Monday, August 20, 2012


What a weekend! Spent Saturday with my girlfriend checking out Century of the Child, an awesome and quite moving exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art here in New York City.

With many of the regular kids being on vacation with their families, my Sunday class was small and so I ran a one shot of Superheroes based on a very simplified
Icons. Chicken Man, The Turbo Turtle, Lady Wind and The Unseen Knight managed to thwart the villainous activities of Assault N' Battery, Mister Mist, Thunderwoman, Dr. Dragon and their leader, The Water Wizard, before the nefarious fiends could rob the 1st National Super City Bank. It was a blast!

Before we get started with today's post, I wanted to send out some birthday wishes to two very different gents who've influenced our hobby, our collective culture, as well as me personally (albeit to different extents).

First, a Happy, Creepy, Thoroughly Mad and Incomprehensible Birthday to H. P. Lovecraft! Your essays and insight were as weird as your fiction and certainly not always pleasant.

Second, but by no means lesser, a Happy Birthday to The Great Bird of The Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry, for creating the 'Wagon Train to the Stars' that is the focus of my posts this month, before this and for many posts to come.

OK, down to business...and business is a' boomin'!


In my previous post I talked about the consideration that each beginning Star Trek PC and many of their opponents walk around with the equivalent firepower of a high level D&D wizard.

Accepted as a true statement on the nature of armed, ranged combat in the Star Trek universe, how do you enable your PCs to get into fights with each session seeing at least one of them vaporized? Well...tricky question.

First off, is seeing PCs disintegrated fairly often OK with you and your players? If it is and you are running a more old school mentality game, let the dice fall where they may and don't worry about it.

If on the other hand you want the PCs, like the main characters on a Star Trek TV series, to have a bit more longevity, you may want to consider my alternate approaches.

The Corbomite Maneuver

The threat of Phaser use is nearly as effective as Phaser use itself. That is, don't be afraid to brandish the weapon, be afraid to fire it.

Patterns of Force

When conflict is inevitable but you don't want to resort to atomizing everyone in sight, what are your options?

Well, looking to Star Trek, we see a surprising large amount of hand-to-hand and melee combat for a setting focused on the 22nd-through-24th centuries. Unusual ionospheres, mysterious radiation and ancient alien dampening field technology can really play havok with state-of-the-art Starfleet weaponry. Luckily, every Starfleet officer is well versed in the deadly art of Trek-Fu! Don't forget to karate chop your opponent on the back of the neck after he doubles over from your elbow to his stomach.

When trying to blend in with primitive natives on a planet you are surveying, it's not a good idea to draw attention to yourself by using an alien weapon on a local, even if he is attacking you. If the standard weaponry of the world/region you are in is a tonfa-like baton with one sharp end, well, make sure you have one of those. You know what they say, "When on 892-IV...".

Finally, Starfleet officers are often captured by locals and enemies species alike and relieved of their gear. If the PCs can escape and knock out some guards, they would do well to grab their captors' swords or nunchucks or sonic blasters or whatever those guys are using.

Day of The Dove

Of course not every encounter has to begin and end with violent conflict. Yes, yes, I know, 'just the exciting ones' right? I think Gene may have been overly optimistic about our chances...

In conclusion, I love a good Star Trek fight and believe it or not I have seen my fair share of Phaser battles as well. Just be sure not to use any one approach or response too often or too many of the same types one after the other. Infinite diversity isn't just for Vulcans. Sometimes it's for infinite combinations, like a quick left jab following a powerful right cross.

Barking Alien


  1. And remember, not everyone keeps their genitals in the same place.

    1. LOL

      Did you ever read that movie-era, Marvel Star Trek comic where the Enterprise is assigned to transfer a prisoner to a penal colony?

      The criminal looks like the Alien from the Ridley Scott movie. The thing escapes and crawls around the jefferies tubes until finally cornered by Kirk and Spock.

      Spock first tries to nerve pinch it on the shoulder and nothing happens. Later, after reviewing the creatures' file, he manages to knock it out by nerve pinching it in the ribs or something. Heheh. Always got a kick out of that issue.

    2. Hah! Yeah, I was going to say something about how the preponderance of compatible humanoids in the Trek universe really simplifies how many moves a martial artist needs to learn.

  2. I always enjoyed Kirk's karate chops. Fab. Who needs phasers?

    1. Exactly!

      Hey, why am I suddenly getting an influx of cool, female Science Fiction writers to my blog?

      Not that I'm complaining mind you... ^ ^;

  3. Don't forget the leaping-two-boots-the-chest-kick! It never fails, though it does leave both you and the opponent on the ground.

    I always found that after a personal combat or two the disintegrator as the solution to all of life's problems started to disappear. It's much more satisfying to boot-kick 'em and then send them away while you gloat. If this continues to be a problem then just play a klingon campaign where there are a variety of interesting melee weapon options and gloating is damn near required for advancement.

    "Of course not every encounter has to begin and end with violent conflict. Yes, yes, I know, 'just the exciting ones' right? I think Gene may have been overly optimistic about our chances..."

    Oh no my friend, each crew had preferred alternatives to violence when it came to encounters. I'm a fan of TOS approach myself - argue argue argue >commercial< Kirk puts boots back on, argument settled ...

  4. Have lots of red shirts standing about ready to leap in front of disintegrators, disruptors, and discombulators. That's what chatty ensigns, friendly space marines, and soon to retire engineering officers are for.

    1. Ah, JDJarvis here brings up a little idea I've been toying with in my head for some time.

      Based on my experiences with the Japanese RPG Meikyuu Kingdom (Make You Kingdom), each PC above the rank of Lt. Junior Grade gets a number of Redshirts they can call on to scout ahead, jump into the line of fire or get turned into polyhedron die so the PC doesn't have to.

      I'm thinking Lt. gets 1, Lt. Commander 2, Commander 3 and Captain 4.

      Alternatively, when forming a landing party, the Captain or First Officer can decide to bring down up to 4 Redshirts (or Goldshirts if you are playing TNG and beyond) possibly modified by landing party size (how many people can stand in the Transporter room at once).

  5. Perhaps one of the privileges of Captainhood is that the captain decides how those stunt-doubles are allocated. Annoy the captain enough and you might not get your usual protective crewman on the next away mission.

  6. That's why I wish there were a Trek RPG with a cool HTH combat system!

  7. A while back, I was thinking of using Fate for a Star Trek game. I considered, instead of just having plain old Fate points, using three different colors of Fate points: Yellow points could be spent to improve your own rolls, or the rolls of other characters if you had some plausible way of helping them. Blue points could be spent on declarations. Red points could be spent on minions to soak up damage.

    Oh, and have you looked at Where No Man Has Gone Before, Mike Berkey's Microlite20 Trek game? I gave him some editing and suggestions, one of which was the "Railroad Bonus" rule where players can earn Action Points by going along with events that further the plot.