The Space Men Play Star Trek Adventures, Part III

This series is submitted by Star Trek Adventures Uber-Fan Daniel Li

Session 0.5 and the Moment Before

On a chilly spring evening, I got stuck in traffic on my way to the first game session and that turned out to be a good thing. In my absence, the four players put their heads together and completed character creation. Jeremy, an experienced 2e D&D GM, had read the core Rulebook in its entirety and helped the others use the online tool as they talked through their ideas and character concepts. The characters would all be department heads on the Lexington. Fred originally wanted to play as an engineer but changed his mind and created a science officer instead. Geoff really did want to play as an engineer, and had the character concept of an old, experienced, world-weary Tellarite with a grumpy, loner exterior and a surprisingly soft heart. It reminded me a lot of Veth Zhiv and made me wonder whether Geoff had seen Shield of Tomorrow (he hadn’t). Jeremy liked the combat mechanics and went for security. Peter wanted to be medical, and adopted a character Jeremy had created for that role.

The player characters were all male, unmarried, and childless. So it was up to me to add some diversity in those dimensions with NPCs. The player characters were all nonhumans as well, so that gave me the idea that the Lexington was a test case for the mixed-species crews we see from the movies into TNG, a transition away from the single-species crews of the Original Series era. I officially wrote on the character sheet that she carried 330 humans out of a crew of 400, a lower proportion for the dominant species than was typical for the period, with 165 officers and 235 enlisted.

So, by the time I arrived, they all had their character sheets ready. And instead of “you all meet at an inn,” I dove in and started narrating with them all meeting at a five-star resort on Risa. Located along the Lexington’s route from Earth Spacedock to the frontier, Risa was the marshaling point for nearly half the Lexington’s crew complement—mostly those already so deep in the Beta Quadrant on their previous assignments that sending them all the way back to Earth would be impractical. In civilian clothes, they got to introduce themselves, and met five of the NPCs who would be available for crew support and staffing the ship with them.

They first met a married Risian couple, Lieutenant Iban and Lieutenant Aisha, the Lexington’shelmsman and counselor respectively. The character concept was that this was the time period where Starfleet was experimenting with two crew concepts that would become commonplace by TNG: combining the helmsman and navigator into a single flight controller, and putting counselors onboard starships (as opposed to shore installations and starbases). The Lexington is at the cutting edge in every way!

I used Iban and Aisha as a device to draw out the player characters a bit more, though they weren’t terribly effusive at the time, and bring other NPCs into the conversation. So they met two security officers, Ensign Bagheera and Ensign Samson Gao, who would be pulling redshirt duty. Bagheera, a Caitian farm boy fresh out of Starfleet Academy, was newly married but his wife was a civilian and would be staying on Risa during the Lexington’s deployment. Yes, I did name him after the Jungle Book character. Gao was a human space boomer, from a long family line of freighter crews and shipping magnates, and never even lived on a planet until he went to college. He commissioned through ROTC, not the Academy, and was extra nervous to prove himself as a result. Calming Gao’s nerves was Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Nicholas Dwayne, Lexington’s senior enlisted man, who was spending his time on Risa with his children and grandchildren. He assured the redshirts there was nothing out here they couldn’t survive if they keep their wits about them, as he spent 30 days in an escape pod during the Klingon War after the USS Erasmus was destroyed.

The player characters didn’t give too much away, with one exception: the Denobulan Dr. Grelox (he prefers to be addressed as Doctor rather than Commander) was very gregarious, charming the NPCs and telling them how glad he was to have them in his new “space family.” Imposing and muscular, Commander Thalon Quilar, the Andorian chief of security, let slip that he enjoyed the ski resorts. More withdrawn were Commander Ter’Rec, the Tellarite chief engineer, and Commander Sabin Trall, the unjoined Trill chief science officer. Ensign Gao did find that he had something in common with both of them: they grew up off-world too, Ter’Rec as a Starfleet brat living on stations and ships as his parents were assigned, and Sabin on an outlying Trill colony. The player characters would be further developed in play, rather than with rote exposition, which suited me just fine since I was GMing prewritten modules. I could sprinkle in character-centric storylines later but wouldn’t depend on them for an enjoyable game.

The characters also shared what they’d heard about their new captain, using the time-honored characterization technique of having a character talked about by other characters before he or she actually appears. Dr. Grelox had heard she is an experienced diplomat from the JAG Corps who negotiated the peace treaty with the Klingons after the 2256-2257 War. Ensign Gao met her and her daughter when the latter was doing her ROTC interviews—Captain Birdsong was commissioned through ROTC at the University of Washington and her daughter is now following in her footsteps and would be shortly into her freshman year by now.

Everyone’s communicator went off, as I judged that enough exposition had taken place to get everyone oriented. The computer voice droned: “All personnel assigned to USS Lexington NCC-1709, report to Starfleet Annex, Savo City Spaceport by 2200 hours.” Gao recalled that the Lexington was not due to arrive for over a week, and by now the full crew complement assigned to her hasn’t arrived at Risa. 2200 also gives them less than two hours to pack!

At the transporter room, Chief Dwayne reported that the Lexington was entering the Risa system at high warp and would begin transport as soon as she was in range. While milling around with dozens of other Lexington crewmembers hastily assembled, many still in civilian clothes, we emerged from our ersatz Session 0.5 with some excitement and curiosity built for my players—why is the ship early? What’s so important that they’re pushing the engines and risking warp drive in a planetary system (a no-no in this era according to The Motion Picture)?

As the senior officers were present, the player characters beamed up last. Ensign Xellein, the Orion communications officer and engineering jack-of-all-trades (think of her as a younger, commissioned version of Miles O’Brien), beamed them up and the Lexington immediately went back into warp. Xellein informed them that Captain Birdsong had called a senior staff meeting in the officers’ lounge, and they’d better get up to Deck 2 right away. Enlisted operations crewmen relieved them of their bags, and the senior officers took the turbolift straight to the mission briefing. And with that, I read the Captain’s Log entry, recorded just before Captain Birdsong arrived in the lounge for the senior staff meeting, and launched us into our first episode, “A Cure Worse Than the Disease.”

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