Star Trek has been around a long, long time. In fact 2016 saw its fiftieth anniversary, and of course given how popular and ingrained in popular culture the show has become it is only logical that many articles have been written about the show. The sheer amount of history that Star Trek has under its galactic belt is mindblowing to say the least, but for now I am going to add to that vast array of tomes with a few thoughts of my own that may help you when creating your scenarios for Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game from Modiphius Entertainment. These are not in any particular order of importance but hopefully may help with scenario creation.
Star Trek as always been about exploration, not just of space and beyond, but of human emotion. Many roleplaying adventures, no matter the genre you are playing in will often revolve around a few basic elements. Characters meet up, characters go on a quest or face a conflict, characters resolve conflict and reap the rewards! By and large the vast majority of roleplaying adventures will take this form, with the players often being all too eager to get that extra weapon or learn that spell. It may be fun but it isn’t character development, its just the acclamation of stuff and little more than words and numbers on sheets of paper when it comes down to it.
For my Star Trek example I am going to take a quick look at Benjamin Sisko and look at his story arc and development over the course of the pilot episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine.
Benjamin Sisko is first introduced during the battle against the Borg cube at Wolf 359, a fateful day that leaves thousands of Federation officers dead, as well as many civilians aboard the destroyed starships, included among the lost is Jennifer Sisko, our protagonists wife. Sisko is now a bitter man, left to raise his young son alone, and almost resigns from Starfleet, but is persuaded to take a post in the far reaches of the Alpha Quadrant in a run down Cardassian mining facility Deep Space Nine. Here he meets up with the rest of his crew (the players if you will) and is introduced to a major NPC in the form of Captain Jean Luc Picard. Sisko holds Picard responsible for the death of Jennifer as he was assimilated by the Borg at the time becoming Locutus of Borg.
Sisko is given the mission of helping to prepare Bajor for its possible entry into the Federation and tasked with getting the station back into a place where it can be of benefit to both parties. During his initial mission, Sisko accidently stumbles upon a static wormhole and discovers a race of alien beings who live within it and have no concept of linear existence. Once back upon the station Sisko is deemed as the Emissary of the Prophets by the Bajoran people and held in almost religious fervour.
The commander is then tasked with keeping the people who live and work in the station safe from the possible hostile actions of the Cardassian Union, who had annexed the Bajor system and all but enslaved its peoples for many years.
The discovery of the worm hole aliens leads Sisko to an understanding with Picard and the two men part on cordial, if not good terms!
This is all told in the pilot episode of the show, and in gaming terms is your characters backstory. By adding a fleshed out backstory that you either create yourself, or with your games master, you breathe life into the character and turn it into something that you can relate and react to, even emote with.
Sisko starts his journey as a bitter and hurt man, wracked with pain and guilt at the loss of his wife and filled with anger. His encounter with the Prophets leads to a change that helps set the character on his journey. By the end of the pilot our hero is ready to face challenges before him and is more rounded. We have learned of his background, the loss of his wife and that he is left to raise his son Jake alone. We also learn that he is an engineer as well as interested in cooking. But perhaps more importantly we learn that he is a man who is often at conflict with himself and has some very difficult decisions to make down the line.
This dramatis persona is what rounds out the character and working closely with your games master or other players can often help build up a background. This is perhaps best done before you begin to game so you know your character, as even if you are a raw cadet fresh out of the academy, you will still have a backstory to tell as you didn’t just appear from nowhere.
Don’t be afraid to tell the story
Star Trek at its very core is all about story telling and its this that has helped cement it as such an awesome piece of television. By story telling I mean to do just that, not a simple adventure but tell stories! For this I will look at how story telling done correctly can really help in your adventures.
In the Next Generation episode Skin of Evil an away team mission encounters a malevolent life form who is as close as it gets to pure evil. The creature kills security officer Tasha Yar and this will have major repercussions in future episodes. Picard is a captain first and a man second, but the loss of this young officer hits the character hard, and he regrets sending her on the mission that caused her to have an empty death.
