.

Could probably noodle this out with what’s in the game already. Do lifepath steps 1-5 and then stop. If you and your players are ok with having PCs with lower capabilities than the average starting STA character, might be an option.

Or, Do steps 1-3 and modify step 4 so that they get the step 4 benefits gradually over the course of their Academy time.

Maybe something like:

Year One: Add one Focus and +1 to a Discipline
Year Two: Add one Focus and +1 to a different Discipline
Year Three: Add one Focus and +2 to a different Discipline
Year Four: Add a Value and a Talent

Also have three points to spread amongst two or three attributes, so they’d have to be filled in somewhere. And you could mix and match the benefits around. Maybe the cadet experiences something challenging in year 2 and takes the value there.

Then they graduate and get Step 5 benefits as a Young Officer. Skip step 6 since they haven’t really had a career yet, and maybe either give everyone step 7 benefits, or skip it and give those benefits out normally over the course of the game.

Just a quick hack, anyway. If we did an Academy thing, we’d put more thought into it, obv. :slight_smile:

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I ran something like this a while ago, basically following the same sort of idea. Generally speaking it worked pretty well, but you do have to be a little careful as the characters are underpowered by comparison.

Definitely an interesting way of playing the game, but would also welcome some expansion on elements such as well known tests, etc if there was a product. Could also maybe add in elements such as the bridge officer training as well for a Learning focused product

This is, what I had in mind, basically.

Yet, I would indeed go over the full process until completion of step seven (with the exception of step five, see below) within the course of the academy. First, because this means more possibilities for progression over the game.

Second, because you may choose to play a character that just graduated at the academy and goes on their first mission in the first session of the game, yet profiting from e.g. the Career Events. I’d say, career starts on the day a character enlists into Starfleet. Transporter accidents and the like can also happen on campus and even career events like “first contact mission” may simply be holographic simulations that despite not being “real” had a psychological impact on the character: “This is a lesson I learned at the First Contact Protocol simulation with Commander Examplia at the academy – I’ll never forget THAT day.”

I’m not sure whether I would tie the steps to years, though. I have a more flexible approach in my mind that ties every stat to a “class” or “course” you take. This does not need to say “you need to take two courses of Starfleet Protocol, one course of Diplomacy and can opt, but not necessarily need to take a course of Handling First Contact Situations”, but rather say “if you want to increase a discipline and/or focus, you need to do so in a suitable course, whatever it’s called”.

I’m not sure whether to tie defining/increasing stats to the milestones-system (simply renaming that to “academy credits”) or modifying this as well. Again, off the top of my head, maybe player’s taking a course can define/increase stats after completion of the course (i.e. the mission/adventure).

Thus, every course a player takes to gain some stat is actually an adventure seed: “So, you want to attend a course of specialised warpfield-dynamics? Cool, this course is actually a three-week practical seminar aboard the USS Testillus, tasked with tests of a new warp-drive.” Even if Players would like to have ‘classic’ lectures, one of them could prepare a five-minute-or-so talk about – whatever, everything from the history of Starfleet Engineering over the psychology of hostile first contact incidents to Antican physiology.

Some players would choose identical courses, so there may be more than one player ‘profiting’ from a mission, while others might be there for non-stat-scoring cross-training, to be in-game NPC belonging to the test-setting (just like there’s a whole cadet crew within the Kobayashi Maru test while primarily [there’s actually a discussion about who exactly is tested, somewhere in this forum] the commanding officer is tested), or simply portraying supporting characters.

In the beginning, I mentioned a step five modification: Step Five of the Lifepath system. This one is crucial, in my opinion and both the Value and the Talent shall be given to the players. The talent shall be “Cadet” (and be transformed to “Young Officer” the moment they graduate). More on that later.

The Value shall be the reason why the character joined Starfleet. I think this will provide a very good anchor for drama when questioned with good adventures. The character could be re-inforced with belief in this value or even think to drop-out of Starfleet when they have to challenge it. With a “why I joined Starfleet” value, every character can be presented with an adventure where they’re at the crossroads, asking themselves what Starfleet really means to them. Will Starfleet show up to their expectations? Will they be frustrated? Or will they see they might simply have had a bad idea of what Starfleet is – and in reality, it’s even better?

