By Matthias Feist
I run long campaigns, very long campaigns.
The longest RPG I ever played brought my players’ characters from Starfleet Academy in 2360 to the end of the Dominion War. They more or less played this in real time, from 2000 to 2016.
During this time, we moved systems from LUG to Decipher, to Star Trek Adventures. The games went from mostly in person to mostly online, since a few of us moved countries, including myself twice. So I’ve been playing with a player base of circa a dozen people broken into English and German speaking groups.
Before the pandemic, I used to travel to play, and I am looking forward to 2023 as I can take that up again. Throughout the pandemic, playing role-playing games was a lifeline, and I have never played more in my life (including my teenage years) than I do now. After moving to rural Ireland, I am far away from everyone else, so the lifeline remains vital to me socially and psychologically.
My campaigns tend to be about history and politics. They track historic events in a location or based on a theme and then look at them from the perspectives of the people involved. Some of my best episodes have been about the player characters playing a background role in historic Star Trek events or episodes, e.g. at Wolf 359, The Ultimate Computer, and The Lights of Zetar.
After the epic end of my previous campaign (they were last seen flying off into battle to free Cardassia), we went back to the mid-23rd Century (a few of them literally) to explore how the Federation developed the concept of Memory Alpha as a project of sharing knowledge across cultures and polities. The aim was to cover its whole history, from choosing a site in the early 2240s to the post-TNG era.
A lot of my lore of this time is informed by old FASA materials which in my opinion reflect the zeitgeist of the era of classic Trek very well.
Having grown up during the Cold War, I was interested in exploring how the Federation would run a shared knowledge project during the struggle between dominant powers ready to pounce on each other. Was the knowledge really for everyone? What would the Romulans think of the Federation building a massive AI? Who funds Memory Alpha and how would politicians and the tech-bros of the age want to influence and benefit from such a free knowledge base? These are themes I have explored in my games in the last few years.
A lot of my lore of this time is informed by old FASA materials which in my opinion reflect the zeitgeist of the era of classic Trek very well. Re-reading the old manuals “The Federation” and “Trader Captains and Merchant Princes” after decades, I was astonished at how politically hawkish, capitalist and colonialist this era of play was. I didn’t see that in my late teens when I started playing Star Trek. Viewed from the perspective of the Discovery era, and even TNG, I felt this would be a fantastic socio-political background to play some Trek.
Remembering (like most of my players) the epochal changes that came with the fall of the iron curtain and the emergence of the internet, I knew I had a setting that would feed stories for years to come. I’m now in year six, and my game has moved from the 2240s to the early 2070s, with a few time jumps along the way to move things along. My two groups are in separate locations, but they’ve always been in parallel series, so cross-over appearances do happen.
What’s happening now?
After the destruction of Memory Alpha by the Zetarians, the crew of the USS Kongo (Constitution class refit) is en route to the other side of the Romulan Star Empire, to search for the El-Aurian homeworld, where one of the main characters grew up. They are mostly survivors of Memory Alpha, the mixed civilian and Starfleet crew that built the station’s computer systems first with, and after the events of The Ultimate Computer without, Dr. Daystrom.
We had two deaths on the crew during the Zetarian attack, but many could be evacuated in time due to a mysterious time-traveller (a main character from the earlier campaign) warning them just in time. Their new mission is to find out what happened to El-Auria (the Borg, which they will never know) and scout for new Memory Alpha locations along the way. Using historical data (including from the Zachriel from “A Plague of Arias” from the the Modiphius “These Are The Voyages” supplement) they have plotted a course that leads them through the Triangle Region between the Klingon and Romulan empires to a region quite close to The Shackleton Expanse. They’re soon halfway through, having visited a variety of alpha and beta canon worlds. Lately, they’ve been dealing with the Klingons (here, the Modiphius Discovery sourcebook and the Klingon core rulebook have provided me with inspiration and NPCs) – specifically operatives working for Qagh, The Albino of DS9 infamy.
The crew of the USS Daring (Anton to early Miranda class refit – I go by FASA canon here) is trying to uncover a long-term plotline about the machinations of Tellarite tech entrepreneur Draylon Tusk (uncanny, I know). He’s been involved in some sort of time travel shenanigans. This involved to Orions and Malurians (yes, them), and also presidential candidate Harry Mudd, to manipulate fringe worlds not to join the Federation, but to submit to open and covert colonial arrangements in Tusk’s favour (via shell companies sourced from the FASA Merchant Captains and Merchant Princes sourcesbook).
There is also a time travel component, where Opterans (from “Biological Clock” in “These Are The Voyages” again) are being used as biological batteries (ever wonder how the Orions powered that super fast ship in The Journey To Babel? That’s how!). Tusk has inveigled himself onto the board of the Memory Alpha Society, as it struggled for funding and public support after the Zetarian attack. Daring’s crew has worked out that Tusk is at the heart of all this, sponsored Mudd’s populist campaign and its legal and political implications (from the Modiphius Year Five tie-in supplement). They are officially out searching for new Memory Alpha locations (and unbeknownst to them also ones that might be compatible with the Genesis project, since their requirements for life-less worlds overlap…) but in reality, they are trying to tie Tusk to the illegal trade in Opterans for president Areel Shaw.
There are many subplots and tie-ins into (mostly beta) canon. One of my episode design rules is to include either a known world, character, or plot device from alpha canon to create a stronger immersion for my players – something they can connect to.
Those who aren’t into Star Trek deeply will enjoy a rich fictional world tapestry, but the Trekkies in my groups can get quite excited when they work out that one of the earlier directors of Memory Alpha was Dr. Tolian Soran, their plotted course is quality checked by Lieutenant jg Ilia, and Dr. Daystrom is an outpatient on Hephaestus station where Dr. Carol Marcus is also bringing up her son David.
Not all of my players are interested in the narrative aspects of my long-form RPG storytelling style, so I hope to stoke their interest with these Easter eggs from both Trek lore, as well as parallels to real-world historical and political events.
Using historical allegories and mashing them up with current themes, in my view, was always Star Trek at its best. It’s how I’ve always played, and many of my players have been along for the trek for over 30 years.
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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