We’re back with another great interview from another amazing cast of a Star Trek Adventures actual play! This group is pretty fun and with their game set beyond any of the eras you’ve seen on screen there are sure to be some amazing surprises.
The team behind Endeavour: Through the Maelstrom includes a number of podcast veterans from the cast of Tales of the Hydian Way. With Endeavour, though, they’ve shown that they are masters of multiple fandoms and are just as comfortable at warp as they are in hyperspace. The Endeavour is a prototype model of a brand-new class that is meeting the needs of the Federation twenty years after the events of Star Trek: Picard’s first season. While it’s firmly rooted in Trek lore, with many familiar species and locations, this is a new take on Federation ideals in a galaxy that is ready to be explored by a brave crew.
Mephit James: How did you all meet and why did you decide to do a podcast? And why a Star Trek podcast?
Brandon: I’ve known Kristine since college, which was a longer time ago than I care to think about at this point! I met Nicole through Kristine, Brad through the Heroes of the Hydian Way community, and Leah through a mutual friend.
I love running RPGs and Star Trek is my favorite franchise ever, and the idea of doing a Trek podcast to be able to tell stories in that universe had been rolling around in my head for a long time. Earlier this year, I was unemployed for a little while and used some of that newfound free time to get the ball rolling on the show that eventually became Endeavour.
Kristine: Brandon already covered our history and I met Brad and Leah the same way. Nicole I met three years ago through her roommate at the time/my Heroes of the Hydian Way co-host. Now here we are married as of this last First Contact Day: April 5th.
Star Trek has long been a favorite franchise of mine and its emphasis on diversity, ability to examine what it means to be human, and focus on exploration both external and internal all greatly appeal to me. Add to that Brandon as the GM with his history and love for the franchise and how could I say no?
Brad: Well how I came to know everyone. I’m just now meeting Leah. She’s a delight to be playing with, She’s awesome. The rest I met through the Heroes of the Hydian Way community. I got started with that group back from when they called themselves the Mad Adventurer Society. I interacted with them and eventually a spot opened up in a Thursday night Star Wars game and I’ve been playing in that group for 2-3 years now. Nicole came in at one point while Kristine was co-host and then player on Heroes. We bonded over co-ownership of a ship and noodles at a cheap shop on some backwater planet. At one point Nicole invited me to phone in and play online with a group of her friends. That’s when I got to officially meet Kristine and met Brandon. I played an adorable little Kobold smuggler. I was thrilled when they asked if I’d like to be on the show.
Leah: Brandon already covered my intro! A friend from the HP fandom and convention days literally DMed me on twitter saying “hey I know you like Star Trek and podcasts and RPing and I have a friend who is looking at starting a ST actual play. Interested?” I said yes and then chatted with Kristine and Brad on twitter. The rest is history! And look sometimes twitter ISN’T just trash.
MJ: What do you think might attract people to your podcast? GIve us your best turbolift pitch to potential listeners!
Nicole: A game of a new era! We take the forward looking approach in this Star Trek podcast about a crew learning to explore new space and new roleplaying systems together. Endeavour: Through the Maelstrom is a handful of fans engaging in the moral quandaries and adventures with that distinct Star Trek feel.
Leah: Hi. This is our Star Trek podcast. It’s pretty great. It feels like classic Star Trek, the characters are nicely balanced, and the dice rolls are ALL OVER THE MAP. End of pitch. Get out of my turbolift.
Brandon: I’ve tried and I can’t top Leah’s answer, so…ditto.
MJ: Some of you are involved in other RPG podcasts but is anyone starting on roleplaying for the first time? What’s everyone’s experience with Star Trek Adventures generally?
Brandon: I’ve been playing RPGs for closing in on twenty years now. I’ve run a just-for-fun Star Trek Adventures game before and also done several one-shots with it.
Brad: I’ve been playing RPGs for a while, mostly things like D&D. I traded baseball cards for my first materials and dice. How much does a Tony Gwyn rookie card go for today? I mostly read the books though. I tried to do games with my uncles but never really got anything going there. Really my first game of any roleplaying game was about 12 or so years ago. 4th Edition released and I got involved with groups at gaming stores and found a good group of friends to play with locally. I’ve since played a lot of different systems. Other than a quick introduction to the system by Nicole and Kristine this is really my first foray into Star Trek Adventures. This is my first podcast, so it is great to have the “old hands” around to help through hearing your voice recorded.
Nicole: I play on and off again with RPGs. With two Star Trek games before this one, the first was also Brandon’s game and my first experience as a Captain, which was very satisfying but there were a lot of things I wanted to try and do differently, so when the opportunity came up to play again, I jumped onto the Captain role. The other game I ran for a few sessions, it was more of a get to know the rules better, casual game with Brad as one of my players!
Leah: I spent a lot of my life wanting to play D&D but being super scared of it – which is wild considering I’m a big big nerd who also has a lot of acting and improv experience. Honestly, I became a fan of actual play podcasts before I ever played any TTRPGs (shoutout to The Adventure Zone) and after that I started more actively playing! I actually have an (on hiatus) homebrew D&D show I’m on called House Brew Heroes. But STA is my first non D&D 5e game.
