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

Into Trekness...Captain's Holiday

This post is not specifically Star Trek related but does have Star Trek elements to it, so if you came here to learn how to repair the starboard nacelle's warp coil or realign the EM phase harmonic from the plasma manifold so you can reroute the resulting energy surge through the main deflector, well, sorry but that's not what this post is about. Nor is it exactly what Star Trek is about, but we'll get to that another time.

This past weekend, Memorial Day weekend, was filled to the brim with gaming, almost to the point of overflow.

Saturday I ran the 5th (?) session of my monthly Traveller campaign and it rocked. There hasn't been a bad session so far. Oh! Traveller 5th Edition, or T5 as it is often referred to, is in the hands of many kickstarter backers. Get ready to recieve yours soon. Woo hoo!

Sunday with the kids at the Study Center was pretty good, with one young lad doing a manuver so bold that, well, I clapped. Honestly. No adult player I've gamed with in a long while has taken so brave, heroic and foolhardy an action, if ever.

We are playing Marvel Heroic, with the kids using original characters of their own design but the story is set in the Marvel Universe (um, ya'know, like gamer want to do MWP. Just in case you're wondering why it didn't sell better). The group is part of the Avengers Initivative and are discussing their next move onboard a SHIELD Helicarrier after their run in with a rogue Celestial.

A group of (Marvel) supervillains crash land their cloaked jet onto the launch deck of the Helicarrier. Out of the plane steps six villains: Chemistro, Crossbones, the Grey Gargoyle, Mentallo, the Orb and Tigershark. Our tech experts identity the plane as utilizing the same technological specifications often employed by Doctor Doom.

Before any of them can move, our resident shapeshifter, Doctor Zoo, turns himself into Doctor Doom and tells the villains to abort the mission. He informs them that the Helicarrier contains more Superheroes than they thought, including Thor and Ms. Marvel. He goes on to tell them that there is a cloaked plane beneath them, which is how he got there, and instructs them to jump off the Helicarrier to the vehicle below waiting to catch them. A few rolls and some emotional stress later and three of them jump. Plummetting to a hard landing on the ocean surface below I might add.

All that remained were the three toughest...

Our telepathic hero, Mental Mind, tried to mind control one of the villains but failed. Mentallo was now aware of the ruse and looking for a fight. That's when Metal Guard, a very interesting PC hero, runs across the deck and tackles the Grey Gargoyle off the Helicarrier. Yes. He runs into him and keeps going. His intention was A) to surprise his opponent, which definitely worked, B) knock him out when the two of them hit the water and C) have one of his team mates - including a hydrokinetic named Ocean Demon - retrieve him.

See, Metal Guard can control and manipulate metal, any kind of metal. It's not magnetic powers like Magneto it's, hmmm, ferrokinesis? His primary use of this power is to coat himself in Vibranium, so he is nearly invulnerable to direct harm. I say direct because he doesn't turn into metal the way Colossus does. Metal Guard had to hold his breath one he hit the water as his insides were still Human. Cool character, no?

Anyway, fun-fun-fun game. The kids are really getting the hang of Supers.

Let's hope I can say the same for my regular group as I prepare to start up a brand new Champions campaign! What am I crazy?! Yes, very likely that is the case but our Ars Magica game ended (for now) and the guys want to go back to Supers so here we are.

A neat thing about this particular campaign is that it is going to connect to another Champions campaign I will be running set in the same universe. Our once a month Traveller game runs from 12 noon to 6, at which point a couple of the guys have to split but the rest can hang out for another few hours. My idea is that the after-Traveller game with be Champions, focusing on the Justice League/Avengers type team of the setting while the smaller, more regularly meeting group will focus on a more X-Men/Teen Titans scale team.

We'll see. I may have bit off more than I can chew.

Now...Star Trek Into Darkness...

It was made. It was shown in theatres. I went to see it. All of these things are very, very wrong and should not have been done.

On a happier note...this is happening...

MEKTON ZERO! A new edition of Mekton by Mike Pondsmith and R. Talsorian Games!

Are you psyched? 'Cause I am freakin' psyched!

