Star Trek: The Role Playing Game
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|The Role Playing Game|
|Designer(s)||Guy McLimore, Greg Poehlein, David Tepool|
|Publication date||1982 (1st edition)|
1983 (2nd edition)
|Genre(s)||Science fiction (Star Trek)|
Jordan Weisman of FASA sought out one of the biggest licenses in the space adventure genre - Star Trek - and received it in 1982.:120 Weisman and L. Ross Babcock III looked out-of-house for a Star Trek design team. Over the next several months FASA rejected four different designs for the game, largely because they all focused too much on combat, which did not fit with Gene Rodenberry's vision of a more utopian future; the fifth design team, a freelance group that called themselves Fantasimulations Association, was finally able to provide a workable design, and this team consisted of Guy McLimore Jr., Greg Poehlein, and David F. Tepool.:120 Star Trek: The Role Playing Game (1983) had a very tactical combat system, where battles were played out on a square grid, and was based on a FASA board game called Grav-Ball (1982).:120 The game was published as a boxed set with a 128-page book, an 80-page book, and a 56-page book, two counter sheets, and dice.:317 Weisman and Babcock were insistent that the RPG not change into a board game when space combat occurred, so the Fantasimulations crew devised a system whereby each section head had their own "console" to operate during combat, and the captain oversaw and coordinated everyone, rather than doing everything himself.:120 The supplement The Klingons (1983), co-authored by writer John M. Ford, was a book that notably influenced later Paramount productions.:121 Paramount was unhappy with FASA's two Star Trek: The Next Generation supplements - including an Officer's Manual (1988) and First Year Sourcebook (1989) - which they felt did not entirely match their view of the Next Generation universe, and in 1989 Paramount pulled FASA's license for Star Trek.:123
Star Trek: The Role Playing Game was set in the Star Trek universe before Star Trek the Next Generation. Most player characters were assumed to be members of Starfleet, engaged in space exploration missions. They typically held senior posts on a starship bridge, and visited alien planets as part of landing parties.
For the most part, the game's published supplements and modules were set in the "original crew" movie era (AD 2280s/90s), but a few were set in the original TV era (AD 2260s) or a century later in the Next Generation era (AD 2360s/70s). See Official Supplements by era below.
Because of the simplicity of the game's structure, all of the supplements, regardless of their "era", could be easily re-set to suit a different era.
FASA Trek vs. "canon" Trek
FASA designed their Star Trek game universe nearly five years before Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) (1987-1994) was first broadcast. The game's designers built their "game universe" when there was no official canon, and they borrowed heavily from ideas in the Star Trek original series, the Star Trek animated series, fan fiction, and the works of the late Star Trek novelist John M. Ford.
Game elements which either were never introduced into what later became canon Star Trek, or which differ significantly from how canon Star Trek presents them, include:
John M. Ford's Klingons
The game's depiction of the Klingons, the result of work by science fiction author John M. Ford, differs greatly from later canon. Ford's Klingons not only appear in the supplement The Klingons for the game, but also in his Star Trek novel The Final Reflection, whose story is told almost entirely from a Klingon perspective. Ford designed his Klingon society to provide a logical basis for the actions and statements of onscreen Klingons in the original TV series, as well as the differing appearance of the Klingons in the original series and those in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (the only movie featuring Klingons to have been released when the novel and game supplement were first published). They are guided by a philosophy expressed in their klingonaase language as komerex tel khesterex, roughly translated as "that which is not growing is dying"; komerex, referring to any structure growing and expanding its control over its surroundings, is also their word for their empire (komerex Klingon). This leads to a belief that the proper role of species not part of a komerex is to serve those that are, and the Klingons have subjugated many of these servitor species (kuve) in their conquests. The philosophy also motivates their actions on a personal scale, with individuals engaging in schemes and intrigues to enhance their personal power and that of their extended family, and generates traditions like starship officers being promoted as a result of assassinating their superiors.