During an encounter with a spatial anomaly in the episode Yesterdays Enterprise, an alternative timeline emerges, one in which the Federation is in a losing war with Klingon Empire. The appearance of the preceding USS Enterprise causes history to be changed and in the alternative timeline Tasha Yar had never died, but ultimately sacrifices herself to help rebalance the timeline, again with Picards advise and wisdom.
But rather than dying during the battle Yar is captured by Romulans and ends up becoming the mate of a Romulan officer, to whom she has a child with Sela.
Sela is her mothers double (apart from her pointed ears) and is hell bent on bringing the Federation to its knees and more importantly the man she holds responsible for the death of her mother, Jean Luc Picard. She orchestrates a series of events that push the Klingon empire towards a bloody civil war, knowing that it will damage the fragile peace between them and the Federation. The plan is ultimately thwarted by Picard and his crew, but the single act of the first Yar dying had far lasting consequences. This story is told over several seasons, before finally building up to its conclusion.
In the roleplaying game don’t be afraid to think this way and plan out something that will have lasting repercussions on the players for many years to come. Of course you are playing a game and not creating a television series, but in a sense you are creating something that will be almost as tangible. Something as simple as a wrong decision by one or more of the players could lead to a knock on effect that come back to haunt them. An example would be Nick Locarno coming back to haunt Wesley Crusher years after he had been drummed out of the academy. The simple act of trying to pull of an illegal manoeuvre that lead to the death of a cadet, could leave Locarno bitter and twisted towards his former friends and years down the line could want revenge.
Don’t be afraid to laugh
Star Trek is at its very best when its having fun, no matter which incarnation you watch, its always the tongue in cheek episodes that really seem to gel with fans. From fights breaking out over the Enterprise being called a ‘Garbage Scow’, to a lost ship of Ferengi reimagining that they are Oz the great and powerful in the Delta Quadrant, its this fun aspect that has helped keep people tuning in for decades.
Writing comedy is not as easy as it sounds, in fact its one of the hardest parts of the craft and something that a lot of writers struggle with. Most comedy comes from adversity or tragedy, which is why we laugh at a cat chasing a mouse and having a clothes iron dropped down its throat and lumping up in its tail!
To add this kind of element into your adventures may take some working, depending on the nature of the people you game with of course. Some gamers just want to get the experience and see their character grow, but others want more.
Try to write a soft approach to a story, nothing major like a war torn planet or disaster, but something as simple as a watch shift change over and what happens when the players are put on a watch they are not used to. This allows you to introduce them to npcs that they may not normally meet and can lead to new and interesting ways of playing. Of course this will require a lot of work by the games master but the rewards can be worth it.
One thing that is always good for storytelling in Star Trek is its bad guys. From Kang and Kor, to Shrem and Brunt, these characters just keep on coming back for more. Bad guys don’t have to be alien or want to kill the characters, they are just as effective when they are the thorn in the side that keeps coming back to dig in that little bit further and cause that bit more annoyance.
Liquidator Brunt is a prime example. He is not an evil man, though he does have his motives, his hatred for Quark and his family is what drives him with a zeal, perhaps even more than the acquisition of wealth itself.
Returning antagonists are a great way to keep a narrative flowing and your players will love to hate them as they discover more and more about them. Though a word of warning, if you do plan on creating a character who will come back time and time again, don’t use them every session or they will stagnate very quickly.
That’s just a few simple ideas to throw into your Star Trek Adventures scenarios and help you allow your players to create better characters. Work closely with them to develop their character and help flesh them out as much as possible. Remember as mentioned before the characters are just numbers and words till they come alive in your imaginations so have fun with it, after all that’s what roleplaying is all about!
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You can find out more about Star Trek Adventures from our friends over at Modiphius Entertainment