RPG Reviews – Star Trek Adventures

Star Trek Adventures – Modiphius

Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of your starship and your crew, the stories of your space station and its inhabitants. This is Star Trek Adventures and it’s time to explore the undiscovered country.

My History:

When I was much younger, a night where my brother had baseball meant one thing: when my parents had driven off the TV went on and I waited with baited breath for Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was in syndication on weeknight evenings and had new releases Saturday nights.

I watched it obsessively, took a break in high school when life got gothier and Babylon 5 was my new sci-fi of choice. I think it was also when I stopped seeing the world as good and bad and all just different levels of bad. There wasn’t room for Star Trek in that world, no room for a world promoting diplomacy and peaceful cultural exchange. In the real world people were horrible to each other and dominated and destroyed cultures out of ignorance and greed – how could Star Trek still hold any appeal?

Then, as an adult, older and maybe a little wiser, it all came together for me. I hadn’t known the history of the Star Trek universe and that the world of Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer only came about after humanity drove itself into the ground. The ideals of the Federation were able to exist because we as a species had stared deep into the abyss and, once we broke its gaze, pledged to never let ourselves fall so far again.

I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie exactly, but now I take great comfort in that future, fictional universe. A universe where we celebrate and embrace our similarities and differences, and where an active effort is made to ensure all people are cared for and given the opportunity to explore their potential. One where we realize that we’re all in this together and when we hurt each other we end up hurting ourselves.

Disclaimer: This title has been provided for purpose of review.

The Setting:

Star Trek Adventures presents a future where humanity is largely collected in The United Federation of Planets, or The Federation. Having gone through centuries of war and hardship, humanity has been renewed with a drive for discovery and advancement, exploration and innovation. By the time of this book, the people of The Federation live in a post-scarcity society, where they want for nothing and are free to achieve their utmost potential, whatever it is. As a result they focus on scientific and cultural advancement, and traveling the universe in search of the unknown.

Humanity isn’t alone in the universe of course. Other starfaring civilizations present themselves as allies, enemies, or mysteries. Greater threats also exist, those that affect the fabric of space and time.

The protagonists of Star Trek are typically members of Starfleet, the exploration wing of The Federation, who pilot immense starships or crew starbases. Though flawed, they are almost universally moral and aim for the best for all peoples. Their moral code isn’t utilitarian, it aims for the absolute best for everyone, not just “the majority”, and rejects the notions of bigotry and prejudice.

In Star Trek Adventures players take on the roles of Starfleet personnel and guide them through their thrilling missions and adventures. They are more than a collection of numbers though – regardless of the personality players bring to them, the values and morals of their characters are encoded in the gameplay and have mechanical weight in the rules.

Before getting into the rules, readers are presented with an overview of the history of the universe, the factions and different species, and the “geographical” areas. Throughout the text, which is presented in a clear, easy-to-read manner, sidebars present in-character information via personal logs, situation reports, and executive summaries. These are very well-written – capturing the voice of the canonical characters they belong to. Authorial sidebars give advice on how these sections can assist and support your game.

The chapter on Starfleet is great. It gives the history of the organization, explaining its origin from independent scientific efforts like CERN and NASA and how, as concepts, they embody the Federation’s distaste for war and violence, choosing to embrace science and exploration. Because it also acts to defend the Federation, it has a military organization, though it’s emphasized that when it comes to engaging in violence Starfleet is only intended to act in defensive and peacekeeping operations.

The Prime Directive, a principle of non-interference with pre-starfaring species, gets a thorough examination. It’s a frequent point of contention and moral struggle on the various tv series, so it’s almost essential to talk about in the context of a role-playing game as in-setting rules are frequently bent but also provide great moral dilemmas for Player Characters. The burden of adhering to it is not glossed over and its mentioned that Starfleet Command gives its officers leeway in interpreting the Prime Directive, which does map with the media canon, and make mission creation a little easier for the GM.

The TV shows would vary in how they composed mission “away teams”, and the rulebook gives pretty clear instructions on standard procedure. I like this quite a lot – while it doesn’t work for an RPG to have only “disposable” crew members go on Away Missions, it doesn’t make sense for high-ranking officers to be the prime candidates – it’s too risky. The game states that department heads recommend the members of the team, first and second officers lead the teams on sensitive missions, and captains to not accompany an away team. Of course, it’s up to your table what you ultimately decide, just bear in mind that procedure may be invoked to prevent captains from beaming down to a planet. It’s probably best to discuss how to handle this within your group ahead of time if some player characters are high-ranked.


