This series is submitted by Star Trek Adventures Uber-Fan Daniel Li
So the guys had enthusiastically agreed to give Star Trek Adventures a try the next time we met…with me as a first-time gamemaster and all of us playing a tabletop game together for the first time. There was no time to have an in-person session 0 for us (and as a first-time GM I didn’t yet know what that was).
The first thing was to decide on the setting. My players were a mixture of “Niners” and old-school TOS fans, so I split the campaign into 23rd Century and 24th Century portions. The idea was to let each of them experience their favorite part of the Star Trek timeline while telling a story that spanned both. When my wife added the Shackleton Expanse book to my collection, everything naturally fell into place. I roughly determined that we would do 3 seasons in the 23rd Century (roughly corresponding to Strange New Worlds, These Are the Voyages, and the Living Campaign), the first two to get comfortable with the system and characters, and the third to kick off the Tilikaal saga and set up the story to continue in the 24th Century. Then we would round up new character and a new ship to pick up in the DS9 era.
I needed to choose a pilot episode for us to learn the system. I looked at the usual suspects first. I found “The Alcubierre” from the Starter Set and “The Rescue at Xerxes IV” from the Core Rulebook difficult to adapt to the 23rd Century. I decided to dive in right away with “A Cure Worse Than the Disease” even though it was lacking the deliberate tutorial features in some of the modules built with learning in mind. I’m a big fan of starting a story in media res, and this provided a good opportunity to throw the characters (and GM) into the action without overthinking too much.
We also needed a ship, and without session 0, it was going to be on me to come up with one. I wanted to be a benevolent GM so I picked the profile, refits and talents with the upcoming modules in mind. Using anything other than a Constitution-class in this era felt like blasphemy, so I cribbed the USS Lexington (NCC-1709) name and registry from the Shackleton book, but built it using the online tool. With the Organian Peace Treaty in place, we are going off into deep space and pushing back the frontier, so the Scientific and Survey Operations profile made sense. I noticed that Sensors + Science was the most common ship assist, and tended to occur early in a mission (like when arriving in orbit), so I put both refits into +2 Sensors, and chose the Advanced Sensor Suites talent to knock down the difficulty. Since the pilot episode would require dealing with a plague, and also to help prevent player character deaths in the future, I rounded out the talent selection with Advanced Sickbay.
With 3 seasons to plot, it made sense to expect our 23rd Century campaign to span 3 in-universe Earth years. I wanted the players to be able to refer to any events in TOS, so I said we would start in 2270, with the Enterprise in for her refit. That would have us finishing up right around 2273, with The Motion Picture and V’Ger incident. It was an opportunity to let our characters’ stories fill in the “lost years” period, and fit the tagline of the core Rulebook: “Starfleet needs a new crew.” The Enterprise is going to be laid up for awhile, and the Lexington crew could distinguish itself as the go-to option for Starfleet.
On the off-chance that my players achieved a total party kill, or got the Lexington destroyed, I had a trapdoor in the back of my mind to skip ahead to 2290, right after the Khitomer Accords, and jump right into the Living Campaign/Season 3 episodes with a Miranda or Excelsior-class to set up the Tilikaal saga for the 24th Century. Movies II-VI have always been my favorite Star Trek era, with IV my absolute favorite Star Trek “episode” of all, but the weightier movies era didn’t fit the swashbuckling tone of the story I wanted to tell.
Then it was a matter of setting the table for my players without even knowing who their characters would be. Only two players had chosen names and species for their characters (one of which would change at the table), and none had chosen roles or actually gone through the book or online tool and created their character sheets. I went ahead and created 4 main characters and 3 supporting characters myself for practice with the online tool, and used them in email examples of game situations so my players would have some grounding in the rules even if they didn’t read the Rulebook or quick start guide before playing (only one of them did). These characters would end up being used as crew support in the actual episodes, so I had to invent some background information for them on the fly.
The good news was that I didn’t really need to work that hard at world-building in a larger sense—TOS had already done that very well, and although I hadn’t yet seen DIS or SNW, I could use Memory Alpha to fill in enough gaps to throw in an offhand reference to Kaminar and the Klingon War when needed. I also knew from the movies that new ship classes were coming, so I could use references to the Oberthbeing launched and Miranda being designed and canonical Constitution-class ships like the Kongo and Eagle undergoing refits to give a sense of forward momentum—and that one era was ending and another was beginning.
Then it was a matter of figuring out how best to let the characters introduce themselves to one another, and introduce them to the NPCs and their ship. I thought about the shuttlepod climb from Earth to Spacedock featured in several of the movies, but it felt too slow and lacking in color. So I thought, what if it was like “Encounter at Farpoint,” where the ship comes to meet its crew, not the other way around? And with that, I was ready to take the GM’s station for the first time.
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