Friday, August 31, 2012

All Our Yesterdays

Well, some of them anyway...

I can assure you I am not exaggerating when I say I've run over 100 Star Trek RPG sessions. As a matter of fact, I am understating the number considerably.

Since first purchasing the Star Trek Role Playing Game 1st Edition by FASA in 1982, I have run at least 3 long term campaigns, half a dozen short term ones and several dozen one-shots and pick up games.*

While I have used modified versions of numerous Star Trek, Traveller, Space Opera and Star Frontiers modules, you can't run that much Star Trek without creating a fair number of 'episodes' out of nothing but your own imagination and your love of the shows.

In the interest of nostalgia and helping out my fellow GMs interested in running Star Trek sessions or campaigns, I thought I would list some of my most successful adventures. In the interest of saving space, getting the most out of the post and not boring my audience with unnecessary details, I'm going to list the adventures alphabetically by title and have a small blurb of the adventures general plot to accompany them.

If possible I will note any variants or interesting tidbits I came across while running them (since I ran several of them more than once with different groups).
A personal note on canon, needing to have seen the episodes and general Star Trek familiarity:

For the most part, I try very hard to make adventures that do not require anyone to have seen, or at least remember in detail, any given episode of any of the shows. I will sometimes drop nods or Easter Eggs that those who have seen certain episodes will get a kick out of but it's never mandatory that you have seen a certain episode in order to solve a mystery or save the day.

That said, many of my most enjoyable campaigns featured players who were at least casually familiar with Star Trek lore and had a least one or two players in the mix who were big fans. This enabled me to create adventures that did reference the shows and some of those were so fun I included them here.


Body of Work

-Originally inspired by a number of science fiction stories I'd read including 'Cage A Man' by F. M. Busby and the origin of Superman, 'Body of Work' actually resembles the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode 'The Inner Light' and the recent Star Trek: Titan novel 'Fallen Gods', though I created this adventure years before either of these stories were made known.-

Having beamed down to a planet to investigate the ruined city left behind by a long dead civilization, the away team/landing party encounter a statue of a plant/mushroom-like being holding several humanoids with its numerous leaf/tentacle/limbs. Scanning or touching the statue causes the entire group to black out and come to moments later in the bodies of several mushroom people working as part of a think tank group trying to avert some disaster. The players than play out the final days of this civilization with the families and culture of these fungi folk. The group turns out to be a team of the greatest scientists, philosophers and scholars of their society who are charged with saving the world or at least the people, hampered by a ruling council composed of 3 scientists who discount any religious or philosophical approaches and 3 member who balk at the blasphemy of science.

By sessions end, the apocalypse occurs and the PCs return to their bodies. If they fail to save anything or anyone from the culture, the humanoid figures held in the statue's limbs will now appear to be them. If they succeed in saving something or someone, the statue is an amalgam of the landing party members holding mushroom people in their hands.


Hither Comes The Other End of Midnight

-Inspired by the Star Trek: Original Series episode 'Assignment: Earth'.-

Having escorted an influential Ambassador to a Federation Diplomatic Meeting with previously hostile aliens now trying to make overtures of peace, an attempt is made on the Ambassador's life by an unknown assassin. Eventually, a woman is found whose identity has been falsified. She admits in private with the Captain or First Officer to be Rachel 11, an agent of an interstellar civilization far more advanced than the Federation that sends operatives to intercede when dire situations occur. Rachel explains that someone will assassinate the Ambassador, pin it on the former hostiles and the Federation will enter a state of war that will bring in the neighboring Klingons to take advantage of the situation.

Refusing to give anymore data or evidence of what she is claiming, will the Starfleet officers believe her? Can they prevent a war if what she is saying is true and will they do it with or without her?



-Inspired by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The adventure should be set at some point after those films but before the Next Generations replicators in the Star Trek timeline as they make the need for the plot hook too hard to explain.-

An emergency message from Starfleet Command puts the PC ship into immediate action as a rescue vessel as it is the closest ship to an agricultural world gripped with a major disaster. Medical ships and others are on the way but the farming community and scientists on the planet need to leave ASAP!

It turns out that this is no ordinary farming planet but rather the test site of a new agricultural technique using information obtained from the failed Genesis Project. By using seeds whose genetics are encoded with Proto-Matter, rapid development of highly nutritional plant stuffs has been made that could easily end hungry on many worlds. Unfortunately, after several successful harvests, the Proto-Matter reacted violently with a foreign bacteria brought in by a freighter crew. The PCs are eventually able to hand the survivors over to hospital ships and dedicated rescue vessels and continue on their journey.

Sometime later, while surveying a pulsar or whathaveyou, the crew experiences strange instances of being ridiculously healthy. Sparring that doesn't seem to tire you out at all. Allergies or old war injuries that appear to have gone away. Next, one by one, the Starfleet officers who were exposed to the rescue efforts will see better, move faster and essentially become superhuman. Sadly, they will not gain the ability to control their new found awesomeness and will begin damaging control panels by touching them, hear even little sound on the bridge at deafening levels, etc. The PCs need to find a cure and control their actions carefully before they become very powerful bulls in a very fragile china shop that can explosively decompress.

