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Far Trek» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Not perfect but very, very good rss

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Michael Taylor
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I recently downloaded the latest version 2 of Far Trek (http://fartrekrpg.blogspot.com/2015/07/these-are-continuing-...)

I've always been a big fan of the original Star Trek TV series and also greatly enjoyed FASA's Star Trek RPG back in the day as well.

Once I took a look at how well laid out it was I had to get it printed immediately to read right away.

I was not disappointed. Apparently based on a previous "Micro Light" version (whatever the heck that is) it seems it was expanded and cleaned up.

It's basically a rules light Classic Star Trek RPG. It's a 148 page PDF. This is largely in a one-column format that would probably make it hard to read electronically, but I had it printed right away.

It's layout and illustration is very nice, with bits and bobs of Star Trek illustrations scattered throughout. Mostly illustrations, not a lot of photographs which I actually like. I think it also makes use of some Star Trek paper miniatures which is also a nice touch. It gives it a 'cartoony-but-not-silly' appeal. It also makes it pretty friendly on printer ink. There is some color in the document but not a lot so it should be easy to print (I took mine to Staples).

I have no idea why page 2 and 4 are blank however.

It starts with an introduction to Star Fleet and the Prime Directive which is a nice touch. It doesn't really mention any series after the first, which I for one appreciate. I'm trying to forget them myself.

This game is thankfully free to the usual typing errors and "I only spellchecked it, I didn't actually read it again" errors that usually plague these kinds of projects. There are a few spacing issues with the formatting and a few "There should've been a hard return or a bolding here..." errors, but thankfully the game is actually READABLE. I gave it an extra point for that alone. I found "form/from", "to/do" and "they/the" errors in the Romulan section, though, so another read-through would be recommended, but that's 140 pages without error, so in game material terms that's a Pulitzer prize.

There are a couple of 'shout-outs' that while I can see good reason for the appreciation, would make the book a better game reference by moving those to the introduction.

CHARACTER CREATION
Character Creation starts right away, rolling 3d6 for four attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Charisma). I like this too, not trying to be like any other game and only having the minimum necessary. The result of these attribute rolls are modifiers from -2 to +3. It also allows you to instead of randomly rolling, distribute 3 points directly to the modifiers. It doesn't however, mention if or how you would use negative modifiers in this case.

It also gives each character a Fate Point which can be used to save your life and is refreshed each 'episode'. One of the neat ways to replenish them is to take the "Moral High Ground" a very genre-appropriate manner. Other ways are the usual rewards for good role playing and rather strangely, whenever you roll an 18.

Here I should mention another flaw. It never explains how dice are used. I can infer that they use 3d6 rolls for everything and only six-sided dice, but it seems an obvious oversight. Perhaps they expect you to already be familiar with the "Microlite" game system, but if so, it's a dumb decision that prevents this from being a standalone game system and I can't really see any other reason it shouldn't be.

After creating your attributes its time a pick a race. Only four given - Humans, Andorians, Vulcans and Tellerites. Later in the book it makes it clear that there are other potential PC races, but only these four are given here. Each comes with several "Special Talents" and for all but humans, one of the talents is actually a disadvantage (but never called that). But they all work really and seem to give the right flavor to the races. All are described in half a page. The races are also giving attribute bonuses and subtractions as well.

The a "class" is chosen, of which there are three. Blue, Gold and Red. These are of course, duty designations for Star Fleet. After a brief explanation, you select Trained Skills. There are 17 of these and they are fairly generic and described with one line. You divide 8 points among them and none of them are allowed to be more than +2. This is a bonus given to appropriate rolls. Once again, later in the book it adds additional skills, but apparently these are not 'standard training'.

