An Interview with Chris Birch--Publisher of Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures RPG
Last year at Gen Con 50, Geeks a Gogo sat down with Chris Birch, head of Modiphius, publisher of the new Star Trek Adventures role-playing game from Modiphius Entertainment. Here's what he had to say about the new game:
GaGG: So, this is a new incarnation of a Star Trek role-playing game. How does it differ from past games and how does it get over the pitfalls that we've seen with others?
Chris: Well, they've all been great--the different versions for all the different times of gaming that have come out. And we didn't want to--kind of regurgitate similar material that says, this is the timeline, this is the federation, and there's a lot of that stuff--Memory Alpha, Memory Beta. You know, all the big Star Trek books that have come out. So, we went for a real personal approach. Instead of having a system in which at this date this happens and and this date, this happens, it's a message between a Romulan captain and his superior, or say a Klingon ambassador to the high command. It's different people's views and opinions about what they think about Star Fleet or what they think about this event that happened. So, it's a much more different perspective rather than Star Fleet talking about Star Fleet, or the textbook approach. It's very much opinion--you know maybe they're right, or maybe they're wrong. There's just a lot of unusual and interesting, much more real stuff because you're getting it from the Klingon's point of view, or the Romulan's point of view. And they don't like [Star Fleet]. It's pretty cool, and that's the way it follows through the books.
GaGG: So, you mentioned the timeline of the Star Trek universe. Where does this fit into Star Trek history?
Chris: We start in 2371, which is just before the Dominion War kicks off. So, it's very tense, lots of stuff is about to happen. It's a very serious time for the Federation. Star Fleet needs every single ship it can get, which why we have this "Star Fleet needs a new crew" message. There's a lot of tension across the whole of the Beta Quadrant. It's a great opportunity for a story. The Enterprise is about to crash in one of the films that comes out that year.
But it doesn't mean that you have to play that year. You could play in DS9 time, Voyager, you can go right back to the original series. You can play at any point in the Next Generation series that you'd like. This is where the story starts for us, and we're going to take you on this big journey, but you've got all the information you need to know.
GaGG: So, Star Trek has basically a post-scarcity economy. So, in that sort of situation, what motivates the players when a lot of role playing games are focused around treasure hunting?
Chris: Well, it's obviously not about treasure-hunting, it's about exploring. A lot of people are in Star Fleet because they've got everything, but they want something more. They want to discover the universe, they want to find a new alien race, they want to be the people who broker a treaty. It's a different approach, however, we still have value as characters in the game. We might have values the game in that the prime directive is never wrong, and we all know that doesn't quite work out. Or it might be that all Klingons are evil and should die--a personal view because they killed my brother's family. So, that commands the game.
And maybe you'd think, so why not take phaser riffles on every mission? You can't because Star Fleet isn't about combat. Yes, you do have combat, but the average crew member only has a type-1 phaser, and you cannot set it to kill. Type-2 phasers you can set to kill, but they don't unless it's a very life-threatening situation. They don't even break out type-3 phasers unless there's a major, major threat to the ship or a life, and they need that firepower. So, if you want to do that you need to pay the GM threat. Threat is kind of our currency of drama in the 2D20 system. So, normally you're rolling 2D20 to get underneath your stats and your skill and discipline in Star Trek. For every die that rolls under you get a success, but you can buy more dice with threat.
GaGG: Okay, so the base game is out, and it's on sale at Gen Con. What do you have coming up for the next year and how can we get it?
Chris: So, there is a book coming out for each quadrant--all four quadrants, Beta, etc. Three division books, which are sort of more information for the GM, and advice on dedicated life paths for the players for those divisions. The command division has more ships, the operations division has minis rules for playing battles and more gear. The science book has more info on time travel and big entities like Q and V'Ger. Then we've got an adventures book, we've got a linear campaign that's running now. We've got a line of miniatures, we've got miniatures sets, we've got floor tiles--art directed by Rick Sternbach, director of The Next Generation. It's a great, great line of stuff.
GaGG: Thank you very much, we look forward to playing.
Special thanks to Moe Cheezmo, decades-long Star Trek fan, and producer of Metropolis Burlesque for his contributions to our questions for this interview.