The Klingons seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, or "Imperial Klingons", are the original natives of the Klingon homeworld Klinzhai. The ones seen in the TV series are "human-fusion" Klingons, a result of genetic engineering combining the DNA of humans and Imperial Klingons into a hybrid better able to work in environments occupied by humans and thought to better understand them (for purposes of fighting them). Romulan-fusion Klingons also exist (Ford's Klingons contacted the Romulans before humans) and possibly other hybrids (such as with the Orions, whose space abuts both the Empire and the Federation).
Ford's Klingons (at least those serving in their space fleet) believe that when they die they will serve in a "Black Fleet" in the afterlife. Given the fact that few stars are visible at night on most of Klinzhai due to cloud cover, they have a mystical reverence for "the naked stars" and believe they remember acts of courage performed under them.
In contrast, the Klingons in Star Trek: The Next Generation and subsequent TV series, as well as the later movies, have a culture and traditions based more on a cross between the vikings and Japanese Samurai (or, rather, Western imaginations of them), focused on personal and familial honor and placing value on sacrificing their lives for the causes they serve. The canonical Klingon Empire is governed by the High Council, led by a Chancellor, instead of an Emperor. Their language, tlhIngan Hol, is very different from Ford's klingonaase, and their homeworld is Kronos (Qo'noS in Klingon). The canonical explanation of the differing appearance of Klingons in the original TV series was first joked about (but left unexplained) in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations", then fully explained in Star Trek: Enterprise as being due to a viral infection caused by an attempt to infuse Klingons with the superhuman DNA of Khan Noonien Singh and his followers (a variation of the human-fusion idea).
When the game was published the only filmed material featuring the Romulans were the two original series episodes "Balance of Terror" and "The Enterprise Incident". FASA's Romulans are the descendants of prehistoric Vulcans transplanted to the planet Romulus by the species known as the Preservers (mentioned in the TOS episode "The Paradise Syndrome"). Before developing interstellar travel, Romulan science concluded they were not native to their planet, leading to a social and religious goal of building a "Road to the Stars" to find the "gods" that placed them there, leading to the establishment of the Romulan Star Empire.
The Romulans were one of the Federation's chief antagonists in Star Trek: The Next Generation, featured in many episodes, and a canon explanation of their origin was given in that series. They are the descendants of Vulcans who did not agree with Surak's doctrines of logic and emotional suppression, instead choosing to leave Vulcan and travel through vast distances of space to their new home on Romulus. (A similar concept was used by Diane Duane in Spock's World and the Rihannsu series of novels.)
The game supplement Trader Captains and Merchant Princes, first published in 1983, introduced "the Triangle", a lawless area wedged between the space occupied by the United Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire.
The Triangle supplement later introduced a set of color maps, allowing players to know exactly how long it would take them (in game time) to travel between star systems.
This lawless area was popular with players as it allowed them to escape the strict parameters of a military campaign. Most campaigns with civilian or non-Star Fleet characters were based entirely or in part within the Triangle.
The game introduced a number of starship classes which were not based on those seen in the series, though many of them borrow heavily from the starship design standards set in the original TV series and first two movies: Federation ships have saucer sections and outboard engine nacelles, Klingon ships have a primary hull with a command section at the end of a long boom, and Romulan ships look like birds to various degrees.
They included, but were not limited to: the Bader-class scout, Baker-class destroyer, Chandley-class frigate, the Enterprise-class cruiser (the refitted Constitution-class introduced in Star Trek: The Motion Picture), Derf-class survey ship, Larson-class destroyer, Loknar-class frigate, Nelson-class scout, Northampton-class frigate, the so-called Reliant-class cruiser (the FASA name for the movie-era Miranda-class cruiser), the Mission-class transport, Royal Sovereign-class battlecruiser, M'benga-class hospital ship and the Sagan-class science ship (an upgrade of the canon Oberth-class starship). A few designs were made for ships mentioned in canon but not seen. Most notable among these was FASA's conjecture of the Ambassador-class starship, which somewhat resembles a modified Enterprise-class cruiser with Excelsior nacelles; in canon the Ambassador is a precursor to the Galaxy-class starships.
