Storytelling Star Trek: Willpower

Willpower is an important part of my vision for running Star Trek. I’m a big believer in players having pools of magic beans that give them some control over when they succeed. Willpower is also a powerful feedback mechanism in the Storytelling system. In our conversion, it will provide reinforcement for following your character’s Values and Nature, as well as fuel for the Aspect system.

The Name

I considered renaming Willpower “Action Points,” as we did in the Storytelling adaptation of EVE Online. In that game, the goal was to make Willpower an entirely metagame resource, getting rid of the flimsy mapping between the idea of “willpower” and an increased ability to succeed.

However, I think I want to keep a flimsy mapping of that sort. Therefore, I’m going to follow the Last Unicorn Games version of Star Trek and call Willpower “Courage.”

Starting Courage

Characters start each new episode with five Courage points.

Uses

 Courage points will have a few more uses than in the World of Darkness.

  • Flash of Insight: Spend a Courage point to get the familiar three die bonus to a roll.
  • Use Aspect: When one of your character’s Aspects is relevant, spend a Courage point to gain a five die bonus to a roll.
  • Lucky Break: Your character finds a clue, such as one accidentally left behind by an antagonist.
  • Spirited Defense: After someone has successfully attacked your character, roll three dice. Your successes are subtracted from the incoming damage.
  • Escape Condition: Shrug off a Condition (like being stunned) without making the necessary Escape Roll. More on Conditions in a future post.

Getting points back

  • Once per scene, you can get a point of Courage back by fulfilling one of your character’s Values.
  • Once per session, you can get a full Courage refresh by fulfilling your character’s Nature.
  • You also receive a point of Courage when one of your Aspects is activated against you.

Aspects

As per Stew’s recommendation, these replace Merits and Flaws. Aspects are a concept borrowed from Evil Hat’s excellent FATE system. They’re character traits which can be positive, negative, or, frequently, both. Aspects cost a point of Courage to activate in a character’s favor, and give a point of Courage when used against the character.

Coming Up

I’m working on starship combat. While I don’t intend it to be a central feature of my chronicle, I want to have a distinct and fun combat system that imparts the feel of big, heavy starships crewed by specialists.

I think FASA’s system was really good, and easily the slickest part of their Trek RPG. However, I don’t want to use their hex-based positioning, or give two players (the science officer and the communications officer) heavy bookkeeping to do even on turns where their characters don’t take any action.

I’m starting from two places: first, an initiative and tactical positioning system inspired by AGON. Second, Ben “Bailywolf” Baugh once designed a neat starship combat system that split each “ship turn” into several “crew turns.” I like the idea of mixing lots of crew-scale actions in between large-scale ship maneuvers. As usual, I’m interested in any suggestions.

I’m kind of stuck on lifepath rules. I like the idea of charting out your character’s academy history and tours of duty (something that was cool in both FASA and LUG), but most Star Trek characters are specialists and I’m using a short skill list, which means each tour of duty would be something like “yeah, another helm job, pile on one more dot.” I’m thinking of taking a look at Traveller‘s most recent High Guard book and seeing if there’s anything inspiring in there.

7 thoughts on “Storytelling Star Trek: Willpower

  1. For the lifepath system, have you considered something similar to Thousand Suns career packages? Each one’s available at Novice, Experienced and Veteran, with cumulative benefits, and characters can choose 3 ranks—Novice at three fields (like Wesley Crusher), or Novice in one and Expert in another. Divide command, science, and tactical into two or three careers each (Helm/Officer, Medical/Engineering, Security/Tactical), and give each one three levels.

  2. I’ll look into that. Embarrassingly, while I own a copy of Thousand Suns, I’ve never looked at it in a lot of detail.

    It sounds familiar, though. In Cavaliers of Mars, you get three career terms at the beginning of the game, and starting careers come in three levels. So I can do Courtesan/Physician/Physician or Courtesan/Soldier/Cavalier or Cavalier/Cavalier/Cavalier. In Cavaliers, though, careers take the place of skills.

  3. Thousand Suns careers each provide packages of skills, and a Hook (Aspect by any other name), rather than taking the place of skills, but other than that they sound similar enough.

  4. The Decipher version had grades of specialisation as well, where if you had a Level One command special ability you could go on to get a Level Two one. But some had specific prerequisites in the previous level. Or elsewhere on the character sheet…

  5. The Decipher edition of the Trek game had a space-combat system that worked very well for us. Everyone has things to do and the ship gets a number of actions per turn which the crew contribute to. Recommended.

  6. The Fading Suns lifepath system (in second edition) is pretty good, but probably not quite what you’re looking for; it replaces normal character creation, assigning points for you at each stage. THe basics work though: you choose an origin (a cultural background), training (how you entered Starfleet or the equivalent, and what kind of study you undertook) and eventually a tour of duty or two (what you did when you graduated). The origins could include options for aliens, though to be honest, I don’t think Star Trek aliens – especially the early series ones – are that different from humans that you would need to change much.

    Also: I’ve never been much of a Trek fan, but I’m not thinking I could adapt this for the TNG era and that a friend or two of mine would eat it up…

  7. “The Decipher edition of the Trek game had a space-combat system that worked very well for us. Everyone has things to do and the ship gets a number of actions per turn which the crew contribute to. Recommended.”

    I’ll look into it!

    “The origins could include options for aliens, though to be honest, I don’t think Star Trek aliens – especially the early series ones – are that different from humans that you would need to change much.”

    Agreed. Very much agreed.

    “Also: I’ve never been much of a Trek fan, but I’m not thinking I could adapt this for the TNG era and that a friend or two of mine would eat it up…”

    I’d be interested to hear. Most of what I’m doing should suit anything from Enterprise on up.

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