To Boldly Go, Again!
After a few prelude sessions in the Original Series era, we’re ready to strike out into the Shackleton Expanse in the USS Dauntless using the Star Trek Adventures system by Modiphius, skillfully GMd by Guy Milner (@milnermaths on Twitter). The first season of this campaign had everything I ever wanted from a Star Trek campaign, so I am ready for the second helping! What I wanted to do here is wax lyrical about why this campaign has made such an impression on me.
I love the cast of characters
Above everything else, the characters that we have as the core crew are brilliant. We have the adrenaline junkie Helm, Lt. Lenera Del – a Trill who some of the crew knew as En. Darius Del on a former ship. She’s a wild ride on the helm and gets into all sorts of scrapes. We have the imposing Com. Tharhat – our Andoran Security Officer. He’s a law unto himself and is the most experienced member of the crew, with a great knowledge of Science as well as Combat. I play Captain Ezra Alessandro, the child of an Admiral who tries to be an agent of peace but is seemingly doomed to be the harbinger of war. And finally, we have the amazing Lt (JG) Johto Xorjea, our Bajoran engineer who started the game as a wide-eyed Ensign who was given a torrid time by the Captain, a true baptism of fire.
I love the relations between the characters – the respect that Ezra gives Tharhat, and the incredulity that Tharhat shows everyone else. The playful banter between Lenera and Xorjea and the latter’s gentle hero-worship of Ezra, who has taken her under his wing to rapidly accelerate her career.
We even have a ‘Lower Decks’ secondary character, Specialist Zhan Bo, who turns up sometimes to add his science talk to the mix, especially when the Captain is elsewhere…
I love the way that the game works
I find that the 2d20 system works perfectly for the game, allowing really clever solutions to be sprung from the imaginations of the players by channeling their inner Trek. The combat is fast and effective and the Momentum rules allow you to mitigate anything truly disastrous. Unlike some, I really like the ship-to-ship combat rules as they give everyone a distinct role in the battle, and everything that happens counts. In fact, if I had one complaint, I would like there to be more Command options in combat.
Moreover, I like the way we play. Before the game, the GM will message me with brief details of the set-up for the scenario. I then write a Captain’s Log briefing for the start of the game and the first thing that happens is me (or sometimes someone else) reading the Captain’s Log as a voiceover. We have supplementals, where we add our own thoughts. It’s a hugely powerful way to start the game, kicking off the mission straight away. No faffing about.
We also have some quite subtle subplots running through the wider story. The first season was very much about Xorja and her settling into her role as the de facto head of engineering on USS Dauntless. This involved some great scenes between myself and her player where I challenged her over her indecision and praised her when she inevitably pulled us out of the mire. And of course, in the finale, she was promoted. There were other subplots – Tharhat’s increasingly eccentric behaviour and descent into bloodlust, Alessandro’s battle with his peace-loving side when faced with war on two fronts, and Del’s struggles with past memories.
And every session is finished with a little vignette by each character, allowing them to illustrate how the mission had impacted them and to potentially lead to more intrigue.
That structure of Captain’s Log – Mission – Vignette really makes it feel like a Next Generation series.
I love that ship
I’ve become very attached to the USS Dauntless. She’s an old Excelsior class ship, heavily modified over the years to be a proper dreadnought – armoured and resilient. Everyone knows this is probably her final tour of duty, but the crew are determined to see her off in style.
My reaction to it is strange. She’s … my ship. When she arrives in a situation, it means something because it is known she has the power to stand and take a pounding. But I know that every fight could be her last fight. It’s weird to get attached to something that is just really, the setting for your game, like that. I guess it’s that ‘hero ship’ phenomenon that they mention about the show?
I love the Star Trek bells and whistles
A while back I wrote about the use of formulaic language in RPGs to embed genre, using Star Trek as a prime example. It’s one thing writing it and another thing actually playing it out. It might just be me, but there’s something magical about using ‘The Words’, as I call them, in a game. ‘On Screen!’ – ‘Battlestations – Red Alert’ – ‘Mr. Mellings, you have the conn’ – ‘Del, take us out, one quarter impulse power’ and all of the rest of them.
Our first season involved a potential Klingon civil war brewing around factions who would abandon the Khitomer Accords and a huge amount of sabre-rattling from the Romulans, including one recurring Romulan Captain who I have come close to blowing out of the sky so many times it’s silly. We visited strange worlds, romped around alien bases, and caroused in Narendra Base. It just feels like Star Trek, and what more can you ask from a Star Trek game.
So what’s on the cards for Season Two?
We’re just about to finish the prelude, aboard the USS Lexington. It’s in the past, so Tharhat is an eager young thing, and Del is a different iteration of the symbiote. Having Del and Tharhat know each other already makes things even more interesting in the future. I’ve been playing Dr. Kelly, a moody, constantly annoyed old man who is near to retirement. I’ve taken great pleasure in laying the seeds with Tharhat and Del for their future characters – especially telling Del to ‘fly it like you stole it!’ during one escape … a phrase that is her oft-quoted value in the modern game.
Season Two of any game is a nervous time – can you go back and capture the same flavour and fun again, or is it a product of its time? I know I have tried and failed many times, but I think we’re well up for this one and ready to take our lady out to Boldy Go, Again!