Another wonderful STA fan has stepped forward so that we can showcase them and their stalwart crew. This week we get to interview Stu Jackson, an actor living in the London area of the UK. He is also a filmmaker and (most importantly) has been a lifelong Trekkie. At least for the last 43 of his 48 years anyway.
What is your RPG playing experience?
I did a tiny amount when I was at college, but it was a couple of years ago that I discovered an actual-play podcast being run by other London based actors. At that time it was only 7 episodes in, but being engaging, fun, and absolutely hilarious I binged the lot and became hooked. Those guys are now all friends, and are the Danger Club Podcast (www.dangerclubpodcast.com). They still put out weekly episodes based on Paizo’s Pathfinder game.
From that, I set up a game remotely over zoom with a few friends, also Pathfinder, and we still play almost every Sunday evening to this day. This naturally led to me ‘having a go’ at being a GM, getting it terribly wrong but having fun along the way, learning a bit more, having another go, and so on.
As well as Star Trek Adventures and my weekly social game, I’m also part of a podcast actual-play Pathfinder game (inspired by the Danger Club) www.TalesFromTheTwentyside.com—which Amy (who plays Davok in Our Star Trek Adventures game) is also part of.
How did you get into Star Trek Adventures RPG?
I knew I wanted to play a Star Trek game as soon as I discovered sci-fi RPGs (Starfinder was my introduction). As no one else was running one, I decided to run my own. Finding people who wanted to play was very easy (if you build it, they will come.
Originally I was going to reskin Starfinder into Trek, being mostly familiar with the Paizo mechanics, but a friend suggested Modiphius. The 2D20 system seemed a little daunting at first, I don’t mind admitting, but once you wrap your head around it, then it starts to be quite intuitive. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m still learning the system, but I’m so glad I went down this route. I dread to think how messy reskinning would have gotten.
Talk to us about the adventures of the USS Livingstone. How long have you been playing together? Why did you settle on “Livingstone”?
As a group, we are all part of the same online community (cue another mention of the Danger Club Podcast), and had gotten to know each other more or less. When I suggested the game they all seemed really enthusiastic, and I’m a great believer that anything else can come later as long as enthusiasm is there. One player had watched very little Star Trek for instance, right through to another player who’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Trek rivals Memory Alpha!
We started planning our game, creating characters and such, and this is when the players came up with ‘Livingstone’ as a name for the ship. Officially named after the explorer, but unofficially named after Livingston – Picard’s pet Lionfish that he kept in the Ready Room of Enterprise D. The shuttles on board have very special names too, although I don’t think we’ve had a chance to explore that in the game yet, so I’ll keep it as a surprise…
If I remember correctly, the planning started around December last year. Our first game took place on the 28th January this year though, so we’ve been running for 9 months. Being fortnightly it feels a lot less, but when I look at all we’ve been through (in-game and in real life) together, it seems like it been a lot longer. In a good way.
One player had watched very little Star Trek for instance, right through to another player whose encyclopedic knowledge of Trek rivals Memory Alpha!
What’s special about your ship and crew?
It’s the players themselves that are very special. They come at the game with so much love, and with such enthusiasm and a sense of fun about it that I’m left utterly in awe of them all.
As crew though, they have been thrown in at the deep end and been completely impressive. The Acting Captain wasn’t expecting to be in that position but was unceremoniously thrust into it when their Denobulan Captain claimed they needed to take a nap right before a major incident.
That wasn’t planned of course *cough*. Eelin (played by Ed) has definitely risen to the occasion though and provided some excellent, if unconventional at times, leadership.
The Chief Medical Officer is, surprisingly, a Ferengi Traditionalist. Matt who plays the character of Bosh has been amazing at balancing being a Starfleet Doctor and a complete Capitalist. Somehow he just makes it work. And is always on hand to deliver a useful Rule of Acquisition.
Our Security Chief and Eelin’s First Officer was played by Usher, who unfortunately has had to step back from the game due to so much going on in his personal life. Lee Varren has had an amazing character arc led by Usher though.
I won’t say too much as there was a massive reveal at the end of season one recently, and I’d hate to give spoilers for anyone wanting to catch up on the story so far. All I will say is that a lot of things that don’t seem to make sense early on get explained in full later. Also, this is the only character I’ve seen who can’t seem to open a door without breaking it.
And finally, in the Science station we have Lt (junior grade) Davok. He is a ‘standard’ Vulcan played really well by Amy. Being a more junior officer, we don’t hear from Davok very often, but when we do, it’s always a game-changer. I never would have dreamed that being logical could lead to so many shenanigans.
As for the ship, we rolled that up together as part of our planning session. The space frame is Defiant Class, and that was generated by rolling a D8 against 8 frames I have selected.
