Vulcan Stev's Database

It's a BLOG Captain, but not as we know it.

Gaming in the Universe of… Star Trek pt. 3

treklogo1Family review of the most recent Star Trek

This is a guest column written by Uncle Bear.
Part 1 Part 2

Star Trek Worldbuilding 101
Most of the worlds in the Star Trek universe are monocultures — one race, one religion and one government per planet. That’s good for episodic storytelling, but that’s a whole lot of planets to keep track of.  The good news is that almost all planets in Star Trek are M-class worlds with Earth-normal gravity and an atmosphere nearly all races can breathe comfortably. The bad news is that these worlds seem to have monoclimates as well — the whole planet is a desert, or a frozen waste, or a jungle. If you want to stay true to Trek, you can follow this formula.

Race
What is different, in terms of physical appearance, about the race? Pointy ears? Green skin? Antennae? Bumps on the face? Try to keep it down to 2-3 things. Does this race have any special powers, or excel in any particular skill?

Religion
What do they worship, or what philosophy do they adhere to, if any? this will shape their values and ethics and serve as shorthand for what they value most. Combat prowess? Logic? Profit?

Government
Are they governed by a democracy? A council of elders? The fiercest warlord? This will shape their relationship with the Federation.

Climate
This will have an effect on everything from the race’s clothing to their customs to the food they eat. Think about hostile flora and fauna when considering the climate. Monsters make for fun adventures.

Technology Level
Any given society will have a level of technology, from primitive stone knives and bear skins to phasers and starships.

Federation Membership
Any planet may or may not be a member of the Federation. They may or may not be aware of the Federation, if they’re primitive. This leads to Prime directive issues. They may be trading with the Federation (imagine
a primitive world full of dilithium and no idea what to use it for… how would you trade for it without breaking the rules?) or petitioning for membership. there are plot hooks to be had regarding their relationship with Starfleet.

Alien Involvement
The planet may be allied with or occupied by another power, such as the Klingons or Romulans. This will obviously lead to conflicts. Maybe the other empires just want the planet’s resources or technology. Look for story hooks in those relationships.

Balkanized Planets
If you want to use the “patrol route” format that I suggested in a previous post, you can keep the number of planets limited but add one culture per continent. Maybe it’s the same race, maybe it’s a different race, but one continent can be icy and cold with Islam-like worshippers and a monarchy, while another continent can be a vast forest with a culture similar to ancient Japan rules by a council of the current bestselling authors. When you put multiple cultures on a planet, you end up with conflicts, and reasons for the Federation to step in. But don’t forget the Prime Directive!

June 3, 2009 - Posted by | Fluff/Inspiration, Gaming in the Universe of..., Other Systems, RPG, Star Trek | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. So basically.. your advice in your 3 articles is to use “Traveller” for Star Trek.

    Small ship.. small crew.. based at a star base.. simple planet creation system.. minimal racial differences.. only your combat system needs to mod Traveller slightly.

    That’s cool, back to the 3 small black books from 1976 or whenever..

    Comment by Tom Zunder | June 4, 2009


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