It then explains that each Class has their own set of duty appropriate skills that can be chosen from as well. Apparently there is no 'multiclassing'. I like this a lot. One of the often overlooked features of the old FASA Star Trek game was that being a specialist was significantly better than an untrained crew member, which immediately meant every PC had a chance to shine and that you really needed to work with other crew members to be efficient. In this game it seems that not having the bonus is not that big a deal - but restricting skill choice by 'class' would seem to make up for it.

TALENTS
After that are the Talents. These are divided into General Talents that anyone can have a Class Talents. Another nice touch that allows characters to specialize appropriately. These are very nicely done. They capture the flavor of Star Trek as well as provide more interesting applications that merely having a "+2 Bonus" (I'm looking at you 6 million Feats!).

One of these is the "Mind Meld" and the "Vulcan Nerve Pinch", so it appears to make it 'optional' for Vulcans which is neat. Of course, it does mean that it can be used by other races as well. Okay, I guess.

At the end of the talent descriptions is a Random Red Shirt table which provides a few details about the appearance and crew members. This is a nice touch.

Some of the Talents can be purchased multiple times. While this is pretty obvious I would have appreciated these being 'marked' somehow for easy reference in the future.

TEST
Next is the global task resolution system where you roll 3d6 against a difficulty number and add your attribute bonus and your skill 'rank'. Of course, it doesn't really refer elsewhere to "rank" in skills, so much as the skills are described as simply giving you a bonus. I smell leftovers from an earlier version.....

As is usually they are either Static (rolled against a difficulty number) or Active (rolled against someone else, highest roll wins). Simple and easy.

It then says "there are no saving throws, but roll this to avoid danger...." and gives an example of when certain attributes can be used to avoid what types of danger. Excuse me, but it appears that there ARE saving throws in this game.

COMBAT
Next is the Combat Chapter. Roll Initiative, attack with melee skill and Strength, make ranged attacks with ranged skills and Dexterity. No real surprises until we get to 'damage'.

There is none. Damage is treated as a 'saving throw' each time. Armor gives bonuses to this saving throw. If the saving throw is failed, you are knocked unconscious. The type of weapon determines how high the target difficulty number is. Well, it's pretty rules light I'll give it that. But it also makes combat a complete luck fest. Make your die roll, you're in the fight. Fail a die roll, you're down. So everyone apparently only has one hit point.

On the one hand, it's the only original thing in this game. On the other hand, since this is a simple game that didn't really need anything else original to be good, it stands out like a sore thumb.

It then gives nice selection of combat maneuvers (Aim, Dodge, Grab, etc.) and a rule for taking multiple actions in a round. Pretty easy and intuitive.

It gives some examples of Other Hazards, including Falling, Extreme Heat and Cold, Poison, Radiation and Lava. Lava. Of course, due to the nature of the way damage works, these are pretty much a list of difficulty numbers.

Death is mentioned (under Lava of course) it the game seems to imply that most of the time you'll simply be knocked unconscious.

EXPERIENCE
It gives typical experience points (XP) that allow you to buy skill increases and new talents. All fine until we get to the rules where getting a promotion is actually something that can be purchased with experience. From Cadet (the 1st rank) to Fleet Admiral (the 24th rank). Each rank costs 30 XP and a certain amount of time in the service. Meaning that becoming a Captain (the 19th rank) would take 570 XP and roughly 24 years! Does this mean that players start as basically red shirts before they can become officers? It doesn't really say. This seems another obvious oversight.

EQUIPMENT
This is a short chapter that's not extensive but does cover the most obvious classic Star Trek equipment including the Phaser Cannon which I appreciate. Of course, since weapons don't do any damage there's no real difference. Apparently they can all use the same modifiers for range as well.

SHIP COMBAT
After that is a chapter on spaceship combat. This is pretty hand wavy all around, but has some thin chase rules. It's fine as far as it goes, but doesn't really deal with the bridge crew interacting with each other in any way (something the old FASA Star Trek Simulator was excellent at) so to figure out why more than one player will need to be on the bridge is the Referee's job.

