Sunday, November 12, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Star Trek Adventures - Character Creation Analysis

This is a game where there aren't any actual gorgons in the setting. There is a species referred to as the Medusans named due to the fact that their appearance can drive people mad, but they are a non-corporeal, telepathic race and thus don't really match the idea of the gorgon I've been operating with. That said, there is a wide variety of species within the Star Trek universe, and a species with tendril hair is not far out of the possibility. While there are no particular species for that, the game does allow for a GM and a player creating their own species.

Star Trek Adventures is a game that borrows heavily from some of the design and philosophy of Fate games. Several of the statistics applied to each character share a lot of philosophy and functionality with Aspects but those functions have different mechanical manifestations. This is similar to how Strands of Fate has Character Aspects, Specialty Aspects, and Power Aspects but in that case the mechanical functionality of each these Aspects is the same and the differences is only in the context that each is meant to be understood. By comparison, this is more like the difference between an Aspect and a Persistent Aspect but even more severe as the effects each of the Aspect like characteristics in STA have on mechanics is very different.

You will normally roll 2d20 on any Task but you might gain other dice by spending Momentum also the game is designed to make it easier to cooperate with other players to tackle a severely difficult task. On a 20, you not only fail to get a success but it results in a complication. If you roll enough successes on the other dice you will still complete the Task, but 20 will mean something bad happens along with your success.

Before we get to the more narrative characteristics, there are Attributes and Disciplines. Attributes represent innate characteristics and range from 7 to 12 while Disciplines represent trained skills and range from 0 to 5. When you combine them together to attempt a Task you get the target number you must roll under a 1d20 in order to succeed. So if you have a Daring of 10 and a Conn 3, you must roll 13 or less on a d20 for it to count as a success. If you roll a 1 it is a critical result and counts as two successes. If you had the same stats and one of your Focuses applied, then you would gain a critical result when you rolled between 1 and 3.

This design choice is an interesting one and has a definite impact on the way the characters are designed. In this system, the bulk of your chance for success is determined by your innate intelligence, boldness, or the like, but when your training interacts with your history or talent, it severely increases the chance of an extreme success. This gives a pleasing bit of realism to the way the gameplay works as this meshes fairly well with my understanding of how training, capability, and talent interact in the real life. It is, of course, not an exact representation, but it is close enough for the gameplay to excite me.

Moving onward toward other characteristics we go on to Talents. Talents are special capabilities that your character has and usually alter the way resources such as Momentum or Determination are acquired or Tasks are rolled. They are analogous to Feats in D&D, Stunts in Fate Core, and Advantages in Legend of the Five Rings. Some of them require your other characteristics to be triggered before they will work or some other circumstance to be true. Some Talents are race specific and your character has to have at least one parent of the appropriate species.

The next character feature we have is the Focus. A Focus is one of the three features that functions very similarly to Fate Aspects. They are named for some experience, specialty, or talent (not Talent) your character has. There are many example Focuses but there aren't any definitive lists as each player creates their own. For example one Focus might be Astrophysics  or Xenobiology while others might be Brawling or Guerrilla tactics. They primary function of a focus is to increase the chance of a critical success as described above, but several Talents also require a Focus to be involved on a Task before they can be triggered. It is important to work together with your GM to make sure you are both on the same page with what you mean by your Focus and this may mean re-wording things sometimes.

Values are the next character feature and is very narrative by its nature of being named by the player rather than being drawn from a pre-existing list. A lot of the same advice above about working with your GM to be on the same page more heavily applies here. While Focuses are generally one to three words describing an activity or course of study, Values tend to be a full phrase or even sentence stating some sort of philosophy or life-view the character has. Values are more rarely involved in gameplay than Focuses, but have a much more powerful effect as Values allow you to spend Determination.

The last character features are Traits and characters aren't the only things in the game to have Traits. Traits denote things which are true and narratively important. Station 53's advice on Power Facts for running superhero style Fate games functions similarly to how Traits work in STA. For example, a Vulcan character has the Trait "Vulcan" which denotes everything that is true about Vulcans from their devotion to logic and rationality all the way to their pointy ears and green blood. Traits determine what is or is not possible and sometimes functions to increase or decrease difficulty of Tasks. For example, if you have a Trait that is beneficial in the current situation it may make an impossible task possible or it might reduce the number of successes needed to complete the task by 1. The reverse is true for a Trait that is harmful in the current situation.

Character creation in Star Trek Adventures uses what is known as a Lifepath method. This is meant to simulate the character's life up to the point in the game when they start the game. There are seven steps: selecting a species, choosing the environment we were brought up, choosing the nature of our upbringing, describing our character's academy career, deciding whether our character is a veteran or a rookie, choosing two events that occurred within that period, and finally completing the finishing touches. PCs begin the process with 7 in each of the Attributes and 1 in each of the Disciplines while these increase with each step. If you desire, you can randomize what you choose for each of these steps and there are tables set up to do that. I may be randomizing some steps, but mostly I will be choosing at each point.

