These tabletop RPGs have a Star Trek-style premise, where players are the crew of an space vessel exploring new worlds and making first contact.
There are oodles of space opera sci-fi tabletop RPGs in the style of Star Wars, with galactic empires, blockade-running frigates, and dueling psychic warriors, but there is also a surprising number of RPGs in the tradition of Star Trek. These games focus on members of a survey vessel crew seeking to “explore strange new worlds” and “seek out new life and new civilizations.” Many of these Star Trek-like tabletop RPGs still have clever rules for space battles, but they balance out their moments of conflict with mechanics for contacting, understanding, and reaching accords with new, alien lifeforms.
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The universe of Star Trek, outside of the United Federation of Planets, is arguably a very scary place, filled with hostile aliens, expansionist empires, and godlike energy beings capable of warping reality with a thought. Non-Star Fleet characters from Star Trek media frequently see the Federation’s goal of bringing peace and freedom to the galaxy through diplomacy and good will to be dangerously naive, and, considering the perils lurking in their galaxy, they aren’t wrong to be skeptical.
The motto of Star Trek – “to boldly go where no one has gone before” – arguably refers to more than just the act of space exploration. It also embodies an ethos of courageous optimism and a belief that, even in a reality riven by war, turmoil, and distrust, a genuinely better world can be built by hard-working people embracing diversity, kindness, and compassion. This ethos, first displayed in the original Star Trek series, still rings true today, particularly for tabletop gamers interested in an RPG setting where the goal isn’t just to kill everything in sight.
Star Trek-Like Tabletop RPGs – Lasers & Feelings
Lasers & Feelings is a free, one-page RPG created by John Harper, designer of narrative RPG systems like Blades In The Dark and Agon. The game’s title is taken from a supervillain parody song by folk group The Doubleclicks, but its style is that of a classic Star Trek episode. The premise of Lasers & Feelings is that Captain Darcy, commander of the interstellar Scout Ship Raptor, has been incapacitated by a psychic entity, leaving their bridge crew to solve the randomly generated crisis threatening their vessel alone. Players’ two main character attributes are Lasers, embodying talent with science, logic, and reason, and Feelings, representing emotional passion, empathy, and rapport.
Star Trek-Like Tabletop RPGs – Shock: Human Contact
“Everyone calls their home Earth” is the unofficial motto of Shock: Human Contact, a social sci-fi RPG about academic explorers venturing across the stars in ice-encased starships to reestablish contact with long-lost space colonies of humanity, grown divergent and strange in the ages since the collapse and recovery of civilization on Earth. As a work that both pays homage to and questions the premises of the Star Trek franchise, Shock: Human Contact is filled with interesting gameplay mechanics for creating solar systems, biomes, cultures, and thorny dilemmas for players to navigate. The lore of its far-future setting is also incredibly rich, with detailed entries about plausible future technology, tea and music culture, social ethics, spaceships, martial arts, and a system for creating alien languages and writing systems.
Star Trek-Like Tabletop RPGs – Stars Without Number
Stars Without Number is an extremely detailed space opera sci-fi RPG heavily influenced by the “Old School Revival” game design movement, with extensive rules for creating characters with technical, social, combat, and psychic abilities, designing custom spaceships, and exploring new, unfamiliar star systems in a twist on “hex crawl” gameplay. The setting of Stars Without Number is a vast galaxy recovering from the effects of “the Scream,” a star-spanning cataclysm that caused the old Terran Mandate to collapse and rendered faster-than-light travel impossible for a time. As players and the factions they hail from venture out into a transformed galaxy once more, they can choose to form empires and rebel movements straight out of Star Wars or to be peaceful, Star Trek-like diplomats.
Star Trek-Like Tabletop RPGs – Together Among The Stars
In Takuma Okada’s Alone Among The Stars solo journal RPG, a single player takes on the role of a solitary space explorer, journeying from planet to planet and cataloging the discoveries they make in a Star Trek-style captain’s log. An expansion of this RPG, Together Among The Stars, lets two travelers explore the stars and catalogue discoveries together. In the discovery phase, players roll a six-sided die and draw playing cards from a deck equal to that numbers, with each card suit representing a specific type of discovery, while the downtime phase uses similar mechanics to shape scenes of socialization and interaction between the two explorers as they journey to their next destination.
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