I started playing tabletop role-playing games in 1979 while in middle school. By 1993 I was a college graduate starting a career in the U.S. Navy. With deployment for war and then overseas I had little time for hobby gaming. The truth to the matter is that between 1993 and 2005 I actually had little room for any gaming. Indeed, I call the milieu from 1993 to 2005 my “Lost Traveller D20 Years.”
I tried to pick up some new games. One of those which was not Traveller nor D20 (yet still part of this lost milieu) was Prime Directive: The Star Fleet Universe Role-Playing Game by Timothy Olsen and Mark Costello and published by Task Force Games in 1993. More popularly called Prime Directive 1st Ed. (PD1), this was a role-playing game set in the Star Fleet Universe (SFU) that was built around the wargame Star Fleet Battles. Although Task Force Games had a legitimate license from to produce Star Fleet Battles material, the SFU diverges significantly from the Star Trek setting.
In Prime Directive, the players are members of a Prime Team, an elite special forces team for the Federation. Whereas Star Fleet Battles is centered on ship-to-ship battles in the SFU, Prime Directive tried to be a bit more Trek and less Battles. I personally was never really able to rectify this setting dissonance in my head, especially since I owned more that a few products from the FASA Star Trek line and was perfectly happy with that set of rules for my Star Trek-ing adventures.
While I had trouble wrapping my head around the setting of Prime Directive, it didn’t help that all those years ago I didn’t grok the core mechanism in the game either. Prime Directive uses a Task Dice and Tricode system for resolving action. Basically, the player adds their Skill Level and supporting Characteristic and divides by two. The result is the number of Task Dice rolled. This was also the first game I recall noticing the “exploding six”—any roll of six was rerolled with the new roll minus 1 added to the six. Once all the dice are rolled the resulting numbers are compared to a Tricode for each skill that showed Failure, Minimal Success, Moderate Success, and Complete Success. For example, my character you will soon meet is trying to repair a door controller that a teammate “accidentally” fried. This is a Technical Skill and my character has an Electronics skill level of 4 and a Technical Characteristic of 6, meaning they throw five Task Dice. The rolls are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (exploding 2) or 7. The Electronics skills Tricode is 2/4/6.
- If 2 or 3 was my best result that would be a Minimal Success
- The 4 and 5 deliver a Moderate Success
- The “exploding 6” for 7 makes my attempt a COMPLETE SUCCESS—the door is back in service like nothing ever happened!
In another example, my character is attempting to resist interrogation. With a Discipline characteristic of 3 and Resist Interrogation skill of 2, my character rolls two Task Dice. I’m going to also add a die roll modifier of -2 because the interrogator is using a strong pain baton. Die rolls of 1 and 5 become -1 and 3 which compares to a Tricode of 6/8/10. The 3 is half of the 6 for Minimal Success so it’s just a Failure not a Botch. The interrogator gets the information they want quickly…
All of which doesn’t sound that bad until you realize there are something like 100 or so skills and 100 or so Tricodes and 100 or so…sigh…you get the idea. It’s almost impossible for a player to know what their chances are without much cross-referencing of characteristics and skills and Tricodes. All of this I never really grok’ed back in the day and thus Prime Directive was shelved…and stayed shelved for many years only occasionally being pulled out to be fodder for comparison.
Another Trekish Lifepath
Generating a character in Prime Directive is another form of a lifepath system. Determine characteristics, tweak based on race, select a Service Division, gain Initial Skills and skills by Division, Rank can gain more skills. Then there is Seniority and Initial Professional Heroic Reps (reputation). None of this is diffucult but it also doesn’t lend itself to generation of characters that I can get excited about.
Coming up through the Academy, Bohr (often called “Boring” behind his back, and more often than not even to his face) was the stereotypical unsociable and gruff Andorian. Now a serving Lieutenant (Senior Grade) in the Technical Branch of the Star Fleet Engineering Division, Bohr has worked his way onto a Prime Team as the “gadget guy.”
Strength: 3 / Accuracy: 3 / Speed: 3 / Leadership 1 / Logic 4 / Intuition 3 / Discipline 3 / Technical 6 / General Knowledge 3 / Perception 4 / Lift 15-75 / Jump 1.5-3-.75 / Range Type NORMAL / Lethal Damage Capacity 6 / Stun Damage Capacity 6 / Seniority 35 / Professional Rep 4 / Background Rating 1
Accuracy: Acrobatics 2 / Drive (Vehicle) 2 / Fine Work 2 / Fire (Phaser) 4 / Lethal Damage Attacks (AMA) 2 / Marital Arts 1 / Melee Combat 2 / Pilot (Shuttlecraft) 4 / Sleight of Hand 2 / Zero-G Manuev. 1
Speed: Quick Draw 2 / System Speed 1
Leadership: Negotiation 3 (the Leadership characteristic of 1 made purchasing these skill levels VERY expensive)
Logic: Astrogation 2 / Computer Prog. 2 / Cryptography 2 / Investigation 2 / Mathematics 2
Intuition: Evaluation 2 / Fast Talk 2 / Gambling 2 / Security Proced. 2
Discipline: Resist Interrog. 2
Technical: Comm. Systems 2 / Computer Sys. 2 / Console Ops 2 / Damage Control 2 / Demolitions 1 / Electronics 4 / Field Equipment 2 / Imp. Drive Sys. 1 / Jury Rig 4 / Life Supp. Syst. 1 / Mechanics 4 / Medical Sys. 1 / Power Gen Sys. 1 / Sensor Systems 1 / Shield Systems 1 / Ships Weapons Systems 1 / Transporter Sys. 2 / Warp Drive Sys. 1
General Knowledge: Cultural Knowl. 1 / First Aid 2 / Philosophy 1 / Star Fleet Regs. 2 / Wargaming 2
Perception: Blind Fighting 2 / Shadowing 2 / Tracking 2
Lt. Th’oshaalleq is a Prime Team member but in many ways he lives up to his given name—he is a bit of a bore. With a wide variety of skills but only a few that he excels in, Other Prime Teams call on him often but at the same time don’t really count on him to make the big play…