Monday, November 13, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Star Trek Adventures - Character Advancement

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

Star Trek Adventures uses a Milestone based advancement method that will be immediately familiar to anybody who has played Fate Core. As with Fate, there are three tiers of Milestone: Normal Milestones, Spotlight Milestones, and Arc Milestones. Similarly, they each have a list of benefits that they provide and which stack with each other. A Spotlight Milestone includes a Normal Milestone and then some, for instance. However, while the basic structure is almost exactly the same, Star Trek Adventures substantially alters the execution of this advancement mechanic in some very interesting ways.

The first thing to note is that Milestones are not a party thing, they are applied to particular characters. They are also not an automatic event. Even Normal Milestones have to be triggered in play and it is entirely possible that a character might go a mission or two without actually having a Milestone occur. Also note you check for Milestones at the end of a mission, not a session.

In order to trigger a Normal Milestone at least one of three things must have happened: the character challenged a Value or Directive, which happens when they decide to go against their basic beliefs or orders for the mission; the character was injured by an attack to kill during the mission; or the character used at least one Value or Directive either positively or negatively. Having more than one happen doesn't give multiple Normal Milestones.

A Normal Milestone provides one of the following benefits chosen by the player:
  • If a Value was challenged and crossed out, you can rewrite that Value. The new Value should relate somehow to both what the Value was before, and the circumstances that caused it to be challenged.
  • Choose two Disciplines, reduce one of those by 1 to a minimum of 1, and increase the other by 1 to a maximum of 4.
  • Choose one of the characters Focuses and replace it with another Focus.
  • Select a Supporting Character that was used during that adventure and use one of the above options on that Supporting Character
  • Save the Milestone for later

Spotlight Milestones are earned when a GM decides that a particular episode had some very prominent action by one or more characters. If the GM awards a Spotlight Milestone, the players vote on who should receive it with the caveat that they cannot vote for themselves. If there is a tie, the GM breaks the tie. As with Significant Milestones in Fate, Spotlight Milestones aren't expected to happen every session but the book suggests that having one every 2-3 missions or sessions is appropriate.

A Spotlight Milestone provides one choice from the Normal Milestone list and one choice from the following list:
  • Choose two Attributes, one lowers by 1 (to a minimum of 7) and the other increases by 1 (to a maximum of 11).
  • Choose one of the character's Talents and replace it with another Talent.
  • Select a Supporting Character that was used during that mission and use one of the above options for that Supporting Character.
  • Choose two of the ship's Systems. Reduce one of these by 1 to a minimum of 6 and increase the other by 1 to a maximum of 12.
  • Choose two of the ship's Disciplines. Reduce one of these by 1 to a minimum of 1 and increase the other by 1 to a maximum of 4.
  • Choose one of the ship's Focuses and replace it with another Focus.

Arc Milestones are triggered when a character has received a certain number of Spotlight Milestones. Once a character has received two Spotlight Milestones then their third Spotlight Milestone will instead by their first Arc Milestone. Once you have an Arc Milestone you require more Spotlight Milestones to happen before the next one. If you have already had two Arc Milestones, for instance, you will need to get four Spotlight Milestones and then the fifth Spotlight will become your third Arc.

Arc Milestones provide the benefits of a Spotlight Milestone (one choice from each of the two previous lists) and also allows the character to select one of the following options:
  • Choose a single Attribute and increase it by 1. The Attribute cannot be increased above 12.
  • Choose a single Discipline and increase it by 1. The Discipline cannot be increased above 5.
  • Select one additional Talent
  • Select one additional Focus
  • Select one additional Value.
  • Select a Supporting Character that was used during that mission and use one of the above options for that Supporting Character.
  • Choose one of the ship's Systems and increase it by 1 to a maximum of 12.
  • Choose one of the ship's Disciplines and increase it by 1 to a maximum of 4.
  • Select one additional Focus for the ship.
Beyond the Milestones there is Reputation. A Main Character begins play with a Reputation of 10. At the end of every mission you check the character's actions during that mission to see whether they made a positive or negative showing. You total up all the incidents where a character gained positive influence and all the incidents where they gained negative influence. Then you have them roll a number of dice equal to their total positive influences. Each one of these that rolls equal to or less than their current Reputation is a success and each one that rolls equal to or less than the Privilege number scores two successes.

You then compare the number of successes gained to the total of negative influences. If you rolled more successes then you gain 1 Reputation for each success higher than the negative. If you rolled fewer successes then you lose 1 Reputation for, plus an additional 1 for each die that did not score any successes, plus an additional 1 for each die that rolled within the range of numbers indicated by their Rank's Responsibility level. It is, indeed, much harsher to fail than to it is rewarding to succeed.

