Submitted by Stephen Near
Characters leave our favorite series’ all the time. This is as true for Star Trek as is it is for any other long-running series. The franchise is full of minor characters who lasted just one or two episodes and then quickly disappeared. But then there are the main characters whose departure from the show leaves a lasting and sometimes painful impression. In the world of TV Tropes, this kind of character loss is sometimes called Dropping the Bridge. Indeed, the very trope was named after the infamous loss of James T. Kirk in the movie Star Trek: Generations.
Dropping the Bridge
One of the things that draw me to Star Trek Adventures is the game’s focus on recreating the feel of starring in your own Trek franchise. The use of Traits and Values as descriptors for character abilities and beliefs puts more focus on the story than skill level. And mechanics like Momentum and Threat emphasize the dramatic beats and conflict that push a story forward. So, STA players are expected to play as if they are cast members on their own episode of the franchise.
So, what happens when a player decides to leave the show?
It’s happened to all of us, right? We’ve managed to gather a group of players. The backstories have all been hashed out. Maybe they’ve gone on a few adventures together. Or, perhaps, the crew has been together for a while. You’ve done a season or two, explored milestone arcs, and got the game running like another installment in the franchise. Then you lose a player and need to figure out the next steps. In Star Trek, these kinds of departures have been handled several ways so let’s look at how these options might translate into the story of your game:
Probably the most common example of dropping a bridge, Tasha Yar met death at the hands of the alien Armus in the infamous “Skin of Evil” episode. Killed in the line duty, Tasha was relegated to history as the series progressed and her jarring death was ultimately meaningless.
Indeed, this aspect of the character’s departure was lamp-shaded and corrected in the episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” which saw her return on an alternate dimension Enterprise. This would lead to a multi-episode cameo for Crosby as her old character’s half-Romulan daughter, Sela.
Dropping a bridge on a player character in the form of an accident or death in the line of duty makes sense from the standpoint of Starfleet officers. After all, exploring the galaxy is a hazardous job. But such an abrupt departure is best suited for a character not yet firmly established in your game or if your game has recently started up. This kind of bridge-drop on an ensconced crew member might not go over well. Players develop ties and share storylines with one another so a sudden, brutal death can leave an ensemble with a sour taste in their mouth. That said, if you can turn the dropping of a bridge into a multi-episode cameo arc a la Sela then, maybe, it can spice up your game.
Just as abrupt as the death of Tasha, the murder of Jadzia Dax on the Deep Space 9 episode “Sacrifice of Angels” was far more devastating. A key member of the core ensemble, Jadzia’s story arc was deeply entwined with that of the DS9 crew particularly Sisko and Worf. Jadzia’s death was complicated by two other factors, of course. Her murderer was none other than longtime series antagonist Gul Dukat under the possession of the evil Pah Wraiths.
But as a Trill, the character of Dax returned to the series with new host Ezri who carried on to the end of the series. As brutal as it was, Jadzia’s death had a dramatic payoff for DS9; it served as a tragic turning point for the series. As such, this kind of departure is best suited for games featuring established characters and tight knit ensembles.
So, if you’ve been running your game series for more than a season or two, AND have built up histories with recurring adversaries, a tragic turn like The Jadzia can deliver a punch. It can spark development by fundamentally altering the Values of existing characters while driving the overall arc of the series. Unlike the Tasha, the Jadzia is death with deeper meaning and, despite the loss of a player, can add some heft to your game. Of course, like the Dax symbiotic, the character could go on as a different host portrayed by another player.
Other races might also be able to skirt the rules of bridge dropping. Recall Spock’s death and resurrection during the film era, or the seeming immortality of the El-Aurians, and it’s possible to continue with lost characters in different ways.
So, in my next post, I’m going to examine how you handle a character departure without outright killing the character off.
Continuing Mission has done so much to support STA that Modiphius wants to give some love back, and so we are pleased to offer this discount code, CMISSION01, which is a 10% off coupon for the STA Starter Set, and usable on both the Modiphius UK site and the Modiphius US site.
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