Threat and Reinforcements

So, I guess that this is something I don’t intuitively grasp. I get the idea of using Threat to make things more dangerous etc etc. However, I don’t understand when reinforcements require Threat.

Let’s say the team is fighting their way through a Klingon Bird of Prey. They burst on to the Bridge and have a shootout with the on-duty Bridge officers. Then the Klingon Captain hears the ruckus and charges out of his office with another Klingon to join the fray.

Does that require Threat? They’re technically reinforcements. On the other hand, they’re a natural consequence of the story, it doesn’t make sense to me that natural consequences would cost currency. What happens if I don’t have Threat left? Do they just stand there in their office like lemons? And why would it be Threat to add them later, but not if I just have the Captain and his goon on the Bridge in the first place?

Or is it only for not-natural consequences? Like “Oh dear, it seems that the Captain just happened to have been briefing a security team in his office when you struck…guess what they do!”? Those “yeah, they weren’t there when you walked in, but I’d like to beef up the resistance a bit, so…” types of scenarios.

Playing the missions seems to suggest the former, but it strikes me as a little odd for reasons previously stated. Also, I guess also the line in my mind between the two isn’t very distinct - as GM, you can always find an excuse to have more enemies join the fight. As a result, it seems a bit odd to have one cost Threat and the other not.

I guess I don’t have a firm grasp in my mind of how Threat is meant to work.

It’s a thin line. Instead of just throwing my approach at you, I will begin with a quotation of p. 281 of the Core Rules (emphasis in source):

When you [as a GM; annotation by MisterX] are framing a scene, it is up to you which Traits you establish affecting how the Player Characters will interact with the scene. Once the scene is underway, the only way to change thos circumstances is the use of Threat, or through the actions of Non-Player Characters.

This is very important: any change the Gamemaster wishes to make to circumstances once a scene has begun must come from either a Non-Player Character or from spending Threat.

My interpretation is this: Threat mechanics are there to let the GM be a player, too. The GM plays their own game, yes, with different rules and challenges than the players, – but the GM is actually bound by rules and is not omnipotent.

So, the moment a scene is set, the “I just describe everything that I think is cool right now”-power of the GM is gone and every change in the scene must stem from actions of Players, or NPCs, or from Threat.

Thus, I ask myself two questions, before paying (or not paying) Threat for NPCs joining a scene:

1.) Are they new to me, my plans, and my scene setup? Meaning: If I planned that the captain and another officer are in the ready room and I set up the scene describing not only the bridge but also this conspicuous door probably leading to said ready room – then they’re not new. They were, albeit hidden, part of the scene in the first place. If I instead simply describe the bridge and mid-scene come up with “oh, and by the way, there’s this door on the left of you all, it opens and, guess what, a Klingon captain and another officer storm out and join the fight” – yepp, gonna cost Threat.
In short: If there’s Chekhov’s Gun hanging on the wall, using it will most likely not cost Threat. If it doesn’t, I’ll pay.

2.) Are they a fundamental change to the scene? Let’s say the players beat all the Klingons on the bridge and combat is over – bringing in the Captain and the other officer would start a new combat encounter. That’s enough to change the scene, as it limits the Players’ opportunities to e.g. hack into consoles etc. Thus, even if the captain and the XO were there in the first place, I’ll probably pay Threat to bring them in just now instead of, e.g. setting up an ambush in the ready room or just conveniently having heard nothing, or whatever.

Having written all this, I can now boil down my approach to it to an even shorter thought:
If it’s a surprise for your players mid-scene, that is a good indicator that it probably should cost Threat.

It’s a thin line, though, that requires a lot of mutual trust betwen the GM and the Players. AND it has to work with your and your group’s view on the GM’s role. Right after my first STA one-shot I had a conversation with a Player I played D&D with for years. He opposed paying for reinforcements by Threat as he was of the opinion that, as GM, I was entrusted by the Players with the Power to do anything in the story. “But you’re the GM!”, he said, “Why do you need to pay to change the scene? Changing the scene is the GM’s primary job!”
And if that’s fine for everyone, than that’s that.

Long story short: Threat is meant to work as a dramatic story-telling-tool for the GM, both enabling and limiting them to change scenes they do not, just like the players, have total control over. If this is how you like to play. If not, houserule and maybe even don’t pay for reinforcements, ever. Your game, your rules.


I want to pay for reinforcements generally. One of the issues I’ve seen is that Threat can spiral out of control, and so I want Threat-sinks to keep it manageable. Removing the need for a Threat-spend is counterproductive for that :slight_smile:

One of my concerns is that, as a player (different game system though) I’ve seen how frustrating made-up-on-the-spot House Rules can be - especially if they screw you over. So for me, consistency is important. If it’s consistent, it’s a lot easier to be accepting than if it’s ad-hoc. Hence my mentioning of concerns with the interpretations - I’m trying to find a solid and consistent mental image of how it works so I can be consistent in its application.

Part of the issue is that STA is one of three systems that I play (D&D5e and TOR being the other two) and it’s the only one with a GM-facing “currency”. TOR has player-facing currency (Hope) and 5e has very little currency at all, but STA is the only one that has GM-facing currency. Some of it is easy enough to grasp (I can pay to upgrade the Romulans from disruptor pistols to rifles), but bits like this where it’s less concrete is not so natural for me.

Your counsel is appreciated. I think the surprise aspect is the bit that I grasp well. Perhaps I’d alter it slightly - after the game has finished (and so players have all the information), would the players be surprised if those enemies didn’t turn up? Like, if they realised the Captain was in his office or otherwise just going about his day and didn’t turn up with the ruckus, they’d find that weird, so no Threat to bring him it. They’d be questioning why he wasn’t there, which could even cause plot issues.

On the other hand, they wouldn’t be surprised that security team wasn’t coincidentally hanging around…so Threat for them. They’d be questioning why they were even there to begin with, so it’s not something you can just chalk up to the circumstances.

Does that work with how you’d run things?

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I shall steal that thought, immediatly.

There was a post about this in the Conan forums a while back: Doom spends vs. just doing normal GM things?.

Basically, I am of the opinion that if a player spends threat to do something, generally a threat spend will be a response to that (the STA GM Guide portion I quote has an example of a character using threat to climb a crumbling cliff, the GM then uses threat to make the cliff start crumbling even more, or the crumbles alerting guards).

Obviously a GM starts with threat, so that can’t be spent ‘in response’ to a player threat spend, but the other reply to that thread talks about using threat to up the difficulty of rolls in previously planned situations (which I guess is similar to your pistols > disruptors example).

Rule changes and other thoughts also has some discussion about this topic.

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If the additional adversaries are on an announced timer or such, and part of the scene framing to the players, and part of the narrative, I don’t see that as needing threat.

EG: the players are boarding a just crashed Jem’hadar fighter with a known crew of 10, having the Jem’hadar enter scene is already framed.

If, instead, they’re a consequence of a complication, or if they have no prior story justification, adding them is clearly time for threat.

EG: same ship, 10 dead Jem’hadar and a captured Vorta later, adding 5 more Jem’Hadar and a Founder? They need threat to exist.

Traps, the same way - if the scene framing includes a few traps… they’re free. If I’m adding them as a surprise, I’m paying for them

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