As part of our efforts to be the one-stop-shop for all things in Star Trek Adventures fandom, I am continuing to track down the creative minds behind the game. It’s been a while since I have interviewed someone. (Are they all avoiding me?)
I was able to track down Michael Duxbury while he was playing Star Wars on the Narendra Station holodeck. Michael is a British London-based roleplayer and Games Master. On his website, michaelduxbury.com, he says, “I’ve run more than thirty RPG campaigns in the last decade using many different gaming systems and played in over a dozen.”
Duxbury is the writer of The Ghost Writer, a fantastic, free, and short campaign available to be played in Modiphia Issue #3 (Spring 2018).
Alright, then. We have some question for you Mr. Duxbury. We share the same initials, so will here is an easy key to figure out who is talking during the interview. Bold is MD. Regular font is MD.
How did you get involved with working on the Star Trek Adventures game?
I was on a Modiphius emailing list after signing up for the Star Trek Adventures open beta and received a link to Modiphia Issue 1, the company’s new ezine. I downloaded a copy, read through, and noticed in the final pages an invitation for community submissions. Since I was already preparing scenarios for my group’s Star Trek campaign anyway, I thought I’d write one up properly and send it across for Modiphius’ consideration. Lucky for me, they liked it!
A few months went by with the team at Modiphia making some editorial changes, sprucing it up with some art direction; all that good stuff. Though the piece was originally intended for publishing in Issue 2, the receipt of A Vulture Among the Stars by Fred Love led to the editors deciding to postpone until Issue 3, rather than include two Star Trek adventures in the same volume. About a year after I’d first put pen to paper, I got to download the finished piece.
How much creative freedom were you given when you were commissioned to work on the project?
Almost total. The only restriction I remember from the Modiphia editing team was to try and mirror the length of Issue 1’s community submission about Generic Bauhaus Noble Houses for Mutant Chronicles. The Ghost Writer ended up being a little longer than that, but two and a half pages are obviously much shorter than the typical adventure module. I hope that in an adventure that revolves around personal philosophy and in-character discussion a less substantial framework will give gaming groups the space they need to tailor the scenario to their specific characters.
As for where creative input did come from, I was inspired by the more philosophical, less violent Star Trek episodes that so regularly top fan votes for the best stories in the show’s history. The Measure of a Man (TNG S2 E9) gets an explicit shout out in the module, focussed as it is on the right of artificial life to defy the wishes of its owner, but I was also inspired by episodes like Family (TNG S4 E2) and its examination of both family dysfunction and personal grief or trauma. And for sure, in the most clichéd way possible, I was channeling much of my own Daddy issues into the module. I lost my own father unexpectedly, eighteen months before writing The Ghost Writer, and was still feeling so many conflicting instincts: abandonment, condemnation, regret, and a desire to forget everything and move on. It’s fair to say there’s a lot of myself in Marina Lazopolous.
What was your favorite part of doing a gaming module for Star Trek Adventures?
Playtesting the adventure with my own gaming group and discovering that, yes, the module was fun to play. Plus, it was substantial enough to support a full session of bargaining and discussion.
My perception is that the best Star Trek stories present a dramatic challenge with two obvious solutions: the logical but heartless, hyper-efficient choice; or the emotionally slanted, heart-not-your-head option. It’s then on the officers of Starfleet to devise the third way, the balance between those solutions. (Shout out at this stage to one of my favorite Star Trek RPGs, Lasers and Feelings, which reduces all game mechanics to this single dichotomy and in doing so fits the whole rulebook onto one page of paper.)
That’s exactly how the situation played out when my gaming group took on The Ghost Writer. Perfectly reflecting the Spock/Kirk/Bones mould (or the id/ego/super-ego if you prefer), we had: the logical, philosophically slanted Vulcan captain siding almost entirely with the Ghost Writer; the psychically empathic Betazoid security chief chastising her captain for his insensitivity, and the hot-shot human flight controller working out a rough and ready compromise between them. All without a shot being fired! I won’t spoil the solution they came to of course; that’s for other gaming groups to try and find for themselves.
You will be thrilled to know that one of my crewmembers (a Vulcan/Betazoid) made out with the dead man’s daughter. How is that for high emotions? Speaking of passion, when did your passion for Star Trek first develop?
My first exposure was catching the odd episode of Voyager and Deep Space Nine between The Simpsons and Buffy the Vampire Slayer back when they were all showing on BBC 2 here in the UK. Besides the three new movies, that was as much exposure as I got to Star Trek until Modiphius announced they’d secured rights to releasing an RPG.
I’m sure many people were drawn to the Modiphius’ RPG because of their love of the show, but I came at things in reverse – I came to love Star Trek because of my involvement in the RPG. A Netflix subscription and the fortuitous upload of a great many Star Trek series’ onto that platform around the same time certainly helped. I inhaled my way through as many episodes as I could, internalizing the rhythm that the shows ran on and replicating that as much as possible in my home campaigns. If I had to pinpoint a specific moment to when my interest in Star Trek developed into a full-blown passion, I’d say the final scenes of Duet (DS9 S1 E19) when the identity of Kira’s Cardassian captive is finally revealed. God, that episode broke me.
What advice do you have for any writers looking into publishing work for role-playing games?
Haha. I could use some of that advice myself! I still think of myself as on the outside of the industry trying to break in. For the record though, I spend several hours a week doing the following:
- Applying to open calls and freelance vacancies whenever they’re advertised by companies whose roleplaying games I like.
- Contacting organizers of Kickstarters-in-progress to see if they need help with stretch goals on projects that have been unexpectedly successful.
- Entering roleplaying game design competitions, such as Game Chef or the 200 Word RPG Challenge.
- Working on my own indie RPGs, with a view to self-publishing on DriveThruRPG (the various Community Content organizers are useful for this, as they have useable art and templates to assist those like me without experience in graphic design).
- Attending conventions and gaming clubs – for the fun of it, but also to get my face known and do some <struggles not to choke on the word> networking.
- Blogging about RPGs on www.MichaelDuxbury.com to raise my profile and provide a ready source of writing samples to interested parties.
- Connecting with my tribe on social media, especially Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
Do all that for a few years and you, like me, could achieve the nano-success of 3 to 4 e-publishing credits, mostly unpaid. Alternatively, do what many successful people do: hope you have a friend who already works in the industry.
What would our readers find you doing if it isn’t writing/playing RPGs?
I do play a lot of RPGs! But I also love watching movies, playing board and card games, eating junk food and spending time with friends. And if that’s time spent roleplaying, so much the better!
Duxbury, you are incredible. Keep writing! Keep blogging! Here is rooting for you to make it bigger than “nano” one day!