Variants - 1) Klingons, Romulans or Gorn try to raid the PC vessel having learned of the disaster and super-gene plants by monitoring communications from the colony. Face off with Klingon warriors as Super-Vulcan and make'em think twice. 2) The freighter that caused the viral mutation by bringing a foreign bacteria into the test environment of the colony has experienced them same rise to superhuman levels but also learned it will eventually kill you. If they could get a sample of the original bacteria to a Starfleet medical lab an antidote can be synthesized.


Rage of The Pussyfoots

-Inspired by 'The Age of the Pussyfoots' by Frederik Pohl and an idea by my good friend Joe Cangelosi. One of our earliest adventures. -

While investigating debris believed to belong to a Romulan vessel from way back during the Romulan War with the pre-Federation United Earth Space Probe Agency and the Coalition of Planets, the PC vessel is attacked by a group of unmanned/robot satellites. These powerful weapons platforms are of an unknown make and model but resemble Romulan Disruptor and Plasma Weapon technology.

Further investigation brings the ship into contact with even more powerful robotic weapon platforms and even robot ships (similar to System Defense Boats from Traveller or something between a fighter and a runabout).

Eventually the action packed encounters lead to evidence of a war-like alien species who are violently territorial...or are they? In truth, the previously pacifistic, extremely cowardly, squid-beings have incredibly long lives and a means of conveying racial memory through a telepathic, almost hive mind link. Just a few years ago, these creatures, who had no idea there were any other intelligent creatures in the universe, had their entire culture drastically changed when a rogue missile crashed into one of their cities from space and destroyed it. The missile had been traveling for years and years, having been launched by either the Coalition or the Romulans during the war between them. The frightened squidoids geared up for war, determined to do whatever necessary to protect themselves and their offspring from the alien invasion they knew was coming. To them, your PC vessel is validation that they were right.


The Battlefield of Empty Promises

Alternate titles - The Battlefield of Empty Space, Battlefield on the Edge of Forever

-Based on the Star Trek: The Original Series episodes 'Let This Be Our Last Battlefield' and 'City on the Edge of Forever'. Best run in the late TOS Movie Era or sometime in the Next Generation or later.-

The male twin of two Cheronian children rescued from that planet's apocalyptic civil war has been working with scientists on the planet that serves as the location of the Guardian of Forever to try and further understand its nature and origins as well as prevent its accidental use.

The Cheronian has other plans however and uses the Guardian to travel back in time to Cheron before Lokai leaves the planet and Commissioner Bele gives chase. The young male Cheron leaves behind a journal, a message to his twin sister who is working with Starfleet Intelligence, that he has figured out which of the two men, Lokai and Bele, is the twins' father and that the brother intends to kill him, thereby preventing the events that destroyed Cheron. The Cheronian scientist's notes indicate it was this event, Lokai's escape and Bele's vow to make him and all his kind pay, that set off Cheron's final war.

PCs will have to follow the Cheronian scientist back to the past of his world, with his sister's help and locate him before he not only changes history but eliminates himself and his sister from the timeline. Originally when I ran this, half the time travelers were made to look like one group and half the other group, created a very uneasy and disturbing look at bigotry and the reaction to it on both sides. One of our best sessions ever based on two of my favorite episodes.


The Body Electric

-Inspired by The Matrix and numerous films, books and other science fiction stories about virtual reality and artificial intelligence. It also features a variant on an idea I had for Superman's enemy Brainiac.-

The ship picks up unusual electromagnetic readings from a small planet that is nowhere near qualifying for Class M status. Luckily, it appears the readings and various signals indicating extremely advanced machinery and communications are located beneath the planet's surface. For some unknown reason, no one responds to hails at first. Then, transporter coordinates are given with an apology from the chief of operations of the facility saying that his communications systems and those of your ships seem to work on very different principles and he is having difficulty making them completely compatible.

When the away team beams down, they find themselves in an amazingly advanced edifice, at least a decade ahead of the Federation, the Klingons and others on the UFP's level. The aliens that control the facility are amicable if a bit standoffish and only vaguely humanoid in appearance. They explain that there are other, more humanoid beings working there who will come by shortly. They are happy to answer questions about their facility, show you around, etc. Eventually more humanoid versions of the same beings show up and are more touchy-feely and less cold.

Meanwhile on board your ship, things are in Red Alert Mode as the landing party never materialized. In fact, the differences in the communication and energy relay systems between the ship and the surface may have essentially killed the landing party, dispersing their energy patterns and molecules in a billion directions.

The true is, the facility absorbed the away team's patterns and are storing them in a complex, Holodeck-meets-the-Matrix computer grid. This is the way the AI of this research station explores and learns about the different people in the galaxy. It then uses the data it obtains to improve its own programming and the appearance of the aliens in its virtual reality. It eventually hopes to build robot bodies and download various subroutines of itself into these bodies and explore outward from the planet.

The PCs need to discover they are living in a Matrix-like world, figure out how to escape and convince the base's AI that there are alternative ways to go about its task.