Starship damage is handled in an interesting manner. A ship has a Weapon Rating that subtracts the Shield Rating from with a 3d6 roll. The final result gives an amount of system damage on which systems have been harmed. I found this to be a very clever way to handle ship damage in a way that is meaningful to the characters. In essence, they gave ships damage and armor values like the should have done for character combat! Simple, but actually playable.

It also including Repair rules and additional rules for Plasma Torpedoes and the Tholian Web. Nice touches.

SPACE TERRAIN
Gets a terrific section as well covering space anomalies, black holes, atmospheres and asteroids. All with suitable game rules. Well done and thorough. It also gives four additional Gold Talents that can be taken if you are using the space terrain rules. Of course, I don't see why you wouldn't be so I think this makes much more sense in the other listing of Gold Talents rather than here.

SHIPS OF THE FLEET
The next section gives 'stats' for some common Star Fleet vessels including the Dreadnaught, Miranda, Saladin and Hermes. I really appreciate these so that it if a GM wanted to play with a different ship they have more than one choice! There is also a Tug, a Gorn ship, two Klingon ships, an Orion ship, two Romulan ships and the Tholian ship. It also gives you a 'generic' civilian ship and K-7 space station. A terrific variety that makes it easy to get playing right away without having to build these things yourself.

There's even a small "Quirks" table to give some variety to specific ships.

ENEMIES AND ALLIES
This is the 'monster' a great selection of creatures and aliens including survivors of the Eugenics wars, some stock Alien tables and some generic stats. I would have liked to have seen some more illustrations here, but other than that it is very nicely done and pretty complete.

Next we have Mysterious Alien Devices (with table). Very good. Cloud Monster (with table). Gods. Mighty Gods. Nemesis. "The Khan to your Kirk". Rules for Technobabble. Neat stuff.

NEW WORLDS
Next we start a series of tables. I enjoyed all of them and thought they were for the most part very well thought out. Incredibly comprehensive world and star system building tables as well as an Episode creator. Unlike similar tables I've seen these don't look 'crapped out'. It looks like a lot of thought and maybe even actual playtesting was used to build these. I'm pretty sure they would work very well. If that's not enough there are Random Planets and Locations to provide even more detail. It gets a little hard to follow at times, but the incredible detail and actual usability is amazing. I've seen this before, but never as well done. Including some brief examples of how to use the tables.

APPENDIXES
I'm not really sure why these are in the Appendixes. They seem to be pretty much in tune with the rest of the rules and there doesn't seem to be any reason you wouldn't use them.

APPENDIX I: ADDITIONAL CLASSES
The first adds a new "Class". Green Shirts. This are apparently Star Fleet Marines. I'm not sure whether they are derived from the Star Fleet Battles universe or what, but they're a welcome addition.

The second new "Class" is Merchants & Traders comes along with some brief notes about trading and making a profit. Very nice to have. Not "Merchant Prince" but good enough. Both new classes have new skills and talents to go with. There's even a Merchant Space ships profile included.

The third new "Class" is Special Citizens. To quote: "This class covers any specific specialist class or field expert like a renowned scientist, an entertainment personality, a noted historian, a diplomat, a politician, an archaeologist, etc.". Okay, at this point it seems like you might as well just have a "Non-Starfleet" class and be done with it. But since it comes with some new skills and talents it's a worthwhile addition.

APPENDIX II: ADDITIONAL RACES

This seems to imply that these might not be suitable as player character races. Or maybe they're here just to keep the 'core' rules slimmed down. Either way they are all delightful additions and a reminder that the classic Star Trek had a great deal of variety to it. Of course, this is assuming that you are including the animated series as part of classic Star Trek. And I do. Though they have also included Deltans from the first Star Trek movie as well. The biggest disappointment to this section is the lack of illustrations for the various races, only some of which I remembered. Don't make me Google people.

