Author Ensley F. Guffey Introduces Homebrew Rule—Andorian Ice Sculpture


Practicing an art form is one way to develop a Star Trek Adventures character beyond their rank and role, and almost every species and culture practices some form of artistic expression. Designing some of those forms is an incredible means of drilling down into who the character is, where they come from, where they’re going, and who they want to be.

Author and STA fan Ensley F. Guffey shows us how to incorporate artists into our your game.


KirThon hunkered down in front of the outcropping of glacial ice and once again checked his PADD. The climate and microclimate projections were as accurate as the Valor’s computers could make them, as were those for the glacier’s movement and potential fracture-points. Risa’s advanced climate control systems allowed for much more accurate long-term extrapolation than could be had on most worlds, but after five local decades, there were too many variables for accurate predictions.

So, he knew what the elements would bring to the work: the wind, the weather, the glacier, Risa itself becoming his co-creator. Now all he had to do was hold an image of all that data, all that time, in his mind and heart – and make his first cut. Unwrapping his Ushaan-tor, he let the flat polar light slide along the blade, thinned by generations of use. This blade had seen ice mines and honor duels, and struck well and true in both, but today KirThon took up the familiar weight for a different purpose. Today he would free what lay within the ice, what his soul saw within its crystalline structure. In the days and years to come, Risa herself would finish the work he begun, and the resulting work of art would become as much an expression of the planet’s heart as the sculptor’s.

Enough. KirThon stood, his antennae-tips straining forward in a display of his inner intensity.
He raised the Ushaan-tor, and struck.


The origins of traloxa’ilnir (roughly, “art made from fruitful ice”), better known as Andorian ice sculpture, are lost to history, but most scholars believe that the practice originated among ice miners who sought to break the tedium of long seasons isolated from their families through carving fanciful figures or scenes in the ice, using the tools they had to hand, like the ubiquitous Ushaan-tor. Over the millennia, the hobby became a part of folk-art traditions, and today is considered one of the greatest of all native Andorian artforms.

Traloxna’ilnir is art in the enviro-temporal mode, as the passage of time and the effects of the environment on the ice over a given period lay at the heart of the artform. Ice, even in the polar regions of Andoria, is impermanent. Wind carves it, temperature variations melt and refreeze it, the slow movement of a glacier repositions, cracks, or shatters it. Sometimes these processes can take centuries, sometimes merely an afternoon, or even an hour. The sculptor must take these effects into account when creating a piece, working with time and the environment, accepting the inevitability of change, and incorporating that understanding into the sculpture. A master sculptor can create works that seem almost to have been programmed to transform in certain ways, concrete representations metamorphosing into abstract expressions or vice versa, and then shifting further until the abstract becomes representational again, sometimes over the course of centuries for the oldest surviving pieces. Indeed, displays of Andorian ice sculpture in galleries and museums usually take the form of time-lapse holograms documenting the course of a given piece’s existence.

Of course, the time-scales and environments involved differ greatly depending on the sculptor, the environment, and the type(s) of ice used. Andorian ice sculptures are in high demand for many public and private functions in the Federation, although more than one poorly informed host has watched in horror as the sculptor destroyed their creation rather than have it “trapped” in stasis fields or temperature-controlled containment to extend the work’s lifetime. To the true ice artist, a sculpture for a diplomatic reception should last no longer than the event itself, flowing from shape to shape, form to form, as the evening passes. To artificially extend the ice’s time in one form is to deny the essential truth of change, and of entropy. As Master Sculptor Thella zh’Idisha famously said, “On the scale of the universe, art and life are astonishingly brief. Isn’t it wonderful?”


Mechanically, ice sculpting can be approached as a Gated Challenge leading into an Extended Task that often must be completed within a certain amount of time, although the length of the intervals will vary depending on variables such as size, location, purpose, etc. The Gated Challenge might look something like this:

  1. Choose location and/or ice to be worked (Reason or Insight + Science, Difficulty 2+,
    with potential assistance from ship’s Computers or Sensors + Science and/or crew).
  2. Gather climatological and environmental data about the location (Reason + Science,
    Difficulty 1+, with potential assistance for ship’s Computers + Science and/or crew).
  3. Extrapolate from acquired data to model environmental effects across time (Control,
    Daring, or Insight + Science or Conn
    , Difficulty 2+, with potential assistance from ship’s
    Computers + Science or Conn and/or crew).
  4. Devise a plan of work to achieve the desired result (Reason or Insight + Conn, Difficulty
    2+, with potential assistance from ship’s Computers + Conn).
    The act of sculpting itself could be Control or Daring + Conn, unassisted, with varying
    Difficulty, Magnitude, Resistance, and Work Track depending on the nature of the sculpture.

NOTE: The word “traloxa’ilnir” was created using the guide to the Andorian language in the Among the Clans sourcebook from Last Unicorn Games by S. John Ross with Steven S. Long and Adam Dickstein. Any errors in construction or grammar are mine alone.

One comment

  1. I think this is a brilliant idea for a hobby that instantly adds philosophical depth. Might not contribute at all to get the mission done but it sure adds to a well-developed character. Thanks for creating this, Ensley.

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