Agents of Yesterday, Part 3

Alright! We’re at the end of our run of Agents of Yesterday, the time-displaced expansion for Star Trek Online. The first post in this mini-series just looked at starships of the 26th century and what options you had. The second post looked at eight different spaceframes that feature in the expansion, both 23rd century vessels and the 26th century versions they inspired. Today we’re going to look at one of the story’s most compelling details: time travel.

This post originally appeared on my site Mephit James’ Blog.

Making Timeships

Technically any spaceframe can be a timeship if it has a temporal drive. The following file (based on Talents for the Wells-class spaceframe) lists many options for temporal mechanics Talents that can be added to starships to make them capable of time-traveling. Any ship with at least one of these Talents gains “Timeship” as an additional Trait.

The easiest way to include these Talents is to include it as part of the ship’s original design. The four 26th century spaceframes described last time can include one of these time-travel Talents instead of one of the default Talents listed for the spaceframe. These Talents can also be taken as the bonus Talent for any ship launched after 2500 that has a Mission Profile of Pathfinder and Reconnaissance Operations, Technical Testbed, Scientific and Survey Operations, or Multirole Explorer. Lastly, if a starship has an additional Talent to pick because of its Scale or because of a Milestone then the crew can use one of these Talents to make their ship into a timeship.

In addition, many starships that travel back through time have an integrated piece of equipment called Holographic Camouflage. This will disguise the timeship as a more era-appropriate ship of a similar profile, a large reason why 26th century ship designers began to look at spaceframes from the 23rd century. Installing a holographic camouflage device is an Extended Task but once it is in place it can be activated with a Difficulty 0 Reason + Engineering Task, assisted by the ship’s Computers + Engineering and with a Power requirement of 1. When active, other vessels can detect the holographic projection with a Sensor Sweep Task (core rulebook, p. 222) at Difficulty 2. The GM may adjust the Difficulty for factors including damage to the holographic camouflage and the difference in technological sophistication between the vessels (it should be much easier for a 24th century ship to see through a 26th century disguise than for a 22nd century ship to do the same, for example).

Ranger-class Battlecruiser

Temporal Drives

Timeships are able to travel through time in a similar manner to traveling at warp (finding a shortcut through the time part of spacetime rather than the space part). Traveling through the timestream requires the character at the Helm to spend one or more Power and attempt a Control + Conn Task, assisted by the ship’s Engines + Conn. Talents and other abilities that assist with going to warp might also apply to this Task at the GM’s discretion, including the Improved Warp Drive starship Talent. The Power cost depends on the amount of time that the ship wants to travel through, according to the table below; just as with traveling at warp it. When traveling very far into the past or future, timeships typically find quiet systems to make multiple jumps through.

Time TraveledPowerTime TraveledPower
0-25 years1151-175 years7
26-50 years2176-200 years8
51-75 years3201-225 years9
76-100 years4226-250 years10
101-125 years5251-275 years11
126-150 years6276-300 years12

The Difficulty of the jump might be modified by different terrain features (the anomalies of the Briar Patch, for example, affect time jumps as much as warp jumps). The base Difficulty, however, is equal to 5 minus one for each full ten-hour period that has passed since the ship last made a time jump, to a minimum of 0. If a ship wants to conserve power, for example, with two smaller jumps through time then their first jump will be at Difficulty 0 (assuming no Traits and that it hasn’t jumped in the last few days) and then the ship can wait thirty hours in an intermediate time for a Difficulty 2 Task.

Image © Paramount Pictures

The Light-Speed Breakaway Factor

Rather than relying on a temporal drive, starships might attempt to time-travel using the gravitational slingshot maneuver employed by the U.S.S. Enterprise during the original series epidsode “Tomorrow is Yesterday” and the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This maneuver requires the ship to travel in a tight turn around a massive gravitational body like a large star while moving at high warp. This is a linear challenge (core rulebook, p. 89) requiring precision and focus from the character at the Helm.

  • Plot Trajectory: In many respects, this is like plotting any other course (core rulebook, p. 222). The navigator attempts a Reason + Conn Task with a Difficulty of 3 and they are assisted by the ship’s Computers + Conn. This takes an hour and does not reduce the Difficulty of subsequent Tasks as usual, though the navigator can spend Momentum to do so.
  • Build Speed Towards Source: The pilot next has to gradually increase the ship’s impulse speed as it approaches the calculated vector. Moving at warp speed towards a gravitational source will shear the ship to pieces, something that might happen anyways after any mistakes. The pilot attempts a Control + Conn with a Difficulty of 3, assisted by the ship’s Engines + Conn. This step has a Power requirement of 2. Failure at this stage will result in an unstable trajectory and 3CD damage to the ship, as well as needing to abandon the attempt and start the linear challenge over. The pilot can choose to Succeed at Cost and create a Complication of Course Errors which will increase the Difficulty of rolls for the rest of the challenge.
  • Enter Warp: Once the ship has entered into its trajectory around the gravity source at full impulse, the pilot needs to enter warp at the precise moment to enter the timestream on a temporal trajectory to reach the year they want. This is a Control + Conn Task with a Difficulty of 3, assisted by the ship’s Engines + Conn. This step has a power requirement determined by the time traveled (see Temporal Drives above). Failure will result in 6CD of damage to the ship and any effects rolled are an automatic Breach to the ship’s Engines. The pilot can Succeed at Cost to create a Course Errors Complication (or increase its rating if one already exists).
  • Drop Out of Warp: Once the ship enters warp it is traveling through the timestream towards its target date. The pilot needs to drop out of warp with more precise timing to reach the date desired. This is another Control + Conn Task with a Difficulty of 3, assisted by the ship’s Engines + Conn. There is no Power requirement.
    • Success on this step (including Succeeding at Cost) will bring the ship back into spacetime at the date desired plus or minus 3d20 years. After completing this Task, the pilot can spend up to three Momentum to remove a d20 from this roll. If three Momentum are spent after a successful roll, the ship arrives at the precise date.
    • Failure on this step will bring the ship out at a date which is likely very far from the date the crew was attempting to reach. Add or subtract 5d20 from the desired date to determine when the ship actually arrives. Momentum may not be used to remove d20s from this roll, though add a d20 for each Engine Breach the ship has.

Temporal Operative

Image © CBS

To fully make use of all of these features, you should have a new role on your ship: the Temporal Operative. We’re not talking Dulmur and Lucsly here, these are the agents like Daniels who maintain the timeline and are trained to work undercover. If you’ve got a situation like the Agents of Yesterday storyline where your ship is back in time undercover, the temporal agent might be the lead authority on temporal mechanics and makes sure that the ship follows the temporal prime directive. On the other hand, the temporal operative might mimic Daniels’ own appearances on Star Trek: Enterprise and be some visitor from the future advising the ship in anything they can without compromising the timeline.

Temporal operatives are trained in preserving the timeline, preventing any contamination when crews travel backwards in time and stopping agents of enemy powers who want to hijack the timeline for their own purposes. When attempting a Task dealing with temporal mechanics, the temporal directive, or the completion of a mission involving time travel, the temporal agent can choose to challenge this role as if it were a Value. This represents the hard decisions that must be made, letting tragedy happen when you know you can stop it. If this role is challenged, the temporal operative gains a point of Determination as normal; this may only be done once per mission. This is separate from challenging Values.

Agents from the future might have advanced equipment and resources, but from what is shown in Star Trek temporal operatives tend to leave that stuff behind to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Anything they do have can act like an Advantage as normal but will almost certainly have an Escalation cost and Complications can be used to have people from the past get their hands on what they shouldn’t.

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