Every fan dreams of taking their hobby and making it into a little extra cash. But very few have the gumption, drive, and sticktoitiveness to dedicate decades to perfecting their craft.
Not so with Troy Mepyans, writer of “Ends and Means”, a standalone 24-page PDF adventure for the Star Trek Adventures RPG. “Ends and Means” pitches your Starfleet crew into the middle of a tense negotiation between the rival factions of Tolen IV.
Troy’s work challenges you to bring an end to the dispute before it spills over into civil war. Since the module promises intrigue, action and adventure, I had to corner Troy over Discord and get more details about how he developed this story.
Michael: How did you get involved in writing for RPGs?
Troy: I really got started when I was a kid playing AD&D by writing down the adventures I was going on so I could relate them to my friends. I got started “officially” writing for RPGs when my friend came to me with an idea for a D&D campaign set in the world I had just created for the game. Together we worked on “Whispers of Starfall” and published it under the name of Dragon-Knight Publishing LLC via Kickstarter and Lulu.com. I have also published several fantasy adventure novels over the last eight years or so based on many of the characters my friends and I have created over all our years of gaming.
How did you get involved with working on the Star Trek Adventures game then?
I was part of the original playtest when Modiphius first announced they had acquired the license and they were advertising that they wanted writers and artists to do work on the game. I jumped at the chance and submitted my list of works for Sam Webb to look over before he offered me the opportunity to submit an idea for an episode. I had my first draft to him about two weeks later for “Ends and Means”.
From there on it was a learning curve for me working with editing and the back and forth that goes on when working for someone other than myself; but Sam and Jim were great with being patient and getting me through to the finished product.
How would you compare STA to other games you have worked on?
STA is very different from D&D in its design and intent. Star Trek is such a different breed of cat when it comes to the way that it’s presented on the screen, and STA has captured that brilliantly.
While D&D is your classic “go in the dungeon, fight the bad guys, find loot, repeat” format, STA takes players into the Star Trek universe. Negotiation, exploration, and teamwork are some key components to a successful game. With the Threat/Momentum system both players and GMs work together to form and shape the story that’s being told while D&D really doesn’t naturally include that element in the game mechanics.
You wrote “Ends and Means”. Let me post the premise here.
“STARDATE 48326.3, our mission is to proceed to the Federation protectorate world of Tolen IV to help mediate a disagreement between two rival factions.
“The government of Tolen IV wishes to remain under the Federation’s protection, with the hopes of joining as a member world later. Their opposition wishes for Tolen IV to withdraw itself from Federation protection to take its place in the galactic community on its own terms. Tolen IV is located near the Romulan Neutral Zone and, thus, is in a strategic location for Starfleet to monitor Romulan activity and is also rich in dilithium, tritanium, and trillium-D, so the mining rights of the planet’s surface are of great interest to the Tolen people and to their more powerful neighbours.
“This will require all my crew’s skills of tact, diplomacy, and negotiation, if we’re to come to a peaceful resolution which satisfies both factions, as well as the interests of Starfleet.”
How did that idea develop?
I started writing “Ends and Means” in the aftermath of the last presidential election. I drew upon the deep divisions between the two sides that were being played out in the media and online. I also borrowed from the current situation with Puerto Rico where they’ve been entertaining the idea of becoming a state, becoming independent or maintaining their status as a territory of the United States. I wanted to present the players with something that challenged their abilities when it came to dealing with two very different sides while maintaining their own neutrality, even in the face of danger.
What were some challenges the module posed to you?
The hardest thing I encountered was tracking down the various possibilities that players would face depending on the decisions they made during the adventure and making sure that there was some guidance for GMs on where to go and how to handle those decisions.
Star Trek has often used current events and social issues as a skeleton for their plots. Looking back on past franchise episodes, what storylines did you sense a correlation to modern events or issues? Any favorites?
I think that a couple of episodes were in the back of my mind with “Balance of Terror” being a big one. Not so much the bigotry, but the level of distrust and rebellion in the crew toward their own commanders (the government).
I think the other one would be the TNG episode “The Pegasus” which showed that conflict between superiors and subordinates again and the differences in trust and distrust between them.
“Ends and Means” was trying to show how there can be that kind of conflict while both sides have valid points but neither side is willing to give an inch, much like politics today, unfortunately.
My favorite episode would be “Balance of Terror”, though, as I loved Mark Lenard’s performance in that episode and I love Romulans as villains in any episode.
What was your favorite part of doing a gaming module for Star Trek Adventures? How many have you done so far?
My favorite part was the challenge of trying to capture the feeling of being in an episode of Star Trek and introducing a new world and race into the universe for players and GMs to come back to in future adventures if they choose to.
I’ve actually got several episode ideas submitted to Jim Johnson, one of which has been commissioned but is still in the early stages of editing. Other projects may be coming in the future.
When did your passion for Star Trek first develop?
My first exposure to Star Trek was watching some of the reruns on network TV when I would be up with an ear-ache or stomach bug and my dad would sit up with me. I was pretty young, but I learned who the characters were and the name “Enterprise” meant something to me.
I really came into being a fan back in 1991 after I graduated from high school and I picked up the old FASA Star Trek RPG for my gaming group. A friend was a die-hard fan and we binge-watched the movies and TOS while also getting into TNG. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Do you play STA on the regular? If so, what is your crew like? What character do you play?
I do indeed! (laughs) I play two characters in your Discord game onboard the USS PIONEER: Commander Jilel (a Romulan first officer), and Lt. JG Annelle Galven (a human-Jem’hadar hybrid security chief created in an illegal laboratory).
The crew is fantastic, and I’ve been involved in a few episodes to this day which all feel like actually being in an episode of the show.
I, of course, as your esteemed gamemaster, am so happy to hear that. I might slip a couple extra momentum into your back pocket for that epic display of brown-nosing. What have you noticed about public reaction to Star Trek Adventures?
Public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive in my experience; gamers were hungry for a chance to delve into the Final Frontier and have really taken to the system quickly. I think it is so different in its premise and the way it really embraces the source material that brings people to it. Star Trek fans and gamers love to feel like they make a difference in the story and want stories that move them, and that’s why this is so different.
Who is your favorite character in Star Trek? Why?
I always loved Dr. McCoy. He was the most down-to-earth man and reflected a lot of the personality and attitudes of the times in which the shows and movies were created, which made him a character I could relate to. He had a great deal of compassion and passion. He lived in the 23rd century but was very 20th century in many of the ways he thought and acted.
What is your favorite part of the Star Trek canon? (TV, movies, book) Which series do you like the best?
I love the lore; the overall history of the stories being woven together to create an entire universe that spans centuries. Over the decades it has never lost sight of the wonder that is the human adventure, and the ability to make people think about modern issues while exploring the future.
What would our readers find you doing if it isn’t writing/playing RPGs?
Probably working on a novel or story of some kind while my youngest is at high school. After school I’m most likely running errands of some kind or helping to get dinner ready at home. I’m a big football and NASCAR fan, so I’ll be in front of the TV if there’s a game or race on.
Last question: If you were a component on a starship, what component would you be?
Hmmm…I think I’d be the sensors; always at the front of things and scoping out the new and unusual. I always pictured myself as a science officer on a starship, so that’s probably where I’d end up as part of one. (Of course, my wife would probably say I’m a phaser because I’m always shooting off at the mouth! LOL)
Well, Troy, I think we will let the wife win on this one. They tend to be right most of the time. (Or that is what a wise husband lets them believe to keep the peace.)
Thanks so much for the interview AND for being one of my most active and creative players. For those of you who want to check out more of Troy’s endeavors, here are some cool links.