Twenty-three days to go as of this writing and the game is already funded and headed for stretch goal #2! That my friends, is the awesomesauce.

Now someone just has to get the rights to do a new Star Trek RPG, hire me and we can all rest easy.


Back to Star Trek and what lies beyond for Barking Alien coming up next...

Barking Alien

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Into Trekness...Up The Long Ladder


My lack of posting this month, juxtaposed with how inspired I was (and still am) to discuss Star Trek RPG gaming is nothing short of monumental.

Yes, the degree to which I have neglected this blog in the month of May is a thing of awe.

I was going through something, a personal thing. It's hard to describe and I shall spare you the details anyway but it has my thoughts elsewhere and not on my favorite subject of leisure.

That said, I believe I am over it now and want to get back to the matter at hand. However, I also believe my brain is not really very condusive to theme months unless the inspiration strikes out of nowhere (meaning that is I plan it ahead of time, I tend to lose steam).

So for the rest of this month I will try to do some more Star Trek gaming posts but expect next month to be a mixture of the usual favorites and a few things I haven't gone into in detail. Highlights include Star Trek and Superheroes of course, but also Mekton, my newest 'He-Made-A-Game-Outta-What-Now?!' RPG and, believe or not, even some Medieval Fantasy (say it ain't so!).

May has felt like a slow crawl up a long ladder but I've finally reached the attic of my mind and found a whole bunch of cool stuff I seem to have hidden away.

Barking Alien

Friday, May 17, 2013

Into Trekness...Peak Performance

More Questions Have Arrived!

Alright, let's get this party started shall we?


From the recherché WQRobb:

Okay, so here's a question: how you do adjudicate command structures and a gaming group?

OK, you know how when you wake up in the morning, before you brush your teeth or put on your shoes, you think about it really deeply and consider all the particulars and ramifications your choices will have?

No? Me neither. And that's how we adjudicate command structures in our game group.

We don't really think about it too much except to see who wants to be Captain and more importantly, who doesn't but the rest of us think will do a great job. That is the person you want as Captain.

There is an old naval saying, "Anyone who wants to be Captain isn't right for the job."

Captain means its your boat, your wins and your loses. If the tribble hits the turbo fan, it's your fault and your head if you don't fix it. Welcome to being responsible for the lives of 3-7 PCs and 400+ NPCs, some of whom might be wives, girlfriends, brothers, cousins, best friends, etc.

As for First Officer, there is always that one guy in the group who loyal to the team. A team player and a smart person who isn't necessarily the action-go-get'em person. I highly recommend that guy or gal for the First Officer position. For us it was always my buddy Allen or, going back further, our friend Anna, my buddy David F. (though his character eventually made Captain) and when playing, me.

Beyond that, almost everyone else on the crew should hover around the same rank. If you have a big group, following Captain, and either Commander or Lt. Commander, you should have another Lt. Commander who isn't usually someone who is on the bridge (Medical Officer or Engineer is good). This way they are important and have rank but they won't get in the First Officer's way. Make everyone else Lieutenant. If someone really wants to play a younger officer like an Ensign, let them. They gain youth and plot hooks and lose the ability to tell people what to do.


Next up, the truculent Lord Blacksteel:

You've run a fair amount of Trek. Forget systems for a moment - what kind of game would you like to run that you haven't before, beyond the one you mentioned? Maybe a particular era you haven't explored in play?

Hmmm. That's tough but if I had to choose a period I haven't covered I think it would be one of the missing eras, the transition periods between series.

I'd love to play in the period after Enterprise but before Pike, roughly somewhere inbetween the years 2165 to 2199. The true birth of the Federation, the Romulan War and all the stuff we might have seen if Enterprise had continued.

Also of interest is the period between Kirk's "death" during the shakedown cruise of the Enterprise-B and the beginning of the Next Generation. The Cardassian War, first contact and war with the Tzenkethi, first contact with many of the Next Generation and DS9 era species, etc. Could be a very intriguing setting if given it's due.

Have you ever run a non-federation campaign?

