The brave crew of the USS Pioneer concludes our season-long campaign using adventures pulled from the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide.
This adventure was written by the dynamic duo of Derek Tyler Attico and Kelli Fitzpatrick, Star Trek Adventures veterans who collaborated to write a riveting tale that ramps up the drama of the Tilikaal Saga.
NOTE: I also merged some elements from the following mission briefs contained in the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide—“The Qofuari Conundrum” written by Scott Pearson and “A Picture’s Worth” written by Dayton Ward.
Synopsis (spoiler alert)
With the help of their newfound Tilikaal ally, Thacinn (first encountered in Part 7, “The Needs of the Few”), the player characters track the growing tetryonic filaments and EM radiation bursts to the planet Cal-Mirra in the Shackleton Expanse. Once on the surface of this oceanic tidally-locked world, they meet the Cal-Mirrans (a crystalline water-based people), investigate the strange vibration pollution in the ocean, and clash with a band of zealots.
With guidance from the Cal-Mirran government, the player characters find a lone scientist on the edge of the planet’s Unknown Dark region. With him, the player characters traverse the depths of flooded Tilikaal spires. They discover thousands of Tilikaal bodies in stasis sarcophaguses, similar to those seen on the Candidate Three planet during Part 4, “The Displaced.”
As Ash’Tamalia and her group struggle to push through from the pocket universe, the player characters must open the gateway between realities before damaging pulses of energy wreak havoc on the planet. Once the rift is opened, Tilikaal arrives, betrayal abounds, factions of Cal-Mirrans get involved, and the player characters must decide how to confront the different facets of the prism.
I use five measurements when determining how I feel about modules: comprehensibility, originality, sci-fi concepts, social conflict potential, and adaptability. It is important for gamemasters to understand that they have a lot of liberty in extracting what they want from any modules or mission briefs.
This module would serve as the epic two-part conclusion to Pioneer’s fifth gaming season! It was the opportunity for me to tie up a lot of loose ends collected since season 1 that we began back in 2018. This adventure had some great pieces that I could extract and modify to guide my crew to the resolution of what I believe to be one of the best Star Trek epics of all time carefully constructed by the minds at Modiphius.
I took a lot of liberties, modifying this module to suit my needs—something Star Trek Adventures gamemasters are wholeheartedly encouraged to do.
Over the past four seasons, the crew of the Pioneer had collected clues about the Assessors, Ash’Tamalia, and the terrifying technology of the Tilikaal. I was intent on making sure the players got the answers to all the questions that had been plaguing them for years. I wanted them to have a sincere feeling of accomplishment, rewarding them for their hard work and the many sacrifices made by their characters. I was careful to learn what each player wanted to get out of this epic conclusion. Unbeknownst to the group, one player decided that he wanted his character to have a heroic death. Another character would be written off in a cosmic way.
With groundwork laid with the players and four years of awesome gaming under our belt, we launched into “Prism”!
I admit I spent a lot of brain cells reading and rereading the various modules and mission briefs contained in the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide to get to a place where I could weave them into a comprehensible season-long story arch with a cinematic-style conclusion. [For more on play styles see the Gamemasters’ Guide.] With that, I made a decision to make “Prism” my season finale since it introduced the crystalline Cal-Mirrans, a visually stunning creation, “non-humanoid water-based beings who can control their own state of matter.”
The Cal-Mirran’s were a great sci-fi concept that we had not touched on in four seasons of play. They were a fearsome foe for our away team and Derek and Kelli introduced two new talents that shocked my player characters’ senses, Water Glassing and Time Refraction. Now, Gamemasters, listen up. Let me tell you how I used Time Refraction and why I liked it so much.
The module states, “This talent can be used tactically to recover information or to peek at the future, but also as a form of self-discovery, reflection, or escapism. Cal- Mirrans often have feelings of déjà vu as minor manifestations of this ability.” In summary, I used this talent to allow the characters to see their deaths if they took particular courses of action during a battle with the rival faction of Cal-Mirrans. To make my players run with it narratively, they were asked to play through and not freak out—especially since their characters were being shredded by the Water Glassing. Once they were all dead, I revealed to them that this was a flash forward, time refraction. This enabled them to change their strategy accordingly.
They were then allied with a native Cal-Mirran elder who used Time Refraction to help them predict which strategies might succeed or fail. This made for very interesting storytelling as the characters experienced their own deaths multiple times. Crazy awesome!
The concepts in the module and adjoining missions briefs were just clear enough that I could pull out ideas that I really liked. Though there are plenty of opportunities for players to attempt social conflict with the Cal-Mirrans—or ,in our case, Ash’Tamalia and the Assessor—our group was in for the fight of their lives as they attempted to prevent the Tilikaal’s full incursion into the Shackleton Expanse and Federation space.
Since the Cal-Mirrans and their world were laid out so well in the guide, it was a very easy module for me to adapt. I used probably about 20-25% of the provided material since our group was utilizing this as an endcap to a season-long story arch.
The main antagonists were those pesky Tilikaal with their designs to possess the bodies of the Akaruns and Cal-Mirrans thereby restoring themselves to the physical plan of existence. From there, they threatened to take over the Galaxy. I had decided at the launch of this campaign that the Tilikaal would be the bad guys, though some gamemasters might take a different path.
Our campaign centered more around the Captain Jilel of Pioneer, the first Romulan to ever captain a Starfleet vessel, along with his loyal crew struggling to save his people from the Hobus supernova utilizing Tilikaal technology despite racist forces in the Federation trying to stop them. In the end—and with a lot of sacrifice—the crew of Pioneer succeeded leading Jilel to go on to broker peace between the Federation and remnants of the Star Empire. By the end, several of Pioneer’s crew became the leading experts on Tilikaal technology and the strange physics of the Expanse, even going on lecture tours and writing well-regarded papers on the matter. Over a year after the events of “Prism”, Captain Jilel would maintain his command of Pioneer and be sent as an ambassador back through a tetryon filament to the Centaurus-A galaxy where they had been thrust in season 1 after the events of Jim Johnson’s “Displaced”. 13.7 million light-years away, the adventures of Star Trek Pioneer continue into their fifth season.
For our group, “Prism” was an epic ending to the Tilikaal Saga, four years in the making. Over the course of almost half a decade, we used seven mission modules and two mission briefs. We also played seven modules from the Living Campaign that launched in 2017 during our first season. This made for a total of 14 mission modules and 2 mission briefs pulled from the Shackleton Expanse guide in some form or fashion. What an amazing run!
The main concept of the Living Campaign originated with Dayton Ward and Scott Pearson, Star Trek veterans. Their love for the genre shows and made it easy for other writers like Attico and Fitzpatrick to pick up the ball and run with it.
Furthermore, gamemasters can feel confident that—should they pick up the campaign guide or play the original free modules from the Living Campaign (which they should)—they will be able to spin some amazing adventures from the wonderful plot threads these writers have spun.
(To see our entire play reports, see Star Trek Pioneer, Season 4, Episode 12: “Time of the Tilikaal, Part I” and Star Trek Pioneer, Season 4, Episode 13: “Time of the Tilikaal, Part II”)
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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