House rules for starship design and personalization
Introduction: Core Rules as Written, and what this expansion is meant to be
Below is a sample of the document to give you an idea of how to incorporate this house rule into your game.
The purpose of these house rules is to expand on this solid rules basis in two ways:
- First (as covered by Section 1 of this guide), to suggest consistent, balanced ways of designing wholly new Spaceframes, Mission Profiles, and Talents, beyond the officially published ones. This is something fans have already improvised plenty of (see examples here).
- And second (as covered by Section 2 of this guide), to go a little bit nuts in trying to specify exactly what minor, trivial details can be inferred about a starship from its vague general stats. This is not intended as a straightjacket of compulsory rules; Steven Long’s (2000) Spacedock rules expansion for the old Last Unicorn Star Trek roleplaying system showed how unplayable the game becomes when you over-burden it with waaaaaaay too many specific rules. Rather, I see this as something closer to the way I actually ended up using Spacedock in my own games: As a behind the scenes lore tool for (mostly) the GM’s eyes only, simply to get a feel for what ‘normal’ ought to look like. Roleplaying games aren’t always about what’s normal, of course, but it’s still useful to have a map of normal, so that you can tell just how far beyond it you’re going. Like any other setting lore, the GM needs to decide what’s relevant or irrelevant to their own game, adjusting the bits they like and throwing out the rest. It’s a way of adding texture to the setting, especially the part of it the players will call home, rather than piling on new rules.
The Star Trek Adventures core rulebook (page 236-237) describes the rules for starship creation in 4 steps, though their steps 1 and 4 work as one, and they’ve left out the final step that doesn’t get mentioned until page 255. I would rewrite that list as:
- Pick a Spaceframe (the basic stats and appearance).
- Pick a Mission Profile (which improves the Departments and adds Talents).
- Pick a number of Talents (including any already taken from the Spaceframe and Mission Profile) no greater than the ship’s Scale.
- Pick a number of Refit bonuses based on the Spaceframe’s Service Year, compared with the current in-game year (which improves the Systems).
Spaceframes and Mission Profiles are preset modules; simply knowing the name of each makes it very clear which stats the ship will get. Together, these represent how the ship was actually built and launched, at its “birth”.
Refits allow for a bit more player choice, between any of the 6 Systems that could be improved. These represent smaller changes and upgrades made to the ship over the course of decades.
Talents allow for even more player choice, representing specialized customizations of the ship. They tend to significantly improve one narrow aspect of the ship’s operations. The Talents themselves can also be described as preset modular rules modifiers.
The various ways in which these ship stats can then be used in the game are covered throughout chapter 9 of the core rule book.
That’s a lovely, simple system for starship building, requiring hardly any petty accounting. I definitely don’t want to undermine that. But translating between the mostly quantitative game rules and the mostly qualitative narrative, in-game experience is left very vague. Experienced Star Trek GMs will have some idea of how to make that translation on their own, but inexperienced GMs may still benefit from some guidance.