Earlier I looked at the Science Divisions Supplement, the last of the three division supplements to round out your characters. I was focusing on the player-facing parts of the book in my last review. At long last, let’s see what the campaign-facing side of the book holds!
This post appeared (a while ago, sorry) on my blog Mephit James’ Blog.
Science and Medical Storylines
So this is a familiar part of these books now and I keep wanting to find it more exciting than it is. There are red plot components which are socially-based, gold plot components which are action-based, and blue plot components which are technically based. Each supplement discusses these plot components through its own lens but I think what I want here are actual plot hooks instead of just episode references. Or maybe I’m just asking too much. The only thing of note in skimming through this is the idea for medical missions in Show the Flag plots. Essentially these are border missions that shows the Federation is strong and the suggestion here is to have a medical crisis in a neighboring region that shows they can count on Starfleet. Interesting and bordering on a plot seed… More of those, please!
Special and Planetary Phenomena
Now we’re on to the really good stuff. This chapter starts off with a description of nebulae classes from real life examples to in-universe nebulae. This includes more robust game mechanics for Class I through Class V nebulae compared to what you find in that small sidebar in the core rulebook, especially in situations where crew members are outside the ship or the nebula material gets in.
Similarly, there’s more robust game mechanics for novas, supernovas, ion storms (also described by their classes, I-V), radiation storms, solar flares, black holes, neutron stars, and pulsars. All of these are discussed in the core rulebook but just in a short page and a half; here we get three and a half pages of great detail. There’s even a sidebar with advice for combining spatial phenomena (a nebula plagued by radiation storms, say) for the truly devious GM.
After this comes a discussion of planetary phenomena from massive earthquakes to terraforming to extinction level events. This sections a little light on mechanics but it does give you some excellent ideas for plots.
Speaking of ideas, how about a three-page chapter on ship’s counselors and how they can fit into the story? This section of the book is really crucial to making the ship’s counselor role shine in Star Trek Adventures and it’s full of great ideas. It starts with a brief in-universe history of when and how Starfleet began to assign counselors to ships. It also introduces the idea of trauma in characters, something frequently seen in Star Trek episodes, and how you can deal with it mechanically.
Like more horror-driven games, you have the option of applying new Traits to characters who have been through horrible experiences: Picard dealing with his existence as Locutus, Kirk dealing with the genocide he witnessed on Tarsus IV, or Worf dealing with the loss of Jadziah to name a few examples. This can be done all the time for a more harrowing feel but I would just pull it out for climactic and intense experiences, or even just have players start with them like Lt. Barclay’s phobias. Once you have one of these Trauma Traits, counselors can use psychotherapy to help characters and remove them. Easy and simple, especially since Traits only apply when the GM says they do so it’s not intrusive at all.
Aliens and Hostile Environments
While the section on Creating Aliens is mostly focused on non-sentient alien lifeforms, it’s still a long chapter of ideas, tables, and guidelines for generating life on uncharted planets. You don’t have to have a background in biology to make convincingly alien ecosystems, nor do you have to be an endless well of inspiration. Roll a few times on these tables and come up with the broad-strokes details of alien life on a planet. A lot of the options are going to make truly unrelatable aliens but there’s a section on “culture” as well that can give you a new species to negotiate with after a simple d6 roll.
If you like mechanics, though, check out the section on Hostile Environments and Hazards which supplements Chapter 6 of the core rulebok. There are very specific effects detailed for vacuums, deadly atmospheres, toxic gases, high and low pressure atmospheres, harmful temperature ranges, intense gravity, strong winds, precipitation, and radiation types. There’s even a full-page sidebar for some pretty sweet rules to include “diseases, poisons, toxins, venoms, and viruses” in your campaign. It’s actually followed by some example biological hazards including the aphasia virus and Kalla-Nohra syndrome. I might do a sample hazard of this sort in the future to illustrate but let me just say for now that I would sum up this section as fantastic.
This section gives you NPCs for the Sciences and Medical departments in various different types. The “Luminaries” section gives stats and short bios for Dr. Richard Daystrom, Dr. Carol Marcus, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, Dr. Noonian Soong, and Dr. Zefram Cochrane. This includes sidebars on how to include them in your campaign.
Next up are the template NPCs that your characters might end up meeting during the campaign. There’s a Federation Science Councilor who support research policies and academics, a Starfleet research scientist (who would never push the boundaries of knowledge to dangerous levels), a terraformer making new colonies, and a Vulcan Science Academy professor emeritus.
Next are a series of Minor NPCs that seem designed to be crew members on your Player Characters’ ship when they need a hand with research or an away mission. Or to get possessed by a godlike entity and threaten everyone’s safety… or whatever. There’s an astrocartographer (possibly an expert in a specific sector of space), a counselor (treating everyone’s trauma), an explorer (civilian boundary-pusher), a physician (with an Interspecies Medical Exchange ability that gives an edge for Federation species), a professor (with a variable ability for a specialty subject), a Xenobiology Department head (could be handy), and a ready-to-go Chief Science Officer for your ship or someone else’s.
Lastly are some Supporting Characters presented as half-formed with guidelines for you to customize as your campaign goes on. Here we have a geologist, an anthropologist/historian (presumably one or the other), a grad student, a lab tech, a nurse, a triage nurse, an anesthesiologist, an Emergency Medical Hologram Mark II (played by Andy Dick as seen in “Message In a Bottle“), and a programmer. There’s a sidebar, by the way, about modifying EMHs which seems like a really amazing option for both a plot and a player project.
In case there’s any doubt, this is my favorite of the division supplement books. It’s got a ton of game material to help you with a more immersive Star Trek Adventures game plus it’s got a ton of new mechanics, plot ideas, and game options. It’s great and I can’t wait to start utilizing it. About the only thing that would make it perfect is rules or advice for playing an EMH character but that’s both a longshot and something I can make up on my own. A+ guys.
Unless your GM leaves a mobile emitter lying around, an EMH might be better suited to a supporting character role anyway. A Mark II has more mobility, but it still isn’t available for away missions.
Yeah, that would be the challenge but I don’t think someone would want to play an EMH and then complain about having to stay on the ship. If you specifically choose a holographic character like the Doctor, that limitation is probably a major reason.
I’d hope that player wouldn’t complain. But if they do – wait until everyone else beams down and then send in the Borg.