I have been GMing D&D 5e for almost two years now and have two consistent groups ongoing. As a Christmas gift, I will be running a game using the Star Trek Adventures game system for someone. I have the rulebook, and have begun reading it.

What notable differences from D&D 5e should I pay attention to so I can most effectively learn and teach this new system?

For your information, only one of my potential players has played a roleplaying game in the last 25 years, as she is in one of my 5e groups.

This question is less about the success/failure system inherent to the roles, but more specifically about how the 'scenes' are set up, how the characters are intended to act, and the types of challenges that ought to be presented, but all answers providing important details that I must adapt to are relevant.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Our group will find any good answers useful, once one of our players gets over his RL obstacles and can run a new game. This is the one he picked. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 18:13
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ This question is not too broad, system introductions are on topic :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I noticed my DM'ing style changed/improved by watching Critical Role. Maybe Eric Campbell can do the same for you in the world(s) of Star Trek: youtube.com/watch?v=09zD7OyRCkM \$\endgroup\$
    – Willibrord
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will learn as much of the rules system as I can over this coming weekend, then select a 'best' answer based on my new understanding of the game after this. Admittedly, this forgoes the in-play aspect of the game but it seems worthwhile to me to resolve the question once answers are in. \$\endgroup\$
    – kanoo
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


In my experience, the biggest differences involve incorrect expectations among players about mechanics, setting, and PC behavior

1. Mechanics

The Star Trek Adventures game system is a bit odd. My group adapted to it well enough, but we constantly had expectations about how play would mechanically proceed which were based on experiences with other games. We got used to it but there was a lot of confusion early on. A short tutorial session might be a good idea-- a one-shot adventure that is intended to highlight the core mechanics of the game is something I would have appreciated, as our first couple of sessions ended up being little more than that.

As GM, I strongly recommend practice with the system in advance of play. Nearly every instinct I had as a player was wrong, and guidance from the GM was necessary and helpful.

2. Setting

The other big issue I ran into with STA is that Star Trek not only has a massive amount of lore regarding the setting and detailed elements of how things work but that lore also tended to matter more than in a D&D game.

D&D also has a ton of lore, but it's often poorly continuous across editions, isn't set into very detailed worldbuilding (how do economies work in the Forgotten Realms, exactly?), and can be viewed (by some) as very meta-gamey to be aware of in advance. If your group has even one fan of Star Trek there is a good chance that players will have very clear expectations of how technology works and how specific individuals and groups behave. Those can set up some nice surprises, but can also lead to a lot of frustration.

It is much more difficult to bend the setting of Star Trek into new shapes than D&D. The latter has entire cosmologies that vary from edition to edition. Conversely, that the makeup budget on the original Star Trek series was limited and design of Klingons was later changed has been canonized in-universe as a baroque plot involving genetic engineering and plagues in service of a hazy goal. If you want to make more than very minor changes to the setting, be prepared for arguments. At a minimum, I recommend discussing player expectations for the setting in a session 0.

3. PC Behavior

This one is dependent on players, and is something that our GM for the game addressed early. The game assumes that PCs are officers in Starfleet, which, in D&D terms, tends to restrict allowed alignments. It can be difficult to square being in Starfleet with having non-standard moral aims. Because the setting can be a bit inflexible, discussing this with players early is important. Even if they want to play against type, and you allow it, you as GM will benefit from advance notice and planning.


Other things I noticed while playing which were more specific to STA than other games:

  • Scenes, characters, and drama aren't so different in STA than in other TTRPGs. Drama is drama, story is story, and using STA mechanics rather than D&D mechanics doesn't affect that much. My only caveat is that Star Trek tends to focus on a lot of big questions and ideas, and bringing those into games can be very intriguing. I also find the setting more relatable than magic-filled fantasy settings, but that may just be personal to me.
  • Character background and details are generally more important than in other games. You get a lot of specific details about major events in PCs' lives and careers which have direct impacts on their skills and abilities. The extra detail and integration with character creation mechanics make it easier to build characters (rather than just "PCs"), and to fold those details into the game story. Don't miss this opportunity! I've played other TTRPGs that I liked more, but never one in which I felt my PC was more well-rounded or more a part of the in-game universe.
  • The rules for supporting characters give an important chance for variety in play and making sure that ships, outposts, etc. are appropriately crewed, but also really change the game's distribution of risks like character death. More disposable crew members are an important Star Trek tradition, and mortal danger to the main PCs can (perhaps should) be pretty rare. Make sure to plan content for both main and supporting PCs, and signpost specific missions as necessary.
  • Spaceships exist in-game as both methods of transit and as locations for adventures in ways many games don't accommodate well. Combining those together can be really, really exciting! Trying to pilot the ship with one PC and simultaneously trying to repair the engine while fighting off assault teams with the other is a great way to enhance the drama of a whole encounter and give a Star Trek experience I (as a fan) really craved.
  • So much Star Trek-related media exists that it's easier to find cool multimedia aids for STA than for some other games. There are tons of sound effects, video clips, graphics, and so on that are easy to find and use as mood-setters, visual aids, and props. My GM had an actor friend record "subspace transmissions" that set up one of our missions complete with the familiar Star Trek sound effects and references. It was the most immersive TTRPG experience I've ever had!
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer! You've provided some much-welcome insight into the significance of the setting and how it contributes to player expectations. It's also exciting to read that the characters built feel like they are a part of the universe. \$\endgroup\$
    – kanoo
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 18:52

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