The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea

-Inspired by the Star Trek: Original Series episode 'Devil in the Dark', elements from the canon of the science fiction RPGs Blue Planet and Traveller and my own personal interest in the ocean and sea creatures-

Your vessel is on route to a mining colony on a largely water covered planet to assist them with a recent plague of malfunctioning and failing underwater sensor equipment. This is the perfect chance to get the Chief Engineer off the ship for once as well as introduce that lovely or handsome Oceanographer NPC you've been thinking of using. A nice time to spotlight any aquatic or amphibious aliens on the crew as well. Anyway...

A good deal of the mining on this planet, which has very few large land masses on the surface, is done by silicon based aliens known as Horta. What land there is on the planet's surface is of course the tops of massive underwater mountains. The Horta are able to tunnel through solid rock with a powerful corrosive acid secretion and can detect not only the choicest veins of ore but avoid piercing the outer walls of a cave and causing billions of gallons of salt water to flood in.

Evidence suggests that the Horta maybe doing something to the equipment, either accidentally or on purpose. In addition, they seem to be avoiding drilling in certain areas, even if tests by the Mining Corporation indicate it would be a great spot.

Eventually it is revealed that the sensors are being blocked or deflected by an alien intelligence native to the planet. I've run several variants.

1) The Horta knew and were protecting the aliens, feeling a kinship with them since the Horta had a very rocky first contact with Federation miners and feared the same would happen here. 2) The Horta were avoiding the aliens because they sensed hostile intent. They (the Horta) will recommend not disturbing the aliens at any cost. 3) Though not exactly hostile, the aliens were using a 'Psychic Siren Call' of sorts to steer the Horta away from their nests and get the Horta to damage the equipment for them.

Note: For any adventure where the Horta from 'Devil in the Dark' appear, I use the word 'Devil' in the title. For example, I renamed the FASA module 'Witness for the Defense', which features a young man on trial for killing a Horta on the mining colony of Janus VI, 'Sympathy for the Devil'.



Words Can Not Describe

-Inspired by various ideas and stories on unusual ways aliens might communicate. Several Star Trek episodes of TNG, Voyager and Enterprise have explored this concept to varying degrees of success and entertainment.-

While exploring an uncharted region of space, the PC vessel encounters another ship whose inhabitants are of an unknown alien species that never invented the spoken word. While the species is not deaf, sound, the ability to perceive it and the information gained from it is considerably less developed in both their biology and culture. How do you communicate with them if you can not talk to them or listen to them and the physical differences in your two species make charades a real hit and miss prospect.

I wanted to create an alien race that was not only not superior to us in some way but seriously deficient in some sense that many of us take for granted.

Variants - 1) Complicate this by having Klingons or Romulans make trouble for the PC and/or alien ship. 2) Start out with a miss understanding about what had happened to one of the aliens' outposts.


If any of you have any favorite Star Trek adventures that you've run and would like to share feel free to do so in the comments. Likewise if you have any questions regarding any of these feel free to ask.

The end of the month has come and with it the end of my month long focus on Star Trek gaming. I am not done by any means however. No, I still have quite a few things to say about the subject and will likely inject a few Star Trek Saturdays or Star Trek Sundays into the months ahead.

Live Long and Prosper Gaming Fans,

Barking Alien

*Some explanations - A long term campaign is, for me, a campaign lasting over a year where the group meets a minimum of once a week. A short term campaign is one that lasts a year or less and/or one where
the groups meets once a week or less.


  1. No ones likes any of these? No one loves one? No ones every run a Star Trek adventure of their own? Come on people!

  2. I don't go for adventures that refer back to episodes or films, but the others sound interesting. The synopses are so brief, it's hard to tell how they would play out.

  3. Understood on the latter point. I was really trying to give brief overviews of the essential plot ideas more than a detailed description. Also, I'm usually very flexible in letting the players solve the relative conundrum of the adventure their own way so I don't really make ones that say, "First you go here, then you go there where you talk to this guy, then...". Just not my way.

    As noted, these are some of my favorites and certainly some of the ones that went over the best with my players. Many of the above adventure do refer to specific episodes but none of them require you to have seen the episode to understand the story. If you have seen the episode referenced great, it's a little bonus for you as a Trek fan. If you haven't seen it, no matter, it has no bearing on solving the situation at hand.

  4. An interesting selection, and considerably more inventive than many of the prewritten ones... and all very TOS/TNG in style :) This very inspirational!

    Despite my love of the setting and the genre, I've never gotten to run much in the way of Trek games. The ones I have done tend to be very espionage-y - especially the most successful, a 7-8 episode 3 player game featuring the stoic members of the Interstellar Customs Regulatory Commission (the branch of Statfleet Security in charge of customs and border control). I was pleased with one episode of this, where the crew were stranded in the basement of a collapsed building after a terrorist attack with a Klingon and no translators - this was during the movie era and they had to cooperate to get out...

    It was - interesting...

    1. I love it! Both a classic scenario and an interest twist on the setting. Very cool.

      It is my deepest hope that there will be more Trek gaming in your future. With the name Astronut, you deserve it!

      That was a compliment... ^ ^;