A Review Of Aaron Pollyea’s Tug of War

How did the Star Trek Adventures Tug of War module rate?


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The crew of the USS Pioneer (my player group’s Intrepid-class starship) just finished playing Tug of War, a mission included in Modiphius’ Star Trek Adventures Living Campaign. Writer Aaron Pollyea created a tight module to drop into the story arch. Anyone can take part in the free Living Campaign by signing up here.

This module presented an interesting twist to other missions. It did not feature a living enemy or spaceship battle. But it still tested the Players’ resolve and allowed for a lot of character development if you have a creative group of players.

SYNOPSIS (spoiler alert)

The Player vessel has been on an extended stellar and planetary survey mission on a remote part of the Shackleton Expanse near Sigma Librae and the Romulan Star Empire. An interesting planetary system has appeared on long-range sensors, and on closer inspection, it contains two Class-M planets that orbit each other and show signs of a sublight spacefaring civilization that has recently destroyed itself.

TUG OF WAR crashed something

After surveying the system, the Player vessel attempts to break orbit, but tractor beams from both worlds lock onto the ship. The sheer power of these beams begins crushing the ship’s hull, nearly destroying the ship before the crew can reinforce the structural integrity field. The Romulan Star Empire lays close by, so a distress call to Starfleet Command is out of the question. It’s up to the top minds of the crew to figure out a way to break the hold of these two planetary defense tractor beams and allow the heavily damaged starship to escape. Will the characters be able to save the ship and return to the Federation with the knowledge of two planets that once held intelligent life?


I think one of my player’s described the mission best when he said, “The episode had a good pace that built slowly and culminated in a full-on fight for survival. Loved it!” If you are looking for a module that throws your group into the action rather quickly, this is it.

However, one gamemaster who ran the Tug of War module thought that the story “has gaping logic holes.” He added, “No captain would position the starship where it needs to be for Tug of War to happen. The society is unbelievably ancient to have left so much behind. The scenes on the planet are cool, but the climax of the adventure doesn’t work as well.”

It seems that this particular GM played it differently than how I understood the story. I understood that the sublight species had “recently destroyed” themselves, according to the synopsis. That is how we played it, adding a sense of dread about how two sublight species could have such immense super-weapons. Was there a more intelligent, mega-powerful species behind this? However, I do agree that there was a gap in that Pollyea didn’t give us exactly how this module fits into the Living Campaign. So, I was happily forced to answer that for the players myself.

FILLING IN THE GAPS – An Idea Your Gaming Group Might Want To Use

The link for our crew was in the very first Living Campaign module, Decision Point 2.0. I let the players know that the energies emanating from the world engine located in the core of the Lormean homeworld were of the same tachyon frequency as the machines powering the twin repulsion beams in the Tug of War campaign. I also launched the crew into the Scientific Method. One group went to astrometrics to find a way to break free of the repulsion beams. Another group was tasked with hypothesizing the similarity of the species and planets thus far contacted in the Shackleton Expanse. The second group scoured through all available data. A sharp-eyed astronavigation officer noted that some star charts found in the ruins of a library on the planet gave the indication that the planets had been moved from their original location at some time in the past, just like the Lormean homeworld. (Insert suspenseful music here.)

(To see our entire play report, see Star Trek Pioneer, Season 1, Episode 4: Tug of War.)

With those (and a few more tweaks), this module is a must-have in this epic adventure. Another of my players said, “I liked that we got to explore the Scientific Method and had an Extended Task.”  However, commenting on some of the gaps, he added, “The story was intriguing, perhaps a little too intriguing in that I still feel there is a mystery to be solved at this location. While we escaped safely, our work feels incomplete.”

And another one of my wonderful players stated, “It definitely raised more questions than it answered, which made it seem like part of a larger story. I liked the problem-solving excitement, though I would have liked some more context on the civilizations involved. Maybe that will be in a future scenario?”

As Gamemaster, I like the fact that this leaves some gaps. That feeling of suspense and the mysteries of the unknown is what makes Star Trek what it is. Well, Mr. Pollyea and the crew at Modiphius, our group is looking forward to seeing more mysteries unravel as we continue playing the Living Campaign.


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