Last, but not least, the “Cadet” talent.
For an academy campaign, I imagine two things: Player Characters (1) are not fully-educated (which is represented in their low stats) and (2) try out different things.

Regarding the second, I think that the actual roles (commanding officer, science officer etc.) should rotate over the missions as every cadet should have sat in the center chair at least once. Of course, science characters will be science officers more often than commanding or executive officers, but the roles should not be as fix as with a ‘standard’ group.

The “Cadet” talent, as I envision it, supports both: It gives the bearer the possibility to do “preparation work” before classes, temporarily boosting one attribute and/or discipline (not sure how the actual mechanics should work, but you get the idea), whether for the duration of a scene or the whole course (I tend to the latter, but, again, these are basically my first ideas).

The more I think of it, the Value of Step Four could be granted after the first mission/course/adventure, representing the attitude the cadets show on campus. “Always do extra-work”, “Never the best, never the worst”, or “Fun starts after Classes” are examples that immediately come to my mind. If not challenged during the academy, this value, however, should normally be changed when leaving the academy and from then on represent, as with the standard life path system, a belief the character developed during their times, in retrospect.

Well, that “short throwing-around first thoughts” escalated quickly. If this is the moment I should ask for an email-address whereto I should pitch a more elaborate version of such a system/supplement, please let me know. :stuck_out_tongue:

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EDIT: Apparently my phone auto corrected “own” into a crude word for buttocks.

I was kinda thinking the “career events” things could either happen during their tenure at the academy, or otherwise during their “Cadet cruise”. (Is that a canon thing, or did they just invent that for the Federation tutorial of STO? Whatever, I like it and I’m keeping it.)

I like Jim’s original design, but I’d modify it a little bit.

Mainly because playing a full year’s worth of adventures just to get one stat bump is super duper lame.

Rather, I’d say the Academy has 2 types of lessons:

  • Normal academic training, like a school or boot camp
  • Practical group exercises aboard starships or simulations.

During academic training, everyone is separate in their own rooms with their departmental peers. That stuff is boring and tedious so it happens off-screen between adventures.

What we want to see are the group adventures when the Class of 2377 takes the Kobayashi Maru, or when they face off against the Mars Paresis Squares team in the championship finals, or when they’re practicing formation flying for fleet engagements, or when that Romulan terrorist infiltrated the annual academy dance and tried to blow everyone up, or when they’re undergoing live fire combat training in their final year, that kind of stuff.

Each of these group lessons would be 1 adventure, and the GM would run maybe 2 or 3 per year. At the end of the year, if the players participated in an adventure that matches a career event, they can add that to their character, or they can save it for later in the character’s life if they’d like something different. (This part would depend on a little teamwork between the players and GM. It wouldn’t be cool if someone didn’t ever get the career event they want just because the GM doesn’t know.)

I was also thinking that reputation and rank should still matter even at the Cadet level, and I got this idea that cadets have sub-ranks that mirror full ranks. So there’d be Cadet-Ensigns, Cadet-Commanders, etc. Their sub-rank only matters in official dealings with other cadets, any other starfleet officer outranks them. Their sub-rank is indication of where they should be placed when they graduate, but does not instantly translate directly into a full rank. (A Cadet-Captain would still become an Ensign- albeit one with a stunning record.)

And, finally, I was thinking about the Cadet Cruise. It’s something from Star Trek Online. I don’t know if it came from canon or not. But the basic idea is that the full graduating class of the year gets assigned to a light-duty starship captained by one of the head instructors who oversaw their tenure at the academy. This vessel goes out and does basic/routine work for the Federation, allowing the new ensigns to earn their wings in practical work, eventually being assigned to a more serious starship posting at the end of that year’s duty, when the ship gets handed off to the next annual head instructor.

So yeah. That’s my 50 cents.

Cadet cruise was built into Star Trek II. Also a feature of the Last Unicorn Games’ version of the Star Trek RPG. Possibly FASA’s as well, though it’s been a while since I looked at those books.

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It’s there - you got 1 or more six month assignments as a midshipman to an active duty ship to learn on the job. Not being Traveller, you had a 100% chance of survival.

