The Transporters Task and Supporting Characters

So, who exactly performs the Transporters Task in your games?

Let me preface this by acknowledging that in many cases the use of transporters can simply be handwaved away. If we’re at the beginning of the mission, and I just want to get the players to the place where the interesting things will happen, we can agree that the PCs are transported without any need to roll for a Task.

On the other hand, I can also see the need to handle the transportation exactly as it is established in the Core Rulebook: as a Combat Task during Starship Combat. If the PCs want to board an enemy ship after bringing down its shields, the dramatic potential of the Task resulting in Momentum and Complications makes for a thrilling part of the battle scene.

But what about all of the other situations we can imagine? Let’s say that the away team needs to get into a locked vault. In some other RPG, this would be the right occasion for the thief of the group to showcase their lockpicking skills. In STA however, it might occur to the players to do a site-to-site transport instead. But… the PCs who are in front of that vault aren’t at the transporter console! How do we roll this Task, exactly?

The obvious answer is that the players just need to introduce a Supporting Character, the transporter chief, to the scene. But a Supporting Character who isn’t being controlled by a player can only perform Minor Actions and Tasks of Difficulty 0. A Transporters Task where neither the target and destination are on transporter pads, performed by a character in the transporter room, is Difficulty 3. But not to worry, since the Commanding Officer can perform the Direct Task to get the Supporting Character to perform the Transporters Task.

Except that the Direct Task can only be performed once per scene, and the away team is probably going to want to get transported out of the vault, as well. I guess the transporter chief just forgets how to operate the transporter controls all of a sudden.

How do you handle situations like this?

One weird but kind of intriguing answer did occur to me. Instead of making some sort of an exception for the Transporters Task, play the rules as written, and let the mechanics inform the dramatic structure.

So your Commanding Officer has already used the Direct Task once during this scene, but you need a Supporting Character to perform another Transporters Task, or some other above zero Difficulty Task. Maybe that just means that it’s time for this scene to end. It’s a cliffhanger moment for the commercial break! And maybe instead of starting the next scene in the same location, we switch to the ship. Instead of having the Commanding Officer Direct the next Task by the transporter chief, we see the events from the perspective of the transporter chief, and other Supporting Characters, who have a chance to aid the efforts of the away team by looking up information in the ship’s computer, or gathering new data using the ship’s sensors.

But then again, sometimes the players might want to request a beam out during a skirmish that isn’t going their way, after the Commanding Officer has already used their Direct Task. Ending the scene in the middle of a battle probably isn’t going to work, especially if there are lethally Injured PCs who would die when the scene ends. So… time to handwave the rules again?

Usually, my Engineer player character do the task, with the help of the transporter chief support character sometimes.
The transporter chief can also be a NPC as in the books stat blocks and not a support character, NPC can succeed difficult tasks. Our ship also have a NPC captain.

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Thanks for your input!

It does seem like I had a blind spot on the use of an NPC instead of a Supporting Character as the transporter chief.

It does in fact say in the STA Gamemaster’s Guide, on page 43, that players “may appreciate interacting with a recurring transporter chief NPC, along the lines of Lt. Kyle on the Enterprise or Chief O’Brien on the Enterprise-D”. We might add to this advice that it also helps avoid a lot of complications rules-wise!

As a side note the EMH is a supporting character that does not improve. I tend to play it as a NPC instead. A medic that can only do Diff 0 task when nobody play it seems silly to me, of course the wounded can play the EMH .

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I do have some concerns about having too many friendly NPCs at the players’ beck and call. It feels a bit like going around the Supporting Character rules, which have a lot of deliberate limitations on how much of an advantage the players can get from using SCs.

On the other hand, we’ve yet to introduce any SCs in my campaign, so we’ll see how those rules work out for us in general.