Star Trek Adventures is based off the Modiphius 2d20 system and I love how it’s represented here. In previous reviews of Mutant Chronicles and John Carter of Mars I’ve covered the system and how it can run from very traditional and detailed (Mutant Chronicles) to very loose and narrative (John Carter). Star Trek falls closer to the narrative side of John Carter, maintains some more traditional elements, then sort-of sidesteps to include narrative elements that evoke games like Fate. Previous versions of Star Trek RPGs have leaned towards a heavily skill-based system and they played well, but the various Star Trek shows promote a narrative structure over a precise simulationist structure, so Star Trek Adventures hits the sweet spot in its rules.

An element specific to Star Trek Adventures is Traits. These are personal, location, situational, and equipment-based descriptors that are true facts about the game environment. Think of them like labels and descriptive shorthand that sort-of codify scenes into bullet points. When attempting actions, they may help (Advantage) or hinder characters (Complication). For example, a doctor performing surgery on a member of another species may have to contend with the Trait Klingon and if it’s in the midst of a starship battle the doctor may have to account for the traits Under Heavy Fire and Damaged Lab, all of which would likely be detrimental, unless the doctor was a Klingon, in which case that could be an Advantage (or at least, not a Complication).

Character actions, in which they are attempting to achieve a desired outcome, are known as Tasks. These are accomplished by making a task roll using Attributes, Disciplines, and Focuses.

Attributes are inherent abilities that give a numerical rating to your character’s analytical abilities, reflexes, instincts, precision, leadership, etc.

When attempting a task, the relevant Attribute score is added to a Discipline score to make the Target Number – the number a player must roll equal to or under on 2 20-sided dice.

Disciplines cover a character’s training and replace the precision of a lengthy skill list. It means you don’t need to worry about having a particular skill – you’re trained in the general area, you know how to do something related to it. They also make sense because so many Star Trek solutions are made up of technobabble and involve scientific knowledge not everyone is guaranteed to have – but the character should have. Each corresponds to an area of expertise for an officer on a Starfleet ship, like the Command division, Security, Medicine, etc.

The Discipline explanations give a very helpful breakdown of how they combine with each Attribute and the relevant situations in which they’d be used.

As mentioned above, when attempting a Task, the GM will state the combination of Attribute and Discipline to use, will give you a Difficulty – how many Successes you need (rolls under the Target Number), and the Player will roll.

Using the example of the Doctor treating the Klingon, they might roll against Control and Medicine (if they are remaining calm and the situation is a little more stable) or Daring and Medicine (if they need to try something risky). Let’s say it’s Control + Medicine with a rating of 10 in the former and 4 in the latter. That’s a Target Number of 14. The player rolls 2d20 and gets a 13 and 3. Both are below 14, so that’s 2 Successes.

This is when you can apply Focuses. If the doctor has a Focus relevant to the situation, like “Klingon Physiology” or “Battlefield Medicine”, they can apply it to the Task and earn extra successes.

Critically failed rolls create a Complication, which is a negative Trait that doesn’t mean the Task failed but will cause difficulty.

Traits, as Advantages and Complications, will adjust the Difficulty of the Task in your favor or make it harder.

Successes in excess of the Difficulty become Momentum, which represents coordination and teamwork, and are points that will allow players to roll extra dice, or create Advantages, along with other possible benefits.

The GM gets a pool of points to play with too, in the form of Threat. Threat can be spent to trigger environmental effects, act as Momentum for NPCs, to create Complications, and in other ways. It’s a fun way to give the GM agency without it being completely their fiat, and without needing to risk railroading.

The final mechanical elements are Determination and Values. Values are short statements that describe something important and personal to a character and give mechanical benefits when upon, using Determination to fuel it. It can also be used against a PC though, and push them to act accordingly.

Character Creation

Character creation is done in a similar fashion to other 2d20 games, and as I’ve mentioned, via my favorite method: the Lifepath. It guides Starfleet personnel through their early life, time in the Academy, and the various postings they have had before the game starts. This method generates Attributes, special Talents, Disciplines, and so on.

There are a variety of species available for the players to choose from: Andorians, Bajorans, Betazoids, Denobulans, Humans, Tellarites, Trill, and Vulcans. Rules for non-Federation characters presented in the Adversaries section, like Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi, Cardassians, the species of The a Dominion, and even the Borg! Having them all together in one book is great as it widens the scope of the game from the start.

There is some consideration to the style of the game here. Determining role and rank aboard the starship is an important element of character creation but not all groups will be playing the senior officers of the ship, so other options are discussed.

