Tuesday, September 1, 2015

RPG Review: Far Trek

So, as I mentioned recently, I've got a lot of sentimentality for Star Trek RPG's, and Star Trek in general.  Three actual honest-to-God licensed ones exist in history: FASA's, Last Unicorn Games, and Decipher's.  I own the first two and have heard mixed things about the third.

But there are also a lot of non-licensed Star Trek RPG's out there, and recently I saw that one of them, Far Trek, was offering a hard copy for a couple of bucks on Lulu.  Never one to let a deal go by I picked it up and thought I'd give you, gentle readers, my thoughts.



Far Trek is a light-hearted, even breezy take on the Star Trek universe, almost exclusively the original series.  There rules incorporate stats, skills, and talents.  There are four stats: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma, with the stats ranging from about a -2 to a +2, reflecting their modifier on the die roll.  I actually like this mechanic, which I first encountered in True20.  It doesn't make a lot of sense for there to be numerical values for a stat (say, 3 to 18) if the only impact is how it corresponds on a table to a modifier. Why not just have the modifier?

Anyways, stats are randomly generated, or you can distribute 3 points between the four stats.

Stats are then modified based on race, and Far Trek offers four: Human, Vulcan, and right out of FASA the Tellerites and Andorians.  I'm kind of bummed that they didn't offer FASA's other two from the animated series, the Caitians and the Edosians.  The game does say that most Star Trek aliens are effectively just humans with face paint, and to use the rules for humans (which involve getting an extra talent, but otherwise represent the baseline for the game).  Other races are featured in the rulebook outside of player options, just in case you wanted to play a Klingon, for example.

From there, the player has to choose whether the PC is a gold shirt (command and ship control), a blue shirt (science or medical), or a red shirt (engineering or security).  Whichever shirt the PC is determines which skills can be chosen.  There is also a general skill list from which any "shirt" can choose.  Each selection is rated as a +1, and while multiple selections are sometimes an option, the PC can never have more than a +2 at PC creation.

Talents mirror skills, insofar as there are general talents and shirt-specific talents.  This is where some of the light-heartedness comes in, because in addition to some of the more typical talents in RPG's you have general ones like "Torn Shirt" which when used means that the PC has ripped an article of clothing in a fight and can use is as a distraction and gain a one-off bonus, or shirt-specific ones like my favorite "Just Another Red Shirt" which means when the PC is out of a fight you can just scratch off the PC's name on the character sheet, write in another, and have that PC rejoin the game.

Skill resolution is pretty straightforward: 3d6+stat modifer+skill modifer+additional modifiers (including talents) vs. target number.  Contested skill resolution has the target number being the opponents dice+stat+skill+etc.  Easy peasy.

For damage, rather than wound levels or hit points, the game is pretty binary: able to fight or out of the fight.  It is kind of "genre simulationist" of them, with the idea that you might have bloody lips or torn shirts, but generally in Star Trek you were fighting at full capacity or you were unconscious (or in the case of red shirts, dead) on the floor.  In Far Trek if you get hit, you roll against a target number based on the weapon.  Succeed and keep fighting, fail and you're out.  Successive hits in a single combat ratchet up the number.  Again, a simple mechanic.

Ship combat is largely similar, although each side can perform certain actions to affect the outcome of the contested die rolls (like "evasive maneuvers").  But the combat is fairly abstracted--no moving ships around on a tabletop.  Damage isn't binary in this case but you simultaneously lose hull structure points and accrue various hindrances reflecting the details of the ship's damage.

In the back there is the predictable lot of TOS villainous aliens and their ships, etc. which will be familiar to anyone who knows the source material.

So, the final judgment.  First of all, I can not really be too critical of a game that is free online.  Even a mediocre game can be a source of inspiration, and not having to pay for it is a plus.  The print copy I received was perfect bound, in the lingo of the trade, and had some margin/cutting issues on the back cover, but otherwise was fine.  I chuckled to see the Enterprise called a Constitution class ship, because that was a conceit of the FASA game, not the original series, but was made canon in the Next Generation as a "tip of the hat" to the RPG.

As I said earlier, Far Trek could be run as a serious, gritty Star Trek RPG, but that is not what is was designed to do.  It's designed for a lighter touch, which I find pretty in my own wheelhouse when it comes to running RPG's.  Is it better than Last Unicorn Games' iteration (which would be my "go to" version for Star Trek, should the desire arise)?  No, just different, including its being squarely set in the original series.  But I could definitely see me using it, especially for a certain "feel" to a campaign.

6 comments:

  1. Hey thanks for pointing this out - I like to think I keep up with Trek games but I was unaware of this one.

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  2. Thanks for the review!

    --note there are many other possible player races (including Catian and Edoan--see pg 108! I put these in the back so that they are included but left to the Referee to use or not--like playing as Kilngons or Romulans. Keep on trekking!

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  3. Referring to the Enterprise as a Constitution class starship was not the "Conceit of FASA game". The Enterprise was first referred to as a Constitution class starship (or more acutately a "class one heavy cruiser, Constitution class") in Frank Joseph's Star Fleet Technical Manual, published in 1975, predating the FASA RPG by about 8 years.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know. I had read that it had originated with FASA's game, so I'll make the correction.

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  4. I spotted them way in the back right after I wrote the review! D'oh!

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  5. I thought there were only three as well, but recently I stumbled across the Heritage version. http://en.memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Star_Trek:_Adventure_Gaming_in_the_Final_Frontier

    I have a game called "Star Fleet Voyages" that I thought was 'shaving off the serial numbers' but now I see that it's actually the same game as "Final Frontier". I'm not quite sure if it was legally licensed or not, but it is the same game.

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