Back in 2018, I created the original tribble rating system. Since then, my group and I have had the chance to play through dozens of modules and mission briefs. In doing so, we have noted what differentiates a good versus spectacular campaign module. Fortunately, we haven’t come across any really bad ones.
I now introduce the revised system based on what really has mattered to me as a gamemaster when selecting a module to play. I also compare this with how much my players enjoyed the session.
Hence, I offer up the REVISED Tribble-Rating System 2021, a comprehensive quick-shot from the Tribble Rating System Guild of America. (Samples below can be cut/pasted for your own use.) The system is based on 5 rules of subjective merit, which uses the Rubric method to come to a final tally of Tribbles.
- Comprehensibility – After reading through the module or brief the first time, I ask myself, “How hard was it to grasp the story and plot concept?” Do things fall into place with a clear objective, NPCs that make sense, and a clear description of scenes and required tasks? If the module is part of a larger campaign (like the Living Campaign), does it fit well into the story arc or does a lot of tweaking have to take place? Is the language used by the author clear or does it leave you drowning in technobabble? Are there just too many words or not enough?
- Originality– How original is the concept? Is it like other things we’ve seen in the Trek-verse, just with new window dressing? Are the regions of space, planets, aliens, characters, technology, or starships like nothing seen in other games or onscreen? Did the conflict encourage players to use new methods to overcome a challenge? Was the plot predictable, using common sci-fi story tropes?
- Sci-Fi Concepts – Even though Star Trek Adventures is a science-fiction RPG, the ideas must be digestible and relatable if the gamemaster is going to master the mechanics of the story. That means that the concepts can’t be so far-out as to not have at least some real-world comparisons; otherwise, the gamemaster and the players might be lost. Making advancement or overcoming the challenge will be hard if the gamemaster and players can’t agree on the cause and effect of the sci-fi concept. Did the writer of the module introduce new sci-fi concepts and, if so, did they explain them well? Or did the writer just use established Star Trek technologies and sciences?
- Social Conflict Potential – Many players of Star Trek Adventures seek games with less action and the potential for more social conflict; i.e. the chance to talk one’s way out of problems. Did this module lend itself to solutions that can be solved without employing violence? Were the players engaged in more conversation than dice rolling to achieve a satisfying resolution? Was there the opportunity for emotional tension and suspense that was driven by dialog? If so, this module would earn a tribble.
- Adaptability – Whatever module a gamemaster picks up is going to need some tweaking. Your game likely has a cast of original characters on their own starship assigned a particular mission. As such, gamemasters must take a module, review it, then adapt it to their game. This would include changing the era, available technology, or region of space that the adventure is set in. It might mean swapping out NPCs or entire species to make the module make sense to your players. Also, can the module or brief be easily worked into a campaign you’re already playing? If you are able to keep at least 75% of the story elements offered in the module, then it is pretty adaptable.