Star Trek RPGs

If there’s one thing that I’m an even bigger fan of than D&D, it’s Star Trek. I even met my wife in a Star Trek fan club. Fortunately, there a history of Star Trek role-playing games. I’m toying with the idea of starting up a Trek campaign (in addition to my AD&D Greyhawk campaign), and felt a quick recap of the available options was appropriate.

There were four “official”, licensed, Terk RPGs. First, of course, there was Heritage’s Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier. I mention it mostly for the sake of completeness; there really isn’t a lot of game there, and it would take an enormous amount of work to bring up to playability. But still, I’ve got a copy, and I’m one of those grognards who actually bought it new, at GenCon (or was it Origins?).

Next came FASA’s Star Trek: The Role Playing Game (1982-1990). This was my game of choice for quite a long time. It’s skill based, and has a character generation system a lot like that found in Traveller, but what sold it for me was the Starship Tactical Combat Simulator. Damn but that was a sweet game in and of itself (much better, in my opinion, than the bloated-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness Starfleet Battles). One of the things about this version of Trek RPGing is that it is very clearly a product of its times. It was originally designed for “TOS” era games, but it was at its peak just as films like Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home were coming out, so naturally each film was accompanied by a slew of game books.

There were a couple of ST:TNG books published towards the end of the game’s license, but for the most part it was focused on ST:TOS and the movie era. Since then, however, we’ve had four entire Trek television shows and a bunch of films. Certain elements of the Trek universe that were established in novels and repeated in the game were rendered obsolete by later developments. Remember that this was a time when all we had were a couple of movies, some novels, the Starfleet Technical Manual, and the Star Trek Medical Reference Manual. For instance, the difference between bumpy-headed Klingons and the more human-looking types; in the game, they were separate sub-species, “Imperial Klingons”, “Human Fusions”, etc. but that was wiped away in later iterations of the show. So it would work well if I wanted to run a movie-era campaign, but there would be a lot of background assumptions that would have to be re-examined in the light of the later additions to Trek Canon.

The third official Trek RPG was the effort by Last Unicorn Games; they didn’t have a single game, but rather broke things out by series. Thus, there was a Star Trek: The Next Generation Role-Playing Game (1998), a Star Trek: TOS Role-Playing Game (1999), and a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 Role-Playing Game (1999). Although I dutifully collected all of the books and supplements, I never actually did play this one, so I don’t have all that much insight into the mechanics. But the fact that it at least takes things through DS9 is a plus, and it’s my understanding that at least parts of a planned (but never published) Voyager book were put out on the web.

After Last Unicorn, the rights were acquired by Decipher, which proceeded to produce a brand-new game called Star Trek Roleplaying Game (2002-2005). It does cover the whole of the Trek universe (up to that point), but unfortunately the company seems to have folded, and the future of the Trek RPG license is uncertain. This version uses a universal mechanic system based on the CODA system.

I should also point out that there is also a free d20 game by Mike Berkey called Where No Man Has Gone Before (2007). He’s also come out with a couple of supplements that cover starship design and designing alien races. It’s a nifty little game, unauthorized, of course, but since it only covers the Original Series era, it’s not really what I’m looking for.

What I am looking for is a game that covers the Trek universe through the DS9/Voyager time period. I know I’m not going to get something that’s in print (at least in a dedicated Trek RPG), but even if it’s out of print, I’m willing to take something that I can get a reasonable number of supplements for. A compelling starship combat system is important. I would be willing to adapt a non-Trek RPG to the task After all, I know the background material like the back of my hand; the question would be just how much work it would take to translate into game mechanics information.

Anyone have any ideas?

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

17 thoughts on “Star Trek RPGs

  1. Last Unicorn's game may be gone, but one of their writers is still publishing stuff for it on the web. Take a trip to the SpaceDock.

    From the talented keyboard of Steven S. Long comes SpaceDock!, a detailed Starship Construction and Combat rules supplement to Last Unicorn's Star Trek roleplaying games. SpaceDock! and the accompanying Ship Recognition Manuals and the Dominion War Sourcebook, have been generously provided by Steve for free download. These files may be freely distributed in electronic format, so long as no charge is made for access.

    The best part is, they're FREE! The next best part is their accessible by everyone, so you and your players may just have to hunt down the other core books needed.

  2. Although…

    Do you really need a specific system to cover that time period? I mean, even the script writers tend to ignore the latest gadgets introduced in pilots or singular episodes and go back to classic standbys. What I'd be more concerned about it how well you can handle personal drama, and having a good story arch if you are going to emulate the DS9 era. Really, just about any ruleset that handles guns as a serious weapon can handle Trek.

  3. You might also want to check out GURPS Prime Directive, a Star Trek RPG built on GURPS and published by Armadillo Design. I have not played it myself, but have read good things about it.

  4. The GURPS Prime Directive game is also self contained, you do not need any of the GURPS 4th edition books.

    There is also Battlestations. While this is more of a spaceship minis game in some ways, it does have character advancement, exploration, the ability to move around on the ship, board other ships, and walk around on planets. The RPG elements are light, but play a large role. There is a Star Fleet Battles related expansion due soon that could also be helpful.

  5. I don't care what rules you use, sign me up. Robert Lupia (or a reasonable facsimile there of) shall again be an engineer extraordinaire. 🙂

  6. I has been some years now, but I played in and ran the Unicorn Games version of the setting. I remember adapting the rules but it has been too long for me to say how they were adapted. I do remember having fun with it though.

  7. My only experiences with Star Trek RPGs have been with Last Unicorn Games' Icon System and Decipher's Coda System. I played the hell out of LUG Trek and the books were works of art, but I actually prefer playing with the Decipher Trek rules now, even if the "fluff" of the core books is dry and uninspired in comparison to the LUG books.

    I think I prefer Decipher's Coda System now because it reminds me of 3e/d20 Modern so much in design, even if it does use 2d6.

  8. I, too, was going to mention Starships & Spacemen. Beat to the punch! It was written for TOS, obviously, but may be rules-light enough to adapt as you want to.

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