Sunday, September 12, 2021

A Day In The Life

Star Trek Day came and went with a few good announcements (an Eaglemoss USS Cerritos model! Woohoo!) and some rather 'Meh' ones. All I can say is thank goodness we have Lower Decks.

On a side note, Friday was The Orville Day, the fourth anniversary of the first airing of The Orville. Season 3 can not come soon enough.

Unfortunately, yesterday was a far more serious and somber day. It marked the 20 year anniversary of a day of great sorrow for what was lost and great hope for the future of Humankind. 

As for what's on my mind right now...

Something I've been wanting to talk about for quite a while is an approach I like take with many of my campaigns which I will refer to as 'A Day In The Life'. 

Do the Player Characters in your Tabletop RPG campaign sleep? By that I mean in the evening, when they're tired. Not to regain lost Hit Points but to rest because, well, people rest. 

Do your PCs and NPCs eat? Do they enjoy it? Do they have hobbies and do they take part in them? How about getting to know the locals, do they do that? Do the locals talk to them? I'm not just talking about contacts and patrons but the guy who runs the local newsstand, the owner of the party's favorite tavern, or the multi-eyed widower down at the starship scrapyard. 

The reason I ask these questions is that these and other (subjectively) mundane activities have regularly been a part of some of my most successful campaigns. I would say elements such as these define a certain style of play that I [generally] strive for. 

Not every campaign needs this of course. I am currently running a Star Trek Adventures campaign wherein I was recently commended for the brevity of my story and encounter sequences. The goal was to make it feel more like an episode of the original Star Trek series. In The Original Series we never saw people go to the bathroom or perform many other trivial tasks that real life requires us to do on a day-to-day basis. We know (or can logically assume) that they did these things but it was only when it was important to staging the episode that we would see them eat, sleep, or the like. 

I have run Star Trek campaigns in the past where things were much less 'TV Show' style and much more 'A Day in The Life'. I often sight this as a key difference between the feel of Star Trek Adventures (This is a TV series) and previous incarnations such as Last Unicorn Games and FASA (you live in this universe). 

Anyway, one reason - perhaps the main reason - to include this approach is to add a dimension to your game that would otherwise require a lot more work. As discussed a long while back in response to something Charles Atkins talked about, giving a world/setting a dynamic feel need not require massive amounts of work and preparation.

You can imply a living, breathing milieu without having to track the movements and habits of every living thing in existence. You do need to know the movements and habits of the PCs and the NPCs they might encounter. You don't need to know exactly how the weather patterns of each season on this planet work year round so much as what the weather is now; right now as the PCs are experiencing it. Add in the element of the PCs and NPCs dealing with the weather in an everyday manner and the climate and conditions become more memorable without you the GM hardly even trying. 

Unfortunately, this is clearly not something a lot of people think about. I did a search on Google Images, Pinterest, and DeviantArt in an attempt to find an image to represent this post and it was nearly impossible to find anything good to showcase mundane activity in a fantastic setting. You do get the classic tavern or spaceport bar scenes but we've all seen that too many times. Any images of Science Fiction characters shopping in a store? How about Fantasy characters cooking a meal? These are scenes we know exist in nearly every work of genre fiction and TRPG campaign but they aren't deemed meaningful enough to depict I suppose. 

Make them meaningful in your games. Give thought to them. 

See how it brings your universe to life.

Barking Alien


  1. It's true that there are few images for 'common slice of life' (sorry don't have a better description) on internet. I guess because many people consider those as boring. Better to do something exciting like a battle scene.
    It's the same for movies and TV series, unless you can spare the time or it's useful for the plot, it won't have much (if any) screen time.
    One of my hobby is 3D rendering, I don't think have have meda much in term of mundane activities. Maybe a camp scene for fantasy setting.
    I guess its something I should think about.

    1. 'I guess its something I should think about.'

      My work here is done. :)

    2. Here is what I could cobble up in my free time. My PC being close to 10 years old, I'm a bit low in memory & processing power, it's hard to make a real crowd.

  2. I can think of a fair number of "day in the life" scenes in the original Star Trek: Kirk and Spock relaxing over a game of chess, Sulu spending time with his plants, Spock playing his harp, Kirk exercising in the gym, everyone at some time or other getting something to eat in the galley.

    As for the "This is a TV series" vs. "You live in this universe" dichotomy, I always opt for the latter. I don't want to feel like I'm playing a character in a television show. I want to feel like I'm a person in the universe that the television show is about. In my experience, role-playing is best when it goes beyond the boundaries of the traditional story rather than aping it.

    1. I can appreciate both approaches and indeed the former is sometimes necessary for casual games with players who don't immerse or invest themselves to the level we did in our youth.

      That said, your personal preference and mine are the same Gordon. I would much rather live in the Star Trek universe than be a character on one of its shows.