The distinct design of several of those ships, notably the Chandley-class frigate and the Loknar-class frigate, have made them popular in non-canon Star Trek folklore. The Loknar, which predates the NX-class starship design, bears a more than passing resemblance to the titular ship in Star Trek: Enterprise.
The Mission-class transport, a shuttle-style, warp-capable ship designed for small crews and short missions, is similar to the small, long-range, shuttle-style runabouts introduced in later Star Trek series. The FASA Mission-class transport predates it by more than a decade.
The stardates in the original series were arbitrarily assigned, but tended to be larger for episodes produced later in the series' run. FASA's game introduced the notion of "reference stardates" based on Gregorian dates, similar to a standard fan practice for constructing stardates. A date in or after the year 2000 in year 2XYZ, month MM, day DD becomes Stardate X/YZMM.DD. For example, FASA set the date of the detonation of the Genesis device in Star Trek II as Stardate 2/2206.20, corresponding to June 20, 2222. Dates before 2000 use negative numbers before the slash.
Beginning with Star Trek: The Next Generation, filmed materials assigned stardates in a different and more systematic way. The first season of TNG had stardates of the form 41XXX.XX, with the numbers starting just above 41000.00 and increasing towards 41999.99 as the season progressed. Subsequent seasons had stardates beginning with 42, 43, etc. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager used stardates corresponding to the season of TNG that was airing at the same time, then progressing forward after TNG went off the air (DS9 season 1's stardates began with 46, and Voyager season 1 episodes had stardates beginning with 48).
Star Trek historical timeline
A number of key dates in the FASA Star Trek universe are approximately 60 years out of phase with their equivalent dates in the canonical Star Trek universe. For example, the game dates the original five-year mission of the Enterprise from 2207 through 2212, while the canonical dates are 2265 through 2270. Also, the game takes most of its fictional history between the present day and the 23rd century from the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology, whose contents are almost totally contradicted by later canonical materials (especially the film Star Trek: First Contact and the series Enterprise).
Supplements to the basic game introduced players to the rudiments of the Romulan and Klingon languages. Neither language, as expressed in the game, is the same as later depictions in the Star Trek series.
Star Trek: The Role-Playing Game is a skill-based system in which character skills are determined by time spent in previous service. The rules cover character creation, familiar characters from the series, Vulcan telepathics, weapons and equipment, personal and spaceship combat, and ecountering new civilizations. The boxed set includes three introductory scenarios and an 80-page pull-apart book of Enterprise deck plans.
The game system was percentile based, meaning that for every action or test desired, players had to roll two ten-sided dice to generate a random number from 1 to 100. Success or failure was determined either by rolling against a set difficulty target, or a player's own skill, or a hybrid of both, adjusted by circumstances.
For example, assuming no modifiers, if a player had a skill of 45 and rolled 33, the character was assumed to have been successful in that action. If there were tools for the task available, the player might have a bonus of +25; if the task is made more difficult because of conditions (such as a space battle) the player might have a penalty of -25.
The rulebooks also provided systems for governing personal combat, space and planetary exploration, and the first edition provided rules for combat between starships; second edition moved the starship combat rules into a separate boardgame. Supplements provided additional rules for characters in the Klingon Empire and Romulan Star Empire, interplanetary trade and commerce, starship design, and campaigns focusing on other non-Starfleet players.
Each planet in the game's atlas had a code that - coupled with the character's merchant skill and some luck - allowed players to buy and trade across the galaxy. A ship's carrying capacity was not based on tonnage, but on volume (i.e. how much space a ship can hold). There were also rules on buying and selling stock on the Federation stock market.
Like most role-playing games of its era, players had to roll dice to determine the beginning attributes of their character. Star Trek: The Role Playing Game characters begin with seven basic abilities - Strength, Endurance, Dexterity, Intellect, Luck, Charisma and Psionic Potential. Though generated prior to the commencement of play of the first gaming session, these attributes are adjusted depending on the character's species. (Vulcans, for example, gained a natural bonus to their Psionic Potential score, a measure of their heightened psionic skill.)
