Sunday, April 12, 2009

Strange New World

Gaming the Final Frontier Part I - General Order Two - Begin Pre-Production

So, based on my advice from the post 'Prime Directive' you've decided to accept Star Trek as your own personal gaming saviour; warts, wrinkles and all. Even Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Just keep in mind, as I responded to the esteemed Robert St. John of Groknard:

"Make the decision to run a Star Trek superior to which Star Trek you're running and you'll find a way to make it work."

Now its time to go into pre-production on your series. First, some terms:

  • I refer to one game session as one Episode.
  • Adventures played over several sessions are Two-Parters, Three-Parters or Multi-Parters.
  • The first Episode is always the Pilot Episode.
  • More then one Pilot Episode is ok but try to keep it to two.
    Name/Title and number every Episode.
  • After twelve Episodes, I run a Two-Parter called a Season Finale and a Season Opening.
  • A campaign is called a Series.

Why do I do this?

First it helps the players get into the feeling that this isn't just another SciFi RPG, its Star Trek. It puts them in the mind of being characters on a Star Trek series. You've instantly set the mood and atmosphere without even having to do anything major.

Titling and numbering the Episodes adds to this but also appears to have some side benefits. I've found this practice invokes the same kind of interest and excitement the old school D&D modules used to. It is cooler to defeat a Lich or to have beaten S1 - "The Tomb of Horrors"? Instead of just finishing a battle with a Planet Killer, the players can say they survived "A Doomsday Like Any Other", Star Trek: Your Series Name, Episode #25.

I usually refer to the first episode as the Pilot Episode because its both the introduction to the series/campaign and a great time to work out any confusions the players or GM may have about the setting or the characters and to see if some ideas work better then others. For example, in one Pilot I ran the Science Officer seemed flustered by the mystery in the plot but was great with assisting his fellow Officers and learning about the medicinal benefits of the local plant life. Our First Officer felt he didn't have enough to do just being First Officer. The player of the Science Officer PC was, in real life, a research scientist for a pharmacutial company. After some discussion we made some changes and in the second Pilot, the former Science Officer played the Doctor instead and the First Officer became Science Officer as well. Both players were much happier and the campaign went well.

Are the right people in the right jobs for what they want to do? Is the ship too powerful or not powerful enough? What if the Romulans were intended to be the series enemy but after talking to the group the majority like the Cardassians better? The Pilot is the place to find these things out and make adjustments if need be.

One of my key components to successful RPG campaigns, regardless of subject, is preparation and organization. The ideas above definitely help to provide a means of better organizing your Star Trek game while simultaniously providing an added element to the players that lets them know, "This is not a Medieval Fantasy game. This is STAR TREK!"

Next up, choices and decisions to get the Series started...

Barking Alien


  1. i like this approach to the running game. it really helps set the tone. it reminds me of the way Mekton Z handles campaigns. you could even use the Mekton Z Series Synopsis Sheet to define your Star Trek campaign.

  2. An excellent idea and Mekton has always been a favorite of mine in all its incarnations.

    Thanks for the link and for stopping by!

    Barking Alien

  3. The last time I ran a ST game, I discovered a fun little visual. The game was set on an the Enterprise-B, so I scoured the internet for images of Excelsior-class ships. There's lots! Many of them even have space backgrounds. If you have the skill, you can cut ship images out in something like Photoshop and paste them onto the background of your choice - nebula, planets, space anomolies, etc (which you can also find online).

    Then, find a Star Trek font ( is a good place to go).

    Take your image, right the episode name on in the ST font using an appropriate color for that series or era or whatever looks good, and show that to your players at the appropriate moment. Fun!

    I'd be curious to see if you recommend structuring game play with a "teaser", "commercial breaks", and "acts", like an epsiode. I've heard of GMs doing that.

  4. Those are some awesome ideas ART! but you're getting a bit ahead of me, lol.

    Truth is that I do a lot of this and more, scouring the internet for images of ships, uniforms, equipment, aliens and whathaveyou to file up my campaigns.

    More on this will be discussed in my next next post "The Genesis Wave".

    Barking Alien

  5. I'm enjoying my retro-review of your stuff bark and I finally had to comment because this is exactly the kind of thing I try to do, only spelled out much more clearly than I ever have done.

    Very nice - I congratulate your self-of-two-years-ago.