Yes. I once ran a campaign, in High School, featuring an experiment by the Romulan and Klingon empires to joint operate a starship. The idea originated with the Romulans and was proposed when they and the Klingons were negotiating weapons and technology trade agreements that resulted in the Klingon Bird of Prey (the D-12 version first seen in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock). Curious to see if a multiple species crew would do better against similarly crewed Starfleet vessels, it was also a convenient excuse for spying on their new 'allies'. The Klingons in turn said yes because they needed someone to teach them how to use the Cloaking Devices and figured, "Hey, we can counterspy on them".

As you can imagine it was a riot. Like Star Trek crossed with Top Secret and a little Paranoia for good measure. Hmmm. That description sounds familiar. I think I read that someone but for the life of me can't recall the reference. -Scratches head-

Anyhoo, next question...

Have you ever run a multi-captain campaign? One group, multiple ships, all in one area or squadron.

How quickly they forget.

In addition, the Romulan-Klingon campaign was actually being run while I was running a  standard Starfleet exploration game with an another group. The two eventually crossed and fought, with the Starfleet PCs being superior in space combat and the Romulan-Klingon party better planetside (just like PvP in Star Trek Online). It was the Starfleet Officers however you solved the mystery of the adventure/episode, causing the enemy ship to retreat back to the Romulan Neutral Zone.

How about instead of an officer exchange program there was a ship exchange program and you had, say, a Next-Gen era Klingon ship serving in Star Fleet? Interesting or too impractical to manage?

When you say 'serving in Starfleet' do you mean crewed by Starfleet Officers, a Klingon crew but the whole crew and the ship are considered Starfleet instead of Klingon Defense Force Officers or something else? I'm not entirely sure I'm clear on the question.


Lord Blacksteel also posted a question in the comments of my last post that reads...

"Hey, here's a question: Where did the rest of my Star Trek posts go, mister?"

Well Mister Smarty-Smart-Pants-With-Super-Smart-Pants, just you wait and see. A lot more to come.

So there. :P

"Aye, right back atcha my friend."

Barking Alien

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Into Trekness...Samaritan Snare

My lack of posts lately is abysmal.

It's my own fault. A self inflicted failing related to other things occupying my time while allow a bit of ego to creep in where it is unwarranted and unwanted.

I had hoped to receive a bunch of questions in regards to Star Trek gaming so I would have additional inspiration for posts this month but I've sadly received only these so far.

That's not actually the sad part in and of itself. The problem, which is totally my bag, is that I began to feel a lack of motivation to post, dwelling on the absence of questions instead of focusing on answering the ones I had gotten. A Samaritan Snare I brought upon myself, if you will. Bummed that I couldn't be more helpful to more people I have ended up not being helpful to anyone, most especially the one person who did answered my request.

I will try to make up for this with the time I have remaining in May.

As for the questions, these come from a commenter by the name of Valerius.

- How well do players from, say, D&D, adjust from a "loot and get better equipment" to the "standard issue is all you need" (and "there is no money") paradigm?

The short (and slightly snarky) answer is, I wouldn't know. ;)

To elaborate, I haven't played a lot of Star Trek with people who have primarily played a lot of D&D. As D&D is not a favorite game of mine or many of the people I've gamed with over the years, the ideas of 'loot to improve' and 'kill to get better stuff' have never been major motivators.

Our D&D-like games are inspired by Superhero comic books and Star Trek (not the other way around) and both of those settings are one's where you have the powers you have and you've got the gear you've got until you either invent something new on your own or you are supplied with a new gadget or gimmick by your allied support organization (say SHIELD or Starfleet Command respectively).

If all your character is about is getting cooler stuff and being more 'powerful', Star Trek probably isn't the game for you (not YOU you, the proverbial you).

- On a related note, do you use a "gentleman's code" with phasers to avoid disintegrating characters (PCs and villains) out of existence?

A Starfleet Officer firing a phaser set to Kill or Disintegrate without provocation or prior authorization by a superior officer would be reviewed like a cop who gunned down a suspected criminal. A Starfleet Tribunal would have to determine if the threat warranted that course of action.

That said, it also just isn't the way it's normally done on the shows. Usually stun is the default setting and it's proven to be sufficient for the most part.