My own rule: if on series the role was given to a character with rank greater than lieutenant or a veteran I can create an NPC( because support characters can’t be these): captain, head of department (if none of the players took the role), transporter chief. Also true for the story NPC they recruited on board: 2 beasts that were Major NPC and that they managed to save then tame, or the armory keeper from the TOS era and that they rescue (from a brief mission pdf). NPC are plot sources, the Romulan spy can’t be a support character it’s an NPC that can’t be played by players.
There’s an easy way to limit NPC: if they call an NPC like they do with a support character, you can add 2 threat to the pool as if a new player joined the fray. The captain is an NPC he’s free but seldom do something, no “make it so” unless times are desperate (and I may add 2 threat)

The other thing to consider is that not all the PCs have to go on the away mission. The chief engineer, or operations office could very reasonably stay on the ship and run the transporter, while that player had a support character in the away teams

I do not have access to my rulebooks atm, but I think I remember the transport-task being possible to be carried out at the engineering and/or internal systems stations on the bridge.

I try to let the main characters handle all of the interesting tasks, so the Transporters Task is usually performed by the operations officer (i.e. internal systems). If the players want to or if its not interesting, they can of course hand it off to the transporter chief.

Yes, usually Internal Systems performs this task. If performed from a transporter room, the task is at -1 Difficulty.

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While it’s true that we could reverse the assignment of Main Characters and Supporting Characters in my original scenario, it doesn’t alter the fundamental issue. A player who has chosen to control a Supporting Character in the scene and leave their Main Character on the ship can’t suddenly decide to control their Main Character just for one Task.

At least that’s how I’m understanding the rules as written, but they do seem uncomfortably restrictive in this instance. So now I’m wondering others here have a habit of allowing Main Characters to “intrude” on scenes where their players are actually controlling Supporting Characters, just for a single Task, for the sake of narrative convenience? After all, there is also the rule that if the group has three or fewer players, the GM may allow players to control up to two characters during a scene. Allowing an occasional “intrusion” could be seen as just a variation on this.

I’d just reverse the Supporting Characters rule: An uncontrolled Main Character who is for whatever reason present in the scene can only roll difficulty 0 tasks.

I think that rule already applies to any uncontrolled character in the rules as written. That just means that the scenario in my initial message stands as it is, regardless of whether the transporter chief is a Supporting Character or a Main Character.

But I was inspired by the discussion on the use of Traits in Supporting character weapon damage seems irrelevant - #14 by aramis to come up with the following solution:

Again, the away team needs a site-to-site transport into a vault, and also out of it. The Task is Difficulty 3, so an uncontrolled character can’t do it. That just means that we need to apply enough Advantages to reduce the Difficulty to 0.

The most obvious thing is that the commanding officer in the away team gives instructions to the transporter chief, which is a Create Advantage Task using Presence + Command at Difficulty 2. If they succeed particularly well (this should be the commanding officer’s area of expertise!) they can spend two Momentum to create a double Advantage. If the roll fails, the GM can suggest Success at a Cost, and take two Threat to raise the stakes. Maybe the characters hear some noise, indicating a Klingon patrol nearby?

But there is probably still some Difficulty left on the transporters Task. The next most obvious thing to do would be to introduce another Supporting Character, perhaps stationed at Ops, coordinating with the away team. An uncontrolled character can be used as an Advantage.

Now there may still be one Difficulty left. Perhaps the transporter chief is having trouble locking onto an open space in the destination area, and they need an away team member to scan the area with a tricorder, performing a Control + Science Task at Difficulty 2 to create the final Advantage needed. Again we may apply Success at a Cost if the roll fails. This time it might be appropriate to take the Threat and spend it, having that Klingon patrol discover the away team.

Does this seem like too much business to impose on the players? Maybe, if all that is needed is one quick transport. But in that case we can always fall back on the Direct Task, possibly ending the scene as all of the player-controlled characters are beamed out of the area.

But in a more complex scenario, where multiple uses of the transporter are needed within the same scene, using Advantages seems like the right call, because once those Advantages are in place, the Difficulty of the transporter task stays at 0 for the rest of the scene. The effort the players put into it initially is rewarded with the ability to transport at will for the rest of the scene. That sounds pretty cool.

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Part of this would depend on how active you are at changing scenes. If the scene ends with the completion of the transport, then using a SC in the next scene is completely by the book.

I also don’t think theres any harm in allowing a Main Character to “intrude” as you put it. They’re meant to be the stars of the show, so as long as the player isn’t actively controlling two characters throughout the entire scene then I see no harm in letting them shine a little.