Supporting Characters, as a game element, is a clever way to handle a) the characters played by guest starts in the TV series like Barclay, or O’Brien before DS9, and b) how not to send the captain PC on Away Missions. These characters have simplified character creation and are used to… well, support! They are shared among the group and used in scenes where they will be relevant and useful, meaning everyone always has a character in the scene without it feeling contrived.

There’s an alternative character creation method too, presented in just over a page, but it’s an interesting one. It involves character creation during play. The basics are established of the character are established and then, like a TV show, their other characteristics are slowly revealed during the game, as the audience would learn about them. It seems like fun and might be a good method for players new to gaming but familiar with Star Trek, to prevent them feeling overloaded with information.

There are Reputation rules for characters, and they’re a very handy way to encourage the style of game and milieu of Star Trek. They’re also a good way to track when a promotion may be warranted.

Combat and Conflict abstracts precise elements like range and movement, worrying less about exactly how far apart combatants are and more narratively apart they are. Instead of being 100ft away, the Romulans firing on your officers are three zones away – on the other side of the shuttles, past the stretch of cargo bay, taking cover in the corridor. All distances work relative to this method and it’s nice to not have to worry about exact measurements. Combat is similar to other Tasks with a number of options presented to make proper use of Traits. Social Conflict is represented and the game would be lacking without it. So much of Star Trek relies on diplomacy and negotiation, even during a heated battle, that to not include these rules would be foolish. It’s not the most nitty-gritty system but nothing in Star Trek Adventures is, so that’s totally fine – do some roleplaying, roll some dice, and convince the Maquis to stop firing on you, since you’re all on the same side.

Star Trek Adventures makes sure to include sections on many other necessary aspects of the franchise:

  • Research and scientific discovery – for when your crew needs to heal that rift in time-space that developed in the cargo bay
  • Straightforward rules for starship creation and operation that treat it like a character which, while detailed, means you don’t need to learn a whole new subsystem for some of the most exciting parts of Star Trek, and also allowing for your Bridge Officers to play a significant role in the outcome of starship combat
  • The role of technology and how it developed through the history of the Federation
  • Travel and discovery – how to handle first contact, exploring strange new worlds and meeting new civilizations

For the Gamemaster:

If you were coming to this as a Star Trek fan new to RPGs, you would be in luck. The gamemaster is provided lots of good advice and guidance on how to structure the ongoing series, important events to take note of as they’ll have an influence on the setting, how to handle character creation as a group – essential if you’re all playing members of the same organization operating in the same unit, among other things.

If you’re an experienced (even a little) GM there’s tons to help support you in running the particularly unique game that is Star Trek Adventures. The above notes on how to run a unit of characters, with their distinct roles (and to give them enough screen time), how a game is different when focused on exploration and discovery over tactical combat, handling the structure and discipline of Starfleet, and then the expected, but well executed mission and encounter building guidelines, creation of planets, and through adversary section.

A well-written starting mission is included, as a one-shot or a way to kick off a series. The plot is perfectly Star Trek and its fleshed out enough to still give players agency in the resolution.


I’m writing this review the same weekend that the trailer for the upcoming Star Trek: Picard series has dropped. In 2020 we’ll get to see a beloved actor return to one of his most iconic roles on television, and if I wasn’t already incredibly inspired to run Star Trek Adventures, that has pushed me over the edge and bumped the game very high on my queue of games to start a long campaign of. I read this rulebook in its electronic version – taking gleeful pleasure in viewing it on what amounts to a PADD. I love print books but this felt very appropriate.

  • Star Trek Adventures is a really good game:
    • It provides a complete set of rules for playing Star Trek in practically any era of the franchise.
      It includes a well-researched and well-written overview of Star Trek, its setting, and its themes.
      It has an iteration of the 2d20 system that perfectly suits the style of play it’s aiming for.
      The game has incredible production values with excellent artwork, layout and design, that really positions you in the setting and mindset of the universe.

    Star Trek Adventures can be purchased through the Modiphius website in print and pdf. The standard print version displays white text on a black background.

    If that may be difficult for you to read it is also available in Print-On-Demand at DriveThruRPG (Affiliate Link). In both locations, the PDF formats include one with black text on white, and white text on black. The standard print version can also be purchased from Amazon (Affiliate Link).


    2 thoughts on “RPG Reviews – Star Trek Adventures

    1. Pingback: RPG Reviews – The Alpha Quadrant (Star Trek Adventures) | The Tabletop Almanac

    2. Pingback: RPG Reviews – Infinity | The Tabletop Almanac

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