I went into greater detail on phasers and combat in the Star Trek RPG before. I really like the way those posts came out and highly recommend taking a look at them if you are interested in the subject.

- Can you talk a bit more about the different Star Trek games? I only know well the Decipher CODA, but have never played it (sadly).

There have been a good number of Star Trek RPGs, official, unofficial and Star Trek-with-the-numbers-filed-off. I will address the most prominent/well known official games here but I may address some of the others in a later post.

I could easily go on for pages and pages about each of the these games. I may, sometime in the future, give a more detailed analysis of each but for now I want to focus on answering the question as presented.

The first and arguably most well known official Star Trek RPG was created by the game company FASA. It was created and developed by Guy McLimore, Greg Poehlein, David Tepool and others and first came out in 1982 (with a Second Edition in 1983). The game was published from 1982 to 1989 and during that time released a large number of supplements, adventures and sourcebooks. Most of the game covered the Original Series and Original Series Movie Era (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Although there were only actual sourcebooks for III: Search for Spock and IV: The Voyage Home).

FASA's Star Trek did go so far as to produce two sourcebooks for Star Trek: The Next Generation, however the first of these was produced before there was very much information available on the setting and its characters and is filled with inconsistencies and errors.

The story goes that relations between FASA and Paramount were strained in the later years of the games publication. Paramount, which had to approve all of FASA's material, became increasingly unhappy with what they saw as the violent and militaristic nature of the Star Trek universe as FASA depicted it.

The game itself is a fairly basic percentile system and I really loved it. I houseruled it a bit over the years to improve how action points worked and how use of your Communicator, Tricoder and other devices effected your skill rolls but it's a solid system that really doesn't need a lot of tweaking.

I like the system for that old school feel as well as being easy for most people to understand. I find that the abstract nature of many RPGs confuses those who are familiar with an IP/setting and are assuming they can get right into it when they hear, "Don't forget to include the modifier from the drama die." Gamer goes, "OK" and non-gamer Star Trek fan goes "Whadda-what?".

Percentile has always, in my experience, been easier to, ahem, assimilate to. You have a 45% chance of hitting that Klingon. You have a 62% chance of fixing the engines? Better make it 55% since the whole ship is shaking apart from the enemy's gravity weapon. This explanation of skills is something people can wrap their heads around. I've said it before, games might catch on with a wider audience if they didn't game talk at you so much.

On a scale from Ensign to Admiral, I rank it Commander.


Last Unicorn Games' Star Trek Role-Playing Game, which utilizes their ICON System and on which I was a playtester, is my preferred system.

The ICON System is a 6-sided die based system that works a little different from most die pool systems but it certainly qualifies as one. You roll a number of dice equal to your Attribute with a bonus die (or dice), called an Edge(s), added in as appropriate. When you roll you take the highest number rolled (and only the highest) as your result. Skill Ratings are than added to that result.

So for example: Lt. Sorpik, a Vulcan Science Officer, is trying to determine what seemingly common chemicals were combined that accidently poisoned the crew of a research station. Sorpik has an Intellect Attribute of 3 so he rolls 3 dice. His Physical Science (Chemistry) Skill is 2 (3), meaning he adds a +2 to his highest roll in all Physical Science tests except ones involving his specialty of chemistry, where he adds +3.

So he rolls and gets 2, 5 and 6. The 6 is highest so he adds +3 to it for a total of 9.

The system uses a Drama Die, which allows for a critical success or failure with a roll of 6 or 1 respectively. A roll of 6 allows you to add the next highest die you rolled to your total.

Going back to the example above, if the 6 Sorpik's Player had rolled had been on the Drama Die, he could add the next highest die to his result. The next highest is the 5 so the final total is 6+5+3 for 14.

It's a simple and fairly straightforward system that allows for dramatic play and just enough crunch with minimal to no headaches in trying to make everything work. To date, it's my favorite system for running Star Trek and I have used it many, many times. As I've noted elsewhere, it has just enough crunch to satisfy the technical nature of Star Trek and it's easy enough to support my love of theatrics and story.

I rank it Captain, possibly Commodore.


