In life, positions of leadership can challenge and change us, sometimes at a faster rate than when working as an individual. It’s no accident that the captains of Trek are among the most multi-dimensional characters with detailed story arcs.
That tracks in Star Trek Adventures, too.
STA offers players a chance to practice taking on the challenges of leadership in an imagined and even real way, given the authority granted to characters who occupy various ranks and roles, and the de facto leadership role they take on among the players.
STA also provides mechanical benefits for the “pressure cooker” in which leaders often find themselves. The Commanding Officer Role (Roles are Talents granted through a character’s assignment) allows them to donate Determination to another character with whom they’re in contact. This is extremely powerful, and means that Commanding Officers in STA are especially helpful when generating more Determination by using their Values ”negatively”: grappling with them, making themselves vulnerable, standing on principle, and evolving those Values as they gain insight from their lofty vantage point.
If you are playing a Commanding Officer, it may be tempting to put up a stable, heroic front for your crew – but you and your whole table may benefit from subjecting your character to a little friction.
Where Does Determination Come From?
Key to understanding this is to know how characters get Determination.
Every Main character starts with 1 at the beginning of an Adventure.
But it’s also possible for characters to gain Determination in the middle of the story, including:
- characters can gain 1 by taking a Value Complication (using their Value or a Directive to their disadvantage)
- characters can gain 1 by Challenging a Value (crossing-out the Value, to be revised later) or a Directive
- a Commanding Officer can donate 1 of theirs to another character
- an Executive Officer can replenish 1 spent point of Determination by spending 3 Momentum
Note that gaining a point of Determination is often, shall we say, “intense.” You may have to suffer the penalties of a Complication, answer to your superiors by Challenging a Directive, or lose one of your Values for the duration of a mission and be forced to re-evaluate who your character is.
The Embattled CO’s Super-Power
Commanding Officers have a special role in the Determination economy.
Each point of Determination that they gain from a Value Complication, or Challenging one of their Values, not only benefits them – it can be redistributed to the member of their crew who needs it most. Thus, the Commanding Officer “pressure cooker” serves the whole team: it’s an engine for Determination, enabling the entire crew to do epic things.
There is no mechanical limit to the number of points the CO can donate during an adventure, only a natural/narrative one. How many “slings and arrows” is the CO willing and able to suffer in the form of Value Complications or the consequences of Challenging a Value?
This engine can also be fueled by Challenging a Directive, which COs are in a good position to do in the right circumstances. A nice thing about Challenging a Directive, instead of a Value, is that your character does not lose a Value for the rest of the adventure, and doesn’t have to revise a Value if you’re still attached to them as they are.
Special Benefit for Supporting Characters
Notably, Supporting Characters do not start the adventure with any Determination, even if they have Values.
They can take a Value Complication, just like the CO. However, this requires a fairly significant narrative development to take place prior to their needing the Determination. Making it even less likely is the fact that they often have fewer Values to work with, given that many are still in the process of becoming a character with full stats. Nearly all Supporting Characters start their life without a Value, and players may not invest in one for a while.
Supporting Characters can also Challenge a Value, but that crosses-out the Value. If they have only one Value, they then can’t spend the Determination. Even if they have more than one, they may not have the full four, and the planets may need to align for them to have two Values so relevant to the situation that they can Challenge one and use the other.
This makes the CO’s “donation” of a point of Determination especially relevant to Supporting Characters.
To see the power of this in action, let’s look at an example from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Let’s suppose that at the start of this adventure, Captain Kirk has the Value I’ve Never Trusted Klingons, and I Never Will.
Early in the adventure, the Gamemaster invites Kirk to muse on his feelings about the evolving situation with the Klingons, composing a Personal Log. The Gamemaster suggests that Valeris might overhear him, and offers him a Value Complication: Evidence of Bias. In other words, if Kirk accepts this Complication – which may come back to haunt him – he receives 1 point of Determination. Ultimately, the Evidence of Bias is used as a Social Tool in the trial Scene, helping to sentence Kirk and McCoy to prison.
However, Kirk and McCoy are able to escape imprisonment and reunite with the Enterprise, possibly spending some of his Determination to do so. Pretty standard for an STA character so far – but here’s where it gets interesting.
Later in the adventure, Kirk Challenges the Value, crossing it out. He’s evolving past his bias, and he receives 1 additional Determination for doing so. Note that he was able to do this using the same Value that generated the Complication.
Near the climax, he holds an urgent call with Sulu, Captain of the Excelsior. As a Supporting Character who appears only in a few Scenes of this particular adventure, Sulu is perhaps played by another player who wanted to try their hand at Command. As a Supporting Character, he did not start with 1 point of Determination. However, Kirk is able to gift him one point during this call. Sulu Creates an Advantage for the group: Conference Coordinates, but Kirk informs him: “I’m afraid we’ll need more than that.” Kirk thereby grants him 1 Determination which he is able to use shortly afterwards to surmount the significant Difficulty of targeting a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey.
Kirk made himself an engine of Determination by initially writing a Value which might be considered a “character flaw,” accepting a Complication based on that flaw, and ultimately Challenging the Value. His character is none the worse for wear; leaving the adventure a new man, perhaps rewriting the Value as We Haven’t Run Out of History Quite Yet. When you combine these actions with Kirk’s penchant for disobeying orders (Challenging Directives), it’s easy to see how Kirk is a veritable fountain of Determination which he may then generously donate to his crew for epic feats.
You don’t have to be a toxic or volatile leader to utilize these benefits. You can still be a stable, reassuring presence to your crew, while taking on inner turmoil – taking Complications such as Disturbing Flashbacks, or Weight of the Alpha Quadrant On Your Shoulders, or choosing to Challenge Directives (to save lives or serve principles) instead of your own Values.
A Growth Mindset
In summary, if you play the Commanding Officer aboard your ship, it may help your entire table for you to open your character up to growth, evolution, and difficulty – seen through Values – at a faster rate than other characters might choose to do so. It delivers a mechanical benefit to everyone in the form of Determination which you can dispense to any character in need, and makes for great story and role-playing.
Excellent article!!! Wow!!
Fantastic article. I’m playing a leadership character now and this really helps lay out the value of challenging one’s Values… I’ve noticed some of mine are getting to be poor fits and it totally makes sense to challenge them (or edit them).
I also have the Veteran talent, which is absolutely helpful for a leadership character.
Really great article