Attending Starfleet Academy: A Guide to Loving Background Tables

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

Most people agree that making characters is generally a fun experience.  However, not all systems provide the same type or quality of experience during the character making progress.  Some games like Pathfinder or Savage Worlds take a less is more approach, allowing you to make a character is a very small amount of time and leaving the details (if any) of the character's history to the player.  Other games, like Hackmaster 4th edition and the FASA Startrek game take a very different approach.

Now I'm not going to beat around the bush, I like background tables.  They provide you with guidance, tie your character into the setting, and provide a balanced field on which all characters are created.  Not to mention when they are done well they are just plain fun.  Our first game of Hackmaster one of the most fun nights of gaming was making characters.  That night each of us went through the course of events that had led up to the beginning of the campaign.  The Professor's character, a Mage, was probably the most entertaining.  The tables simulated his character getting into and attending a magical academy.  Everyone was keenly interested in what was going on and each die roll seemed to be more imperative than the last.  Though it wasn't even my character I still had an absolute blast.  

Fast forward to present day.  Our group recently decided to start a Star Trek game using the Savage Worlds system.  Being new to Savage Worlds I got the book and looked over the character creation rules.  It only took a few minutes and I had the basics down.  It only took a couple of more minutes to create a completed character.  The rules are very streamlined, something that the makers of Savage World have clearly strived for.   Those of you who don't know the game, Savage Worlds is made to be played in any setting and in any genre, so it doesn't have much by way of setting specific information on Star Trek.  For that I took a ride on the way back machine to FASA's 1st edition Star Trek Role Playing Game.  

In that game I was met with the polar opposite approach to character creation.  Thinking it would be fun to get the full experience I decided to remake my same character using this different system.  I wanted my character to be a Starfleet Officer so that meant that I had to go through what he did in his early life, go through the long process of attending Starfleet Academy, his cadet cruise, branch school, multiple tours of duty, and command school.   The process took a really long time. 

It was a blast.

Not only that but my character ended up with a rich history tied in closely with the setting.  In addition to being fun the experience wasn't a waste as that background was still perfectly usable for my Savage Worlds character. 

So even in this day in age when rules light games are all the rage and people balk at having even the smallest detail of their character's backstory decided by anyone or anything but themselves, I encourage you to reacquaint yourself with the background table.  You might just find that they prove to be an interesting addition to the character creation process.  Hell, you might even find that you really like them. 

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at Thursday, August 18, 2011 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


I really liked the character creation mini-game that FASA's Star Trek presented. As you say, it gave you a lot of good hooks for your character as well as a better understanding of the setting.

August 19, 2011 at 9:27 AM

The FASA Trek is a great rules heavy game but with much flavor and great resources. I however prefer the Last Unicorn Games, Star Trek series. Instead of tables you choose your life path and end up with a character that is capable and with much flavor, ready for game day. Check out my campaign on OP and you might see a little of what I am talking about.

August 27, 2011 at 11:42 PM

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