Tabletop RPGs are notorious for making your already tight-knit crew even closer, often encouraging brilliant teamwork or sparking hillarious disagreements that you'll be laughing about for years to come. Here at StarTrek.com we relish any opportunity to start working on a new character sheet, and so when we found out there was a new Star Trek roleplaying game on the horizon, we just had to know more.
To that end, we sat down to talk with Jim Johnson, line manager on the Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game by Modiphius Entertainment, about the upcoming book release of Strange New Worlds. On sale on October 24, 2019, Strange New Worlds is a compendium of nine ready-to-play standalone missions for Star Trek Adventures all with themes of mystery, the bizarre and the unknown.
StarTrek.com: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role with the Star Trek Adventures role-playing game?
Jim Johnson: I’ve been a Star Trek fan almost all my life, even since watching reruns of The Original Series on a tiny four-inch black and white portable television back in the 70s. I’ve been a writer for the last 25 years or so, and have had several short stories published in various Simon and Schuster Star Trek anthologies and a lot of material written and published in the tabletop roleplaying industry.
I joined the Modiphius Entertainment Star Trek Adventures design team in May 2016 as a contributing writer and editor, and gradually took on more responsibilities for most of the products on the line, including writing, editing, art direction, proofreading, conceptualizing, etc. depending on what was needed for each project. I was just recently promoted to line manager, where I’ll work to shepherd current and future material to completion and help shape the future direction of the game line.
Can you tell us about Strange New Worlds?
JJ: Strange New Worlds is the game’s second anthology of original adventures, following up from the first volume, These are the Voyages. SNW presents nine original adventures all themed around the concept of illustrating some form of strange new world. The first anthology was a delightful mélange of standalone adventures that didn’t have any particular theme; we wanted the second volume to be a bit more focused. Since exploring strange new worlds is part of the Star Trek ethos and Starfleet mandate, it made sense to use that for our first themed adventure anthology.
Can you tell us more about the team of writers you’ve had on board?
JJ: Sure! Thanks to my experiences being published by Simon and Schuster in Star Trek anthologies, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many conventions over the years, most notably being a regular guest at Shore Leave in Hunt Valley, MD. By going to those conventions, I ended up building relationships with many fellow Star Trek authors, including Dayton Ward, Christopher L. Bennett, Scott Pearson, Derek Tyler Attico, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and others. I was able to leverage my responsibilities on the STA line to hire many of those writers to work with me on various game-related projects — and so far, no one has turned me down. It’s both exciting and humbling to be in something of a unique position that enables me to capitalize on my relationships and bridge the Star Trek literary and tabletop gaming worlds.
What are some good ways for a player new to roleplaying to get into Star Trek Adventures?
JJ: There are currently three entry points to the game: the free quick-start PDF, the boxed starter set, and the core rulebook itself. I’d encourage anyone interested in the game to check out the free quick-start first, since it contains pre-generated characters, a short rules explanation, and a short adventure.
If gamers like the free quick-start, they can grab the boxed starter set which includes dice, tokens, maps, an abbreviated version of the rules, and a three-part adventure designed to teach the system as the adventure is played through.
Getting the core rulebook would be the next step, and then finding a group of players to play with. That can be accomplished in person at local game stores, or online in a variety of venues.
What are you most excited about within Strange New Worlds?
JJ: I’m excited about the diversity of adventures presented in the book, and the fact that we were able to represent the three major Star Trek eras (Enterprise era, The Original Series era, The Next Generation/Deep Space Nine/Voyager era) with at least one adventure per era. This is the first game product we’ve produced for the line that provides an adventure-oriented toward Enterprise-era gamers, so I’m excited to hear what fans and gamers think of the adventure and its design elements.
What were some of the challenges you faced in developing Strange New Worlds?
JJ: SNW was actually the first book in the line that I was largely responsible for from concept to finalization, so it holds a special spot in my developer’s heart. With that much responsibility came a number of challenges common with anyone who is responsible for an anthology or collection of stories, which is effectively what these standalone adventures are – Star Trek stories. Most of the challenges revolved around the mundane necessities of ‘herding tribbles’ for editing, proofreading, art briefs, post-production, approvals processes, etc. Commissioning authors to write the adventures and then reviewing their work and tweaking them into stronger Star Trek stories was the fun part.
Any good stories from running the game?
I’ve been a gamemaster or player in roleplaying games in one form or another for over 30 years, and most of those years have included a Star Trek game of some type. Trek RPGs consistently bring the most fun and challenging experiences I’ve faced in a roleplaying game. Most recent example I can think of was running an adventure using the Star Trek Adventures system for my group and presenting them with a mystery about an alien spaceship that had a massive sentient forest in the center of it. They had to figure out the mystery of where the ship came from, and then conduct a classic ‘first contact’ discussion with the sentient forest. Watching players puzzle their way through a scenario that has Star Trek thematic elements, and then make decisions based on their characters’ values and morals is just a treat to enable and watch.
What does the future of Star Trek Adventures look like?
A bright future, indeed. We have two already-announced print products coming out in early 2020, the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook and the Delta Quadrant Sourcebook. We’re also finalizing a number of electronic-exclusive releases in PDF, such as packets of game statistics for the Star Trek: Voyager crew and the Enterprise NX-01 crew plus several standalone adventures. I have several major projects actively in development or in concept stages, and announcements for those will come in due course. After two years of releases, we’ve just barely scratched the surface of possibilities for Star Trek Adventures products. Like Picard said at the end of “All Good Things,” “The sky’s the limit.”