Modiphius pulls from some of the most talented people on the planet when inviting writers into the fold. Piers Beckley is a full member of The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, was shortlisted for the BBC Drama Writers Academy 2007, and was a delegate on the TAPS Continuing Drama course (the equivalent scheme for ITV) in 2008. “The Burning” is Piers first work for Modiphius. This standalone 24-page PDF adventure by Piers Beckley is for the Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game and is set during the original series era. This adventure also contains advice for adaptation for use in campaigns based on other Star Trek eras.
Michael: How did you get involved with working on the Star Trek Adventures game?
Piers: I saw on the website that Modiphius were looking for writers, and sent them a query letter. They asked me to submit a short pitch telling them about the adventure that I’d like to write for them, which was approved, and here we are.
I enjoyed perusing your standalone module “The Burning”. Did you have that on your
back burner for a while? How did you develop the idea?
Thanks. I knew that I wanted to write an adventure set in the timeline of the original series, so I knocked out about a dozen one-line pitches just for myself to see which ones both resonated with that era and felt particularly exciting to me. It was clear when I came across the idea of a type of first contact that hasn’t been seen on the show before (but feels like it could have been) that this was the one I wanted to do. Once I’d got a basic draft of the adventure in place, I playtested it with my regular group to check that it made sense and was fun to play, and then fixed the things that weren’t clear or weren’t fun.
Most Star Trek stories have some sort of modern social comparison. What was your
I wouldn’t say in particular that this adventure has a modern social comparison; instead, it’s very deliberately paced as a story that could have been seen in the original show. I’m a big fan of those well-made 60s shows like Star Trek and The Prisoner where as well as the stories being full of significance and depth, they also included a big dose of action to break up the thinking time! So as well as an ethical dilemma or two for the characters, I wanted some big set-piece confrontations. Some of my favorite episodes of Star Trek are about the cat-and-mouse games involved in starship combat, so I really wanted to include some of that, together with a fight in the standing sets.
What is your favorite thing about working on STA products?
I’ve loved both Star Trek and tabletop RPGs ever since I was first introduced to them many years ago, so the opportunity to be able to write for both at the same time made my little fannish heart go bippity-bop.
My actual favorite thing, though, was when I heard that the adventure had been approved by CBS. For me, that was the moment when I properly believed that I’d written a real piece of Star Trek. It still gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling thinking about it.
I’m sure! When did your passion for Star Trek first develop?
For as long as I can recall, Star Trek has always been a part of my life. I watched it when it was on, but this was in the days before being able to record things from the television or buy DVDs, so I also ate up the novelizations by James Blish and have fond memories of Star Trek Fotonovels (in which Actual Pictures from the episodes were cut together like comic strips with speech bubbles for dialogue). Sadly my copy of “The Devil in the Dark” is long gone. I didn’t see the original episode until many years later, but I still remember that Fotonovel like it was yesterday. It was just like watching Star Trek on the telly, but when it wasn’t on!
Do you play STA on the regular? If so, what is your crew like? What character do you
Sadly, Covid-19 has put paid to my regular group playing anything at all in person right now, so all of our games are on hold for the moment. We did try playing over video, but I don’t find it as much fun when you’re not there in the room reacting to each other. At this point, I’m just waiting for the vaccination rollout to get to a point where we can all get together again safely.
What have you noticed about public reaction to the game? What about STA struck a
different chord with the public do you think?
The ruleset works well to make the game feel like Star Trek when you play it. The action’s quick and fast, while still allowing for all of the got-to-get-this-done-under-pressure moments that we see on screen with the Extended Tasks mechanic. One of my personal favorite moments running the game was when the players created their Constitution-class vessel, set out the various stations on the bridge, and decided which character should sit at which station. Even though it was just a little scratched-out-on-pencil-and-paper diagram, creating that made their ship feel real to me.
Who is your favorite character in Star Trek? Why?
It would have to be Mr. Spock—the alien whose differences from humanity allow the series to
comment on what we’re like as a species, to let us step outside ourselves and examine who we
are by his reactions to us, and ours to him. Obviously, that particular type of character role has been held by many others over the years—Data, Odo and Quark, the Doctor… but Spock was the first, so I feel that if I absolutely must choose one it should be him.
What is your favorite part of the Star Trek canon? (TV, movies, book) Which series do you
like the best?
Goodness, there are so many to choose from… I’m going to have to say the original series, I
think, purely because it came first! All of the later series have something to fall back on,
something that Star Trek is that they can look back on and use as a touchstone—but when that first series aired, there was nothing that was Star Trek—it had to be created from whole cloth. I picked up the original series on Blu-Ray a little while back, and those episodes still stand up as excellent television, even today.
What would our readers find you doing if it isn’t writing/playing RPGs?
Something that my friends and I are doing at the moment is watching films together separately. At 4 pm on a Sunday afternoon, we all join the same Slack channel and watch the same film, kibbitzing as we go. We’ve finished the Fast & Furious movies and have just started on the Marvel films.
If you were a component on a starship, what component would you be?
Well, I’d like to be the transtator. After all, it’s the basis for every piece of equipment the
Federation has. But more realistically, as a GM I’d be the Library-Computer Station. It gives you the information you need to set up the story and then gets left in the background while the stars of the show do their thing. Which is as it should be.
You have a pretty significant body of work. Where can people go to explore more about Piers Beckley?
Piers, thanks for taking the time to interview with us at Continuing Missions. I look forward to playing your module and seeing more in the future!