How did the Star Trek Adventures Mission Brief: Breakdown module rate?
For more on the Revised Tribble Rating System 2021, click here.
The crew of the USS Pioneer (my player group’s Intrepid-class starship) finished playing Breakdown, a fantastic mission brief created by Tilly and Susan Bridges for the Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game. It is contained in the free Mission Briefs: Disasters—Tales from The Next Generation Era.
The suggested spotlight role was for an engineering officer. And, boy, did it keep our chief engineer busy, along with his support staff.
SYNOPSIS (spoiler alert)
In “Breakdown” a bug in the code of a new computer upgrade wreaks havoc on the ship, and it’s a race against time to stop the problem before a cascading system failure causes the warp core to go critical.
- Comprehensibility – 5 Tribbles. Tilly and Susan did a great job simplifying the premise of the mission brief. Mission briefs are not easy to write; they leave a lot of leeway for individual gamemasters to tailor the game to match their specific crew.
But I got the premise of this brief on the first read—and I loved it.
The timing was perfect for this storyline as our ship just underwent a retrofit, adding quantum slipstream drive as a new talent. In addition, the vessel went on a test run with several observers onboard and a few Romulans who had recently defected from the Star Empire. With that said, everyone was pointing fingers at everyone else trying to figure out who was to blame for all of the system breakdowns. Intense fun!
- Originality – 3 Tribbles. The idea of a computer malfunction is not new ground for a sci-fi story. Not original at all.
However, what was original was the fact that the malfunction wasn’t some insidious scheme from a bad guy but an honest-to-god mistake on the part of an overachieving engineer, Lunisa. But you know how players think. Mine fell right into character, with suspicion and conspiracy theories becoming the order of the day. Haha!
The tidbit of personality that Tilly and Susan write into this brief was enough to keep the players off of Lunisa’s trail up into the third beat. That’s what’s great about Star Trek—you don’t need a villain to have a great show.
- Sci-Fi Concepts – 1 Tribble. Simply put, a malfunction in a new computer system is sci-fi trope 101. So if you as a gamemaster want to make this a little tough on your players, weave in a couple of tasty subplots that might be mistaken as a conspiracy.
- Social Conflict Potential – 3 Tribbles. One of my players admitted, “There was a lot of tension with the breakdown.” Once again, as a gamemaster you can toss in subplots to increase the suspense and suspicion. That is exactly what I did. I added in prejudiced Vulcans, refugee Romulans, and Commander Kera Nerys from Deep Space Nine to keep the crew on their toes as the ship’s systems kept breaking down around them. The crew spent more time looking for knives in their backs than a faulty subroutine, which was fine by me. “Politicking and intrigue, always things I like in big epic space operas,” said Chris, who plays our first officer.
- Adaptability – 5 Tribbles. Troy Mepyans, captain of our vessel said, “I thought it was fantastic! Great tension involving everyone in the action. Made everyone have to come up with creative solutions to problems and not rely on the ship or other tech to get things done.” This was a very easy adventure to adapt to my campaign. I think it would be easy to adapt into 99% of campaigns as a system upgrade could happen at any time in most games.
One thing I did was make finding the faulty subroutine and Extended Task Work 28. Magnitude 5. Resistance 3. Difficulty 4. Each round of rolls counted as three hours of work. That gave enough time for tension to build. Any complications rolled become additional problems with sensors, computers, and ship sensors. I tortured my players with blackouts, sporadic containment fields, faulty replicators, downed turbolifts, and cascading computer failures and required them to get particular complications fixed before they could complete their extended task.
Our newest addition to our crew said, “I loved this & really liked the political and personal tension that overlaid the ongoing engineering problem. I liked how the Extended Task set the cadence of the interactions both in engineering & elsewhere.”
FINAL SCORE: 3.4
Breakdown was a fast-moving, fun game that promises a lot of technobabble and social tension if GMed correctly. Set the tone by allowing enough downtime and character development before things go awry.
(To see our entire play report, see Star Trek Pioneer, Season 4, Episode 1: Breakdown.)