Interview with STA Writer Al “The Anomaly” Spader

From super-fan to super-writer, Al Spader is making serious moves in the world of STA. Take a look at his first piece of STA gold!

Michael: How did you get involved with working on the Star Trek Adventures game?

Al: It was just before the pandemic and my group wanted to take a break from D&D 5e. We all loved Trek and tried it out. I was then asked by Michael Dismuke to participate in a video about being a GM and making the game accessible. I brought an “outside voice” to the table.

Hey. Michael Dismuke. That’s me. Hehe. Glad I invited you to be a panelist. Now look at you. Writing mission briefs. I enjoyed reading through your first STA work, Star Trek Adventures: Missions Briefs 003 – Anomalies. What inspired all those cool ideas?

The bottom line is space is weird. So many Trek episodes perfectly address social situations and make commentary on how the world exists today. While this is a refreshing take on the Sci Fi genre, I’ve often been more drawn to the “one off” episodes. The Voyager episode “Parallax” is one of my favorite episodes because it deals with a strange anomaly in space.

Can you expand on why you lean in on anomaly stories? What advice would you give to players to add social conflict to these mission briefs?

The idea of space as an antagonist has always intrigued me because the unknown is fascinating. It allows characters to create solutions, use their babble, and work together. It’s easy to have a combat with a romulan but it’s far more rewarding to find an answer to something that pushes the boundaries of thinking. The social conflict in these briefs can be deep if a GM wants to focus on it. Most of the briefs have opportunities for characters who have social conflict to be paired off or to rely on each other. The greatest character development can happen with a single conversation between two characters.

What other work have you done in the RPG arena?

I was able to work with many other community writers on the Fathomless community campaign. I’ve also written numerous D&D Adventurer’s League Community Content modules, most notably Contact and Claws of Fury.

When did your passion for Star Trek first develop? 

I loved watching TNG with my dad every day after school. As I moved from high school and into college, DS9 escaped me but I really enjoyed Voyager. Once I graduated college, I was all over the place but missed out on Enterprise. Star Trek was reiintroduced to me with Discovery and Picard. Both inspired me to get back on the train.

Do you play STA on the regular? If so, what is your crew like? What character do you play?

I play in two games and run one. I play a hotshot Conn pilot with dreams of being a captain, and a Bolian Commander who is the C.O. of a small ship. I enjoy them both, but my passion is really creating stories as a GM.

I think all new GMs should run one of the quickstarts first followed by the Starter Set mission, but I don’t think this is the most important part when preparing to gm. The most important thing you can do as a GM is to create a safe, open environment where players can cowrite the story with you. Know their characters, backstories, and values. This is FAR more important than knowing how to run combat or an extended task.

You are very active on multiple STA-based forums. Talk to me about your experience working with the STA community.

The community is what hooked me. I couldn’t believe such a dedicated group of people looking to help each other. Someone posts a requests for a space frame and another person has it up in minutes. Everybody wants everybody to be successful and that is something special on a forum that can so often be used to belittle and disparage.

Who is your favorite character in Star Trek? Why?

LaForge is up there because he was a voice of reason and annoyingly optimistic (two qualities that I’d like to think I have). I also really like Sisko as he is protrayed as a character so familar and so unfamiliar at the same time.

What is your favorite part of the Star Trek canon? (TV, movies, book) Which series do you like the best?

I’ll get harassed for this, but I LOVE the Kelvinverse. It was amazing to see so many actors try to portray legends down to how the stood or flinched (This includes the amazing Countdown comics). My favorite series is DS9 and I’m enjoying Voyager much more on my current rewatch of it.

What would our readers find you doing if it isn’t writing/playing RPGs?

Being  a dad to my two year old twin boys. Escaping from an escape room. Playing a wargame at my local game shop.

If you were a component on a starship, what component would you be?

Whatever the device is that breaks poo down into its constituent atoms. Don’t’ ask why.  

Haha. Fun stuff, Al. And I thoroughly enjoy you playing in my STA game. Great way to get to know someone. Thanks for letting me interview you!


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