Author Topic: Review of Prime Directive Modern Edition  (Read 1257 times)

Offline Nanshork

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Review of Prime Directive Modern Edition
« on: July 30, 2021, 06:02:59 PM »

Another request from nijineko for a game I've never heard of.  This one has three current versions: GURPS, D20, and D20 Modern.  D20 Modern is the most current version (and theoretically the most fine-tuned) and I haven't reviewed anything from D20 Modern so that's the one I selected to review.

If you couldn't tell from the name, Prime Directive is a Star Trek role-playing game and is published by Amarillo Design Bureau Inc.

The table of contents is as follows
 - Prologue
 - Introduction
 - Empires and Species
 - Character Classes
 - Skills
 - Feats
 - End Game Rewards
 - Technology
 - The Star Fleet Universe
 - Starships
 - Adventure: Rescue on Roon
 - Index

Amusingly enough, the prologue starts before the table of contents.  It's a list of other products, a basic glossary of d20 terms, and a story that takes place in the prime directive modern universe.


Here is the basic information we've come to expect in an intro with "What is d20 Modern" and "What is Prime Directive" and information about the Star Fleet Universe such as species and eras and other information that you probably already know if you care about Star Trek (and is similar to but different from the Star Trek Adventures information).  These differences are mainly because each game maps the information to their rule-systems and so interpretation is necessary.

Empires and Species of the Star Fleet Universe

We start with a list of all of the species (some of which I don't immediately recognize) with homeworld information, ability modifiers, base speed, free languages, and other information (both rules and fluff).  Honestly, humans kind of suck with a flat baseline of nothing special (as is standard for D20 Modern).  As a comparison, Rigellians get two stat boosts, two bonus feats, and D$ vs ultraviolet radiation.  Their downside is needing to make a very high Will save to lie for any reason.  There are some balance issues here but they manly appear to be because D20 Modern baseline assumes that everyone is a human so they don't get nice things.

Vulcans get a large Charisma penalty which amuses me every time I think about it.

Species are organized into Federation members, Klingon empire members, Romulan empire members, the Kzinti Hegemony, the Confederation of the Gorn, the Tholian Holdfast, and the list keeps going on.  Being able to play traditionally "evil" Star Trek species (such as the Gorn) is a nice change of pace.

Once your species is selected it is time to figure out your age.  Young Adult and Adult are the standards here although games starting at levels other than 1 might have different base age category baselines.  Height and Weight tables are here, as is standard.

Due to the lack of in-combat healing it is recommended that rolls for hp are double before adding the constitution modifier (I'm not sure how this is any different from base D20 Modern but whatever).

Character Classes

We get some information before diving into the nitty gritty.  There's a table for what kind of tone different level ranges are (Level 1 is Cadet, level 3 is Green, level 5 is Standard, etc).  There is also a promotion and rank system.  There is also a suggestion of having the group leader (and perhaps the second in command) be higher level than the other characters in order to buy these ranks.  That won't go over well in a lot of groups.  There's also a section on different types of party setups (bridge crew, freelancers, fighter pilots, etc).

Oh look, humans do still get to keep their bonus skill point over non-humans but that isn't mentioned in species it is mentioned in classes.

Classes are the same stat-based classes from D20 Modern with some adjustments such as additional class skills or talent trees.

D20 Modern also uses starting occupations and there are some new ones here as well.  The same with action points (with prime directive specific adjustments). 

We also get some rules on making contacts (which is a Charisma based system) which can also be purchased through Wealth.  This looks abusable.

There is also a list of advanced classes (which bridge the gap between base classes and prestige classes) with the normal entry base class.  Amusingly enough the book flat out says that if you want an advanced class for your Tough Hero (Con based) you need to buy a different book.  This is the core rulebook here, come on people.  In comparison there are four Fast Hero (Dex based) advanced classes.

Balance here is all over the place.  Here's an example, these are the two listed advanced classes.  You could be a soldier and get weapon focus, weapon specialization, some bonus feats, +4 to initiative, and a few selections from a list of soldier-y special abilities (because D20 Modern likes selections from lists).  Or you could be an orion pirate and gain Charisma bonuses, the Leadership feat, an orion pirate lieutenant, an aura of fear, and some other stuff.  One of these is significantly better than the other.

We also get a handful of 5 level long prestige classes.

Remember me mentioning the existence of a promotion and rank system?  It's a weird point based system where you get points a month and certain point thresholds are required to gain ranks but you also have to roll Charisma checks and honestly I'm not seeing anything here that would require someone of higher rank to be higher level than other people.


This is all pretty standard for D20 Modern with a couple of added skills and a couple of changes to existing ones to better fit the setting.

There's a skill for hitting a machine to temporarily fix it.  It's called Benchthumping.  "Ayyyyy"

There's also a list of Psionic Skills which aren't class-skills for anyone and have prerequisites.  Mind Meld is a classic example.


Just like the skills section this is the base D20 Modern list with some additions (and also some psionic feats to go with the psionic skills).

End Game Awards

This is a weird chapter.  You can reward people with experience points!  There's also seniority points, action points, and "bonus points".  There's also a couple of pages about medals and rank insignia.

Technology of the Star Fleet Universe

Progress Levels feature predominantly here (unsurprisingly), with the different progress levels of each empire.

Equipment (weapons, armor, etc) are also in this chapter.  This also includes ship equipment such as engines and reactors and transporters and replicators.  This includes both rules information as well as scientific explanations of the technology.

Exploring the Star Fleet Universe

Apparently there are a handful of related games of which this is one and here is where the writers want to talk about the history of the Star Fleet Universe games.  Also it looks like they want you to buy one of these other games in order to have space ship battles?

Oh wait, nevermind.  There's information about exploration and space combat if you don't want to buy another game (although I guess they want you to buy another game).  Also randomly shoved in here is information about different things like the prime directive and the romulan code of honor and also a sample free trader spaceship. 

Adventure seeds and a timeline of the universe get shoved into the end of this chapter.  Oh, and some information on commercial passenger service.  Lastly there a page with some disclaimers and warnings, acknowledgements, and an about the publisher section.

This chapter is weird and not the most helpful.

Starships of the Star Fleet Universe

Not quite the chapter title listed in the index but not the worst example of this that I've seen.

This is a four page chapter of the most important ships used by the more important empires with no real mechanics information and "in a future product, Star Fleet PD20M, we will provide a complete starship combat system".  Ugh.

Rescue on Roon

Your standard sample adventure.

Final Thoughts

This book is terrible.  It isn't even a complete system, they explicitly let me know that they want me to buy other books so that I can have a complete system.  What the hell nijineko?  Why do you keep asking me to review these terrible things?

D20 Modern can be decent, but this sure as hell isn't.

Offline nijineko

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Re: Review of Prime Directive Modern Edition
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2021, 11:01:50 PM »
Because you're willing to give it a look see, and you get to it way faster than my massive reading list would allow?

I'm not recommending these books for review because I like the system or game or anything... but rather because I trust your opinion and am interested in your views on the various games.