MJ: What do you like about the STA system? What do you struggle with? Any house rules planned for the campaign?
Brandon: I think the system makes some really good decisions about how to facilitate a Star Trek game. Keeping the skill list limited to broad strokes really helps characters feel like they are competent professionals, and I love that traditional RPG advancement is mostly replaced by changing numbers and abilities around as your character goes on adventures rather than having those numbers always get bigger. I’ve played several Trek games where the captain was just higher level than everyone else and that always felt weird.
I also really love the Supporting Cast system. Letting players bring in the various people who we know must be on the ship allows the players to actually be the crew roles they care about, and as those NPCs recur, they get more developed, both in character and mechanics. It really helps the crew feel like an ensemble even if you only have three or four actual players, and it lets the GM not be the sole person responsible for that.
There are a few places where I feel the system has a little too much going on. Whenever we get around to ship combat, I’ll probably streamline a few things, as the existing system is pretty complex in a way that feels, to me, a little weird relative to what “normal” play is like. And though I love values, I can never keep straight the distinction between a value generating a Complication and challenging a value. I’ve tried so many times to internalize the difference and my brain just does not want to.
Kristine: I’m also a big fan of the supporting cast system and the balance between PCs regardless if they’re a veteran captain or an Ensign on her first day of the job. I adore the lifepath character creation system. It’s such an effective and fun method to build characters and it helps you get into their heads and craft the start of their story.
As for challenges, I still struggle with Extended Tasks and exactly how they work; in particular all of the little uses for excess successes and how the work track vs breakthroughs differ. At least playing a science and engineering specialist on the show means I’m getting a lot of practice with Extended Tasks in order to master them.
Brad: I’m still really new to the system. I try to ask questions but I thank Kristine and Brandon for helpful suggestions, like what the XO’s special effects are that you can use. I do like the leveling system now that we are several sessions into recording, I am beginning to see how I could have built Razam differently to be more what I intended for him to be. Fortunately, with the way you “level up” it gives me an opportunity to correct my rookie mistakes and misunderstandings.
Leah: I’m a little obsessed with the system so far – it suits the overall nature and vibe of Star Trek so well. That it really supports heavy RPing and not just dice rolling really makes my act-y and character loving nature happy. It is a liiiiitle rules heavy for my poor brain, and I know I spend a lot of mic time asking Brandon how many dice to roll, but I SWEAR I’m getting better at it!
MJ: What’s your history with Star Trek? When did you first encounter it and how has it been part of your fandom?
Brandon: I’ve been a fan of Star Trek for as long as I can remember. Even when I was a kid I was really engrossed by TNG episodes in syndication, and as I recount in one of our episodes, sought out ways to watch TOS before that was as easy as going online or getting a DVD set. I can’t really remember what my first encounter with it was; my earliest memory of Star Trek was, I think, encountering a Millennium Falcon toy at preschool and thinking it was the saucer section of a weirdly off-model Enterprise toy that someone had broken off. (I thought the Falcon’s mandibles were where the saucer would attach to the secondary hull.)
Star Trek has basically always been my biggest fandom and was a lot of what drove me to where I am today, professionally and philosophically. It’s hard to overstate how critical the themes of Star Trek have been to me, and how much the craft of Star Trek shows has influenced how I work creatively.
Kristine: I had heard about this Star Trek show for years and finally, finally had an opportunity to watch it in high school. Immediately I was hooked. I loved it. Only every Trekkie I knew told me how the current series, called Enterprise, was terrible. It holds a special place in my heart anyway. In college Brandon loaned me his box sets of TNG and DS9 and gradually I filled in my knowledge of the other series. It’s remained one of my favorite franchises ever since.
Brad: I first saw Star Trek at my grandparents house and watched it with my uncles on a small 14 in TV they had in their kitchen. It was already in syndication. When the Next Generation aired it was one of the must watch shows for me. Of course I’ve seen all the movies. I’ve been pretty bad about keeping up with Star Trek TV once Deep Space 9 and Voyager came out. I’ve watched Enterprise some. What happened is I got dragged into other sci fi series such as Babylon 5, Space: Above and Beyond, etc. I really haven’t watched any of the new stuff. I’ve always enjoyed the humor of Star Trek. Dr. McCoy being my Star Trek spirit character.
Nicole: It wasn’t until 2009 that I first really got Star Trek. I’d seen a few Next Generation episodes in passing, but nothing stuck until the new movies came out. After getting hooked into the idea of Star Trek I went back and watched through everything else.
Leah: Star Trek was my first fandom! TNG was in heavy syndication when I was a kid (I was born the same year it debuted) and I watched it as often as I could find it on my TV. Pre-internet, I would write down the names of species and ships and all that any time they were new in an episode – you know just in case I had to reference it in conversation or in a police report. Very important things. My other best memory is the Voyager premiere on UPN and following that week to week; a new Star Trek with a female captain as something I was so so enamored with. I’ve seen all the shows, but TNG and VOY are far and away my favorites.
