Like Starfleet, the characters of Star Trek Adventures are divided into three major divisions: command, operations, and science. To support character development in the game, Modiphius has three supplement books planned, one for each division, and the first one is out now! Like the four quadrant books that are planned (you can read a review of the first one here) there is a lot of setting material and game inspirations in these books. The Quadrant books, however, are full of NPCs and plot hooks while the supplement books are full of new Talents, rules expansions, and crew templates. Ready to see what the command division is all about? Let’s get started!
This review was originally published on my blog Mephit James Blog.
The Command Division
The first real chapter of the book focuses on the departments included in the red-hued command division. The command department is “the connective tissue between the Federation Council and a crew,” which is a tall order for players to manage at times. This book has some good advice for managing that balance (on both sides of the screen), though this first chapter doesn’t have a ton of advice for command division crew members below the rank of commander.
The conn division are presented as much more than pilots, since they “are, perhaps, the most cross-trained officers in Starfleet.” This isn’t something I’d thought a lot about personally but it’s interesting to note that serving at the helm requires a wide variety of scientific, engineering, and tactical issues. Probably why Wesley ended up there, come to think of it…
Following the career specifics for command division officers, there’s a great overview of Starfleet Command as a whole. Just like the Federation is fully detailed in the Beta Quadrant sourcebook, the ins and outs of Starfleet Command can be found here, from the Joint Chiefs to the Fleet Operations department, R&D, and the Diplomatic Corps. Fleet admirals, sector admirals, and fleet captains are discussed and prominent flag officers in 2371 who are seen in the series get a short sidebar and flag officers from other eras get another.
The next dozen pages cover the Fleet Operations department, the Federation Judiciary (for court-martials and such), the Prime Directive, and Starfleet Academy all get some discussion in terms of their relation to command division characters. Personally, since I’m playing a commander with a short fuse in a current campaign, I found the Judiciary discussion really helpful both in seeing how strict he could be without violating protocol and on what consequences he could threaten subordinates with.
The last couple sections here are matters for command officers as well, from standing orders assumed to be in place and various alert statuses to a typical daily duty watch schedule and various levels of ship diagnostics. The senior staff, from executive officer down through the chain of command, get some attention and the section on “Developing Your Officers” is a really great, concise list of advisable actions for being a good captain.
Command Division Characters
This self-explanatory section covers different sorts of command division characters, broken up into command officers and conn officers. Each get some in-universe detail (ranks in the admiralty, guidelines for an “admiralty campaign,” and advice on piloting) as well as crunch, starting with what it means to have a Command or Conn Discipline at various levels. Ever wonder what it means to have Command 1 or the difference between Conn 3 and Conn 4? Check it out here.
Some discussion is given to other disciplines for characters focused on Command or Conn as well as literal mechanical Focuses that are interesting options for your red-uniformed characters. There are, of course, Talents for your characters and there are twenty-one new options divided almost evenly between the two Disciplines. My favorites include Coordinated Efforts (bonus in leading Extended Tasks), Plan of Action (making Advantages that represent planning more useful), Multi-Tasking (when you take over the functions of another bridge station you can use Conn instead of the normal Discipline), and Spacewalk (using your piloting smarts to make zero-G operations easier).
This chapter has some of the greatest crunch in the book and stuff that has fans of the series and the RPG really excited. Whether it’s a greater focus on the details of the Federation or an intention to pair with the Beta Quadrant sourcebook (where the Xindi and Suliban both make appearances), this book features a number of 22nd century ships. To start, there’s an extensive sidebar on 22nd century ships (in case you wanted something to go along with Jester’s rules) for full campaigns set at the Founding of the Federation. As far as spaceframes, the Daedalus class and NX class are both presented and they have some interesting options that make them feel different from later ships.
For the 23rd century there’s a Constitution class refit is presented, which seems pretty unnecessary. Basically, this is an updated Constitution class to reflect the ship seen in the first movie, but instead of actual stats it just says to follow the normal refit rules. Isn’t that understood? Anyways, for more 23rd century ships we have the Hermes class, the Oberth class, the Sydney class colony ship, and the Centaur class (that last one’s not a typo, there’s some discrepancies on various sources’ take). In the 24th century we have the Ambassador class, the Nebula class, the New Orleans class, the Olympic class, the Steamrunner class, the Norway class, the Saber class, the Sovereign class, and the Luna class from various Star Trek novels.
If you’re keeping count at home, that’s fifteen (!) new spaceframes for your campaigns. Part of this chapter’s excitement, though, is tempered by the massive homebrew community out there for Star Trek Adventures. At Continuing Mission we’ve got spaceframes for the Daedalus, NX, Oberth, Centaur, Ambassador, Nebula, New Orleans, Steamrunner, Norway, Saber, and Sovereign classes. This is the same problem as the species in the Beta Quadrant book and if you were primarily buying this for the spaceframes then you already have free versions of more than two-thirds of the new frames in this book. However, unlike new species, spaceframes are a lot more complex so you might not be upset at all about having two versions of some of these guys. Plus, they are taken in a lot of different directions.
