I took it to the next level again people! During our recent mission, I pulled my main mission, Alan Patrick’s “Punishment and Crime”, from the new Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide. I created a B plot using Al Spader’s “Fluid Mechanics” from the Anomalies Mission Brief Pack #3. That’s right, folks! Two crazy adventures packed into one episode for the stalwart crew of the USS Pioneer.
This deserves a special, first-ever, DOUBLE REVIEW! I will first review “Punishment and Crime” then “Fluid Mechanics”.
As mentioned in my last double review, I think I may have struck on gold. Since there are SO MANY campaign guides, standalone modules, and mission briefs pouring from the wonderful well that is Modiphius, this will satiate my group’s desire to play them all! That’s right! You can do the same thing too. Find a more comprehensive STA module as your main plot and pull a B plot from a mission brief!
What an idea! Double the mission! Double the pleasure! Double the fun!
First, a History Lesson About “Punishment and Crime”
“Punishment and Crime” was originally released as part of Star Trek Adventures Living Campaign back in 2017-18 to the general public. The module was reworked and included in the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide.
Synopsis (spoiler alert)
The crew of the U.S.S. Lexington arrives at an uninhabited moon. As they wait for Starfleet’s follow-up orders, an unexpected coronal flare from the nearby star causes the ship to temporarily shut down – and reveals that the tech on the moon’s surface isn’t derelict or disabled.
I made some key changes to fit my crew’s current storyline, including swapping out the Lexington for the USS Enterprise. It gave me a chance to use Modiphius’ Original Series Player Characters and allowed my players to interact with these fan favorites. This meant we had to travel back in time around 120 years to 2269 since we play in 2385.
From there, the action really took off.
There are some really key plot hooks in this module that make it must play as part of the Living Campaign now featured in the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide. Some significant clues as to the power of the Tilikaal, the agents behind the incomprehensibly powerful alien technology, are available for your crew.
I have noticed that players can quickly be overwhelmed if there is a lot of new technology popping off in one episode. Hence, my advice is to keep it simple and restate the premise often.
One of my favorite parts of the mission module was “Admiral Stoker’s Story” on page 99. That gave me a lot to work with. Whether Stoker is good or evil or neither is really up to the gamemaster to decide and the players to discern.
I found the module an easy read and very comprehensible. The only thing that threw me off is the final act which covers the “Crime” in the title. The Lexington is destroyed by another Federation ship. The writer leaves it open to the motivation behind this attack and I can see gamemasters going in a lot of different directions with it. But gamemasters should definitely take some time to sort this out before play.
The sci-fi concepts were strong, if not original. Again, the Living Campaign allows gamemasters the wiggle room to make Tilikaal technology their own. In my campaign, all centers around space folding technology that is at the center of a transgalactic war between ancient empires.
The story was original in that it sits inside of a larger story arch that has been on the minds of STA fans since 2017. I did find the moon duplicated a lot of the same mechanics as the planet in “Bacchus’ Irresistible Call”. But that makes sense. Same alines, similar technology. I worked it into the story.
I could see how this module could be a low social conflict game. It is more action-heavy driving players to catch up with Stoker and her machinations. Mine was higher on social conflict since our crew had been transported into the bodies of Romulans and had to negotiate with biased Starfleet officers, namely, James T. Kirk and his crew.
As with all of the campaign modules found within the Shackleton Expanse Guide, I found this mission highly adaptable. (I mean—come on—I made it a Q-instigated, out-of-body, time-traveling adventure with TOS cameos.) I can see how novice gamemasters might try to adhere to the details too much and get frustrated. Seasoned GMs like myself know what to keep and what to cut in a rather quick fashion.
“Punishment and Crime” is a great mission brief to highlight the power of Tilikaal technology, but a little redundant since “Bacchus Irrestiable Call” did the same. However, repetition does make retention. Remember, the gamemaster can spice these models up any way they see fit. The big bonus to me was fleshing out Admiral Stoker’s personality and allusions to a Starfleet conspiracy.
Review of “Fluid Mechanics” Mission Brief
Synopsis (spoiler alert)
While traveling to their destination, the ship is forced out of warp and becomes stuck in space. The crew discovers that the material they are stuck in is semi-gelatinous and organic. After modifying impulse engines to work in the substance, the player characters discover a debris field that used to be a station at the center of the anomaly. The crew then finds a single, unknown life sign on one of the larger pieces of debris. With transporters useless in the sludge, an away team investigates to find an alien genetics facility and a reactor that has breached to another dimension, pulling more of the fluid into normal space. The players must neutralize the threat while facing an alien antagonist.
Many of you may have first come across the idea of fluidic space in the Voyager series. Species 8472, archenemies of the Borg, came from such a realm. I was elated that Al Spader wrote a brief wherein our crew could go there. While the majority of our senior staff had been whisked away to the past in “Crime and Punishment”, our lone ensign had to make it through a dangerous region of space with a batch of beta shift officers.
I took it upon myself to make the alien lifeform who dominated this pocket dimension a ship-eating, matter-consuming entity called 58394-They Who Feeds the Mull. [The Mull is a very dangerous region of space in my game located in the Centaurus-A galaxy that has many of the same properties as the Shackleton Expanse.] 58394 is a monotropic lifeform birthed in the Great Collision whose sole purpose was to provide neuro energy to the greater Mull, a macro entity that operates like a mega-consciousness holding this galaxy together. 58394-They Who Feeds the Mull will not stop their action until they are killed, at which point their singular egg—an asexual metazygote cosmozoan—will be germinated and reformed to continue the vital cycle. After 58394-They Who Feeds the Mull is dead, 58395-They Who Feeds the Mull will begin to grow to maturity. The player vessel would have 37 seconds to exit fluidic space before 58395 would continue their progenitor’s everlasting process.
Yep. Gulp that down and digest it.
The point is: this module had just enough foundation and framework for me to build a veritable house of horror to terrorize the ensign and her upstart crew.
I encourage GMs to use Tony Pi’s Cosmozoan Shuffler to build a beastie to make your crew whet their pants.
Well-designed concept, Al, with enough wiggle room to make it one of the best Mission Briefs yet. This made for an epic B plot that could have stood alone as an A story…if I wasn’t in such a rush to play everything Modiphius makes.
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.