Flying Eggs No More

STAnnihlate

The Original Series of Star Trek enjoyed visionary stories, ground-breaking characters, exciting locales, and great special effects.  All of those qualities have stood the test of time, except for the special effects.  As is evident by the remastered episodes, this is an understood effect due to the advent of CGI.  Simply put, the dreams woven by Star Trek’s visionaries are far easier to realize with CGI than models and celluloid shading.  No better example of this exists than the neural parasites of Deneva.

Encountered in “Operation – Annihilate!”, episode 29 of season 1 of Star Trek (The Original Series) (found here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation:_Annihilate!), these terrifying creatures resembled little more than quivering, fried eggs.  The concept of the episode was chilling and unnerving:  the Enterprise crew encounters a planet overrun by alien parasites that induce insanity.  To explorers, this is a nightmare manifested.  For a child watching this episode in syndication in the late 70s, it was near-comical.  There really is nothing frightening about a quivering, fried egg, even when…or especially when…thrown and “stuck” to your favorite half-human/half-Vulcan’s back.

It should be clear, then, that the episode begged for a re-imagined staging during the Star Trek campaign I ran.  The story was sound and the unlimited SF/X budget afforded any tabletop RPG group fit the need perfectly.  And so, “Operation – Annihilate!” served as the basis for the first episode of Season Two.  Of course, this episode also introduced the crew’s new captain and their new ship, this alternate universe’s equivalent of the “Enterprise”.

Additionally, this proved an ideal time to “promote” all of the PCs and to make them full-fledged department heads.  This move granted each player a greater degree of narrative influence, both in access to the captain, as well as freedom to design and introduce crew in their department.  In essence, it served to heighten player ownership and involvement in the ever-growing universe and story that was our Star Trek game.

So, for your enjoyment, here is the next episode of our continuing voyages…

Episode 7 Infestation

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Grab On and Hold Tight

spacestation

When I set out to put together, and run, a Star Trek campaign, I insisted on emulating the television series over the films.  They lent themselves better to a long-term tabletop campaign, with the styles, themes, and development mirroring one another quite nicely.  Therefore, each “adventure” needed to be a complete “episode”, one that mostly told its tale, but that continued to chew on material introduced earlier, while adding just a bit more.  Eventually, as episodes occurred and moved into “lore” the universe deepened and grew more complex.  There were names, ship, system, personnel, and otherwise, each carrying a bit of flavor and history which collectively created a vivid fabric for our games.

Likewise, I planned from the very beginning, to run in “seasons”.  Each season was given its overall storytelling “task”.  Season One’s task was straightforward enough:  introduce the players to the setting and establish the stage for the following seasons.  Like any good season, the season finale needed to be exciting.  It needed to answer a few questions, but pose even more.  It needed to kick that “want for more” in the behind and get the players begging for the next episode immediately.  It needed to be BIG.

Therefore, for the first time in several episodes, we returned to original content, playing more on information provided all the way back in episode one.  Here, at least to the audience, we finally reveal what happened in the first episode’s opening sequence.  And I’ll tell you, my players ate it up.

This was a big episode, both in scope and in mechanics.  It was the first “large scale combat” ran for the Star Trek game.  A good chunk of that conflict was kept to narration, with “pocket events” doled to the players to, not only keep them engaged, but give them power to help shape the conflict.  Granted, to set things up for what was to come, there wasn’t actually a tremendous amount of influence that could be had.  In fact, the episode winds up playing a bit more like a natural disaster movie in that the main characters can’t really thwart the “doom”, but instead are scrambling to find a way to survive.  While that is far more “railroading” than I am normally comfortable with, it was all done for very good reasons.

And that survival was vital, it enabled the setup that would come in following episodes to work that much better.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  For now, let’s just enjoy the exciting catastrophe that is Day Zero.

Episode 6 Day Zero

Captain, My Captain

Space Seed

This post comes at an ideal time, what with the new Star Trek movie playing in theaters.  This one continues the concept of “modernizing” classic Star Trek episodes, in this case “Space Seed”.  This is the story that introduced one of science fiction and Star Trek’s most notorious villains, Kahn.

As with previous examinations, it was quickly determined that the story, as it was, would not translate well for tabletop gaming.  Frequently, television shows focus on one or two characters at a time.  They do this for many good reasons, with available time and budget being two primary ones.  Roleplaying games have an unlimited SFX budget, we gamers are limited only by what we imagine.  Time may be a bit more tricky, but typical gaming sessions often last far longer than a one hour program run.  Because of this, and because most game groups consist of three to six participants, stories that focus on one or two characters require tinkering to make them work.

Of course, then there’s also the notion of wanting to leave your own “finger print” on something reimagined.  So, there are changes.

When I ran this episode for my players, they all knew what was coming very early on.  Anyone who has seen Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Kahn will probably figure things out, and fans of the original series will see the writing on the wall.  For us, however, that was half the fun.  My players did not see this as an opportunity to erase Kahn from the story, rather they took it as an opportunity to help fulfill his placement and position him to become a reoccurring villain of their own.  It was a creative challenge and exhilarating to experience.

There is a correlating subject related to my comment about group sizes that I think needs to be addressed.  Astute readers of these adventures may have already picked this up, but I think it is important to call this out and offer some explanation.  In the Star Trek game I ran there was no Player Character Captain.  The Captain of the ship (in this case, Pike) was an NPC.  This was done intentionally.  First, it enabled the players to each take “ownership” for a specific branch.  Second, it eliminated the notion of one player “out ranking” the other players.  Third, it kept a central character as a “mission-giver” or patron to the players’ actions.  The players can still, ultimately, be “in charge” of their own destinies by guiding the Captain’s “decisions” in a more “meta” sense. Of course, this isn’t etched in stone, but it worked splendidly for our campaign and I would urge others to do the same.

