Monday, July 30, 2012

Approach Vectors

I don't know if I actually implied it or if it was merely the perception my last post gave off but the ever inspiring and cross-pollinating Blacksteel has noted an interest in a Star Trek themed month and by Andor I like it!

As August 25th is my 35th Gaming Anniversary and Star Trek gaming is my favorite pastime within a pastime, I do hereby decree that August is Star Trek RPG Month here at Barking Alien. All hands to battlestations!


Get up man! Didn't you hear? It's battlestations!

 Now before we get to our month of fun and phasers there are a couple of things I want to talk about first. Let's begin with system, atmosphere and the different approaches to gaming Star Trek.

Originally and certainly throughout most of my experiences with Star Trek RPG campaigns, there was a singular approach and while systems differed in mechanics, they shared the approach that your PC and his or her adventures took place in a fictional though functioning universe. This was not a simulation of TV Show. Within the confines of your game, the United Federation of Planets, Starfleet, Transporters and all the other Star Trek elements existed.

The versions of the Star Trek RPG created by FASA, Last Unicorn Games, Decipher and others support this kind of play. They tend to be a bit crunchier, paying more attention to the details many true Star Trek fans live for like phaser settings and their effects and specifics on starships.

In recent years however, especially in the time since there has been no official Star Trek RPG on the market, many games emulate Star Trek as the TV Show as opposed to an existing universe.

The excellent MicroliteD20 based
Where No Man Has Gone Before is most definitely a Star Trek RPG but quite camp in many places. Its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, WNMHGB has a chart for TV Ratings Results that can saddle you with a monkey sidekick if the episode/adventure didn't go over so well with the Nielsens.

Now these are two very different approaches and can create very different feels to your game. For me, I've always played it more or less straight, our campaign assuming you are people who live in the universe depicted in the Star Trek shows and movies but clearly it is real to its inhabitants.

At the same time, I do have the Captain repeat the "Space, The Final Frontier..." speech after I intro the session's scenario and I do call each adventure an episode. I give bonuses to PC activities if other players hum the appropriate background music and other such things.

I suppose in someways I combine the two approaches I mention to some degree.

What do you do? Is your game occuring in some flesh and blood universe or does it take place on a set at the Paramount Studios? Do you feel the choice of system effects your thinking on the matter of the game's atmosphere?

More as we approach August...two days away at our present speed...

Barking Alien


  1. "The Triangle, a disputed sector. These are the continuing missions of the Starship Victory, her mandated directive: to protect Federation citizens, to combat piracy along the space lanes, to guard the Federation from alien invasion."

    This is the opening monologue for the series I'm putting together. Borrowing from FASA Trek, I'm using the Triangle, a lawless semi-autonomous sector that the Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans all claim. The mission will involve military actions, diplomacy, espionage, covert ops....that sort of thing.

    The ship is the newly-launched USS Victory, NCC-1760, a Constitution-class ship. The time is early in the second season of TOS. The ruleset is 80% likely to be "Where No Man Has Gone Before." It looks like a nice, easy to run system. That said, it might morph into FASA or CODA Trek before we start.

    The ship dedication plaque:

    USS Victory
    Starfleet registry NCC-1760
    San Francisco Fleet Yards, Earth
    Commissioned: Stardate 2366.294
    "England expects that every man will do his duty."

    I hope to have fun with this.

    Incidentally, I always used to read (or get a player to read) an "opening crawl" with the opening theme playing in the background for my Star Wars games. So, I wanted to do the the opening monologue for my new Trek series. What actually gave me the inspiration for doing something rather than the standard "Space, the final frontier...." was this:

    I figure if a fan series can break the mold, so can I!

    So, I'll read the first one and then get a different player to read it with the opening theme of TOS each week. I know in star Wars, when the music cued up, that was the signal that we were starting. It usually helped everyone focus. Usually.

    Also, you do know about the Trek RPG Forums, yes?

  2. I used to have the player whose PC was the ship's captain say the opening monologue, though occaisionally I would point to a different player and have their PC say it. Usually, this meant the episode would focus on said PC or something in his or her background. There was a point where the players dreaded being made to say it as that often meant it was their PC's turn to be in the Klingons gunsights that adventure.

    I am more than familiar with the Trek RPG Forums. I was on them before they existed.

    See, I was on the original Last Unicorn Games Star Trek RPG mailing list. My name appears in the first LUG product, the Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG corebook, as a playtester (and as one of the writers on the Andorians sourcebook, 'Among The Clans'.

    The Trek RPG Forum is awesome btw. A constant source of fantastic stuff for all the officials games ever published and more.

  3. No worries!

    I love the dedication by the way.

    I would often make a dedication plaque for the ship we were using but not particularly draw attention to the image. I would simply have said image as a page in our campaign binder, in the section the players were free to look at.

    Often, the plaques contained humorous quotes or easter eggs.

    On one ship, all the Starfleet engineering personnel were named for comic book scientists. So the ship, constructed at the San Francisco Fleet Yards on Earth, was designed and built by the likes of Admiral R. Richards, Capt. T. Stark, Cmdr. R. Palmer, Cmdr. H. Pym, etc.

    Two of my favorite quotes were that of the USS Kilimanjaro - "This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco, This Ain't No Foolin' Around" and the USS Yorkshire - "Keep Calm and Carry On".

  4. What I played the most (by far): FASA Trek

    What I would run if asked to put together a game this weekend: FASA Trek

    What I would run if asked to do something different than FASA Trek that was still Trek: Either WNMHGB played veeery tongue-in-cheek

    What I would run when my players told me afterwards that there was no way in heck they were going to waste their limited free time on another pointless session of WHMHGB: Savage Worlds Star Trek, Original Series Edition, compiled from the internet and my own head.

    What I might run sometime near the end of this year if I was asked that first question again: Traveller Prime Directive

    After FASA Trek I too was a big fan of CODA until I started trying to run it and found that it just didn't get me as excited as I had hoped. It drifted more to the narrative end of things than I liked at the time (not enough skill separation, different ship classes too much alike mechanically, etc.)but the community was great and the books were beautiful back when a full-color hardback rulebook was an unusual thing. I still have Price of Freedom on my Trek gaming shelf as it's a solid resource on the Next Gen Federation regardless of system.

  5. I've always run the games pretty much straight. I like WNMHGB but don't know whether I could bring myself to run it as written. I'd probably revert to type and run it straight.