Lastly, and sadly least in my opinion, we have the Star Trek Role Playing Game featuring the CODA System by Decipher.

Decipher's version of the game came about a bit to soon after Last Unicorn Games lost the license. Rather, after Wizards of The Coast lost the license for them as WotC had purchased LUG, laid off a good number of very talented people in an attempt to gain the license for both Star Trek and Star Wars simultaneously. The greedy, no-talent...I mean...the entrepreneurs over at WotC apparently didn't realize their was some stipulation in the Star Trek license preventing that and boom, no Star Trek game.

When Decipher than hired a lot of the creative people behind the ICON system to create the CODA system and a new Star Trek game they, well, rushed it a bit I guess. To me, CODA feels like a cheap copy of ICON, changed just enough in just the wrong places to get rid of the charm, easy, flexibility and awesomeness of ICON.

CODA is far too close to Dungeons & Dragons 3E, taking ICON's Template + Overlay + Packages character creation system and making it feel like a Race/Class system, complete with Feat-like abilities. Just doesn't work for me.

In all honesty it's not a horrible system or game but it just doesn't feel right for yours truly.

I give it the rank of Lt. JG. If there had never been an ICON system I would promote it to full Lieutenant.


Thank you for your questions Valerius. I hope I was able to help or a least provide of a bit of insight from a veteran Star Trek GM.

More questions please! Keep them coming!

Barking Alien

A few bits of business before I go...

I know I'm late but I want to say good bye to the master of stop motion, the king of cool effects, the one and only Ray Harryhausen.

Today commemorates the passing of Jim Henson, my hero above heroes, who died May 16th, 1990. It's hard to believe it was so long ago. Will always miss you man.

Lastly, DC Comics, in their continuing efforts to completely destroy themselves and any interest in their universe, have cancelled the Legion of Superheroes comic. There is rumor of a new comic to replace it called, 'Justice Legion'. Granted, Legion wasn't very good these last two years but I really have no idea why they couldn't fix the problems it had.

Honestly, I'll concede that it might be difficult to continuously put out a top notch Legion of Superheroes comic book issue after issue after issue, but I would personally find it far harder to make a bad Legion comic. That takes some skill.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Into Trekness...Ensigns of Command

Campaigns I'd Like to Run: Star Trek: Mission

The idea for this entry actually came to me on the 1st of May when I saw a post with the title "Campaigns I'd Like to Run" over at Age of Ravens. As it turns out, the subject is Lowell's accepted suggestion for the RPG Blog Carnival.

Generally speaking, I pattern most of my Star Trek RPG campaigns after the time honored approach most of the TV series and films have taken. Basically, the PCs are the Bridge/Command Crew of a Federation Starfleet Starship heading out where no one has headed out before.

I've always found it very interesting and a bit perplexing that the default campaign concept for Last Unicorn Games' Star Trek RPG line (the system of choice for yours truly when running my favorite IP) assumes you'll be playing 'lower decks' Starfleet officers. The game is designed around the idea that the Captain and possibly the entirety of the command staff are NPCs. The idea here being that you can get promoted as a reward in addition to standard experience points or drama points.

I've never tried this to be honest. Not really anyway. My memory may be slipping and I may have pulled it off in a one-shot or for a convention game. The true of the matter is that for the most part I have never liked this idea. It does add something to the development of the characters but it takes away their control and decision making opportunities.

While considering this one day, I came up with a way to possibly pull it off. I crossbred it with an idea  for a space station setting I've always wanted to try out. In the end, the campaign focuses on lower ranking officers stationed at a Deep Space Station/Federation Research Outpost in a secluded and mysterious space sector a good distance away from the Federation frontier.

Something like this...(Do you mind if I borrow your format Lowell?)



High Concept: Adventurous young Starfleet officers attempt to unravel the mysteries of a newly opened region of space from a small, lonely research station very far from home.

Think: Star Trek: The Original Series meets Ice Station Zebra meets The Thing (John Carpenter original or the Sci-Fi novella Who Goes There by John W. Campbell Jr.).

