STA: Scientific Method. Hm. I’m not so sure how this works.

scientific methodDuring our living campaign playtest, my players decided to employ the scientific method in order to create a solution for the mechanical breakdown of the planet’s gyroscopic control system. The way it is written up in the core rulebook (Chapter 06.40, p.157-158) left us scratching our heads.

Step 1 and Step 2 are pretty clear and simple. It is Step 3, Testing, that had us confused.

It reads, “The Gamemaster now assigns a number of successes needed to determine if the Hypothesis is correct. This is between 1 and 10 depending on the difficulty of the research or the problem. The Research Lead then chooses a direction to focus the research on. Players may pursue the wrong path and, if they are pressed for time, they may need to decide if they should continue to work on the Hypothesis they have chosen, or switch to another (see Timed Challenges). This is to represent the unknowns of research and development. Once the Players reach a total number of successes equal to the Difficulty in the correct research path, the Gamemaster informs the Players of their success. If a character has a Discipline of 2 or greater in the category of the problem (i.e., Engineering, Science, or Medicine) they are allowed to be an Assistant in the research regardless of what Focuses they have. This is due to common training amongst scientists and the ability of ideas to cross-pollinate between Focuses.

I placed in bold the parts that are unclear. So here are my questions:

  1. This is between 1 and 10 depending on the difficulty of the research or the problem.” How do I assign this? I though difficulties top out at 5.
  2. “If they are pressed for time”. Not all research is pressed for time. In the case of my players, I had earlier informed them that they had six months before the world machine broke down again. They rightfully asked, “Can we take 6 months to research it then?” This would take out the need for Timed Challenges. So how many times should the players be allowed to roll and over what period of time?
  3. reach a total number of successes equal to the Difficulty in the correct research path”. Waitasecond. Does this mean that no matter the project, given enough time, players will always succeed? Well, that hardly seems suspenseful.

I would really appreciate some feedback on how we can improve the explanation for this methodology.  I would like to employ it in my next game….launching soon.

Image Credit and Featured Image Credit: Modiphius Entertainment

 

6 comments

  1. It looks to me that they mean it’s an Extended Task, page 90-91 in the rulebook. The first part the should say the amount of Work needed to complete the task is from 1-10 depending on how much is involved in it; then the time period should depend on how long each attempt should take, so if it takes ten days of work to complete the test then you’d be able to make that many attempts; and the only thing likely to stop the task eventually succeeding is running out of time, or perhaps accumulating enough complications that it’s impossible to succeed.

  2. 1. “This is between 1 and 10 depending on the difficulty of the research or the problem.” How do I assign this? I though difficulties top out at 5.

    It’s a cumulative total. The idea is that they need to accumulate X number of successes over the time available.

    2. “If they are pressed for time”. Not all research is pressed for time. In the case of my players, I had earlier informed them that they had six months before the world machine broke down again. They rightfully asked, “Can we take 6 months to research it then?” This would take out the need for Timed Challenges. So how many times should the players be allowed to roll and over what period of time?

    If your research is not pressed for time, then the researchers would presumably just take as much time as they need to solve it, and there’s not much point in rolling for it. In Star Trek, you’ll have a much more dramatic situation if they have 6 minutes or 6 hours to repair the machine, rather than 6 months.

    To quote Kirk from Star Trek II, “Scotty, I need warp speed in 3 minutes or we’re all dead.”

    3. “reach a total number of successes equal to the Difficulty in the correct research path”. Waitasecond. Does this mean that no matter the project, given enough time, players will always succeed? Well, that hardly seems suspenseful.

    You’re right, it’s not very suspenseful to be given as much time as you need to succeed. It’s much more suspenseful to have a limited amount of time.

    As I mentioned, if the characters have as much time as they need, they’ll just take as much time as they need and they will inevitably succeed. They are Starfleet officers, experts in science and technology, with best-in-class abilities to improvise and build. The rulebook says this literally, on page 78 under “Tasks”:

    The game presumes that, given sufficient time, the correct tools, and the ability to concentrate, a character will be able to succeed at just about anything they set their mind to. Failure is not a matter of inability, but rather of insufficient time, inappropriate tools, or some manner of obstacle or interruption. A course of action may be deemed impossible not because the character cannot do it, but because they don’t have the means to do it at that moment, and finding out a way to make the impossible possible is part of a Starfleet Officer’s duties.

    The Enterprise needs to repair the transporters before Sulu and the crewmen freeze to death. They need to reboot the engines after an intoxicated Lt. Riley shut them down, with just minutes before they crash into the planet. A heat beam will destroy the Enterprise in a few hours if the crew on the surface doesn’t find a way to deactivate it.

    And so on. You’ll rarely find a good Star Trek episode where “There’s a life-threatening problem, and the crew has only 6 months to solve it.”

    It’s the time factor which creates the drama. Hope this helps!

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