I am going judging my theoretical advancement on the number of missions rather than the number of sessions. I am assuming that a mission will have between 1 and 3 sessions and average that out to 2. Going with the longer session count from my Fate Core and other such theoreticals, I am going to assume nine missions.


Mission 1 - The characters are heading out of a starbase after several have been assigned to the ship (a Nova class vessel) for the first time. Their first mission is a rescue mission, responding to a mayday from a cargo ship. The disabled ship has crash-landed onto a pre-warp world and the characters are trying to recover both the ship and the crew before the locals find it. She does a good job luring locals away without being seen clearly by using her bow having them uselessly hunting her. She earns a Milestone by using the mission Directive to "Protect the Prime Directive" positively. She acted in accordance with the Directives and prevented combat by being bait which also was above and beyond the call of duty.

Milestone Benefit - Adjusts the Disciplines of a Supporting Character (Andorian medic) that went with her, Security to 3, Engineering to 1. (That's not how you stay hidden...)
Reputation Gain - 3d20 vs Negative 0, 1 success, Reputation 11

Mission 2 - The ship is scanning a curious phenomena when scavenger ships looking for salvage decide that they can ambush her and take it. The ship manages to escape the situation. Euryale helps repair some of the damages during the fight and gains a Normal Milestone. Of the Supporting Characters (human security) dies because she is unable to repair the teleporters to get them to sick bay fast enough. Her angry at this results in her mouthing off to one of the superior officers.

Milestone Benefit - Adjusts Command to 2 and Science to 2 (if her science had been up to snuff..)
Reputation Gain - 2d20 vs Negative 1, 0 Successes, 1 Responsibility, Reputation 7

Mission 3 - The ship is assigned to look into a curious disease outbreak on a distant colony. Euryale helps in a lot of circumstances but is not a driving part of the effort and keeps her head down in regard to behavior. She earns no Milestone, but performs well putting her back into good graces.

Reputation Gain - 3d20 vs Negative 0, 1 Privilege, 1 Success, Reputation 10

Mission 4 - Euryale is called to consult at a negotiation between the nomadic fleet of the species she was part of first contact with and another civilization. Her diplomatic abilities are a bit lacking but she still manages to help out and prevent some major miscommunications that may have resulted in violence. The rest of the crew have their own adventures in different places.

Milestone Benefit - Security down to 3 and Command up to 3. (She had to do a lot of diplomacy)
Reputation Gain - 4d20 vs Negative 0, 1 Privilege, 2 Successes , Reputation 14

Mission 5 - The ship is assigned to assist and support a Galaxy Class ship and finds itself dealing with a space-time anomaly that has the Galaxy Class ship frozen in place. Euryale and one of the other PC manage to workout a way to use the transporters to travel between the frozen Galaxy and the Nova, which helps lead to a solution. The crew gives her a Spotlight Milestone. However, to do so she disregarded orders and took risks.

Spotlight Milestone Benefit - Alters one of the ships Focuses to "Experimental Transporters", Change Value from "Watch where you're going" to "Sometimes you have to leap."
Reputation Gain - 4d20 vs Negative 2, 4 successes (yes, I'm rolling these), Reputation 16

Mission 6 - The ship's crew finds itself embroiled in espionage at a technological conference. Euryale is present with her bow for the benefit of an interested anthropologist and tries to prevent a spy from escaping by shooting their leg, this unfortunately misses and she accidentally kills the spy with her bow.

Milestone Benefit - Shift Conn to 1 and Security to 4 (if she practiced more she wouldn't have screwed that shot up)
Reputation Gain - 2d20 vs Negative 2, 1 Success, Reputation 14

Mission 7 - An abandoned ship is found floating in space. The away team sent to investigate, including Euryale, is on board when its systems reactivate and invasion countermeasures trigger. Euryale is able to use her Sthenian talent for recklessly experimenting with strange tech to help get things shut down, though the ship does start tearing itself apart as the away team is successfully beamed off. Euryale took some risks in "playing" with unfamiliar tech. The crew award her the Spotlight Milestone.

Spotlight Milestone Benefit - Shift Fitness to 10 and Daring to 10, Security to 3, Science to 3 (Pushing buttons is a lot more useful.)
Reputation Gain - 3d20 vs Negative 1, 1 Privilege, 2 Successes, Offered and accepts promotion to Lt. Commander, Rep 10

Mission 8 - The ship is called to help install some new weather control equipment on an established colony. Previously unrecorded seismic activity threatens causes the equipment to go wild and trigger severe weather phenomena. It occurs that an underground dwelling sentient species was building below the surface and the combined construction on the top resulted in the chaos. The equipment is moved and contact is made with the previously unknown new species, but as cooperation is necessary with them to fix things, the Prime Directive is necessarily broken.