Actually this is tough the more I think about it. Those films have the right feel of isolation and mystery I am going for but they aren't exactly right for how I picture this series. The thing is, most Sci-Fi series based on or around a space station make the assumption that the station is busy. Perhaps it is a popular meeting place, trade outpost or whathaveyou. Often it's near a wormhole, an important planet or its in a key military location.

This is none of that. This is a research station in Antarctica that someone put there so they could say they were there before someone else put something there.
Premise: In the mid-to-late 23rd Century (roughly contemporary with the last year of the USS Enterprise's (1701) first 5-year mission under Captain James T. Kirk) Starfleet makes inroads into a star sector where bizarre spatial phenomena have previously prevented entry. First discovered over 30 years ago, the dangerous and unexplained anomalies have suddenly and completely ceased.

A small research outpost, similar to Deep Space Station K-7 or a TOS version of Regula I, is placed in a system in the sector, its nearest Starfleet or Federation neighbor being a Starbase six weeks away at maximum warp. The outpost is temporary, designed to serve long enough to allow Starfleet to establish a more substantial presence in the region. After that a full scale Starbase will be placed in the Sector.

Player characters are junior officers assigned to the station in various positions (Science Officers, Engineers, Security, etc.). However, instead of spending all of their time on the station and having adventures come to them (a staple of space station based campaigns), the PCs are periodically sent out on different investigative, exploration missions aboard one of the station's Mission Class Couriers.

The campaign title, Star Trek: Mission, is therefore a play on the Mission Class ships going on smaller missions while the overall mission of the research station ties everything together.

Scattered Thoughts:
  • Prior to about a year before the start of the campaign, the sector of space that serves as the campaign backdrop saw random bursts of energy, some as large, and powerful as a supernova. The bursts were not exactly localized, occurring periodically at random intervals across a 50 light year radius. The source and exact nature of the energy discharges has never been determined. No one knows why the explosions stopped either.
  • Everyone and everything will be upgradeable. Meaning: PCs can raise in position and rank, the Mission Class Couriers and Station can be upgraded, the station may eventually be completely replaced with an altogether better space station, etc.
  • The setting would be TOS if I had my way but I could adapt it to the TOS Movie Era (Motion Picture to Voyage Home specifically) very easily.
  • Some larger ships (though none as powerful as a Constitution Class) will visit the station from time to time with one, or two becoming reoccurring regulars. The PCs will get to join these ships on missions and maybe (hopefully) get to know the Captains and crews. This could lead to the PCs transferring to one of the ships later in the series/campaign, or even taking it over if they reach high enough rank and/or something happens to the original staff.

Mechanical Considerations:
  • I don't have any distinct mechanical considerations at this time, probably because the LUG rules work for me as they are, and I am much less interested in rule mechanics in general than I am the characters and story. The only possible change or modification I can foresee may involve trying to adapt the old FASA RPG space combat system to LUG. I really liked how every position and specialty was integrated into starship battles. Everyone had a job and working together with a good Captain directing things was the key to winning/surviving.

These are just the beginnings of a work in progress but I figured I would pitch it to you studio execs out there and see what you thought.

OK, off to work. More to come including answers to your questions and my ideas for my Star Trek game for RECESS.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Into Trekness...The Schizoid Man

As regular readers and friends of this blog well know, I never have an idea for a game. I have fifty.

It is a far more difficult task to wrangle the concepts and stories my mind generates into something cohesive than it is to come up with them in the first place. My head is like a popcorn popper with the ability to replicate its own kernels and therefore pop popcorn perpetually.

I am also a fan of alliteration.

Quite the 'Schizoid Man', I jump from one genre to the next with infuriating frequency and while running D&D can't stop coming up with ideas for Superheroes. If Superheroes is chugging along nicely it's a good bet that that'll invite Mecha vs. Kaiju concepts to rear their fifty foot heads.

I've toned down my Gamer ADD considerably from my college days and prior, where I would often just stop a campaign at some random point so I could start 'a way better one' of a completely different nature. Eventually my regular group set me straight saying that although they thought I was one of the best GMs around, they'd had it. If I wasn't going to keep a good campaign going, they were ready to quit starting them in the first place.

