One of my favorite pleasures of writing on Continuing Missions is meeting the writers and creators who make Star Trek Adventures the amazing game it is.
Many of you might know Darren Watts as one of the writers of the superhero-centric Champions game system! That was my first exposure to his talent. Darren is the former President of Hero Games, and the primary writer for such titles as Champions Universe, UNTIL, Millennium City, Hidden Lands, Vibora Bay, and along with Jason Walters the infamous Lucha Hero. Now, Modiphius nabbed him to bring his skills to work for STA. And thank goodness too!
I was able to get Darren to take off his cape for a moment to tell us about his journey to STA.
What did you write for STA exactly? Where can our readers find your work?
I wrote the scenario called “Forests Of The Night” in the adventure book These Are The Voyages.
It is obvious to me that writing for STA wasn’t your first gig? What path brought you to Starfleet?
I’ve been writing RPG material since the mid-1990s, and it’s been mostly my full-time job since 2001. The first paid work I ever did in the game business was writing articles for Pyramid Magazine for Steve Jackson Games, and the first full book I wrote was Champions Universe in 2002. I was also the President and publisher for Hero Games and Indie Press Revolution.
That is a lot of experience under your belt. So then, how did you get involved with working on the Star Trek Adventures game specifically?
I asked for it, basically. Like I said, there’s a few dozen books out there with my work in them, and I had heard the Trek license had wound up with Modiphius and they were looking for material. I think I talked to Chris Birch briefly at a convention to see what they wanted, and wrote up a little piece for them a few weeks later.
Wow. Must be nice. (wink) How would you compare STA to other games you have worked on?
I think it’s a fine system rules-wise. It’s got enough crunch to handle a wide range of action without having to resort to GM handwaving, but it’s also fast and light enough to not bog down in combat. I think they’ve done a very good job in replicating the Star Trek feel in the support books.
Did you have a hand in writing any of the rules or mechanics?
I did not, though I will point out I wrote my scenario early enough in the process that the rules weren’t completely finished yet, so I had to guess at a couple of things. I was working literally from a Word doc of the rules, so it was probably 80-90% done while I was writing. They fixed up my guesses in editing.
I had the privilege of playing “Forests of the Night” and even wrote a post-play review. What was your basis for the story? What seeded the plot? (Pun intended)
It started simply from an image, of a space station that inside was just a giant forest. I had no explanation why yet, but I could see it. I think my original plan was to use that idea in a Doctor Who scenario, since I also write for them occasionally, but it turned out pretty well for Star Trek, I think.
That first adventure book has a lot of fighting Romulans and time travel and action, and mine was a little quieter, I think—more like a TV episode than like the movies.
What is your favorite element of STA? Why?
I’d have to say I most enjoy the lifepath portion of character creation. I’ve always been a sucker for that, dating back to games like Traveller. It’s a simple and elegant way to easily add depth to a stack of numbers on the character sheet.
What room for growth does the game still have, in your opinion?
I think it’s simply the size of the setting, the sheer amount of Star Trek stuff there is to explore and play with. The new Klingon book looks amazing, and there’s lots of room to explore the other races and cultures.
What was your favorite part of working on Star Trek Adventures?
Heh. Honestly, being able to say that I’d done it. I’ve been lucky enough to work on several properties that I myself loved as a kid, so every time I get to knock a big one off the list like Star Trek it’s like high-fiving the eight-year-old inside me. It was just the one adventure, maybe took a week start to finish in the middle of several other jobs, but now Star Trek sits there on my resume forever.
Okay. I’m totally jealous. What’s your earliest Trek memory?
I used to watch classic TOS Trek with my dad when I was very little. My dad didn’t have a lot of time for the other kinds of foolishness I liked to watch, superheroes and giant monsters and whatever, but he appreciated that Star Trek (and mostly Doctor Who as well) was actually pretty smart, solid science fiction and wasn’t likely to rot my brain.
Do you play STA on the regular? If so, what is your crew like?
I do! Only recently have we started up a regular campaign as part of our online quarantine situation. I’m GM-ing a group of six players who each play two characters, so we have a sizable crew ensemble to play with. We’re on the USS Aldrin, an Excelsior-class starship, and our adventures are taking place currently between movies five and six
That sounds sweet! What have you noticed about public reaction to the game?
As far as I know it seems to be doing well. It’s tough these days to get press for a trad rpg that isn’t D&D, but they’ve done a good job. I think people who like it like that it’s not about killing monsters and taking their stuff. Star Trek-style adventures scratch a different itch.
Who is your favorite character in Star Trek? Why?
Spock, first and always. So lonely, so conflicted and constricted by the world he was raised in, and learning wisdom so slowly over the course of the series.
What is your favorite part of the Star Trek canon? (TV, movies, book) Which series do you like the best?
I love different parts for different reasons. TOS will always be my first true love – not just the series, but the expanded universe of the novels, etc.
What would our readers find you doing if it isn’t writing/playing RPGs?
Hah! Well, that’s my day job, as well as business consulting in games and organizing conventions, which isn’t happening much this year. I’d normally say “at a baseball game,” but that’s not true now either. I’m currently starting up a podcast about comic book history, called Explain That, Comics Guys!! which we’ve dropped the first two episodes of, so that’s taking up some time.
Final question: If you were a component on a starship, what component would you be?
Like a mechanical one? Hmm. The sensor system so I could see everything new first? I don’t think I’d enjoy being machinery, though.
Great answers, Darren. I want to give a sincere thank you for playing such a huge role in the gaming universe, and not just STA!