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21 June 2024

Returning to Star Trek Adventures: A New Campaign

My Star Trek Adventures campaign that I have previously chronicled here fizzled out with its ninth episode in late 2022 or early 2023, partway through a playthrough of "A Plague of Arias"; it is always hard to schedule a group of academics to do something, and when we did schedule people were always late and/or cancelling at the last minute. Plus two members of our group had moved to Orlando, over an hour away, so attending had become quite a commitment. So that was the end of Beyond the Rim of the Starlight.

But recently I've been jonesing to play again, especially as I made some new friends, coworkers who I thought would both enjoy playing.

So I came up with an idea: if getting academics to do something during the school year is tough because they're always so busy, maybe we could do something over the summer? My idea was that in the summer you could play weekly in the evenings, because no one is teaching or whatever. Now because they don't teach in summer, that means academics all go on trips... but that's fine, character absences are fairly easy to organically work into the STA narrative, you just say that guy didn't beam down that week or they're in engineering or whatever.

I cleared with my wife that a weekly campaign in the summer would be acceptable (as long as we weren't the ones hosting) and then began recruiting. First, I asked the members of my old campaign who were still around; my friend Cari turned me down, considering the weekly commitment too much, but Claire accepted. My team-teachers Ryan and Kenyon were both up for it, and Ryan volunteered to host. Ryan also said his wife and son, Debi and Toren, would be interested, Debi in a general sense and Toren as a pinch-hitter. I also asked Austin, the husband of a colleague. He and his wife host a monthly board game night for our department, so I knew from that he'd be a thoughtful player.

That got me up to five players (plus a part-time sixth), but then it occurred to me that a new-ish professor of psychology whose office is next to mine, Forest, would be a good candidate too. She accepted—and then asked if her husband, Joel, also a big gamer and Star Trek fan, could participate. This would get me up to seven players, but after some soul-searching, I decided it would probably work because there very rarely would be circumstances where all seven were playing at once. (Indeed, Joel is going on a six-week research trip soon.)

We started with a "session zero" (six of the eight players were able to make it), which I broke into three parts.

First, we discussed basic parameters. I asked what the players liked about Star Trek in general and what they would like to see in the game and jotted down a list of notes. Then, we discussed when the game might be set and what style of play they'd like. There were only two things I wanted to veto: after my previous campaign, I wasn't interested in doing "lower decks" again, and I also had no desire to do a war campaign—but I was pretty sure my players weren't interested in one either. They were into a more science/exploration-focused campaign... somewhat intimidatingly, five of my seven players have Ph.D.s in science or math!

Based on the fact that all players were familiar with the TNG-era shows, we settled on a post–Dominion War, pre–Romulan supernova campaign. (2377, for you chronology nerds out there.)

I also had them fill out a "lines and veils" sheet I got from a friendly poster on Reddit.

Second, we played through a simple scene. It occurred to me that it's hard to generate a character meaningfully when you don't know the system, so I had them all pick existing Star Trek characters and pull up their character sheets from the packs that Modiphius gives away. (I think we had Riker, Data, Worf, O'Brien, La Forge, the EMH, and I forget the last one.) I then set the group the challenge of getting through a door, improvising enough problems to give each one a Task roll to make, and explain concepts like assists, Focuses, Values, Momentum, Threat, and Determination. With a premade character, I think these ideas were easier to demonstrate and it gave them an understanding when they built their own characters.

Finally, they built their characters and the ship. The characters they came up with:

  • Ryan as Captain Rucot, a Cardassian captain on a postwar exchange program. I was eager to try out a player captain, having eschewed this in my previous campaign, and while I've played D&D with people I would not trust to be captain, having seen Ryan in the classroom, I felt fairly comfortable with him taking the position. I think there is probably some neat stuff to be done with a Cardassian captain... though I don't know how much we'll get to do with it in the time we have available.
  • Debi as Commander T'Cant, the Vulcan first officer who used to work in Intelligence. Debi ended up writing a pretty interesting backstory, using her own background as a geneticist.
  • Kenyon as Lt. Commander Nevan Jones, chief engineer. Nevan is half-Betazoid, but his mother was human and it was a one-night stand, so he never knew his father and doesn't know how to deal with his empathic powers; he prefers machines because they don't give him any feelings to cope with.
  • Claire as Lieutenant Mooria Loonin, the flight controller and an unjoined Trill. Claire was the one player who carried over from my previous campaign, and expressed a desire to keep the same character. This worked out fine in terms of backstory, as Loonin had been a newly graduated ensign on the command track in 2371; it seemed reasonable she could be a pilot and senior officer by the end of the Dominion War.
  • Austin as Lieutenant Frector, chief of security. Frector is a Ferengi woman who worked as a Starfleet Intelligence asset during the Dominion War and then was fast-tracked to through the Academy afterward. Without much physical prowess, she depends on her contacts and wits to prevent violent situations before they escalate.
  • Forest as Doctor Alita Faraday, chief medical officer. Faraday has a cybernetic implant she designed herself that lets her interface with technology, and a keen interest in cybernetics.
  • Joel as Lieutenant j.g. Oliver Johnson, chief science officer. Newly graduated from Starfleet Academy on the Ph.D. track, Oliver is in his first-ever Starfleet assignment and a bit green. He once travelled through time (for three whole weeks) and is not supposed to talk about it (but tries to find ways to work it into conversation anyway).
  • Toren as Tronen Krackenng, the Klingon counselor. This was based on a joke I made during character creation that Toren took and ran with.

We decided that T'Cant, Jones, and Loonin served on the ship during the Dominion War, while Rucot, Tronen, Frector, Faraday, and Johnson were all newly assigned. It does seem like a lot, but Toren only plays if we don't otherwise have six; in the first five sessions, he's only played twice. So at most, we have six players.

We ended up going with a New Orleans-class ship because of the exploration profile. Jokes about how the crew seemed like the one Starfleet would put on the brochure to show how diverse they were led to them going with the name USS Diversitas.

I wrote up the following paragraph to describe the ship:

The USS Diversitas was launched in 2366, during the Federation’s “New Renaissance” period, after the Cardassian wars had come to an end, before the threats of the Borg or the Dominion had made themselves known, an era when a renewed devotion to exploration spread through Starfleet. Its mission of exploration was interrupted by the Dominion War, where it largely served away from the frontlines but was fairly distinguished nonetheless. A year after the end of the war, its mission of exploration has been renewed, but its captain and several longstanding officers have chosen to retire or move on, resulting in a largely new crew… 

And I made a dedication plaque:

As for the series title? Star Trek: Ekumene, because the ship is going to be exploring the Ekumene sector... but they will discover more about the meaning behind the series title as it continues!

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