I took a short break from running game at that point, spending nearly a year playing or running one-shots only for conventions or special occasions (holidays or birthdays, etc.). When I returned to GMing with the promise of a new, ongoing campaign, I decided to play it safe and go with a tried and true venue, a proven winner, Star Trek.

When I fall into that same state of creative indecisiveness I always look to the old girl once again to steady my focus.

At present, with my Traveller game in full swing and a Champions Supers game* in the works, I can't help think about Star Trek.

My head may be in a thousand places but my heart will always be on the Enterprise.


The ever inquisitive WQRobb commented on how my blog posts have remained light of late and what could be done about it. What he actually wrote was:

"Well, I'm eagerly awaiting some Trek-related posts, but they don't seem to be forthcoming yet. How about some questions?"

A grand idea! To which I responded and will repost here:

"Things have been a little crazy for me lately so blogging has had to go on the backburner for a time.

I do want to get back to it in full force and I appreciate the inspirational kick in the pants.

I will address your question more directly in an upcoming post but it gives me the additional idea of soliciting questions from readers on anything Star Trek gaming related.

Always wanted to run a Star Trek game but had trouble getting started? Ran one or running one now and looking for ideas on how to improve the experience? Ask a question in regard to Trek RPGing and I will do my best to help!"

Now to begin, I'll answer his first posted questions...

"If you were to run a Star Trek campaign right now, which system would you use?"

Nine out of ten times I'll be using Last Unicorn Games' ICON System Star Trek Role Playing Game to run Star Trek. There are numerous reasons for this but the key ones are:

A) It feels like it creates the best balance between cinematic/dramatic and you-live-in-that-universe for Star Trek gaming that I have seen.

B) I know it really well. I was a playtester for the first game in the series (Star Trek: The Next Generation Core Rules) and one of the writers on a book for the third series (Star Trek: The Original Series Andorian Sourcebook, 'Among The Clans').

C) I own pretty much everything ever produced for it including a copy/manuscript of the pre-release core rules (which are slightly different) and all magazine articles published for it.

If I were to use anything else I would probably use the FASA game again for nostalgia.

"What kind of story set-up would you use? A ship exploring space? A space station? A non-Starfleet merchant?"

Is this a trick question?

OK, personal biased here, but to use Star Trek to run a merchant or merc game is like making a grilled cheese sandwich with no cheese. You're missing the best part!

You can use any Sci-Fi game to run a bunch of adventurers wandering among the stars and getting into trouble. Some games are even made just for that. Traveller is perfect for it.

In a Star Wars campaign, I want the Force, the Empire and/or Republic and Hutts to be involved, even if I'm not a Jedi, a Rebel or a Scoundrel. Why? 'Cause its freakin' Star Wars. Where else do they have the Force? No where, that's where. So use it. Same concept with Star Trek. Which setting lets you be Starfleet? Umm...Star Trek? Ya damn right Star Trek! You can be a merchant schmo anywhere.

Now, I will say that while my preference is for a Starfleet vessel exploring space, a space station environment is very intriguing. I am a big fan of Deep Space 9 (my favorite Star Trek series after the original) and I loved the Star Trek novel series Star Trek: Vanguard.


In an upcoming post, I will go into a lot more detail on an idea I have for a Star Trek campaign utilizing a space station setting. I think you'll like it.

See you soon and don't forget to send in those questions.** Hailing frequencies are open!

Barking Alien

*Got a crazy neat, new idea for our next Supers game and I may or may not use Champions. I haven't decided. Might go with M&M 3E.

**If you'd prefer to email your questions you can send them to barkingalienATgeemailDOTcom or barkingUNDERSCOREalienATyahooDOTcom.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Into Trekness...The Naked Now

This post may be a bit all over the place. I'll try to reign in my stream of consciousness but it may be difficult. That's just how my head is working at the moment.

I had a rather interesting day yesterday.

While much of it was no different from any other day, I did get some good news, saw a friend or two and feel generally and genuinely inspired.

Some of the good news will have to wait for a later post but I would like to mention getting to see the Fredericks and Freiser Gallery show of our very own Zak Smith.

