Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dissapointing Star Trek RPG Dice System

As mentioned in my previous post, I played the Last Unicorn Games' edition of the Star Trek RPG last night, and I had something to say about the game...

The dice mechanic is (in my limited experience) in a word, dumb.

You roll X number of d6's, and use just the highest, then add Y. X is determined by your Attribute + SubAttribute + Advantages. Y is determined by your Skill + Specialization + Advantages.

The only thing shaking this up was that each roll gets one wild die that can explode. But of course, it does so only 1 time in 6 and typically results in a +50% increase when it happens.

My Vulcan Chief Engineer rolled 5d6 for most science or engineering rolls, which almost always meant his best number was a 6. I then had 3's in nearly every tech skill/specialization, so I rolled a very consistent "9" for my final value. Out of probably 15 or 20 rolls for the evening, I had one "7", one "12" and the other 14 to 18 rolls were all "9"s. Since the most common difficulty was 9, and generally no benefit for rolling above the difficulty, it felt like the dice were irrelevant.

It is very unclear to me what they were trying to model. Not even Commander Data was ever that consistent.

I'm not sure I see the value of a system that leaves so little room for variance, yet requires so many layered dice-modifiers to get there - the same thing could have been accomplished by "roll a single d6, and just hope you don't get a 1" or by a far more elegant diceless mechanism of some sort. Why have all the extra bells and whistles if most don't matter at all?

One of my fellow players rolled 5 dice on something and got four 6's (and a 2) which caused him to cheer! However, since his wild die was the lone non-six, it didn't explode. His skill and specialization only added +2, bringing his total to an 8, and he needed a 9 to succeed. Having "the whiff factor" on a roll that elicited an instinctual cheer was really frustrating, and led to us all wondering why we even roll anything but the wild die.

I've got two Star Trek RPG books on my shelf. We've never played, but we like the show (well, some of them) and so held on to the books just in case we ever get a Trek itch. Now I need to look more closely at them. If the core mechanic is such a let-down, it may not be worth keeping the books.

No comments: