Thursday, May 30, 2013

Into Trekness...Yesterday's Enterprise

Very recently, within the past few weeks that is, I got to play in two Google Hangouts Star Trek games.

OK, it's going to be OK. Breathe. Yes. Me. On Google Hangouts.

Can we get some smelling salts over here? My readership has fainted and I am likely not far behind them.


It wasn't exactly yesterday, nor the Enterprise, but it was classic Star Trek gaming at its core and it did hearken me back to the days when my elementary school and high school friends and I played the heck out of that universe.

There are basically two campaigns going on, running on alternate Tuesday evenings, with whichever GM is available and interested taking any given session. 

One features the Constitution Class USS Concord. This was the game I played in last. The previous game, played the Tuesday before, was focused on the crew of the USS Odin, a Heavy Scout with an old school, kitbash design.

This is Lt. Lukilo (Loo-KEY-Lo), Arkenite Navigator of the Concord. I arrived late to the game and it ran a little short so I didn't get to do too much but I helped save the day by contributing to the Captain's plan and roll. I than used my knowledge of Magnetic Fields to hide our ship behind a Time/Space Anomaly, preventing an early version of ourselves from seeing us.

This is my character, Lt. Commander Heiyok (Pronounced HEY-yok), from the first game I was in. He is a Kazarite Science Officer aboard the USS Odin specializing in Exozoology and Exoecology. Basically, he studies alien ecosystems and what lives in them.

Both Star Trek games are being run using the free RPG Zap by Joshua Macy, nice guy and occasional viewer of this site. Joshua runs the USS Concord campaign. His style and overall feel is that of an episodic television series. Our session invoked a very Star Trek: The Next Generation feel despite its Original Series setting. The Odin campaign is in the very capable hands of Kyrinn S. Eis, aka Timeshadow aka the Mistress of Urutsk, World of Mystery at the blog The Grand Tapestry.

The games went very well and I had a great time and in doing so noticed a few things about playing a Star Trek game that I thought I'd convey on to you as, hey, that's the point this May is it not? It is, and I have been largely negligent in attending to the job so...

Universal Translator

If you've seen Star Trek, even a single movie or a handful of episodes from any era, you get the basic premise of the setting and how it works. There was practically no explanation of anything necessary when it came to our jobs, our equipment, who could do what, why they are doing it, etc.

I love this. I love the idea of a bunch of people (the players) getting together from all over, different walks of life, different nationalities, genders and experiences and sharing a common frame of reference and a common goal. To me, this is the crux of what I am going to all Cooperative RPGing, as well as the message inherent in Star Trek.

Dungeons and Dragons should work this way and often does, at least in regards to point of reference but I usually don't see as much teamwork and automatic camaraderie. More on that...

You Have The Conn

One of the questions I was asked in regards to Star Trek games, and I answered in my previous post, was how command structure is handled. My answer, which was perhaps a bit insufficient and teasing, essentially boiled down to "It just works."

Proof positive occurred in our first Google Hangouts game.

When the Odin game started it was just myself and one other player whose character was the ship's doctor. With myself as a Science Officer and him as Chief Medical Officer, it was determined by the GM that I was in charge of the Landing Party and maybe an officer of some rank. I decided Heiyok (my character) was a Lt. Commander.

Not long after we began, another player entered the Hangout and his character, a Science Officer and Lieutenant, joined us on the surface of the planet our ship was orbiting. Now, this fellow had never met me, as this session was my first with the group. He had been in the previous sessions and was a little surprised that I was a Lt. Commander. At the same time, he didn't balk at it or give me a hassle. He simply hadn't considered there might be any PCs on the ship higher than Lieutenant aside from the Captain and First officer since none had previously been established.

For my part, I didn't lord the rank over him or anything so foolish. What I did was act all organized and Captain-y to the NPCs when we returned to our ship. See, I made the assumption that the other PC Science Officer, though a Lieutenant, was probably the Chief Science Officer, where as my character is a Specialist, his higher rank needed to lead away teams and monitor landing party operations he was not going on himself. So after the landing party returned to the Odin, he went to the Labs to take care of a few things and I manned the science station on the bridge (where Spock would sit on the original show basically).

Sometime later, after our vessel had been attacked and captured by alien craft of an organic nature, another player joined us who was, as had been established in a previous session, the ship's First Officer and Second-In-Command of the Odin. I immediately deferred to the Commander, indicating that I had been running the show only until we could find him or establish communications with him (communications had been down and we were using our hand held communicators to call each other).

Crew Compliment

Star Trek has this built in sense of camaraderie and teamwork I don't often see in other games. The only other genre or setting I've encountered it in regularly is Superheroes, so its no surprise that these are my two favorite types of games.

It goes back to the Cooperative Gaming comment I made earlier. For years and years and years it was standard procedure for us (all my gaming friends and I) to follow certain unwritten rules that are nearly the polar opposite of gaming etiquette for many groups.

There is a leader. A Captain, Team Leader or Field Commander. That person is in charge. You can disagree, even argue with them but they make the final decision.

You are a team. Everyone does their part. You don't sit it out because you're scared you're going to die or you can't figure out how your skills are useful in this scene. You do something because we're all doing something.

No one left behind. We have been known to leap into the line of fire to save NPCs. Why? They are family and part of the team.

You don't shoot first unless you have to in order to protect or save someone. Villains shoot first. We are not the villains. We are not barbarians or animals. We are heroes.

I won't harp on this too much here. I've harped on it before.


The feeling I get from playing these games is that they are more in line with the style of gaming I enjoy than the ones I am running with my regular group. This bums me out a bit I don't mind telling you. I mean, I hardly know these guys and I feel a greater kinship with them than I do with my own group. They play to play instead of playing to win and that is way more my thing. The PCs have personality and the stats are secondary if that.

I miss that kind of group and that type of game.

Well, I have it once a week so I guess I shouldn't complain. It would be nice if my face-to-face players were more like these online players but they're not and that's the way it is.

Maybe down the road I'll GM a campaign myself on Google Hangouts. Maybe I'll add some new players to my real time group with whom I am more sympatico.

I don't know. Maybe I just need sleep.

Barking Alien


  1. I know you're playing over hangouts but have you seen these?
    They're "inspired by" due to copyright/IP, but I really like the look of them.

    1. Damn my friend, those are sweet! Thanks for the link!