They could have ended up with a Galaxy-class potentially! We were all so excited to get Defiant though (it’s my favorite ship, and definitely the favorite of more than one player too).
The players then selected the individual items themselves from the brilliant online tool. As they selected extra labs/medical, I decided to make the frame larger than the standard Defiant, although the same shape, and give the ship an NX designation (meaning it is a prototype).
Our canon is that Starfleet is looking to adapt and repurpose Defiant-class away from being a warship to an all-purpose rapid response emergency vessel, and this is the test ship. At least that is what the crew has been told. There is more going on there though, that they have yet to discover…
A side note on the ship: Ed and Matt got together and made models of the Livingstone for us all as a big surprise. Matt is a maker of models and Ed is a painter, and they have produced absolutely amazing ships. As a ship collector (I have well over 300 Star Trek ship models), the Livingstone takes absolute pride of place!
What is your current mission? (Ex. Shackleton Expanse or not. If not, why not.)
We are currently (at the time of writing) ‘between missions’ in a sandbox environment of my own creation. We started with the “Kobyashi Maru” one-shot as an introduction then led into “A Star Beyond The Stars”, which the players just completed in a rather abrupt and unexpected fashion!
Right now (because of ‘reasons’) they are in an alternate universe (thanks Q) to do a quick job, then hopefully heading home (via a quick horror one-shot for Halloween) for a debrief and some new orders. From there I plan to have the crew go into the Shackleton Expanse, but with something of a twist! I’m VERY excited!
How did you land on the current format of playing on Twitch?
As an entertainer myself, I like to have an audience to bounce off of. For me, it can be a handy gauge to see how engaging content can be (as well as the thrill that I get of course). For the players, I think they were keen to share their experience with friends, given how we got together in the first place.
Twitch itself seems a more vibrant, energetic platform than others out there, and it’s great to have the interaction with the viewers live! We also stream direct to YouTube, which is really handy for keeping the episodes forever (early in I would upload them after the stream), but twitch is our natural home I feel.
What are the challenges of choosing to play via video/Twitch/online?
Firstly it requires some technical skill. As a filmmaker I had some of that going in, but it was (and still is) a massive learning curve. Taking our zoom images, putting them into OBS studio along with sound… well it takes some learning.
The second biggest issue for me is that when it goes wrong (and it will from time to time) it’s usually pretty major. And being new to it all I rarely understand what’s gone wrong until afterward when I have a chance to research. Thankfully such times are very rare, and our viewers are very understanding.
The only other thing to note is with viewer chat. It’s one more thing to keep an eye on (unless you have a moderator) when GMing. Again though, we have an amazing community with our viewers, who are extremely well behaved, so not really a problem for us.
What are the rewards of choosing to play via video/Twitch/online?
Viewer engagement is by far and away the biggest reward of streaming our games. To get instant reactions to something amazing a player has just done, or to an unexpected plot twist is just an incredible buzz. Any GM will know the feeling when your players react to something, but when it’s people passively watching. I don’t know, it just feels like another level.
For us, it’s also been a huge help in learning the rules. When we started we made no bones about admitting that we would be learning the system together, effectively live on air. And the viewers have just been phenomenal in assisting us to do so – offering advice, hints, tips, rules. Also suggestions for player actions, which is also brilliant as it feels like a true collaboration with the viewers.
On a much smaller but still noteworthy level, it’s also been really handy to be able to go back through previous episodes and remind ourselves of what actually happened (or in my case sometimes, what voice an NPC had) in previous sessions. It’s really nice to have that record to look back on.
What advice would you give to people who can’t find a local gaming group?
It depends on how absolutely set on playing in person the individual is. If that’s extremely important, then if you can’t find a group, make one! For anyone who has not GM’d before, I would strongly encourage them to have a go. I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t daunted by the prospect at first, but accept that you will make mistakes to start with (mine are there on the stream for all to see) and try to learn from them. Who knows, down the line, you might end up inspiring your players to GM themselves, and then you can have the fun of being a player that way.
For me personally, though I would always be happy to play online. That’s where the vast majority of my games have been. It’s true it’s not the same, but it’s something you adapt to quite easily I think, especially with the quality zoom and video calling give these days.
And with the number of opportunities to find an online group playing the game you want, on a day/time you want, why not give it a go?
Thanks, Stu, for taking the time to be interviewed. Do you want to connect with Stu and his crew? See the links below!
Twitch – https://www.twitch.tv/hailing_frequencies (We stream fortnightly on a Wednesday at 8:30pm UK time.)
Youtube channel (Hailing Frequencies) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4s6wKmpalyT23Y31zpWFTw
Twitter – https://twitter.com/HailingFrequen1
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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