One of my favorite pleasures of writing on Continuing Missions is meeting the writers and creators who make Star Trek Adventures the amazing game that it is.
First, let’s start with an introduction to Tilly and Susan Bridges as posted at their website, birdguest.com. “Writers of comics, screenplays, teleplays, and audio drama. Meet the only married trans woman/cis woman writing team we know of (do you know of others? Tell us! We want to know them!), which gives us an entirely unique perspective. We write fun, hope-fueled sci-fi, with blue sky imaginations and a sprinkle (or three) of comedy! Our stories explore personal identity and how society shapes us. We delve into the reasons we are who we are, who we can become, how we can get there, and what we owe to each other along the way.”
It was my honor to interview Tilly and Susan as part of Continuing Missions’ effort to celebrate the creative geniuses that help create the best RPG I have ever played!
Michael: How did you two get involved with working on the Star Trek Adventures game?
Tilly: After we began playing the game and really loved it, we started following some people on Twitter who worked on the game.
Susan: We got to talking with Jim Johnson about the game and all things Star Trek and how we’re writers with a lot of experience writing sci-fi and one thing led to another somewhere in there! And we’re glad it did!
How much creative freedom were you given when you were commissioned to work on the project?
T: It was pretty wide open.
S: We knew we were writing ten Mission Briefs, and that they were going to be set in The Next Generation era, and we had guidelines to work with. From there it was just a matter of writing them all up and going through the revision/approval process, which was honestly very smooth.
T: There were a few things we had to change or tweak based on a variety of factors, but for the most part what’s in the final product is what we intended (though each brief was initially a lot longer. We wrote way too much at first and had to pare things back a bit).
Talk to us about the collaborative nature of this mission brief. It is the first one done by two people at once.
T: Well it’s no different than any of our other writing, for us. We’re a writing team and, basically, everything we write is written together.
S: We brainstormed the concepts and ideas and NPCs and everything together, then Tilly wrote it up into the first draft and then I did a revision, and then we argued a bunch about further revisions until we were both happy with it.
T: Respectful arguments! Writing as a team has taught us how to disagree respectfully, both with each other and with others. It’s a good skill to have.
Talk to us about your latest release “Disasters”. What inspired the stories?
T: Several of them came from sessions I’ve run in our two ongoing Star Trek Adventures games, and a few others from ideas I plan to do in the future.
S: We just love Star Trek down to our bones, so coming up with stories for the game was fun and fairly easy. We could probably do a hundred more.
T: I think a lot of it was inspired by The Next Generation episode, “Disaster,” and the Deep Space Nine episode, “Civil Defense,” both of which feel very much like Star Trek Adventures game sessions. Just problem after problem, tons of complications, and a lot of cooperation and teamwork to find creative solutions.
When did your passion for Star Trek first develop? What was your first exposure to Star Trek?
T: I’ve been a Trek fan all my life. My first exposure was probably seeing old Original Series episodes in reruns, and then a little while later finding The Next Generation and that cemented it.
S: I definitely started with The Next Generation and I consider Captain Picard to be my Space Dad. I got my whole family hooked on it.
T: He’s my Space Dad too! And we’ve done multiple rewatches of the entirety of Star Trek, every episode, every movie, in release order. Never get tired of it.
Do you play STA on the regular? If so, what is your crew like? What character do you play?
T: I run two different STA games that meet regularly (on Discord) and exist in a shared universe, so events from one game and crew can affect the other. We just recently had a big crossover game (with eleven players!) and I got a Cameo video from Denise Crosby for it. She threatened the players in-character as Sela, and it went over as well as I hoped. Each of the games has a log written by the ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram, which I write up after each session as Twitter threads. If you’re interested, you can follow those accounts at @BellerophonUSS and @ExcaliburUss. The pinned tweet for each account is an index of all the session logs, so you can go through them in order without having to try and figure out where each one starts. Each crew has its own style, and I love all my players dearly.
