Lessons learned from designing the Star Trek Adventures RPG Starter Set
Marco Rafala offers his experience of working on the Star Trek Adventures RPG Starter Set.
What has always drawn me to Star Trek is the combination of swashbuckling space adventure, philosophical and moral dilemmas, and characters who deal with complex questions around culture and identity. When I had the opportunity to write a campaign for the Star Trek Adventures Starter Set, I jumped at the chance to explore all three of these elements.
The beauty of a tabletop roleplaying game is that you’re not limited by special effects budgets. You don’t have to think about what’s possible on location or on a soundstage. That means you can think big—really big. Your adventures can have limitless, cinematic scope. In developing the Starter Set campaign, A Star Beyond the Stars, I started with an early episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that I’d always believed deserved a sequel. I won’t name the episode here, to avoid spoilers, but it would’ve made a great and thought-provoking three-part episode or film.
So, with sign off on the idea from the Modiphius team, I set out to write the sequel I’d long wanted.
A Star Beyond the Stars sends characters on a mission to unravel a mysterious threat in the far reaches of known space. From a Klingon armored space station to an abandoned mining outpost on a moon orbiting a gas giant to an ocean world that holds the secrets of a long-dead civilization—the budget would be astronomical anywhere except in your imagination.
Star Trek also doesn’t shy away from grappling with philosophical questions, which adds a deeper dimension to gameplay than you might see in other properties. Without giving anything away, there’s a moral dilemma at the heart of A Star Beyond the Stars and there are no easy answers. The characters are faced with a hard choice, and no matter what decision they make, they must live with the consequences—something that can easily carry on through character development in future missions. This kind of rich storytelling makes Star Trek Adventures such a unique tabletop roleplaying game. For me, that really is the heart of Star Trek: sure, phaser fights and starship battles are fun—and you’ll find plenty in this introductory campaign—but at the end of the day it’s the moral dilemmas that stay with you, that make you think.
Star Trek also speaks to me on a very personal level—as I know it does for many others. I’ve been a fan since my older brother introduced me to reruns of The Original Series when we were kids. I immediately gravitated toward Spock. Like him, my own parents came from different and sometimes opposing worlds: my father is a Sicilian immigrant and my mother is American. Star Trek let me see myself in a character on screen for the first time. In A Star Beyond the Stars I wanted to give players the opportunity to build unexpected cross-cultural, cross-species alliances—depending on the choices they make along the way.
Writing for the Starter Set did present a unique challenge: creating a campaign that was complex and interesting for players at every level of experience, while still using the campaign itself as a way for new players to learn how to play the game. Live long and prosper—and play great games.
By Marco Rafalà
Pick up the The Star Trek Adventures Print and Play Starter Set here.