Once in a while I run a holodeck simulation and one of the characters takes on sentience. This happened with Joe Rixman, Star Trek Adventures RPG writer and man-who-looks-like-he-spotted-an-incoming-shuttlecraft. I was able to get this hologram-of-a-man to talk about his recent escapades to find out what makes his photons jitter.
Michael: How did you get involved with working on the Star Trek Adventures game?
Joe: I am a huge Trek fan and have been my entire life. I saw that Modiphius was advertising new Trek products and queried them. Once I did that, I had to pitch my ideas to them and, thankfully, they gave me the opportunity to work on my first Trek project, which was These are the Voyages. When Strange New Worlds was being developed, I was asked to pitch more ideas. Again, I am blessed to have had my pitch accepted. Writing for Trek is, without question, a dream come true for me.
You wrote “That Which Is Unknown” and “No Good Deed” in the These Are the Voyages and the Strange New Worlds compendiums, respectively. How much creative freedom were you given when you were commissioned to work on the projects?
Well, I had to pitch my story idea, after which the story needed approval from CBS licensing. However, I can say that, from a creative standpoint, Modiphius gave me all the freedom in the world to create the story I pitched to them and work it into the Modiphius framework.
Having worked in the industry previously as a writer for the RPG Vampire: The Requiem, as well as the MMO, EVE Online, and being a Star Trek nerd, I was also consciously aware of what might or might not work from both a fan’s point of view and the corporate point of view. Coming up with stories that would work for players, developers and corporate entities, as well as my own personal tastes, was part of the fun of it all.
What was your favorite part of doing a gaming module for Star Trek Adventures? How many have you done so far?
My favorite part of writing, in general, is the actual creative process, finding a story that excites me as a Trekker, tossing in a couple Easter eggs for die-hard fans.
(For example, my first adventure worked with a species mention in only one Next Generation episode that I thought was really fun. I mixed in how I thought they might interact with both the Federation and their antagonists.)
My second adventure uses another species in Trek lore never seen and rarely spoken about that I wanted to give life to, so to speak. That’s the kind of thing I love most about writing for Trek, the ability to explore an infinite universe of possibilities.
Strange New Worlds introduces my second adventure for Star Trek.
When did your passion for Star Trek first develop? What was your first exposure to Star Trek?
My passion developed when I was about 5 years old and my parents introduced me to the Original Series. As a kid, the thought of being on the bridge of the Enterprise and exploring the universe was all my imagination could handle.
Oddly enough, I often empathized with Mr. Spock and would attempt to play this emotionless rock when things got tough for me. Spock helped me get over the emotional hurdles that threatened to overwhelm me. Kirk gave me the courage to forge ahead despite potential dangers. McCoy allowed me to feel the emotions when it was safe to do so. I sounds cliché, but Trek has a lot to do with saving my life and keeping me safe during my early teen and teen years.
Do you play STA on the regular?
I don’t play it nearly as much as I would like. I work full time as a Community Corrections Officer for the Washington State Department of Corrections (parole officer, basically), and in my spare time, I work on my novels, short stories, and other projects.
I am also working on my Masters Degree in History. My family and I work at having one game night a week, which equates to about once a month with all of our various time constraints. I do the best I can to play as often as possible!
Busy, busy man. I am impressed. When you do have time, what character do you play?
Thus far, I’ve been the storyteller for my games and, when the time comes, I would probably play a character not in charge of making all the decisions all the time. I’d allow my fellow players to order me around. Basically, I’d probably play a red shirt (with the hope of commanding one day, if I make it).
What have you noticed about public reaction to the game? What about STA struck a different chord with the public do you think?
From what I hear, people who play the game love it.
I’ve worked with so many talented writers on these projects, including Trek novelists, who force each and every one of us to bring our “A” game to the table. The fans demand that and they deserve it. Everything I’ve heard is that we’ve given them what they want, which is a framework to tell stories with their friends, present them with dilemmas and problems to solve, and, most importantly, give them the sense that they are working for a cause greater than their own.
