Mission Log Tips: Fleshing Out NPCs

Zzet, the Pioneer‘s transporter chief.

Anyone who had followed my RPG adventures know that I might be the ultimate  geek GM. For years, I have played Marvel RPGs. And, after each game, I write up the story. [Take a peek at my Marvel Heroic blog.]

I do that same for the games played in Star Trek Adventures.

Usually, most RPG games are filled with the actions and dialog of the player characters. But, I like to occasionally stray from them and highlight the NPCs. This fleshes out the story and gives me threads I might pull on later in a campaign.

Let me give an example by providing a story excerpt from the Decision Point mini-novel, the story I wrote up after playing the first playtest adventure from Modiphius.

Scene Synopsis: The crew of the U.S.S. Pioneer have forcibly transported to the ship two errant scientists intent on violating the Prime Directive to save a pre-warp civilization from extinction. Commander Jilel, the ship’s XO and a Romulan, arrives with a security team to secure the two scientists.

The transporter chief, ZZet, stood at his station flanked by two of the Pioneer’s security personnel. A blue-uniformed medical officer stood by also. Commander Jilel and Lieutenant Ali entered the transporter room. The two security officers kept their phasers trained on their impromptu guests. Dr. Emmet Sherman and Doctor Orimu Faz stood on the transporter pad. Sherman seemed angry; Faz, nervous.

Sherman didn’t wait to speak. “So, I take it we are under arrest now?”

Jilel ticked items off on his fingers, “Disregard for the Prime Directive. Blatant contempt for Starfleet officers and commands. Illegal appropriation of a Starfleet shuttle. I think those three things warrant your arrest. And before you say anything, doctor, the Pioneer was dispatched to recover you and your colleagues. So, yes. This is a Starfleet mission that is subject to Starfleet regulations.” The commander let that sink in for a few seconds. “Indeed. You both are under arrest. I take it you have a problem with that.”

Zzet stood behind the transporter control console. The seasoned officer had to wonder if the commander was purposely trying to antagonize the doctors. As like fellow members of his Bzzit Khakt race, Zzet’s amphibious facial expressions were highly animated. His large, green eyes blinked in wonder and anticipation as the overhead lights made his moist skin glistened. A Bzzit Khakt could not easily hide its emotions. Zzet’s people had been part of the Federation for over one hundred years; so extensive contact with Humans made them fairly easy to read. Romulans, not so much. Jilel was an oddity in Starfleet. Zzet spent most of his working hours in the transporter room or in the lower decks. As such, he hadn’t had time to study the copper-skinned commander enough to feel confident he could read his emotions and decipher his motives. Of course, it could be worse. Jilel could be Vulcan, close cousins to the Romulans. Vulcans were impossible to read and Bzzit Khakt’s preferred to avoid the early-Federation founders who took great pride in not exhibiting emotions. Now, Zzet was trying to read Doctor Sherman. He could definitely tell that Sherman bore great animosity toward Starfleet and his next words proved it.

“I will always have a problem with Starfleet,” the dark-skinned doctor growled.

Commander Jilel already knew this. On his way to the transporter room, he made a quick study of Sherman’s Federation record. He knew about the events at Starbase 58; the loss of his wife.

“Tell me, commander, how did a Romulan end up serving on a Federation vessel? And a Starfleet one, no less?” the doctor questioned.

Dr. Faz was made highly uncomfortable by the verbal sparring. It was obvious that the idea of being arrested did not sit well with him. “Commander, I assure you. We only wanted to do good. We meant no lasting harm.” He took a step forward. Ali also took a step forward to keep the Trill from getting any closer to her commanding officer, which made Faz halt his advance.

Jilel’s communicator chirped before he could respond.

James to Jilel.

He tapped the communicator on his chest as the tension in the room baked. “Jilel here.”

Commander, everything checks out. With the exception of the decoupled impulse engines, the Gilead is in good order. Interestingly, I found a broadcast message queued up in the comm system. Seems it was meant to go out to every video and radio system on the planet. I gave it a quick go over. Dr. Faz was about to expose our entire operation to the Lormean population.

Jilel shook his head. “Dr. Faz, are you really so arrogant as to believe that your sensibilities trump the combined wisdom of dozens of species over hundreds of years of development? You have no idea what you are doing. At least Dr. Sherman’s selfish and contemptuous attitude has some explanation. He blames others for things out of his control. Deep emotional pain has caused him to exhibit irrational behavior. But you, Dr. Faz? Your vain, cavalier attitude has no excuse.”

The commander rounded on Dr. Sherman. “And you. Your story is one that would bring an emotional response to many. But to play god to a whole species just to fuel your personal feud with Starfleet?” He paused. Quietly and seriously with an icy tone, Jilel said: “You are a coward.” Jilel commanded the security team, “Lock them both in the brig.”

Ali and her team removed the doctors from the transporter room. Jilel took a moment to think about what just transpired. Then he performed an about-face and exited.

Zzet let out a big sigh. He was glad that that was over with.


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