Is he our very own? He's one of us surely...but...he belongs to the world!

Where was I? Oh yes! It was a fantastic show. A smallish collection of his work but every piece interesting, even intriguing. The sense of scale is something you don't always get when you see Zak's artwork on the internet. Some of the pieces, most of them, were much larger and even more intricate than I imagined from seeing them online.

I got to say hi to Zak (which was nice) and I got to meet Mandy in person for the first time (which was also very nice). Oh, and Mandy's dog, who was very cute and handled the limelight like a pro.

If you're in New York City or can get here I highly recommend checking it out. The exhibit lasts until the end of the month.

After leaving the gallery I hopped on over to my FLGS, The Compleat Strategist. There, I said hello to the owner Danny, the manager/my friend Larry and my friend and player Ray. I usually only go there on the weekends these days so I don't often get to see Danny or Larry. I've known these guys forever. Danny since I was 14. That's thirty years. Yikes.

Finally I came home to an email from another of my players, Will, who is part of our monthly Traveller game. To say 'part' is insufficient. He is the major driving force of our first adventure/story arc. It would be a very different, much slower game without his motivation and input.

Anyway, the email was to let me know he saw my blog, discovered I'll be talking about Star Trek gaming this month and running Star Trek at the next RECESS and was very encouraging about both prospects. That felt good.

You see my little tribbles, sometimes I feel alone in my love of Star Trek gaming. Yes, I know there are fans out there tuning in to this secure Starfleet channel and its for you guys as well as myself that I dedicate blog space to the subject. It is an extra special and rare treat these days however to get a thumbs up from someone I know and game with in 'real life'.

The lengths some players will go through to avoid playing Star Trek.
Fine, you guys win. I'll run Superheroes. Again.
This Star Trek themed month is starting off slow, with more raw emotion and less refined ideas, but have no fear, I'm just getting warmed up. It isn't easy to cold start a warp core.
Barking Alien

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Into Trekness

I am...into Trekness.

I am a Star Trek fan. A 'Trekkie'. I like Star Trek and things having to do with Star Trek. I enjoy other TV shows, movies, comic books and related entertainment media of a Star Trek nature.

I am into Trekness.

My Andorian Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Ch'Theleth Thir,
aboard Earth Spacedock / Starbase One, in Star Trek Online.
It is an MMO, with Trekness.

While I have a fondness for Trekness, not everyone does.

I have come to some clear and rather bracing realizations about this.

First, Star Trek Into Darkness will be out this month and, while I am pretty sure it won't be a great movie, knowing that going in I bet I will enjoy it more than I did the first one, which I really thought was going to be awesome.

Second, as much as I love Star Trek and running and playing games in that universe, it may be a while before I get to do so again. I will expand this statement to say, "it may be a while before I get to do a campaign again". I do have high hopes for a one shot somewhere down the line and I intend to submit a Star Trek RPG event for the next RECESS (whenever that comes up).

Looking at the proclamations above, you would think that ol' Adam would be feeling pretty down about the lack of Star Trek gaming in his life. You'd be right of course, with a small caveat to consider.

I have this here blog.

My blog enables me to do something amazing that I can't always seem to do at my actual gaming table at this time. I can generate ideas and material for Star Trek RPG campaigns and have people see them, enjoy them and maybe, hopefully, find them useful.

To this end, every once in a while, I dedicate a large portion of one month's posts to my favorite RPG subject, Star Trek gaming. Response to these excursions into die-slinging where no one has gone before have been very positive so for May, I am doing it again.

Now, it may not be all Star Trek and nothing but Star Trek this month but the vast majority of it will. If Star Trek is not your thing, I apologize, hope you enjoyed last month's supervillains and thing you would do well to return next month to see what I've got cooking. Another thought is, well, come back and check it out anyway once in a while, just for craps and giggles. Maybe you'll see something you like that you can use elsewhere. Maybe you can adapt an idea to Traveller or Gamma World.

Or maybe, just maybe, you could give Star Trek a try and see how it goes.

Let in the Trekness.

 Fortune Class By John Byrne.

Course laid in Captain...

Barking Alien