Another Star Trek Adventures book has hit the digital shelf for those with the PDF Collection and I immediately started flipping through it. I loved the Command Supplement and was eager to see what was in store this time. There was a high level of quality to meet and… Well, let’s just get into it.
This article originally appeared on my blog Mephit James’ Blog.
The Operations Division is made up of two departments that have seemingly little to do with each other. Security and engineering operate in different realms but they are the two pistons that keep a starship running and safe. Command and conn officers are the motor functions of a starship, science and medical are the cognitive functions, but the twin departments of Operations are the organs and immune system that allow the other departments to do their stuff.
The first part of this Operations Division Supplement is an overview of some of the sub-units that make up the division. It actually starts with something I’m not such a fan of: a continuation of “our earlier conversation regarding Fleet Operations”… i.e. Chapter 2 of the Command Division Supplement. Briefings on Mission Operations, Science Operations, Tactical Operations, and Shipyard Operations all provide some interesting background information on how Fleet Operations works. But it’s not background if you don’t have the other book. The information here is really cool (particularly the Shipyard Operations) but it does feel like you’re getting part of a story and without the information in the Command Division book you might feel left out. On the other hand, there are actual mechanics of how to utilize Fleet Operations in play in this book which can make you feel like you’re only getting part of the picture with Command Division. If you’ve got both books it’s a rich portrait but not everyone wants that.
This is less of a problem with the rest of this chapter, though. The discussion of Starfleet Intelligence from the 22nd century through the Next Generation era is full of awesome hooks for players and GMs alike. There’s a new career event as well called “Recruited to Starfleet Intelligence” which is an awesome addition that I’d like to see more of. (Of course, you can always check out Tony Pi’s awesome career events expansion for plenty of additions). Since Starfleet Intelligence (and Section 31 which is discussed later) is so secretive, a lot of advice is in here for including it in your campaign without derailing the mission.
On the engineering side, the Starfleet Corps of Engineers is outlined in plenty of detail to also make it a viable campaign option. It might not seem as interesting as being a spy but consider this list of responsibilities outlined for the SCE: Starbase and Outpost Construction and Repair, Investigation of Alien Technologies, Disaster Relief, Assistance with Civilian Projects, Salvage, Distress Call Response, Cultural Observation Support, and Terraforming Support. An SCE-based campaign (which this book contains advice for) could feature a mobile group moving from ship to ship and salvage op to disaster relief, an arc-based campaign where the team stays on science ships for several months and stops the inevitable emergency then does it again, or a long-term campaign with an SCE terraforming team supporting a new civilian colony deal with the dangers of their planet.
Lastly, Section 31 is described in detail and all it’s dark corners are looked at. My favorite part is where they discuss “The Truth” about Section 31 which is actually six different options for GMs to use from rogue agency to deniable asset to secret plot by the Obsidian Order or Tal Shiar. It’s a short section compared to the other parts of this chapter but it’s a finely-honed little gem of information that I fully expect to be used against us, Michael.
New Engineering Character Options
One of the most beloved examples of an engineer in Star Trek is Chief Miles O’Brien and to that end there’s a great sidebar in here about playing enlisted characters. Jester Dave already went over this but these guidelines pair very nicely with that article so you can use either or both! There’s another sidebar for making up technobabble terms which can really help you sound like a legit Starfleet engineer. Descriptions of what Engineering scores look like and how other Disciplines work with Engineering are helpful and the Engineering Focus suggestions are a tour through Federation technology that will improve your character design.
There are two major groups of Engineering Talents in this book to my mind. The first are those typical Engineering Tasks that let you run your own little mini-game of fixing and modifying to find those clever solutions: Experimental Device (like Personal Effects but for engineering prototypes), Maintenance Specialist (easier time with typical maintenance tasks), Meticulous (negate a Complication when fixing stuff), Miracle Worker (gain more Breakthroughs with Extended Tasks), Right Tool For the Right Job (use engineering equipment better), and Rocks Into Replicators (cannibalize a piece of equipment to make another tool that you need). The other group is Talents that let you be more of a star in stressful situations when your fellow players are counting on you: Exploit Engineering Flaw (empowering the Scan for Weaknesses Task), Procedural Compliance (spend Momentum to reroll on the next Engineering Task), Past the Redline (supercharge a ship’s system), and Repair Team Leader (easily repair ship Breaches).
New Security Character Options
There are the same sort of expected elements here including a discussion of what various Security scores mean in the game and how the Security Discipline mixes with other Disciplines. The Security Focuses are also really great and help you pick different options than Phasers and Starship Security all the time. There’s a great list of major conflicts (not complete but good) that could be a great list of campaign eras for a wartime campaign, or for past conflicts your veteran security officer might have connections to. A discussion of tactical roles (squad leader, combat engineer, etc) makes that kind of campaign really feasible and a sidebar on MACO even offers a sweet framework.
