As I was perusing a great article on “Star Trek’s 15 Greatest Romances” by ScreenRant’s Laurie Ulster, I thought to myself, “How would one run romance in Star Trek Adventures?”
Now, I don’t know about your group of players, but I notice that some of mine are a bunch of flirts, curiously observing other crew members and toying with dalliances of the heart. The player character might be spurned or shunned. Other times, the feelings from the supporting character (or even player character) might be mutual. And even though I play a strictly PG game, at some point these uniformed professionals are going to need to wind down and get mushy. How will I handle it when a hot pursuit starts and we need to roll on romantic maneuvers?
In other words, suppose one of my young ensigns wants to put a move on that gorgeous Lieutenant in astrometrics? She might wisely spurn the on-the-job mischief. Still, he may want to pull out his best cologne and one-liners to get her to agree to a meet up in the mess hall. Can you roll that out?
First of all, Let me allow Star Trek Adventures game designer Nathan Dowdell chime in about Social Conflict, like romance, in STA. He says, “I wrote the Social Conflict rules specifically to avoid the possibility of just rolling and rolling until you get what you want from whomever you want – if the request is something a character would never do, it fails without a roll, and any failed roll prevents you trying again without changing the context of the task in some way.” He goes on to explain, “So, there’s always consent involved: you can only persuade someone to do something that they might possibly consider doing, with the difficulty being based on how likely they are to consider it (or how risky or difficult the action is for them to do), with the other tools used to help provide context to influence that difficulty. The trick is finding a person willing and able to do what you want them to, and determining how to convince them to do it.”
Well said, Nathan! Now, let’s hop into IF we want to roll out romantic social conflict. Perhaps it is the main plot of your adventure so it needs a little more attention from the dice.
I would love to hear your ideas about how you run romance on your crew. Place comments below.
The closest thing I could find in the STA books was in the These Are The Voyages compendium. One of the modules discusses plant pheromones, and—let’s face it—pheromones is basically plant sex. In this case, resisting pheromones is stated as a Control + Command task with a Difficulty of 2.
INITIAL DATE ROLLS
I think the same roll could be used to initiating a romantic gesture with a little twist: Control/Insight/Presence + Command task with a Difficulty of 2. Why the different Attributes?
Control = The person who initiates the romantic gesture has thought long and hard about the logic behind the budding relationship. They launch a convincing argument on why they should give the romance a chance.
Insight = The interested party is especially insightful. They have noticed a small detail about the other person (maybe a personality quirk, a like or dislike, or emotional response) that a purely platonic person would not have caught. As such, they hope to touch the heart of their love interest.
Presence = Simply put, this person has swagger. When they enter the room, they light up the place OR maybe they have a sharp mind in a particular area of discipline or focus. They employ this exceptionalism to catch the other person’s attention.
Of course, the love interest gets the chance to play hard to get. Or maybe they are genuinely repulsed by their suitor. In that case, an Opposed Action is in order. In this case, I think we would have to go with a Control + Command task with a Difficulty of 2.
So, let’s play out both scenarios and decide what happens.
- If the character with the love interest wins, then the loser (I don’t know if that is the appropriate word) will agree to at least one date. Any momentum generated can be used to have additional dates, one per each momentum.
- If the character with the love interest fails in the Opposed Action, the opposing character simply says no. Any momentum generated by the opposing character can be used to increase the difficulty of any future requests for dates. This compounds indefinitely
Yes, it is possible that the difficulty compounds over time until it is impossible to get the person to accept a romantic relationship. The gamemaster can decide that some shocking event—like saving a character’s life or surviving some terrible ordeal—resets that difficulty level.
Any complications rolled should make the difficulty +1 on Bonus Date rolls.
BONUS DATES ROLLS
Once on the date, the character can roll another Control/Insight/Presence + Command task with a Difficulty of 2 to determine if the person will accept another date, basically, they didn’t come off as a creeper or complete goofball. Again, any momentum can be used to score additional dates. That plays into the next game mechanic.
EXTENDED TASKS (or “Love me, love me not.”)
Let’s not assume that one date makes a romance. Getting someone to fall in love would likely be an Extended Task. The gamemaster can set the rules around the Extended Task much as they would any other, accounting for variables that only the gamemaster and players might be aware of. Let’s review Extended Tasks from page 90 of the Core Rulebook:
WORK. Going back to my example of the young ensign, I might make the Work Track 20 for him to get the lieutenant to fall in love with them. This may mean several of those rolls outlined above spread over however many dates they scored. Or they may need to ask for multiple dates, hoping that the lieutenant doesn’t win the opposed task, which is equivalent to being shot down. Work track starts from scratch.
MAGNITUDE. I might determine that since the ensign is two ranks below lieutenant that that grants a base magnitude of 2. In addition, other factors like incompatible species, being stationed on another vessel, previous arguments, etc. might increase that magnitude.
RESISTANCE. I really wouldn’t add resistance. However, if this person turned down the suitor a few times I might add the number of points equal to previous rejections (failed Extended Tasks).
Any complications rolled on the Extended Task take 4 away from the work track. These should be hilarious to write up. 🙂
How many rolls does the suitor get to make on the Extended Task? That depends on how many dates they score before getting rejected. For example, suppose that the suitor rolled 3 momentum (they chose a 5D20 hand) on their initial roll. This grants them 4 dates. That is the number of rolls they get to complete the work track. While on some of the subsequent dates they score BONUS DATES. Those are extra chances to complete the work track. If they fail to complete the work track after the INITIAL and BONUS date rolls, then they start from scratch.
This Extended Task could extend over weeks, months, or even years, especially if the characters only see each other when they meet up on Risa once every six months.
Once again, the gamemaster and players can negotiate what the Extended Task might look like depending on a large number of variables. If the Extended Task fails, the pursuit continues or the suitor is heartbroken and moves on. Ah! But if the Extended Task succeeds—pure sweetness!
Prepare for your fellow players to vomit as you get gooey and mushy with tender love expressions in every shadowy corner of the ship. It should make for some great humor and some awesome arguments over time.
Once again, let me know how it goes in your games. I would love to hear the stories.