Players had the option of playing virtually any humanoid species introduced in the original Star Trek TV series, the animated series, or the first four movies. They included Humans, Vulcans, Tellarites, Andorians, Orions, Klingons, and Romulans. Two other species introduced in the animated series - Caitians and Edosians[dead link] - could also be played.
Similar to the character generation procedure in Traveller, players used dice rolls on various tables to determine skills acquired before joining Star Fleet, and then those gained by their shipboard assignment (helm operations, sciences, medical, communications, etc.) during tours of duty, which also led to increases in rank before determining their final posting for the start of play. Later supplements allowed players to generate characters in Star Fleet Intelligence, Klingon and Romulan military personnel, Orion pirates, and civilian merchants.
Game statistics were provided for principal characters in the Star Trek TV series (Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, etc.), allowing players to play those roles instead of generating their own characters.
Starship Tactical Combat Simulator game
The first edition of the game included a tactical starship combat game, which would later be redeveloped into the Starship Tactical Combat Simulator.
The game's basic rule system provided a simple system for moderating space battles, in which each player assumed a role in the battle, typically by manning a station on the ship's bridge.
The Captain determined the strategy, the Engineer was responsible for power management and allocation to different systems such as weapons and shields, the Helmsman for firing weapons, the Navigator for managing deflector shields, the Communications Officer for damage control and so on.
FASA later developed that system into a more complex standalone game, the Starship Tactical Combat Simulator, similar to a tabletop wargame. During a role-playing session, if the adventure called for a space battle, role-players had the option of using this standalone game to determine the outcome of the battle.
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FASA developed its game in the mid-1980s, when the only new on-screen Star Trek material was the second through fourth movies, and fans received new material in other forms eagerly. Paramount Pictures, the company with the right to grant licenses to produce Star Trek-related materials to other companies, gave its stamp of approval to many printed works, and there were no claims that these materials were or were not canon. They borrowed freely from each other - the game includes background from the 1980 book Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology, while the 1987 book Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise includes elements from the FASA background - and fans believed that if Paramount's name was on something, it must be valid Star Trek. Many players therefore were dismayed when Star Trek: The Next Generation began to air in 1987 with what they saw as "changes" to a pre-established universe.
Paramount revoked FASA's license to publish the official role-playing game in 1989. The decision was sudden, and according to FASA staff, motivated by two factors.
First, Star Trek: The Next Generation was growing increasingly popular and Paramount wished to exert greater control over its property and derivative works. FASA had, by 1989, published two works set in the TNG era, The Next Generation Officer's Manual in 1988 and The Next Generation First Year Sourcebook in 1989. These works contained many extrapolations based on material in the new series and were already beginning to conflict with what was depicted on screen.
Second, Paramount was concerned by the amount of violence depicted in FASA's game. They mistakenly thought that most players took on the roles of characters from the TV series, not their own new characters, and believed that violence-based solutions to problems should not be offered even as a sub-optimal way to solve problems in the game. At this time, FASA was scheduled to publish two products which conflicted with this view: a supplement detailing the "Star Fleet Marines" and other ground combat forces in the Star Trek universe, and a strategic-level board game, Operation: Armaggedon, which included a scenario wherein the Federation preemptively attacked the Klingon and Romulan empires. When Paramount learned of these prospective products their view that FASA's notion of what Star Trek should be differed too greatly from their own became more established.
Many players blamed the studio for its abrupt dissolution of FASA's licence as well as Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry for retconning of what had been seen as established Star Trek lore. They sent letters of protest to the studio, and to contemporary science-fiction magazines such as Starlog and GDW's Challenge magazine.
Notwithstanding the avalanche of canon material which has come since the mid-1980s - the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise, several subsequent theatrical films and a library of novelisations - FASA's interpretation of Star Trek has not been forgotten by a significant number of die-hard fans.