The Nebula class in particular has some interesting features and you can switch out the “mission pod” on top to trade two of the ship’s three default Talents depending on whether you want “Command & Control”, “Sensors”, or “Weapons” specialization. There are also new ship Talents including the Captain’s Yacht (giving a special small craft) and Dedicated Personnel (which boosts one department in particular). Speaking of small craft, the book also provides stats for the Type-F shuttlecraft, the Work Bee, the Type-6 shuttle, the Type-7 shuttle, the Type-8 shuttle, the Type-9 shuttle, the Type-10 shuttle, and the Federation Attack Fighter. Counting up the spaceframes from before, this means that Command Division Supplement has almost two dozen new spaceships for your players to make use of. That’s hard to beat.
Using the Command Division
This section and the next are focused on the GM side of the Command and Conn departments. They provide “storyline components” for each department that focuses on a particular part of the game as detailed on page 298 of the core rulebook. Red plots are those dealing with command and diplomatic situations, gold for action and combat, and blue for science and technology. This is discussed just briefly in the core book but it’s really fleshed out well here and I hope it’s something that Modiphius is planning to keep up with.
It’s like a big permutation of different options (one section for red command plots, one for blue conn plots, one for gold command plots, etc) but there are also about a half-dozen specific plot ideas for each combination. Feel like you want something to give your conn officer the spotlight? Has it been a while since you had a diplomatic mission in the campaign? Roll the d20 on the Red Conn Plot Component table for inspiration and… what about a conspiracy plot that the conn officer overhears while bringing a high-level officer in by shuttlecraft?
The next section refines Social Combat, which is a big part of the skillset of Command Division characters. Social Conflict is covered in the core rulebook on pages 164-168 and it seemed pretty complete to me. Thankfully, the Command Division Supplement doesn’t muddy the waters with a rewrite of those rules but it does provide more guidelines for using Traits (like Evidence or Intimidation), using Challenges or Extended Tasks in Social Conflict, how Telepathy affects social situations (I know a lot of people have been asking for advice on this on social media), and some more options for Opposed Actions than just rolling against each other. It adds some depth and tools and it’s a great resource for GMs, particularly as the section ends with Social Conflict plot ideas like peace negotiations, infiltration, interrogation, and legal proceedings.
There is also a section on starbases which is pretty cool but (and I realize you might think I’m biased here) I like my system better. Personally, I’d use a hybrid of these: use my system for creating a starbase and then the Talents and docking rules from the Command Division Supplement. Another mechanical option found here is the section on Awards and Commendations which give you something to “purchase” with Reputation. When a character gains new Reputation they can use those points to earn the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor or the Star Cross. The benefit from these is not a higher Reputation score but something specific. For example, an officer with the Legion of Honor can, once per mission, gain two bonus Momentum on a successful Task or ignore a single rolled Complication. You know, honor-stuff.
The last section deserves it’s own post so I’ll only go into it briefly here. Basically, Fleet Engagements are mass combat rules for starship combat. Modiphius recently released Red Alert Miniatures Rules which are ground mass combat rules (set to be released with the Operations Division Supplement). These rules are for handling wings of starships organized by an admiral… possibly your admiral character!
This chapter of the book is all about NPCs, but they’re NPCs that would naturally be allied with the Player Characters. It starts with a bunch of familiar names that characters can ask for help, both flag officers from Starfleet Command (specifically Commodore April, Vice Admiral Nechayev, Vice Admiral Leyton, and an invented Tellarite NPC named Rear Admiral Brin) and members of the Diplomatic Corps (Sarek, Curzon Dax, and Lwaxana Troi) who are all pretty interesting.
Following these are some generic diplomatic NPCs (a diplomat, an attaché, and a negotiator) and some Starfleet personnel (a pathfinder specialist for navigation, an Academy instructor, a cadet, and a JAG officer for the judiciary). Out of these generic ones, they seem solid and useful but the only one I’d really call out is the attaché who can be customized to different fields and seem useful for both NPCs and captains.
The next section, and the last of the book, is a collection of supporting characters to place on players’ ships and away missions. The diplomatic aide, junior bridge officer, and legal counsel all help with delicate political missions while the EVA specialist and shuttle pilot help with crazy maneuvering. All of them are pretty useful and all of them come with notes on selecting appropriate species and rank as well as development changes for Values, Attributes, Disciplines, Focuses, and Talents. These are supporting characters that are more than ready to help your ship.
The biggest impression I got from this book speaks to Modiphius’s philosophy moving forward. The new spaceframes (which are all canon in the series but many of which only feature strongly in other games and novels) show that Modiphius is willing to explore the whole breadth of the Star Trek universe to bring us new materials. Another interesting aspect is the customization of NPCs; a lot of them are listed with notes to pick additional Focuses and bonuses, which means Modiphius is trying to anticipate GMs’ needs a little more in their stats.
Nowhere is this more apparent than with the supporting characters. They are straightforward templates that aren’t likely to steal the spotlight from the PCs but they also have guidelines to make them memorable if they end up sticking around. In the game I’m playing in we have a number of supporting characters who started off as nobodies and have grown into characters that we love (or love to hate in one particular case). I see in this book a real understanding of how the game is playing out and what Modiphius can do to support it.
I think this hits all the points one might be looking for. Five tribbles!
With the Beta Quadrant Sourcebook I recommended that people get it after a few other books that might prove more useful in supporting your campaign. This time I wholeheartedly advise getting this book. If you have a character in the command division I think this will prove all but essential, and if you have a character that uses the Command or Conn Disciplines (which should be every character eventually) then I think you’ll find something useful as well. This is a gold-star book. Keep it up, guys!