That’s what Trek is all about and that’s what we, as writers, always strive to provide. STA gives players the ability to be a character in their own Star Trek sandbox.
“We’re more inclined to wallow in fear and in the past than face the challenges of the unknown. We need to get past that if we are to survive.”
Certainly, other games give players the opportunity to play different sides of themselves (Vampire: The Requiem allows them to delve into things that force the players to fight for their humanity, for example). STA allows players to not only express their humanity but push the boundaries of what they can do in their real lives.
Few of us will ever get out to space in our lifetimes, (unless we’re lucky) and STA gives us the chance to do so in our imaginations, and to share that with friends with similar goals and hopes.
In the end, Star Trek is about hope for the future and, right now, the world needs that more than ever. That’s why I think Star Trek is resonating so much now. It is a light guiding humanity’s future. And yes, I’m a romantic idealist.
Who is your favorite character in Star Trek? Why?
My favorite character in Trek has to be Benjamin Sisko.
What Avery Brooks brought to the role was not just a leading man of color, but a single father, leading a station filled with aliens of varying agendas and needs. Sisko learned to compromise and work with every one of them, gaining their respect and, as a viewer, gaining our respect as well. He had numerous flaws, one of which I can relate to, which is to become obsessed with the current project he’s working on at any given time. He always came back to himself though, sometimes with the help of his loved ones and family.
He was loyal and a kind commanding officer, but he brooked no BS and he tolerated no fools. He did what he had to do to solve problems. He didn’t play the blame game and whine about being unable to get what he needed. He took action and he took risks. His goal, however, was always to solve the problem at hand.
You have to admire that outlook, especially in this day and age!
What is your favorite part of the Star Trek canon? (TV, movies, book) Which series do you like the best?
I am not what you would call a “strict canonist.” From a creative standpoint, canonical constraints limit creativity. Having said that, whenever I think of Trek, I think of the opening lines: “Space. The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It’s 5-year mission, to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man (where no ONE) has gone before!”
Knowing that every week, our heroes will be challenged in some unexpected way to become better versions of themselves just makes me happy to think about. If only we, as a society, could do that now, I think we’d be a happier species. We’re more inclined to wallow in fear and in the past than face the challenges of the unknown. We need to get past that if we are to survive.
My favorite series, hands down, is Deep Space Nine. No other series gave us more characters, with more arcs in their characters and beliefs than DS9. Sisko went from not wanting to be there to become not only the spiritual head of an entire planet but the savior of the Federation (and he did so by being human, flaws and all). Kira went from disliking the Federation to trusting them implicitly, etc. No other series gave us a supporting cast so rich in details and histories; from Rom, to Nog, to Garack, to Damar, to Commander Eddington. Heck, ALL of them.
What would our readers find you doing if it isn’t writing/playing RPGs?
I am almost always doing writing or reading of some sort or another. I read every Trek novel that comes out, as well as anything from Stephen King, David Morrell, John Connelly, Michael Connelly, and Don Winslow.
I am also reading tons of books about American history for class (currently reading about Sandra Day O’Connor and other powerful women of the 20th Century) and will be transitioning to Civil War material for the rest of my classes and thesis. Then, I’m working on my 2nd novel, editing my first novel, writing short stories in between class papers, and working with offenders to help them make the change from a criminal mindset to a law-abiding one.
You are the ultimate idealist who is actually putting into action what you say you believe in. I am inspired and about to cry. Since I love stifling true emotion, let me switch back to my goofy self and ask: If you were a component on a starship, what component would you be?
What an awesome question! HA! I guess, based on my work and personality, I’d have to be the primary sensor array.
I’m always on the lookout for new people, new adventures and I love traveling to places I’ve never been to before. Having said that, I tend to be very cautious in my approach to new things, looking for danger and avoiding those pesky bits of stellar dust that can rip a hull apart.
Joe Rixman, you made my month! I am glad you are not a hologram because we need more real people like you on this planet. How nice that we have you vision and talent inspiring us all to “go where no one has gone before” with our imaginations!