Milestone Benefit - Saved for later.
Reputation Gain - 1d20 vs 0 Negative, 1 Success, Reputation 11

Mission 9 - Called in to Starfleet so that the crew can report on some of the phenomena and events over the course of the campaign so far. While at Earth, Euryale encounters some of her family and gets embroiled in some politics between her family and a family they'd long had a feud with. She manages to prevent the matter from descending into bloodshed but engenders bad blood with some of her people for bringing the Federation into matters. The crew assigns her the Arc Milestone so that I can have an example of that somewhere in this theoretical.

Arc Milestone Benefit - New Value - "Life is more precious than pride.", Adjust a Supporting Character's Value (Vulcan science) "Try to understand before you dismiss.", Saved for later (that's 2 now)
Reputation Gain - 3d20 vs 0 Negative, 1 Success, 12

Gorgon Archer

Euryale Ulithan
Species: Sthenian
Environment: Frontier Colony
Upbringing: Agricultural/Rural
Academy Track: Operations
Career: Experienced Officer
Event One: Breakthrough: Increased teleporter efficiency by tightening the software code up.
Event Two: First Contact: Part of crew who were the first to encounter a race of nomadic humanoids living in generational ships.
Rank: Lieutenant
Traits: Sthenian

Attributes: Control 9, Daring 10, Fitness 10, Insight 9, Presence 8, Reason 10
Disciplines: Command 3, Conn 1, Engineering 4, Medicine 1, Science 3, Security 3

Values: Remember where you come from. You get nowhere if you don't try. Don't be quick to dismiss broken things. Sometimes you have to Leap. Life is more precious than pride.

Focuses: Bow Hunting, Escape and Evasion, Technological Repurposing, Transporter Tech, Software Efficiency, Generational Spacer Customs

Button Mashing - Sthenians have a species history of figuring out unfamiliar technology by turning it on and observing what happens. They can choose to count the first Complication rolled when dealing with alien or unusual tech as a success. If they do so, the Complication counts twice.

Bold: Engineering - Whenever you attempt a Task with Engineering and you buy one or more d20s by adding to Threat, you may re-roll a single d20. You may select this Talent multiple times, once for each Discipline. You may not select this Talent for any Discipline for which you already have the Cautious Talent.

Intense Scrutiny -  Whenever you succeed at a Task using Reason or Control as part of an Extended Task, you may ignore up to two Resistance for every Effect rolled.

Cautious: Security - Whenever you attempt a Task with Security and you buy one or more d20s by spending Momentum, you may re-roll a single d20. You may select this Talent multiple times, once for each Discipline. You may not select this Talent for any Discipline for which you already have the Cautious Talent.

Stress: 11
Department: Security
Damage Bonus: 4
Role: Teleporter Tech / Security

Further Notes

As you can see, this already significantly slows down the pace of Advancement as compared to Fate games where Milestones are awarded to the whole player group per the overall events of a session and every session results in at least one Minor Milestone. That said, I am not entirely certain that I am reading the per mission thing correctly so this theoretical might be off base in that regard.

A character can go a full session without triggering even a Normal Milestone and even when they do trigger Milestones, it might be a while before they earn a Spotlight Milestone. Likewise, the Arc Milestones aren't keyed to major changes in the world setting but by the characters heavily exploring their own attitudes (engaging with Values) and being proactive about getting things done. 

The voting mechanic is something I would normally see as problematic as it is possible for a group to basically shut someone out of receiving the Spotlight Milestones if they want. However, the gameplay in Star Trek Adventures is heavily geared toward player cooperation with some of the most difficult Tasks being nearly impossible without aid. Having watched it played, there are several instances where as many as three players are rolling on the same Task. As such, it is beneficial to the group as a whole to make sure that every main character receives Milestones over time.

The inclusion of the ship and the supporting characters as things you can adjust with your Milestones and the crew voting mechanic really underscores the idea of your crew being a collective. Everybody has access to the ship and can use it for aid at times. And everybody benefits from working well together, and as each character can adjust the way the ship and crew work which might be something to discuss with the crew. For example, the two milestones I saved for later might have been able to be used to modify a supporting character.

Character advancement in this game is very much designed to be a collectively involved practice and that underscores the themes of Star Trek tremendously well.

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