I have to say, while I’m not too hot on playing such as a campaign (I think the novelty would wear off after a couple of sessions and there are some ongoing logistical issues with using it as a campaing start - unless you’re doing the Valiant), I would like to see Midshipman as a suggestion/option for normal crew members. Obviously you’d use the Untapped Potential talent, or something similar, and maybe create a shipboard role, but it would make for an interesting character option (hopefully a less irritating Wesley Crusher).

Not necessarily, actually. This stuff is ideal for extended tasks and maybe the application of the scientific method. Having to split resources in between the stuff you required to learn (the extended task) and all those problems, off-projects and social interactions on campus is iconic for (High) School / College / Academy drama.

Adventure Seed:

The cadets help a friend who wants to prepare a holodeck adventure for their significant other (Kahless and Lukara at the Great Hall of Qam’Chee, anyone? :wink: ) when there are malfunctions that lead to the most unexpected consequences that either have to be covered up unnoticed by the faculty or have to be corrected as reprimands – all while there is the normal day-to-day homework (the extended task mentioned above) has to be done.

YES!! :smiley:

Well you could even go as far as having actual provisional ranks. Those are even canon (the Maquis part of Voyager’s crew had provisional ranks, hence the different insignia on their collars). Sometimes, militaries recruit specialists (not referring to the rank but the function) that received their education/training outside of military educational facilities. I didn’t check the rules given in the Science Department supplement, but there’s a lifepath option included for this, iirc.

Anyway, well-educated specialists trained outside of Starfleet might be recruited to bear a provisional rank according to their specialisation and level of training. In principle, this rank comes with full rights and duties – but in order to permeate it, you would still need training. In real world, this is often done over several courses distributed more or less evenly over two or three years. But there are also examples where people do a standard officer’s course while already bearing a (provisional) officer’s rank. This could easily be adapted for an academy campaign with the benefit that after graduation, people would come out not only as ensigns, but also captains, lieutenants or commanders. In principle, you could then proceed with the story, claiming a ship and venturing to the stars as Starfleet’s newest crew (by the way, that would make a good sub-title for an academy supplement: “Starfleet’s Newest Crew”).

Most definetly. In principle, you could also use this as a backdrop for a more-or-less standard STA campaign with the benefit of having “normal” rotation, fluctuation, and exchange among the crew (everyone gets to be XO at some time, everyone has to fly the ship, will fire the phasers…). Also, if your group happens to find the chain of command too strict (“Since I play a Lieutenant and Alice is playing a Commander, my character *always’ has to do what Alice’s character says. I don’t like that!”), you could simply use this backdrop to have every character at the same rank (Cadet), building a chain of command from scratch on every mission.

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EDITS: I keep thinking up more ideas after I think I’m done writing this post.

Not necessarily, actually. This stuff is ideal for extended tasks and maybe the application of the scientific method.

Actually, yeah! What about, like, an extended task where each interval is one adventure? The player chooses the two stats they want to train up each time, and the work that goes toward those stats is tallied. At the end of the year, any bonuses recieved go to whatever stat had the highest rating and also hasn’t already been improved during their time at the academy.

One could even name each stat combination with an appropriate course name, so players could later on talk about what specific areas of training their experience comes from! Like, just take the Focuses listed from the command, operations, and sciences books and key them to stat combinations for academic training courses.

The “course task” could have a difficulty equal to the number of times that combination of stats had been attempted that year. So if you take the same course multiple times, you’re effectively taking higher levels of the course. A fail means your character actually flunked the final exam for that course. Also, it wouldn’t have a work track or breakthroughs really, so much as it would just accumulate work to represent your character’s grades. Players who help each other on these tasks are considered to be study partners!

Well you could even go as far as having actual provisional ranks. Those are even canon […]

I guess provisional ranks are a legit thing, if I remember correctly. There’s also acting ranks, so a newly graduated cadet could be “acting XO” thanks to their academy record. There’s also the enlisted rank system parallel to the commissioned rank system. It just feels wrong for someone with 4 years of theoretical experience to be called “commander” by someone who helped save the ship from a warp core decontainment caused by a Romulan ambush. But, then again, that kind of thing does technically happen in real life militaries already. (I saw an interview with a soldier who said he went to college right after training, and in that time the Iraq war happened. When he returned to the military, his group were all battle hardened, but only a couple of them had outranked him, and he felt like a fraud until he too was deployed.)