Either way, the goal remains the same:  have fun! So, without any further delay, here’s the next episode:

Episode 5 Kings of Old

Too Far Gorn

STArena

Ahhh…good times.  First contact.  Ripped uniforms.  Foam rocks.  Latex masks.  Double-fisted punches.  Old school choreography.

Last post we talked a bit about the notion of taking a fan-favorite Original Series Star Trek episode and modernizing it for group-style roleplaying.  This post embraces that concept in a full bear-hug, squeezes as hard as it can, and asks for a giant foam rock to throw at your favorite Starfleet officer.

The episode in question is “The Arena”, episode 18 of season 1 of the Original Series (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arena_(Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series).  It is a beloved episode that plays much better in memory than in viewing.  The story is fairly solid, and I recall it being pretty intense when I was a kid.  Compared to the frenetic action sequences of today’s media, however, it plays like a snail-race.  Thus, for me, it begged for modernization.

When I rewatched the episode, I noticed something vital for a tabletop game:  as written, it would not play well for group activity.  The majority of the episode involves the crew watching Kirk fight his Gorn opponent as if it were a boxing match.  Certainly, the commentary concerning violence as a sport and the like can be debated, but for most RP groups (mine included) that would not be an enjoyable session.

So, some modifications had to be made to turn the adventure into more of a group activity.  This started as a subtle change that wound up altering the entirety of the episodes presentation and progression.  I strove, however, to maintain a loyalty to the original concept, while putting a greater emphasis on player involvement, as well as discovery, in particular maintaining the core concept of “uncertainty in exploration”.

The end result is for your judgment, however.  Therefore, I proudly introduce episode 4…

Episode 4 Ancient Claim

To Explore Strange New Worlds…

English: Logo from the television program Star...

English: Logo from the television program Star Trek: TOS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part of the fun of Star Trek is exploration.  Exploration of exotic places as well as concepts.  That was the general idea behind this episode, exploring the unknown.  Another goal of this episode was to mirror the mundane with the unusual in an effort to highlight the broad spectrum of life a Starfleet Officer was likely to find when traveling amongst the stars.

As with all of the episodes I wrote for our game, there are small Easter Eggs hidden here and there within the adventure’s text and action for the astute Trekkie.

This episode lacks new alien species and starships.  Instead it introduces elements and situations encouraging classic Star Trek solutions, urging players to think outside the box and push the narrative influence a system like FATE enables.

Let me know what you think.  If you do play through the episode, I’d love to hear the solutions your crew came up with to overcome their challenges.

Episode 2 Rogue Planet

May the Fourth Be With You

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Star Wars Day!  (Didn’t know?  Here’s a cool site dedicated to the “holiday”:  http://maythe4th.starwars.com/)

What a great time to be a “Starhound”, huh?  We’ve had recent announcements of new movies (http://screenrant.com/new-star-wars-movies-episode-7-summer-release-date-2015/ and an interview with JJ Abrams, here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/movies/j-j-abrams-on-his-new-star-trek-and-star-wars-films.html?pagewanted=all), new cartoon (http://www.newsarama.com/17635-2-minutes-20-seconds-of-brand-new-star-wars-the-clone-wars.html), and a new RPG (http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=232&enmi=Star Wars: Edge of the Empire)!

Celebrate the day and May the Fourth Be With You!

The Littlest Things

Day 175...One Ring

Day 175…One Ring (Photo credit: bandita)

There are some stories that have enduring and tremendous mass appeal, often bridging multiple media forms.  Some are based on real world (often tragic) events, most are fictional, guided and maintained by the imagination.  For the geeks of the world, a vast menu of appealing delicacies exist.  Whether science fiction like Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, or Doctor Who or fantasy like The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, we geeks have choices.  On this particular occasion, it is the tale of a Ring that grabbed my interest.

Two years ago, at GenCon 2011, a fascinating and exciting print release hit the market.  Spinning off the feverish fandom of The Lord of the Rings, while taking the brave (and so very appropriate) approach of the novel rather than the more modern media of film, was a Hobbit-oriented role-playing game publication called The One Ring:  Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild.

Published by Cubicle 7, and found here on the web:  http://www.cubicle7.co.uk/our-games/the-one-ring/, The One Ring took an intriguing approach to classic fantasy gaming.  Some of the staples were there to create the classic adventure:  warriors, rogues, monsters, treasure, and travel.  However, some expected staples were missing or altered significantly in their presentation.  This was not a deterrent, this was a boon.

Magic, as it had come to typically be expected in gaming circles, present as arcane auras, fiery blasts, and otherworldy summons, was altogether missing.  Certainly, some of the special powers that player heroes could acquire would be branded as magic, but the expected “norm” simply was not to be.  Similarly, while ancient tombs existed to be examined and plundered,  The One Ring’s gameplay — much like the literature from which it was derived — largely focused on the journey (and companionship) rather than the destination.  These differences set the game apart from other fantasy role-playing games instantly and became a source of pro- and con- debate for many admirers and fans.

The game, as should be apparent from my words above, interested me.  As always, never one to be satisfied with things as they are printed by another, I found things, “small things” that I felt should be added to, enhanced, and otherwise subjected to my creative stamp.  This came primarily as new talents, some additional conflict maneuvers, and a handful of weapons gathered together in a relatively brief document titled “Woven Shadows”.

So, with a modicum of pride, I showcase this Rules Addendum for The One Ring:  Woven Shadows Rules Addendum