By Contributor Bill Barbato
As an active member on many Star Trek Adventures social media sites, I often see questions about the Player’s Guide and Gamemaster’s Guide. In particular, the most common question can be summed up as: “Are they worth buying?”
As much as possible, I try to share my opinions on the two books and why I think they are “must-haves”. But those posts come and go and replies get lost in the sands of time so I decided to put my thoughts down here, in one place, so it will be easy to refer to when this question inevitably comes up again.
There has already been a lot written about the content of the PG and GMG, not to mention the in-depth Continuing Conversations video series, so I would like to take a slightly different approach for this review. Instead of going through the books section by section, I want to highlight the reasons why these two guides stand out as not only an indispensable resource for Star Trek Adventures but also a great supplement for any roleplaying system.
The Gamemaster’s Guide
As the gamemaster for my group, this book was of the most interest to me when it was announced. But, just like the people who post the questions on the social sites, I, too, wasn’t sure if the guide would be of any use to me. I have been a “forever GM” for the past 25 years in a variety of systems and I already have my own style and GMing philosophy firmly established. Furthermore, I had been GMing STA for nearly two years by that point and, on top of that, I consider myself quite well-versed in Star Trek lore.
Did I really need a guide designed to help new GMs, new players to STA, and players new to Star Trek?
The answer turned out to be a resounding, “YES!”
The thing that impressed me the most about the GMG was that it felt like being part of a roundtable discussion with a group of people who are experienced in both running and playing the game as well as being Star Trek aficionados. Imagine sitting around with friends who eloquently and openly discuss their passion for the game and the setting. Page after page, section after section, the writers share their knowledge, insight, and advice from decades of experience in roleplaying in the Star Trek universe.
Almost immediately, the utility of the Gamemaster’s Guide became apparent to me.
I decided to read the entire book cover to cover, even the parts with Star Trek lore that I “knew”. To my pleasant surprise, even the parts I knew always showed things from a different perspective that invariably sparked my imagination on new ways to use that knowledge. Just reading the sections on Starfleet technology, there were many instances where I would realize that I never thought about certain details, even though I was aware of them, but those details open up a wide range of possible stories or complications to be used in future game sessions. Almost immediately, the utility of the Gamemaster’s Guide became apparent to me.
That sentiment carried right into the sections designed to help new game masters. The advice is thorough but never overwhelming. It was impressive how they could distill the important concepts of what it means to be a GM and what it means to be a Star Trek Adventures GM in a way that remains completely accessible.
I have never seen a gaming supplement such as this that gives such amazing support for people who may be new to any or every aspect involved in a roleplaying game. It’s easy to see that the book was made by people who love STA and want to spread that love to as many new people as they can reach.
The advice is simply genius and, in true Star Trek fashion, overwhelmingly inclusive.
This was the type of material that I wish would be available for every system on the market so new GMs won’t feel overwhelmed by years of lore or feel unable to convey the correct mood of the setting. The advice is simply genius and, in true Star Trek fashion, overwhelmingly inclusive. Even better, the heart of the advice offered in the book is applicable to gamemastering in general and can (and should) be applied when running any game system. This is advice that doesn’t just make you a better STA gamemaster, it makes you a better GM and a better player at any table.
And just when I thought I couldn’t love the book any more than I already did, I reached the final sections which give a wealth of new and advanced rule options for us experienced GMs to add to our games. Things like “Extended Consequences”, which work like the evil twin of the core rules’ Extended Tasks, are so simple and make so much sense that they become a brilliant addition to the GM toolbox.
Truth be told, I had to put the book down after reading the concept of Extended Consequences because my brain was already firing with ideas of how to integrate it into the current story I was running with my group. I spent well over an hour rereading that section while scribbling ideas and mechanics down on random sheets of paper. I was so excited to debut the mechanic in the next session and it has since become a staple in my bag of tricks that I can come up with spontaneously when the situation calls for it.
And that was just one of the new additional rules introduced in the guide. The others are just as creative and can give GMs new and exciting ways of changing things up from the norm.
By the time I finished reading the last page of the GMG, I knew that the book would forever remain a companion by my side when prepping for future games. It is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most useful resource I have ever come across for a roleplaying game. And if it can improve my game even after more than two decades in the role of gamemaster, I can only imagine what a staple it would be for the new GM who could use an extra helping hand. This book is a remarkable piece of work and an undeniable labor of love by all the great minds who contributed to it.
