What Do I Know About First Impressions? Star Trek Adventures Mission Briefs 001-003
It’s been a while since I visited the RPG version of the Federation, so I thought I’d take a look at a few products that are available on DriveThruRPG for the Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game. All of the supplements I’m looking at today are available for free, so that skews the math when it comes to deciding if they are worth picking up, but I wanted to look at what is contained in them.
What Are Mission Briefs?
Mission briefs are more than story hooks, but less than fully fleshed out adventures. They go beyond presenting just the parameters of what needs to be done to fulfill the mission, and add in story beats, twists, and plot progression, but they do so in a broader manner than adventures might. In many cases, instead of providing full statistics for NPCs, ships, or creatures, they will suggest stat blocks to reskin.
Specifically, these have a suggested era of play, a spotlight role (the player character most likely to be doing the heavy lifting to resolve the conflict of the mission), an opening log entry, a synopsis, major and minor beats, and a conclusion. All of the mission briefs include a section on slotting the mission into an ongoing campaign, and some of them have a section on adapting the mission for different eras of play.
Eras of Play
So far, the officially supported eras of play in Star Trek Adventures include Early Federation (shortly after the events of the Enterprise series), The Original Series Era, and The Next Generation Era. The default time for the RPG is the Next Generation era, unless otherwise stated, and most of the material produced for the game has supported this time period.
The Original Series era is the second most supported era. There are a number of ships that appear from that point in federation history, and several of the published adventures have been set in this time period.
The early Federation era is the least supported of these time periods. There aren’t a lot of ships from this era, and there aren’t as many adventures supporting this time frame. This is worth noting, since one of these mission briefs actually defaults to the early Federation era.
And yes, I’m really hoping to see some Discovery, Lower Decks, and Picard era material in the future, but I guess I need to be patient. Strange New Worlds should also add some interesting ideas to The Original Series era (if a few years earlier).
This mission brief provides ten missions, each of which should be good for at least a night’s worth of play. As the title intimates, these are all stories from the early days of the Federation. These missions revolve around potential diplomatic incidents between early Federation signatories, missions involving worlds that will soon join the Federation, and some early interactions with the Klingons.
Cultures involved include the Andorians, Vulcans, Tellarites, Trill, and Klingons. One of the elements I like in this is that it includes some elements that feel like larval forms of Original Series concepts, such as encountering legendary figures from Andorian history.
While there are some good suggestions for drifting these adventures to other eras, I think some of them lose their immediacy when transported to eras when the Federation is more established. In the era for which these mission briefs are written, the Federation is still a barely realized dream that might still fall apart if old wounds are opened too often.
The default setting for the mission briefs in this installment is the Next Generation era. As the title suggests, these are missions that revolve around mitigating damage from cataclysmic events, rescuing people compromised by major incidents, or trying to stop accidents from having far ranging effects.
These involve navigating an artificially manipulated asteroid belt, dealing with computer viruses, learning about the involvement of political dissidents’ complicity in major events, a good old transporter accident, a few events complicated by Romulan involvement, and some potentially hostile situations involve Nausicans and Jem’Hadar.
These briefs have a good mix between ones that feel pretty solidly set in the Next Generation era, and some that feel like they could drift easily to other eras. NPCs mentioned include a lot of species that became prominent in the Next Generation era, like Benzites, Bolians, Trill, Bajorans, and the aforementioned Nausicans and Jem’Hadar.
The mission briefs that deal with the Romulans, and especially the Tal Shiar, as well as the Jem’Hadar and Bajorans, are pretty firmly rooted in the political situations of the Next Generation era, although many of the “people stranded in an emergency situation” can be easily adapted.” In a broader sense, a lot of these mission briefs feel like they are exploring territory already in Federation borders, which is a much more Next Generation feel.
Mission Briefs 003, Anomalies
These mission briefs play with the Star Trek staple of weird anomalies that do unknown things for unknown reasons, with the mission being to find out the why behind the what. Like the previous mission brief, this defaults to the Next Generation era of Star Trek.
These missions involve windows into another universe, potentially at the beginning of its existence, a network of plants, the repercussions of time machines, a new form of FTL drive, some hints at fluidic space, rogue comets, shrinking, out of phase crew members, spontaneous addiction, and temporal hallucinations.
It’s interesting that two of these scenarios potentially grant access to alternate realities, so that if you wanted a side trek into the Mirror Universe or the Kelvin Timeline, there’s your offramp. Many of these anomalies work in just about any era, but I feel like the drive to test alternate FTL drives is a little bit more Next Generation (spore drive not withstanding), there is again some Romulan politics at play, and learning about Fluidic Space not long after Voyager goes to the Delta Quadrant isn’t going to cause too many issues, it becomes more of a problem the earlier that incident happens.
Two things that I like about the “instant addiction” mission brief is that there is a content warning and a disclaimer that you should approach addiction carefully and with player consent, and the fact that it is one of the few mission briefs I’ve seen where the ship’s counselor is the potential spotlight character.
First Impressions and Final Thoughts
I like a lot of the adventures that I have seen for Star Trek Adventures, but I feel like I would be more likely to use these than any particular adventure. These feel more like episodes I could slot in between an ongoing narrative, when I want to give a building plot some breathing room to develop.
I would also be more than willing to pick up a larger collection of mission briefs, grouped together by era, in a manner similar to the adventure anthologies that have been published for STA, for actual, real money. While I’m waiting on official STA content for Discovery, Lower Decks, Picard, or other potential eras, I would also love to see what a set of Klingon Mission briefs would look like.
I love the captain’s log to frame these mission briefs, in a manner similar to what appears in the full STA adventures, however, I do wish we got a mission objectives for the briefs, especially since specific mission objectives can be challenged or invoked with determination just like the character’s values.
Since these are free, I would say if you have the time, if you are running Star Trek Adventures, you may want to swing by and pick up these mission briefs, if only to spur your imagination. They are a nice resource for a game that I really enjoy.