The rise of the Internet, in particular, has given voice again to fans of the FASA version of the Klingons and Klingonaase, enthusiasm for the komerex zha and Klingon nomenclature (epetai, sutai) — a Klingon worldview and Klingon honorifics respectively, both created by John M. Ford — and references to "human-fusion" and "Imperial" Klingons.
- Star Trek: The Role Playing Game, 1st Ed. (1982)
- Star Trek: The Role Playing Game, 2nd Ed. (1983)
Set during the original series
- U.S.S. Enterprise Deck Plans (supplement, 1983)
- Klingon D-7 Battlecruiser Deck Plans (supplement, 1983)
- Ship Construction Manual, 1st Ed. (supplement, 1983)
- Ship Recognition Manual: The Federation, 1st Ed. (supplement, 1983)
- Ship Recognition Manual: The Klingon Empire, 1st Ed. (supplement, 1983)
- Star Trek Gamemaster's Kit (supplement, 1983)
- Trader Captains and Merchant Princes, 1st Ed. (supplement, 1983)
- The Four Years War (supplement, 1986)
Set in the movie era
- The Klingons (supplement, 1984)
- The Romulans (supplement, 1984)
- Star Trek III Sourcebook Update (supplement, 1984)
- Federation Ship Recognition Manual (supplement, 1985)
- Klingon Ship Recognition Manual (supplement, 1985)
- Romulan Ship Recognition Manual (supplement, 1985)
- Ship Construction Manual, 2nd Ed. (supplement, 1985)
- The Triangle (supplement, 1985)
- The Triangle Campaign (supplement, 1985)
- The Federation (supplement, 1986)
- Klingon Intelligence Briefing (supplement, 1986)
- The Romulan War (supplement, 1986)
- Star Trek IV Sourcebook Update (supplement, 1986)
- Klingons: Game Operations Manual (supplement, 1987)
- Klingons: Star Fleet Intelligence Manual (supplement, 1987)
- The Orions (supplement, 1987)
- Regula-1 Orbital Station Deckplans (supplement, 1987)
- Star Fleet Intelligence Manual - Game Operations (supplement, 1987)
- Star Fleet Intelligence Manual - Agent's Orientation Sourcebook (supplement, 1987)
- Trader Captains and Merchant Princes, 2nd Ed. (supplement, 1987)
Set in the TNG era
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Officer's Manual (supplement, 1988)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation First Year Sourcebook (supplement, 1989)
- Denial Of Destiny (adventure, 1983)
- The Vanished (adventure, 1983)
- Witness For The Defense (adventure, 1983)
- Demand of Honor (adventure, 1984)
- Margin of Profit (adventure, 1984)
- Orion Ruse (adventure, 1984)
- Termination: 1456 (adventure, 1984)
- Graduation Exercise (adventure, 1985)
- The Outcasts (adventure, 1985)
- Where Has All The Glory Gone? (adventure, 1985)
- A Matter of Priorities (adventure, 1985)
- A Doomsday Like Any Other (adventure, 1986)
- Conflict of Interests (adventure, 1986)
- Decision at Midnight (adventure, 1986)
- The Dixie Gambit (adventure, 1986)
- The Mines Of Selka (adventure, 1986)
- An Imbalance Of Power (adventure, 1986)
- Old Soldiers Never Die (adventure, 1986)
- Return to Axanar (adventure, 1986)
- The Strider Incident (adventure, 1987)
- Star Trek III: Starship Combat Game Box Set (supplement, 1984)
- The White Flame (scenarios for the Combat Simulator, 1987)
- Stardate magazine, Vol. 1 (issue 1 - 8) and Vol. 2 (9-11) by FASA.
