Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Menageries - Part II

Star Trek Troupe Play

I intended to bring this subject up as the second part of my initial foray into Star Trek gaming but it seems a number of the commentors on my previous post beat me too it.

Although I have yet to actually use this method myself in any of the Star Trek games I've run, I am really intrigued by the idea of each player playing more than one character. More specifically, I think having players play a Command Crew/Bridge Character as well as a Junior Officer/Lower Decks Character is a great way to split the difference between what is cool on the Star Trek TV Show and what makes sense.

It is also a great way to explore alternative character types.

It seems (from what others who enjoy Star Trek gaming tell me*) that most players prefer to play Humans by a large percentage. A smaller though still notable group will play the more well known Federation, allied and even enemy species** such as Andorians, Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans and Orions. The lesser known aliens are rarely played, even by those very familiar with Star Trek lore and new, original aliens hardly see 'air time'.

Since your special effects budget is your imagination and therefore pretty much limitless, why not play a Human or Vulcan main Bridge Officer and then a wild alien Lower Decks character. Even better, your Lower Decks Ensign is Human but the Chief Engineer is an Arkenite, a Xelatian or a Zaranite! You've got two characters dude, experiment a little.

Another idea regarding player characters that has come down the Jefferies Tube is the concept of The Prime Team. Yes, it sounds like a superhero group but the truth is it's a pretty good idea.

Originally created for the Star Fleet Battles connected RPG 'Prime Directive', Prime Teams are groups of specialists who serve as the 'Away Teams' or 'Landing Parties' for a Starfleet vessel. The concept was created to facilitate a more traditional RPG adventure format and get rid of the unlikely cliche that saw the commanding officers and highest ranking personnel as the ones aboard the starship who constantly risked their lives and put themselves in danger.

Now, as most people know, I love a good cliche and have no absolutely no problem with a universe that simply excepts that the bridge crew leave their positions to explore hostile planets, derelict spacecraft or ancient alien ruins as a matter of course. Heck, why not? It's more dramatic no? I think so. It works fine for me (I also don't stare at the issue too closely).

What's your preference?

Barking Alien

*My experience, as usual, seems to have been unusual. I get the smattering of token Humans here and there but our crews seem to be where all the weird extraterrestrials in Starfleet are hiding.

**Why is it, with tons of undeveloped and cool looking aliens in the Federation to make your own, everybody and their brother wants to come up with some crazy backstory so they can play a Klingon Starfleet Officer. Geez.


  1. In the long running campaign I played in our "mains" we're the bridge crew & our our secondaries were the backup bridge crew or the "second shift". It made it easier to come up with a workable landing party with only a few players present. It especially helped in those team-on-the-surface-and-action-in-space-at-the-same-time scenarios like we saw on the show quit often. Captain on the planet? When we switch to space scenes my Catian Communication specialist just happens to be on the bridge.

    The Klingon in star fleet is pretty much the Drizzt of trek gaming ... Just because it happened once doesnt mean it needs to be a standard option. Just like the half-romulan in star fleet or the Borg in star fleet or ... Hmmm ... Did I mention I liked the Horta ensign in the "Dreadnought" novel?

    1. The secondaries or 'Beta-Shift' crew and even 'Gamma Shift' officers are mentioned many times in the Star Trek novels. I usually state up the Assistant Chief Engineer, Assistant Chief Medical Officer, etc. in my campaigns to give the PCs someone with a name to hand off their duties to when they themselves need to do something else.

      I will definitely second the coolness of a Horta crewmember.

      I does it get that red shirt on?

  2. Well, as I posted yesterday, I prefer the whole crew approach with the players as bridge crew/dept heads and with a backup lower decks character.

    1. As noted, I am growing fonder and fonder of this concept. Can't wait to try it out myself. It does give you, if I may be so bold, 'The Best of Both Worlds'. ;)

  3. I don't have a problem with the command crew being the ones who do the exploring. It may not be sensible, but it is fun and exciting, and Star Trek is supposed to be an adventure series. I think of it in the same way as a sea captain leading a boarding action with cutlass and pistol in hand.

    As far as wild aliens go, I've always thought that the Jokaero from Warhammer 40,000 would make a good addition to ST; I could see a sentient tech-savvy Orang-Utan working well in Engineering, for example.

    1. The ol' Intelligent Mugato idea from Peter David's 'Star Trek: The New Frontier' novels would definitely fit the bill for a similar feel. Nice idea KG.

  4. I liked the B5 rationale that it's wise to bring officers (not necessarily the Captain) for situations wherein there might be a first contact situation. Otherwise, Prime Teams are fine.

  5. Character tree, of three characters:

    1. Bridge = Higher Officer
    2. Specialist = Middle to lower rank officer
    3. Enlisted = Grunt

    That way we can mix and match. It simulates the show very well.
    Sometimes a Chief is in the spotlight or the nerdy edaphologist from the bowels of the ship.
    Doing it this way doesn't strain reality. But we don't really care if the entire Bridge Crew beamed down.
    It is nice to have different character options too.

    1. Hmmm, intriguing.

      Three may be one more character than I'd like but it does have a nice balance. Thing is, do you really need the grunt as a PC? More on that idea down the road...

    2. I tend to agree. I use the "grunts" (redshirts and their ilk, if you will) as communal NPCs. Let's say there's no reason for either of a player's "mains" in a scene? Well, in my game, they can play one of the redshirts. It keeps the player invest in the game even when he doesn't have a character in the scene.

  6. Probably because most aliens in Star Trek are exceptionally boring: what weird ridges will they have on their heads to make them nonhuman?

    1. Hey Matt, was this supposed to be a response to the latest post 'cause it would makes more sense there.

      Also, while I sort of agree in the TNG era forward, I don't in the TOS era. Also, that's when you take the obscure alien who appeared in the background for 10 seconds and make them your own, but more on that later...