APPENDIX III: ALIENS & ANIMALS

Another excellent section that borrows liberally from the animated Star Trek and also has no illustrations. It's a little weird that some of these alien's aren't in the Additional Races chapter, but I can see how some of those distinctions could be hard to make. But in that case just pile them all in one place and identify them as you go along. Included are the classic Mugato and Tribbles as well. All great additions.

Reading through the monsters though does bring to mind that the since Equipment section says that "For the most part, you can assume that a doctor will have the appropriate tools with them when they are performing their duties, even in the field." then it seems like all the many poisons in the various creatures aren't going to bring a lot of drama to the game.

APPENDIX IV: KLINGONS
Klingons are given the full player character treatment which is very nice. Though since these are 'classic' Klingon's they are most definitely bad guys.

A brief background is given on the Klingon Government and while I can't really tell how much of it is based on the later Star Trek shows, it'll definitely do nicely for a game.

Because the skills and their descriptions are scattered all over the game, there is a lot of duplication of the skill descriptions, since naturally enough most Klingon's are military in nature. It would have been much simpler and easier to use as a game if they kept all the skills together and reference them. So finally something that actually SHOULD be an Appendix.

The few 'Klingon only' abilities are very nicely done however.

At the end of the Klingon section that very cleverly sneak in an explanation for why later Klingons look less like Mongol's and more like Orcs and give stats for "Imperial Klingons". Very cool and I can already think of an entire campaign - for both sides - based on the ideas here.

APPENDIX V: ROMULANS
The Romulans also get the full PC treatment as well. They also give a good background on the Romulan government and do a very good job of making their civilization different from the Klingons - which is harder than it sounds.


THE GOOD PART
If this ever comes out in hard-copy I'll definitely buy a copy. It’s a very fun take on classic Star Trek roleplaying, a fun read and *almost* playable as is.

But I'll definitely try playing this game and I hope more is produced for it.

If you have any fondness for classic Star Trek you'll at least enjoy reading it.

THE ALMOST PART

I expect it to be heavily house-ruled and I think it definitely needs it. I don't really see combat working at all for too many repeated playing though I suppose if you only used this as a 'change of pace' game it might work. But the fact that all weapons use the same range may bothersome.

It definitely needs more illustrations. It sucks a lot of the fun out of reading the well written descriptions to have a 'monster manual' without illustrations.

This is a very hand-wavy game. But it's not a 'just make it all up as you go along' game. So you're tolerance for the amount of rules-light will determine if it's 'good enough to read' or 'good enough to play'. For me, it needs a little more meat on the bones, but I've seen a lot of these types of games - and even a lot of Star Trek RPGs and this one is much better than most.

There is no sample adventure which is also a shame. Certainly there are plenty of existing Star Trek RPG adventures around, but in a game that is so otherwise complete, it would have been nice to have a ‘starter’ adventure as an example. Especially since the subject of player character ranks and positions are so fuzzy.

SUMMARY
From the beginning there were Star Trek RPG's. I know. I was there and I have all of them. Most of them 'shaved the serial numbers' off and called it something else, but whether licensed or not Star Trek has always made a great platform for roleplaying. The combination of action, adventure and yet plenty of opportunity for personal interaction, diplomacy and espionage make it great playground to play in.

Far Trek capitalizes on all of these possibilities by putting most of the tools at your disposal for immediate use.

This game makes me want to play campaign right now. It doesn't get much better than that.
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Paul Baldowski
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Re: FAR TREK REVIEW - Not perfect but very good
For reference, Microlite is a rather good and massively simplified 0D&D retro-game. Tons of variants, hacks, etc. exist - just check out the RetroRoleplaying website for some HUGE free content files with more Microlite than you'll ever likely have the time to read.
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Christopher Brandon
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Thanks very much for the feedback and critical appraisal. A revised document is in works to take advantage of some opportunities for improvement.
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Daniel Frohlich
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Great Review! I love the way this game has captured the feel of TOS!
 
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