Some tangential points about chain of command:

I have ruled that pulling rank to force your will on others without proper justification is an automatic reputation negative influence at the end of a mission. The more you do it, the worse it gets. Starfleet is not a true military, and there should be resistance to those who would treat it as such. People who militarize Starfleet should be weeded out and removed from positions where they can do such things.

I was also considering just making the captain a supporting cast member. That way every player has the option to sit in the hot seat from time to time, and even if nobody feels like it, I the GM can just run the character to hand out orders rather than having the player read out orders delivered from the admiralty.

The v2.5 final (final) ABSOLUTE FINAL.txt version of my version of this hack:

CHARGEN:
Do lifepath steps 1-3 then stop. (Species, Environment, Upbringing) From here on out we are using a more granular variant of the creation in play rules.

Stage 1:
Session 1 is the Academy Entrance Competition Exams. From there, should your character be accepted into the Academy, you will begin classes. (Of course, everyone who wants to play will miraculously score well enought to be accepted, I’m not going to make you actually compete just to play! But that doesn’t mean I’ll make it easy on you, either!)

Stage 2:
You have 4 years of classes (adventures). During each year you will have a series of adventures. Each year is composed of 3 major adventures, for a total of 12 adventures during this stage, with each adventure being separated by 3 months of normal lessons, plus an off season between years. The major adventures represent practical group exercises that include everyone in a class year, like the first time they ever fly a real starship, or the spring dance that gets infiltrated by a Romulan spy, etc. After each adventure, you have the opportunity to improve your character based on your experiences. (Both experiences during the adventures and during the off-screen lessons between adventures.) You can only take each option once, and you will have taken all 12 by the end of the last year. These are your advancement options:

  • Boot Camp: +1 (to a lifetime limit of +2) to an attribute.
  • Remedial Classes: +1 (to a lifetime limit of +2) to an attribute.
  • Extracurricular Activity: +1 (to a lifetime limit of +2) to an attribute.
  • Introductory Training: +1 (to a lifetime limit of +1) to a discipline.
  • Personal Studies: +1 (to a lifetime limit of +1) to a discipline.
  • Advanced Training: +2 (to a lifetime limit of +2) to a discipline.
  • Optional Program: Add a focus.
  • Specialization Program: Add a focus.
  • Expanded Learning Program: Add a focus.
  • Life Experience: Add a value.
  • Personal Achievement: Add a talent.
  • Graduation: At the end of the final year, (and only then) take the “Young Officer” career.

Before being assigned to the Cadet Cruise, each player has a baseline 1 crew support that they can use to call upon friends, family, school officials, and classmates. That way it still feels like there’s large groups of cadets working together, and people can still usually participate in a scene if they want to. Optionally, the group could share their total crew support, rather than keeping their one point to themselves at all times.

Also, cadets have a personnel record that represents their progress in school. It works similar to the reputation system, and is used to determine the acting ranks of cadets when performing exercises. (In reality, it’s a stack of extended tasks with an interval rate of 1 attempt per adventure.)

Stage 3:
Classes are followed by a single year Cadet Cruise to give graduates real life field experience. At the start of the cadet cruise, each player either selects or rolls for the career events they would like to have happen, showing the results to the GM only. The GM then plans adventures for each of these events and arranges them all into an adventure path representing that full year’s mission. (If duplicates appear, the GM should ask for details to eitehr determine if they can be combined into a single adventure, of if they make more sense as separate similar events.) After each cadet cruise adventure, the GM tells the group what career event that represents, and anyone who wants to add it to their character sheet can do so, up to a limit of 2 events. Additionally, during the cadet cruise, characters earn reputation as if they were fully ranked officers, allowing them to achieve real ranks through their service.

After the cadet cruise, the graduated cadets, now with full ranks, are transferred to a permanent posting, retiring from my adventure and maybe appearing in someone else’s game as a newly transferred crewman.

There. 'S’what I think.

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