Today we’ve got a deep dive into two classic Talents for Star Trek Adventures and what they mean for roleplaying. These are mechanically pretty basic but there are some surprising depths when you include them in your character.
Our guest writer today is Jay Verkuilen, a longtime RPG player. He has played many different games over time. Most recently he is playing a lot of Star Trek Adventures (despite not being a big Trek fan before playing the game), running the classic game Adventure!, and playing and running 5E. In real life, he is a statistician, a profession that in no small part he got into via trying to figure out what Gygax was talking about in the 1E DMG.
“Look Before You Leap” vs “He Who Hesitates Is Lost”
Star Trek Adventures has many Talents that do all sorts of things. Most are quite useful in the right circumstances. I want to put the highlight on the Bold and Cautious Talents.
Mechanically, they have essentially the same effect: You may reroll one D20 if you bought dice either by taking Threat (Bold) or via Momentum (Cautious). They don’t take much to run in actual play: If you bought dice using Threat or Momentum as the case may be, simply look at your roll as you would normally do and decide to reroll or not. They require almost no rule lookup or adjudication on the part of the GM. In game play, a reroll means you can potentially avoid a complication, try for a success that you didn’t quite get on the roll, or go for some extra
Because they seem rather plain, they may be overlooked by players. This is unfortunate, though, because, in addition to being applicable in nearly every session, unlike more niche Talents, Bold or Cautious can be signals for your character’s persona help differentiation from other characters who have the same stats. In addition, they can really help synergize the crew and get the most out of their strengths. It also really helps differentiate crews from each other. Like a lot of other things in STA, there’s a great deal of depth there, hiding in plain sight.
Take character differentiation. In STA it is not at all unlikely that two characters in the same role
will have similar stats, which may seem rather mundane. Game-mechanically, what differentiates them is the combinations of Focuses and Talents. In our home game, there are two PCs with high Conn. My current character, CMDR Zhang, is the XO of the ship but was formerly the Conn officer in a previous season. The current Conn officer, LT Haid, has very similar stats as a pilot. However, Zhang has Bold(Conn) and Haid has Cautious(Conn). Haid flies best when he can follow procedure and benefit from circumstances (i.e., a well-stocked Momentum pool). Zhang’s best flying happened when things were desperate and only a fast move would work.
Personality-wise, the current Conn officer is much more apparently wild. He incessantly gambles and drinks in bars during his downtime. However, his flying is anything but. Zhang is developing into more of a Kirk (or Horatio Hornblower/Honor Harrington) kind of character. Surface presentation is much more professional but that goes out the window when the chips are down. Our Science officer, LT Nye, has Cautious(Science) and tends to be, well, cautious overall, although not consistently, because he occasionally pulls something fast and loose. While the rules don’t allow a character to have both Bold and Cautious in the same Discipline, it almost fits him.
Now let’s consider how the talents interact to get the most from your crew. Action sequencing in a combat round or over an extended task can also benefit from thinking about who’s got which
talent. For example, let’s say you start a combat round with no Momentum. A leader-type
character can generate Momentum via their action, setting up the characters with Cautious. The round finishes should often be done by characters with Bold, who can act with less Momentum and may be building up the Momentum pool for the next round. Of course, this could be done other ways: Create an Advantage early on, have a Bold character do something that generates Momentum, and finish with the Cautious character’s big move. If you know that you want a Cautious character to be able to succeed, be sure to leave a point of Momentum in the pool for them.
Another example may help: In a recent game, our supporting cast had to save the day when the ship’s computer went down while the senior officers who would ordinarily have lead were on an away team. At first the lead was taken by one of the assistant engineers, who had Bold (Engineering). This helped make early progress in the task but accumulated Threat at the same time. Eventually, Threat was spent for a reversal, undoing quite a bit of our work. We switched to the other engineer as lead, who had Cautious (Engineering). In a sense, he finished the work up. At the same time, the ship was dodging navigational hazards, so we made sure to
leave a point of Momentum behind, so LT Haid could use it.
Finally, let’s consider crew building. Having a crew with all Cautious will feel markedly different than one with all Bold. The Cautious crew will typically need Momentum to make moves. They may struggle to generate it, though: Cautious characters tend to consume Momentum while Bold characters tend to generate it. A Bold crew will never run out of moves to make but will
constantly be making future trouble for themselves and need to overwhelm problems before the accumulated Threat gets too high. A mixed crew with some Bold and some Cautious characters can often synergize, change who is the lead on tasks, etc.
In summary, Bold and Cautious aren’t very colorful in their reading, but they’re incredibly useful in play: They are frequently applicable, help differentiate PCs with similar stats, and help push the game forward.
Great article and the exact same insights I’ve found from playing this game over the past few years, well since the playtest.
I certainly echo the thoughts about personae and how the traits/talents should inform roleplay. In my game I have two Security officers….an older more senior Bold Bajoran Security Officer and a younger junior Andorian Cautious Security Officer. The interplay between them is often interesting as you might expect the younger Andorian to be a bit of a hothead versus a calm and stoic measured senior officer but y’know it works. They occasionally butt heads but thats the beauty if role-ama-play right?
Thanks. The system is very deep but I think it takes people a while to wrap their heads around it, especially if the only games they’ve played don’t have systems like Momentum/Threat.