At step one you choose a species (I'll be creating one from scratch) which gives you +1 to three separate Attributes, a species Trait, access to species-specific Talents, and one Talent. Each species generally has two Talents that are specific to it but you are not required to take those Talents as your one Talent at this step. Note that Betazoids have to take at least one of their species Talents in character creation as they are all telepathic to some degree, though half-Betazoids can only take Empath. Making a mixed-species character is easy, you gain the Attribute benefits of the primary species but the Traits of both species and access to the Talents of both cultures. Though, again, half-Betazoids generally cannot take the Telepath Talent though the GM may overrule that.

At step two you choose an environment where you were born. At this point, the character gains their first Value, +1 to one Attribute, and +1 to one Discipline. There are six options: species homeworld, a busy colonel, an isolated colony, a frontier colony, a starship/starbase, or another species' homeworld. Each of these options will have different limits on which Attributes or Disciplines you can choose to increase. There will also be different advice to consider on what your chosen Value might relate to.

At step three you choose your upbringing. This will give you +2 to one Attribute and +1 to a second one, +1 to a Discipline, your first Focus, and another Talent. As with the environment, there are six options: Starfleet, Business/Trade, Agricultural/Rural, Science/Technology, Artistic/Creative, or Diplimacy/Politics. The bonuses you get will be set by your choice (or roll if doing a random life-path), but you will get to choose your Talent and Focus yourself.

Step four tracks your Starfleet Academy career. This will give you another Value, three points to spend on two or three Attributes, +2 to one Discipline and +1 to two other Disciplines, three more Focuses, and another Talent. There are three tracks in the Academy: Science, Operations, and Command. The Attribute bonuses are freely distributed with the exception that you can't assign all three points to one Attribute. The large Discipline bonus as assigned to one of two Disciplines chosen by your track with the remaining two small bonuses assigned to any other Discipline beside that one.

Step five is your choice of how long your career is and will grant you a specific Talent depending on whether you chose to be a rookie or a veteran. You also gain your third Value here. There are actually three options here, contrary to what I remembered in the first sentence here. Choosing to be a Young Officer will grant you the Talent of Untapped Potential which allows you to generate Momentum easier at a cost of increasing risk because you do something reckless. Choosing to be an Experienced Officer lets you choose any Talent from the species or normal lists. Choosing to be a Veteran officer gives you the Veteran Talent which gives you the chance to recover Determination after spending it.

Step six has you choose two career events that have occurred since your graduation. This will grant you two points for Attributes, two points for Disciplines, and two more focuses. There is a list of 20 events that can be drawn on to pick out two key parts in the character's past. Each of these events increases a specific Attribute and Discipline by 1 each and gives you the chance to write a new Focus. Unless you have a specific idea, I highly recommend rolling on this chart rather than selecting and seeing if it sparks an idea. However, in the end, rolling is optional and you can reroll as many times as you like or just choose. (As a side note, in cases like this where the random element is optional I tend to abide by the rule of "if you find yourself making excuses to reroll, that means you don't want that option so rule it out." That said, even as I've done that, I've changed my mind a couple of rolls later.).

Step seven is the finishing touches of the game where you solidify everything. At this point you gain +1 to two Attributes, +1 to two Disciplines, adjust any Attributes or Disciplines that went over the maximum levels, and determine any of your derived characteristics like Stress. If your lifepath has resulted in one of your Attributes or Disciplines have gone above the maximum values, you have to adjust them down to that maximum. The removed points can then be placed in other Attributes or Disciplines as you desire provided you don't increase those too high. Once that is done then you get to apply the last Attribute and Discipline bonuses.

Species: Sthenian

Trait: Sthenian - Sthenians are a slender species of reptilian or amphibian descent. They have long tendrils growing from their skull that appear similar to serpents to humans due to patterns in the scales. The tendrils are prehensile and incredibly sensitive, often giving the impression that they can see. The planet initially acquired space travel and warp technology due to the recovery of a vessel that was forced to land in one of their major cities some two hundred years ago. They managed to acquire a handful of other minor ships coming to a planet-wide fleet of five ships before being found by the federation and offered membership. Many consider them backward and primitive despite the cleverness they displayed in learning to use alien tech so well.

Attributes: +1 Control, +1 Daring, +1 Fitness - Sthenians are often regarded as reckless and physical, but at the same time, they approach these risks with a deceptive dispassionate manner.

Paralytic Impulse - Some Sthenians have highly specialized telepathic ability to make someone freeze in place. You can make an Opposed Task to cause one person to seize up. However, you have to maintain the impulse and your other actions are limited by the GMs discretion while you do this. Attempting this on someone of significant telepathic potential such as some Vulcans and any Betazoid can be dangerous.

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.

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 9, Fitness 11, Insight 9, Presence 8, Reason 10
Disciplines: Command 3, Conn 2, Engineering 4, Medicine 1, Science 1, Security 4

Values: Remember where you come from. You get nowhere if you don't try. Don't be quick to dismiss broken things. Watch where you're going.

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 

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