I love the new Security Talents the best and they aren’t just how to kill things better. Combat Medic lets you actually heal stress (instead of just preventing characters from dying) while Criminal Minds and Lead Investigator are two awesome detective skills. Also, there are those warrior-type Talents for space murder-hobos. Crisis Management (squad direction), Deadeye Marksman (supercharging the Aim Minor Action), Fire at Will (hitting multiple targets), Full Spread – Maximum Yield! (serious torpedo skillz), Hunker Down (master of using cover), Martial Artist (boosting your Unarmed Attacks), and Precision Targeting (hitting starship subsystems).
I’ll start by saying that this section has a lot of cool things in it. There are Engineering devices (plasma torches, hydrospanners, and sonic drivers all with rules to go with them), a review of starship technology (artificial gravity, emergency force fields, replicators, etc), and the experimental stuff (the M-5 artificial intelligence, the phasing cloak, the transwarp drive, etc). These are all awesome and full of hooks for both GMs and players.
Here’s what the intro chapter says to expect in this part of the book, though: “game statistics on advanced personal weaponry, engineering tools… advanced weapon upgrades and defensive systems for starships.” None of that is really in here. There are a few mechanical notes for engineering tools but the rest of that is just absent. I flipped to this part all excited and then felt disappointed. As I said, I really like what’s in here but I can’t help but feel like it could have been more having heard about this mythical Chapter 4.
Using the Operations Division
If you remember from the Command Division Supplement, this section of the book was a series of charts to roll on and get little jumping-off points for making your missions. There were “Red Plot Components” that focused on the sorts of things that command characters are good at and then Blue and Gold Components that offerred other Divisions’ strengths but with hooks to get the command folks involved. This is a great way to help the GM generate stories and I really enjoyed reading through it. I got to this point in the Operations Division Supplement and… it’s the same stuff.
I mean, the text is all new and there are many, many ideas for including Operations officers in the plot seeds but all the plot seeds are the same. This feels like a missed opportunity here. I mean, I get why they felt like there were already a lot of good options and you don’t want to work yourself into a niche because you’re stretching for new ideas. But really? There aren’t any new ideas for missions? You covered them all in three little tables? This is another example of something that’s useful and decent if you have both books but feels like half a story if you just have this one. That said, the ideas in here are good and they can help you with what the security and engineering officers would be doing in each of the situations you may or may not have seen in the Command Division Supplement.
A gem hidden away in this part of the book (for some reason) is a sidebar on Unarmed Combat. Various specific styles as well as martial arts in general are discussed here, and a few Combat Tasks such as Redirect and Immobilize are provided. This single page is really great and would really help out someone who wants to have a martial artist character.
So what NPCs do we get in this book? Well, some really awesome ones. As far as the named folks we get Notable NPCs Admiral Raner and Leah Brahms as well as Major NPCs Luther Sloan, Herman Zimmerman, and Admiral John Harriman of the SCE. Another Notable NPC is the original Commander Mahmud Al-Khaled of the SCE, and there are stats for a Starfleet Intelligence agent, a quartermaster, a transporter chief, an engineering specialist, a communications officer, an operations officer, and a repair team lead. There are further stats for supporting characters that might play a big role in your campaign as alternate characters for the players: a Starfleet security officer, a Starfleet engineer’s mate, and a MACO soldier all with notes on how to use them and how they might grow.
Red Alert Rules
These rules have been out for a while and I actually reviewed them before. But is this version different from the free version of Red Alert already released? In a word: no. To elaborate a little more this is, word for word and image for image, the same set of pages as in that other product. Even the example skirmish (Klingons taking over the Enterprise-D) is the same. This isn’t bad, that was a great product, it’s just… disappointing. I don’t think there are parts of the Red Alert rules that needed revision but since they’ve had four months to think this over I was hoping for a little more. Different tokens? Other terrain features? A few additional scenarios? Just, you know, something.
I like this book and I think it will be a really useful addition to my Star Trek Adventures games. It’s full of some great background info, awesome new Talents, and two different examples of alternate campaign focuses (the Starfleet Corps of Engineers and Starfleet Intelligence) among other stuff. But is it up to the quality of the other books? No, not really. The Beta Quadrant Sourcebook had lots of new species and a host of campaign details and NPCs. The Command Division Supplement has Talents, spaceframes, campaign options, NPCs, rules clarifications, and a whole new mass combat for starships. By comparison, this book has campaign details, NPCs, and Talents but not much else (I’m not counting the Red Alert rules since those were already available). There’s good stuff here but not anything that I felt needed to go into my campaign immediately.
In terms of the Tribble Rating System, the book earns a Tribble for canonicity, relatability, and quality but not for likability or accessibility.
If you’re planning on getting all the Division books then I think this will be a great part of the tapestry that will give you a richer, more detailed Star Trek Adventures game. Out of the supplement books currently out, though, I’d put this one at the end priority-wise. Oh well, on to the Alpha Quadrant?