The more I read through RPGs like Marvel Heroic, various Apocalypse World derived games, and Fate games, the more I am convinced that the feel and flow of various properties are definitely encapsulated better by more narrative oriented roleplaying games.
I think Star Wars does well in a more traditional framework, because heroes shoot back or run from danger, use different guns and starships to do so, and fight a wide variety of troops, fighters, interceptors, and capital ships. While you could make a narrative game that does these things, a more traditional RPG still handles a lot of what makes Star Wars work pretty well.
Now, when you move the lens towards Star Trek, I think you might get a slightly different picture. The traditional Star Trek (as shown through a preponderance of television episodes) means of resolving a problem tends to revolve around the following:
- Coming up with some new way to use existing equipment to do (science ex machina)
- Talking to the right people at the right time to convince them to change their minds
- Doing science under pressure
- Doing diplomacy under pressure
- Finding out there are new rules to a situation that you didn’t know about, then learning how to do something more mundane under those new rules
While there is a good deal of fighting in Star Trek, it’s usually something that happens earlier in the show, to let you know there is a problem, rather than the solution to the problem. Outside of the movies, even ship to ship combat is usually about surviving until one of the above happens, or flexing your own ship’s capabilities so you can talk to an opponent as equals.
That means, in a more traditional RPG, when you have different stats for a type II or type II phaser, exact hull points and shield ratings, and single pass fail resolution skills that tell you if you “diplomacied” the alien ambassador, you tend to fast forward through the most Star Trek like aspects of a Trek game and spend a lot more time on combat, which is usually a speed bump to the actual resolution in the television series.
It makes perfect sense in the more action oriented Star Wars to know if your smuggler can fast talk his way past customs with one quick roll to get a head start on his pursuers, or to know if he can bluff some stormtroopers to avoid a fight that will potentially give him a few more injuries going into the big fight, but that’s the opposite paradigm we see in more traditional Trek stories.
Cortex Plus, Powered by the Apocalypse games, and Fate all have a lot more space for making random science solutions that aren’t defined by the rules before the player came up with the solution, longer diplomatic resolutions, or even that everybody is operation by a set of rules that you weren’t aware existed in the first place.
That said, I’m surprised I haven’t seen a shot at more traditional trek using one (or all) of these RPG approaches. I’m not talking about fan made attempts. There are fan made attempts at nearly everything, some very, very good. I’m also not talking about actual licensed Star Trek games, because goodness knows licensing is an weird and tempestuous beast. But I have yet to come across a more generic, yet obviously Star Trek styled sci-fi game for these systems, and that kind of surprises me.