MJ: Why set your story after Star Trek: Picard? Why not during the events of one of the earlier series?
Brandon: Kristine and I spent a while talking about what kind of hook would be exciting, and at first the question was about era. We considered all the usual suspects; I love the late TNG/early DS9 era myself, as well as the TOS movies era, and we’d discussed things even like going back to the 22nd century on an NX-class ship or doing something in the Alpha Quadrant between the end of DS9 and Voyager, in that span of a few years we only glimpse in a few Voyager episodes and in Insurrection.
But the thing we kept coming back to is that, for the last twenty years, really, Star Trek shows and movies haven’t moved forward. Everything’s been a prequel or reboot and that feels limiting. Picard was the first thing in a long time to move the timeline up, but it’s also a show that is very much looking back at TNG. So we decided to make the kind of show we hope CBS will eventually greenlight: one that stands on its own without leaning heavily on Spock or Pike or Picard. (For what it’s worth, we do like Discovery and Picard for what they are.)
Kristine: Setting Endeavour in the 25th century affords us a lot of freedom in terms of setting and makes it a fresh, new experience for both players and audience. It also serves to radically shake up the status quo, allowing new kinds of Trek characters to take the center stage like our Romulan captain or xB descended science officer.
MJ: Your campaign is set in the 25th century, so do you plan to interact with Star Trek Online plots at all?
Brandon: The short answer is no. I’ve played STO off and on over the years, but it’s been quite a while and I don’t know its continuity that well. I think Picard and STO can’t easily co-exist in the same timeline, and of course our premise – that Endeavour is the first Starfleet ship designed to build transwarp conduits – doesn’t work with STO either because the game has had transwarp conduits since the beginning as a way to fast travel across the map.
I also want to keep continuity accessible, so we’re really only counting the shows and movies as canon. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally cherry pick some things from some of my favorite non-canon sources, so listeners may hear some easter eggs here and there.
MJ: In the Session Zero there’s a lot of talk of formerly antagonistic species that have begun to integrate into the Federation. Any other plans for how the status quo gets switched up in your time period?
Brandon: We haven’t firmly decided on the state of a lot of things back in the Federation, but we do want this era to be one where the Federation has started to reclaim its utopian ideals. Our Starfleet is one where Romulans aren’t immediately assumed to be enemies of the Federation, for instance, since it stands to reason that some refugees probably ended up outside of whatever successor to the Romulan Empire exists. That doesn’t mean our 25th century is free from strife, but between Picard and Discovery and Star Trek Into Darkness, we’ve gotten a lot of stories about some of the troubles of utopia in general and the United Federation of Planets in particular. The struggle to maintain Starfleet ideals is never over, but we at least want to imagine that Jean-Luc Picard is not the only person who wants Starfleet to be what it once was. Maybe he even directly affects this change. Who knows?
I have some other plans for some big things I might bring into play, but I will admit that Endeavour is headed deep into uncharted territory partially to avoid having to answer those questions until the time is right for our story – and to make it less likely we’ll end up directly contradicting new seasons of Picard.
MJ: Star Trek has big plots and events but the stories are always intimate and personal. What’s your favorite Star Trek character and why?
Brandon: This is always such a hard one for me to answer. Like, I love any time that Garak is on screen, but I wouldn’t want to be friends with him. Same with Dukat. But I think if I’m trying to pick the character who most spoke to me and who has historically been one of my favorites, it’s Data. I feel like it’s almost cliche to say that, as an ace person, Data feels familiar (“The Naked Now” notwithstanding), but there’s a lot about Data’s journey that I relate to.
Nicole: Since I’ve been rewatching Voyager, my favorite character has got to be Harry Kim. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone else in the series as adorable.
Kristine: Yes. Can I claim all of them? Okay, how about most of them? I relate to the Trill and Ezri in particular. Bashir and O’Brien’s friendship is one of my favorites in the franchise. But if I had to pick one right now I’d say Nog. His journey bucking the expectations of his family and his people, going from petty thief and prankster to hardworking Starfleet officer, and eager and idealistic Starfleet officer to battle hardened and wise veteran sticks with me and inspires me.
Brad: I said it before, Dr. McCoy. I love his interactions with Spock and Kirk. He’s the foil for both of them. Be less rational and more empathetic Spock. Be more prudent and less haphazard Jim. I see him as the moderation between those two extremes.
Leah: My favorite character is Data, and after that Seven of Nine and the EMH… I think I have a thing for characters who are trying to find their humanity? Lemme check my fanfic tags on AO3 and get back to you. If I had to pick a recurring non-lead character, it’s Q. I’ve seen the Q episodes more than any other by a factor of like 10. Apparently I also really like characters who are lovable jerks. I might have a problem.
Be sure to check out the Endeavour: Through the Maelstrom website for the latest episodes!