In a previous post, I explained how I totally failed to understand the d20 Modern system, in part because the system reference document (SRD) I bought was missing a key section on determining Abilities for a character. A few years later, I found the “next generation” of Prime Directive, the role-playing game of the Star Fleet Universe. This new Star Fleet Universe RPG used the d20 System. I decided to give it a try.
Technically, Prime Directive d20 required the use of the Third Edition Player’s Handbook (v 3.5) from Wizards of the Coast. The intro matter indicated that d20 Modern could be used (with a little work) so I took the dare and tried.
“A Character Starts With a Story”
So starts “Chapter 3: Character Classes” in Prime Directive d20 (hereafter PD20). This story-first approach was not my norm; I usually rolled up a character first and then developed a backstory. Not in PD20:
The usual way to create a character is to design him or her just as though he was a character in a story you were writing. Start by deciding what type of person you want to be. you can take your inspiration from a fictional hero or heroine — or create your new “self” from the ground up. Once you have some idea what sort of person you want to play, it’s time to bring him to life!PD20, p. 44
In some ways the story-first approach of PD20 made sense. After all, how does one get a bridge crew or Prime Team out of a random character generation process? So I plunged forward.
To get some inspiration for my PD20 character I looked a the different
classes archetypes in the core rulebook. Officers, agents, Marines, merchants, and rogues were all there. The character education path was again very familiar. Figuring out different Prestige Classes was a bit of a challenge, but I eventually understood. Skills were rather straightforward while Feats took some getting used to.
It’s the Little Things…
Ultimately, PD20 suffered from two problems that made it difficult for me to generate characters; Abilities and Character Sheets.
Once again, PD20 forced me to rely on my d20 SRD to generate character Abilities. Of course, the SRD I possessed did not have that section in it. It put me in a pissy mood—I needed to buy a new SRD but I was so pissed at WotC I refused to do so. Why should I go buy the latest Dungeon’s & Dragons Player Handbook just to figure out how to generate Abilities when I don’t even play D&D?
Some of you are saying, “Just go to your FLGS, find the Handbook, look up the page, and take notes!” Yeah, I could of…BUT WHY? It was such a simple thing it shouldn’t have to come to that. Others of you will say, “Dude, look at DriveThruRPG.” Well, in 2005 I hadn’t discovered DTRPG yet!
To add further insult to injury, PD20 does not have a character sheet in the Core Rulebook. Yes, there was a website with some information but once again I felt like I was being cheated out of the little things.
I would eventually get around to creating PD20 characters, but it would not be for a few years. When I eventually did I found the usual problems in a military-based campaign; too many chiefs and not enough indians. It would also take a new Star Trek book series, Vanguard, to help me see a different approach to the Star Fleet Universe and go beyond strictly “military ops.”
Fortunately, Prime Directive d20 comes at the end of my Dark Milieu of role-playing games. From 1996 to 2005 I had sought out a replacement for my beloved Traveller RPG—and failed miserably. While I failed my final Difficulty Check in 2005 with PD20, things were just as quickly to change as I was soon to go from Dark Milieu to “Into the Black.” But before I jumped that far I had to try a little alternative setting…