Supplements advertised but never published
- USS Reliant 7.5mm Deck Plans (1983)
- 'Space Lab Regula One 7.5mm Deckplans - integrated into the Regula I deckplan booklet? (1983)
- A Chance for Peace - may have been eventually published as Demand of Honor? (1983)
- Forward into the Past (1983)
- Spores of Hatred (1983)
- Enemy Contact: Bridge Alert (c 1985)
- Hostile Bivouac/Civilians - bundled adventure and sourcebook (1983)
- Star Trek Ground Forces Manual (1986)
- Star Fleet Marines (1986)
- Operation: Armageddon - interstellar war simulator game (1986)
- Scavenger's Run/Existence Zone (1987)
- Operation Buchman/Adventure (1987)
- Perish by the Sword/Galaxy Exploration Command - bundled adventure and sourcebook
- Ground Forces Manual (1988)
- Yachts Ship Recognition Ma'nual (c 1990)
- Orion Ship Recognition Manual (c 1990)
- Gorn Ship Recognition Manual (c 1990)
- Star Trek: The Final Frontier Sourcebook (c 1990)
- USS Enterprise (Galaxy Class) miniature
- Ferengi Cruiser miniature
William A. Barton reviewed Star Trek: The Role Playing Game in Space Gamer No. 64. Barton commented that "I like this game. And I think you will, too, despite any picky points you can find that don't quite agree with your own concept of how a Star Trek game should be [...] It has its flaws as does any system and it wasn't possible to cover every aspect of Star Trek in one game. But everything you really need for a satisfying Star Trek role-playing system is to be found here - in fact, just about everything you need for any SFRPG. So I recommend you not be put off by the high price of this package. [...] I think you'll be glad you entered the Final Frontier. This game, so far, is my pick of the best role-playing system of 1983."
Steve List reviewed Star Trek: The Role Playing Game in Ares Magazine #16 and commented that "Star Trek game is an ambitious work, generally well-done, with some minor flaws. The worst of these is in any case a matter of taste – the episodic nature of things versus the continuous campaign approach."
Russell Clarke reviewed Star Trek: The Role Playing Game for White Dwarf #58, giving it an overall rating of 9 out of 10, and stated that "Star Trek the RPG is a worthy addition to the SF role-playing genre and I highly recommend it."
William A. Barton reviewed Star Trek: The Role Playing Game, Second Edition in Space Gamer No. 71. Barton commented that "second edition Star Trek: The Role Playing Game is an even better avenue to gaming the final frontier than its predecessor. Those who own the original won't need this edition to continue to play, as both are compatible, but will certainly find enough new material that they won't be sorry for buying it. If you haven't yet tried ST:RPG - especially if you're new to SF roleplaying - I recommend this game over its competitors for ease of play, consistency, and sheer enjoyment."
Steve Nutt reviewed Star Trek: The Role-Playing Game for Imagine magazine, and stated that "The game places great emphasis on role-playing. If your group is hack and slash then they had better change their approach before they play Star Trek. Alter all, if you are Captain Kirk then you should act like him. The referee should also play the game in the spirit of Star Trek, with scenarios as wacky as you like. If the role-playing game is played like the film, then it is first class; if not, it could get rather bloodthirsty. It has to be pitched right."
- Different Worlds #30 (Sept., 1983)
- Arcane #15 (January 1997)
- Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
- Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
- "Requiescat in Pace, John M. Ford", by Eric Burns
- "Star Trek Roleplaying Game | RPG | RPGGeek". rpggeek.com. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
- Barton, William A. (July–August 1983). "Featured Review: Star Trek: The Role Playing Game". Space Gamer. Steve Jackson Games (64): 2–4.
- List, Steve (Winter 1983). "Games". Ares Magazine. TSR, Inc. (16): 54–55.
- Neville, Bob (October 1984). "Open Box". White Dwarf. Games Workshop (Issue 58): 13.
- Barton, William A. (Nov–Dec 1984). "Capsule Reviews". Space Gamer. Steve Jackson Games (71): 50.
- Nutt, Steve (January 1985). "Notices". Imagine (review). TSR Hobbies (UK), Ltd. (22): 43.
- Trek-RPG.net — This forum discusses the FASA Star Trek game system.