The Player’s Guide
Because I was already debating whether or not I needed the Gamemaster’s Guide, my doubt of the utility of the Player’s Guide was even greater. In the end, I decided I would get it just for the sake of completion. After experiencing the quality packed into the GMG, my expectations were high and when I finally opened the book I wasn’t let down. In fact, those expectations were far exceeded.
While the Gamemaster’s Guide is strictly aimed at the GMs out there, the Player’s Guide is designed to support the player. Common sense, right?
But there is one universal fact of roleplaying that is frequently overlooked and misunderstood: gamemasters are players, too. That means that the advice in the Player’s Guide applies just as much to the GMs as it does to the other players. In fact, this might be one of the most beneficial books for gamemasters for reasons that might not be immediately clear, but I will get to that in a moment.
The key aspect of the PG, when compared to the GMG, is that it is tailored to the player’s point of view. The same useful setting and lore information found in the GMG is present here, but the difference is that it is put in a way that players can apply while roleplaying a character in the game. I think it was a nice but subtle way of making sure the information in both books was tailored for the different audiences, when applicable.
One of the biggest highlights of the PG is the new character options that it provides. This has been discussed in other written reviews and in the Continuing Conversations videos so I don’t want to go over it in detail here. Needless to say, if you want to roleplay in the Star Trek universe but don’t want to play in a traditional Starfleet or Klingon campaign, you now have an unlimited amount of options available to you.
But on top of the variety of new character types and new ways to play whole campaigns, there are many new talents and other options to add to your characters during creation or advancement. This material is extremely useful for the player and something that the GM should be aware of to integrate into their games.
Now I must talk about the thing that, as a GM, I feel makes this book one of the best resources for absolutely any RPG system. Just as in the GMG, the Player’s Guide gives expert advice on how to play the game better and get the most out of your roleplaying experience. But what this book does beautifully is to make the player aware of the gamemaster’s point of view. I think there are far too many players out there, particularly those who have never been a gamemaster, who don’t realize the pressures that the role of GM can include. As I mentioned earlier, the GM is a player, too, but they are the one player at the table with an additional, enormous responsibility. The GM is still playing the game to have fun, just like every other player. It can be an immensely rewarding job and, personally, I’d much rather play as a GM than as a standard player. However, if the players don’t understand or appreciate the responsibility that the GM has, it can make the game a stressful and unsatisfying experience.
When I read that advice section, I sincerely felt like crying.
When I read that advice section, I sincerely felt like crying. I was so moved by how the contributors took the time to highlight how to work with a GM in constructing a fulfilling experience for every single person sitting at the table. The information shared in those pages is something that I desperately wish that every single person who ever sits down to play an RPG remains aware of before, during, and after each session.
It is yet another example of how these two books promote inclusivity and mutual respect for everybody at the table. It is an absolutely inspiring section that was a pleasure to read and justified the purchase for me.
The question that frequently comes up online is: “Are the Player’s Guide and Gamemaster’s Guide worth it?”
If you’re new to Star Trek: Yes. If you’re new to Star Trek Adventures: Yes. If you’re new to roleplaying: Yes. If you’re a player: Yes. If you’re a gamemaster: Yes.
If you’re ever intending on playing any roleplaying game no matter how much experience you have and no matter what role you take on: Yes, yes, and yes.
These two books show a love and passion for the hobby—and Star Trek Adventures in particular—that anyone even considering playing deserves to read. I fully believe that what you find inside these two guides will improve not only your own experience but the experience of everyone around the table with you. These books are a must-have in any roleplaying collection and I will be wholeheartedly recommending them to both players and gamemasters alike for a very long time.
Continuing Mission has done so much to support STA that Modiphius wants to give some love back, and so we are pleased to offer this discount code, CMISSION01, which is a 10% off coupon for the STA Starter Set and usable on both the Modiphius UK site and the Modiphius US site.
I’ve actually tried playing this game in a Discord group once. Unfortunately, everyone got bored before the game even began and the group was deleted.
Sounds like you need to find another group. I have been playing for over 4 years. Best RPG I ever played.
Our group has been going strong for a few years now on Discord, and we’re split over several continents. Sometimes it’s difficult to organize a good time for everyone, but we all try to enjoy our sessions no matter how late or early they may be.
You’re more than welcome to join a session in the future and see how you like it.
Thanks, I might take you up on that. Would your group mind if I recapped the adventures for my blog?
Not at all. I’m sure everyone would be more than happy if you did 👍
All right, just send me the discord group.
https://discord.gg/HzqQQG5X This link is good for a day I think
This is the link for our group as well: