Running Star Trek using 4e D&D

I mean, how hard can it be?

That was my off the cuff idea I threw into the twitterverse, and the more I thought about it, and others jumped onto me asking the difficult questions, the less is seemed like a stupid idea, and the more it became a darned good one.

Which probably says a lot about the people I hang around with on Twitter. Blame this one on newbiedm, spankeddm, phaezen, paulbaalham, markmeredith, SnarlsAtFleas, deadorcs, symatt and the rest (and if I’ve missed anyone, please drop a link to your Twitterfeed into the comments, ‘kay?).

Anyhow.

Here’s what we have so far. Please feel free to add, amend, make suggestions, toss insults and generally help turn this into something usable.

Character Generation

Character generation is much like Gama World, except PCs are created using Race (Human, Romulan, Klingon…) + Branch (Medical, Engineering, Navigation, Security, etc) rather than two Origins. The combination of Race + Branch provides your character’s key attributes and abilities.

As this is Star Trek, the emphasis is on using Skill Challenges (combined with great role-playing, as always) to solve problems.  And when that fails, there’s always Ship Combat!

Spaceship Generation

Ships are generated using the Monster Building rules.The have their own Armour Class (which represents shields and plating), hit points and abilities. Ships could be Lurkers (such as the iconic Romulan Warbird, below), Brutes (most Klingon craft), Artillery (ships with particularly long-ranged weaponry), etc. Minion Spaceships are perfect laser cannon fodder.

Here’s a quick, sloppy and most likely wildly inaccurate example, just to give you an idea.

Spaceship Scale

Scale is non linear. One-man ships (such as an X-Wing) are Small, The Enterprise is Large and the Death Star (from Star Wars, but bear with me on this) is at least Huge. Elite and Solo is reserved for spaceships with advanced technology or equipment that makes them significantly more dangerous than the norm. The Death Star would make a fantastic Solo Elite (complete with swarms of Tie Fighter Minions. Booyah.)

Spaceship Combat

Combat is as per 4e D&D, but with Spaceships. In addition to their own characters, the players share control of the Spaceship. Combat is carried out in Ship Initiative order with each character responsible for his or her console at the Bridge. For example, the Navigator can move while Engineering monitors (and repairs) the shields. The Captain has give orders, but it’s up to the crew to interpret them (or obey them at all).

As with characters & monsters, a Spaceship can take one Minor, Move and Standard Action per turn.

Each square on the battlegrid may represent hundreds (or thousands – I’m vague on Star trek scale) of kilometres. “Melee” weapons are close-range attacks usable within visual distance (tractor beams, short-range torpedoes, sensor pods, etc) while longer-ranged weaponry is classified as Ranged.

Now it’s your turn

What do you think so far? Good idea? Stupid one? What can you add to it? Feed me comments!

I’ll leave the last word to dazedsaveends:

Black Hole (Level 8 Hazard) Close burst 10, +10 vs. Fortitude, target is pulled 3 squares & immobilized (save ends).

Engage!

UPDATE: Over at Dice Monkey, Mark has started work on the Race and Classes. Check it out!

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18 Responses

  1. Very good ideas here. I’m glad I took at least some part in it. Tomorrow I’ll post my version of spaceship combat, maybe you’ll like some of the ideas too.
    Oh! And the table I was talking about. Maybe you’d find it useful. http://twitpic.com/4agyma

  2. Cygnus says:

    Cool ideas. Presumably you already know about WNMHGB?

  3. While my initial reaction was to vomit, I took a deep breath, counted to 10 and now feel it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard of ever.

    It would never replace my favorite way of playing what is one of my favorite subjects for gaming (that would be LUG’s Star Trek RPG using the ICON system) or even my second favorite way (that would be the FASA version) but I could see it having merit. With a few tweaks it could even be really cool.

    I am intrigued to hear more.

    • greywulf says:

      My first thought when I wanted to run a Star Trek game was to use Risus. But then, that’s my first thought for any campaign setting these days.

      I realized what we needed though was a game that had chargen with well defined party roles as well as rock-solid tactical-grid based combat.

      In short: Fourth Edition D&D. And thus, the idea was born.

  4. This reminds me of two things:
    How to handle a crew commanding a ship?
    -> http://www.herzliches-rollenspiel.de/wiki/index.php/SpaceRoles:Overview

    -> Someone else having a similar idea – using D&D 4 exception based design concept for a Sci-Fi Space combat game:
    http://www.enworld.org/index.php?page=space_fight
    Giving the names of the creators, I assume at least the latter could be known. :)

  5. Elton says:

    Black Holes don’t exist, Greywulf. They are mathematic points, and nature doesn’t make any points.

    They are great for science fiction. However, I’d rather use LUG Trek since I do have that game. If I didn’t, I’d be working with GURPS, Spacemaster, or some other game to get the results.

    Makes me feel bad that Copyright exists. I wish all the intellectual monopolists would be convinced that Copyright is bad for their business.

  6. dbv says:

    Great post as always, ‘Wulf. I particularly love two of the concepts you put foward, as they were solutions I found to similar problems:
    Spaceships as monsters: I was working on a hard sci-fi tookit for 4e that I was calling “Forth, among the stars”. Ship-scale combat worked as you propose, except I treated PC ships (such as the Falcon, or the Enterprise) as a Solo, where everyone took turns at the system they were helming (Engineering, Turrets, Piloting, etc) and had powers that contributed that way.
    The Gamma world origins as race + class was something I was using for a homebrew Legend of the 5 Rings game we played a few times. Races/Clans on one side, and “class” on the other gave that needed boost to your race to make it *matter* more than 4e.

    The one thing I’d suggest is more of an emphasis on Skill Powers as utility powers. I’d increase number of utility powers in a game so rife with non-combat encounters, as a further way of distinguishing similar characters.

    Good luck, and…
    Make it So.

  7. Herrozerro says:

    You know, while the intent is to make a scifi conversion this could also work great for a pirate game.

    I really like the idea for ship rules for combat.

  8. David says:

    I think my brain just exploded a little bit. This would make a really interesting TOS era game. Is this something you’re musing about, or should we expect to see some play reports?

  9. Oz says:

    Hmm… looks like someone played some Star Fleet Battles?

    This is a very intriguing take, especially given how challenging it can to be to capture the flavor of Star Trek in a game. I hope we see more.

  10. I’m lmao! Two years ago as part of my Groknard Trek RPG blog, I posted an article about homebrewed games based on other systems. One of them I cited:

    Perhaps the most recent and disturbing homebrew is based on WOTC’s D&D4E. Although I can see the appeal of a cross-genre “phasers vs. magic” style adventure, the conversion only provides stats for four characters: Kirk (Leader), Spock (Controller), McCoy (Defender) and Sulu (Striker). Furthermore, the powers are all combat oriented (i.e., the At-Will “Vulcan Nerve Pinch”), making Dungeons & Dragons: Final Frontier not very Trekish at all, and a rather foolish endeavor.

    …accompanied by this cover image: http://bit.ly/eUjP93

    :)

  11. Mike Berkey says:

    Speaking as the guy who wrote WNMHSGB, I love this. It looks like a blast. :-D

    I have a Darwinian view of rpg design–particularly in Trek. The more weird ass Trek adaptations there are, the better future designs will be as these cross-pollinate.

    Also, ‘wulf, I really like your new blog design. It’s very clean.

  12. Mica Fetz says:

    Hey ‘Wulf! I’ve been lurking around your site for a couple months. I really enjoy your posts. This Trek thing totally blew my mind. Then I spent a good bit of time that night playing around with my Adventure Tools: Monster Builder. My primary source was LUG’s Star Trek books. But, I’m also using ADB’s Prime Directive d20 Core Rulebook. —

    Federation “CONSTITUTION” – Class Starship Level 9 Brute
    Large XP 400

    HP 120; Bloodied 60
    AC 24; Fortitude 22; Reflex 21; Will 21
    Speed 6 Impulse Power (hover), warp drive 30
    Initiative +6
    Perception +11
    All-Around Vision 40, Darkvision 40

    Traits
    Crew: 435; Passengers: 235; Evac: 3,500

    Transporters:
    4 personnel, 6 cargo, 4 emergency

    Tractor Beams:
    1 fv, 1 av
    Standard Actions

    r Type VII Phaser • At-Will
    Attack: Range: 20/40 (Targets 1 ship); +19 vs. AC
    Hit: 2d10 + 4.

    A Photon Torpedoes • Recharge 4 5 6
    Attack: Range: 60; area 4 (one to four ships); +16 vs. AC
    Hit: 3d10 + 6 “A salvo of high-powered energy torpedoes flies forth; they impact the enemy craft, doing massive damage.”.

    Minor Actions
    Starfleet Deflector Shield • Recharge 5 6
    Effect: When shields are activated, the Federation CONSTITUTION – Class has 60 temporary hit points.

    Skills Stealth +11
    Str 14 (+6) Dex 14 (+6) Wis 14 (+6)
    Con 20 (+9) Int 14 (+6) Cha 14 (+6)
    Alignment      Languages —

    © 2010 Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All rights reserved. This formatted statistics block has been generated using the D&D Adventure Tools.

    I also statted The Romulan D-7:

    Romulan D-7 “DEADLY” – Class Battlecruiser Level 9 Brute
    Large XP 400

    HP 120; Bloodied 60
    AC 21; Fortitude 22; Reflex 21; Will 21
    Speed 6 Impulse Power (hover), warp drive 30
    Initiative +6
    Perception +11

    All-Around Vision 40, Darkvision 40
    Standard Actions

    r Type V Disruptor • At-Will
    Attack: Range: 20/40 (Targets 1 ship); +12 vs. AC
    Hit: 2d10 + 4.

    A Torpedoes • Recharge
    Attack: Range: 60 (one to three ships); +12 vs. AC
    Hit: 3d10 + 6 “A spread of three plasma torpedoes impacts the enemy vessel, doing massive damage.”.

    Minor Actions
    IKAF Deflector Shield • Recharge
    Effect: When shields are activated, the Klingon D-7 has 45 temporary hit points.

    Romulan Cloak – 7 • Recharge
    Effect: + 28 to Stealth Check of the cloaked vessel; it may not use weapons, shields or transporters while cloaked.

    Skills Stealth +11
    Str 14 (+6) Dex 14 (+6) Wis 14 (+6)
    Con 20 (+9) Int 14 (+6) Cha 14 (+6)
    Alignment      Languages —

    © 2010 Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All rights reserved. This formatted statistics block has been generated using the D&D Adventure Tools.

    I also have the Gamma World 4e games and really like the overlay concept – select a character race and a charactrer class; D&D uses it and LUG used it too.

  13. Mark says:

    Sigh… I haven’t forgotten this project! I just need to get some time to do it…

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