S: I play two characters, one in each game, and they’re Bajoran sisters. One is a captain and the other is a chief medical officer. They tend to be cranky and smart, which is how I like my characters to be. Tilly threw in a down time session where we all got to hang out on the Enterprise-E and meet the TNG crew. It was incredible and felt a little intimidating! It’s not every day you get to virtually “meet” your heroes!
What have you noticed about public reaction to the game? What about STA struck a different chord with the public do you think?
T: What makes the game stand out to me is how much it FEELS like Star Trek when you’re playing. It’s like living inside a Trek show for a few hours, and I find that remarkable. The focus on creativity and cooperation also makes it different from most other RPGs I’ve played.
S: I completely agree that STA makes you feel like you’re literally a part of the Trek mythos. Due to my experience with Star Trek Adventures (and my experience with being a captain in the game specifically) I like to yell at the screen now with my own captainly opinions while we watch DS9 and Voyager in our present rewatch. (I could never challenge Captain Picard, he’s perfect.)
Who is your favorite character in Star Trek? Why?
T: Picard and Dax are tied at the top, but for entirely different reasons. Picard is the ideal Starfleet captain to me, he stands for everything good and kind that Starfleet should be. His compassion, intelligence, and unimpeachable sense of morality make me love him so much.
Dax I see a lot of myself in, for a lot of reasons, but the main one is probably that I’m transgender and a lot of Dax’s stories, and the way she exists and moves through the world, is a pretty strong allegory for trans people. I’m not sure how I’ll feel once there’s an actual trans woman in Star Trek that I can see myself represented by, though I hope I’ll get to find out someday. But I love all the characters from all the shows. Burnham, Tilly, Saru, Mariner, Boimler, Janeway, the EMH, Sisko, Odo, Spock, T’Pol, Pike, Seven, Raffi, Data and Riker and Troi and Geordi (and more!) are just a hair behind Picard and Dax, truly.
S: Captain Picard is of course a big favorite of mine, but as we’ve now watched DS9 through a few times, I really enjoy Major Kira. She’s got such a complex and interesting backstory, and her experiences and faith have also been an interesting source of conflict for her character. I’m also a huge fan of the Vulcans in general, mostly because they’re really smart and are not shy about telling someone when they’re doing something illogical. And then there’s Barclay, who I love for all of his anxious people-avoiding energy. I feel like Starfleet must be full of geniuses and not all of them are going to be perfect in their social skills, and Barclay illustrates that perfectly and often hilariously.
What is your favorite part of the Star Trek canon? (TV, movies, book) Which series do you like the best?
T: All of it. There’s not a Star Trek I don’t love. TNG and DS9 are probably my favorite series, but Discovery and Lower Decks are right up there.
S: TNG is my favorite series by far, and Lower Decks pokes fun at Trek in such a loving way, those have to be my top choices. Discovery is closing fast and I’m so very much looking forward to the new shows! The new version of Captain Pike is just fantastic. There’s so much potential and there’s so much more to explore.
What would our readers find you doing if it isn’t writing/playing RPGs?
T: Writing other things, or tweeting about Star Trek, P!nk, sci-fi, movies/comics/tv, cats, food, and social justice. If you’re interested in the other writing we do (for screen, comics, audio drama) you can find links to all our stuff at birdguest.com.
S: I’m doing most of those things as well, but also I’m kind of a research junkie. I love to read about scientific topics that are often tied to Star Trek, like the theoretical possibilities of warp drive and time travel.
If you were a component on a starship, what component would you be?
T: I’ve always felt like my mind was my own personal holodeck, I can entertain myself with nothing but my imagination for hours on end. So let’s go with that.
S: I tend to be cranky and temperamental so I’m probably some obscure Cardassian component on DS9 that keeps failing and giving O’Brien fits.
Excellent work, you two. I am so happy with the Mission Briefs. I am going to torture my players with them right away! Haha! Thanks for being part of the STA creative community. Look forward to hearing more from you both in the future.