Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Two Trek Links

I've been thinking about the Star Trek RPG since playing it the other day. The scenario we played was fairly fun, but the mechanics were lame. After several campaigns (in the last few years: Cyberpunk, Continuum, Amber, Scion) of very murky morality, it was refreshing to play in the "we're the good guys" Trek setting. Refreshing enough to inspire me to google the game. I found two links I felt compared to share.

  1. I read up more on the mechanics here. It's a fairly critical article that briefly digests the issues of the ICON system mechanics.

    That article pointed out to me that we were using a house-rule in the scenario last weekend. Getting a 6 on your wild die is supposed to let you add your second-highest die to the total. Jason had us roll the wild die again and add them together. Using that house rule has two effects:
    1. Slows down the game by a couple extra seconds every time you roll a 6 on the wild die.
    2. Makes the non-wild dice of your pool matter less*.
    Now, I suspect this wasn't an intentional house-rule. Jason said it was his first time running the system, and some mistakes are to be expected when that's the case. The game's mechanics already have an unfortunate habit of making dice beyond your third nearly irrelevant, but that house-rule just made it worse. Jason struck me as a bright guy, so I imagine it was probably a misread, not intentionally altered for the worst.
    *= For example, let's say the captain and first mate rolled 5 dice and 3 dice respectively, and got these results:
    Kirk: 6, 5, 5, 4, 3, 1
    Spock: 6, 2, 1.
    Assume the 6's are their wild dice. Kirk's roll looks better, and by the official rules he's have a "11" total to Spock's "8", so Kirk would triumph. However, the house-rule wouldn't care about that - they'd each reroll the wild die, and have a 50-50 chance of beating the other. Having extra skill dice becomes less beneficial with that house rule.
    I can clearly say that while Jason's game left me wanting to roleplay more in the Trek universe, it (and the articles I've read on the mechanics since then) gave me no desire to play in the rules sets used by Last Unicorn. It seems mathematically flawed - as that article pointed out, Deanna Troi has a 23% chance of beating Data at arm wrestling, despite Data having super-human strength.

  2. The second Trek-related link I wanted to point out was the Star Trek Crew Replicator. It's a cute little on-line tool that lets you build your own paper Star Trek miniatures. You pick the gender, race, skin and hair color, accessories carried, and era/uniform, and it makes you miniatures you can print out. It's very cool.

Turns out the books on my shelf are for the Decipher CODA system, not the Last Unicorn ICON system. While it looks like CODA fixes the dice-odds problem I was just complaining about, the newer system seems more fiddly than I like.
I'm not looking to simulate the minutae of the Trek technology and canonical Star Fleet hierarchy - I'm looking to capture the feel of the best Trek episodes. If I end up running a Trek game of my own someday, I'll probably make up my own lightweight set of rules. I've got a concept for how to handle starship combat...

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