I ran a number of episodes for my high school friend ruckawriter the summer after I returned from Peru. I had been able to catch up on ST: TNG's first season because my mother's friend had taped every episode and he loaned me all his tapes. I totally binge watched the entire season. In general, I was pleased, although the death of Tasha Yar grated and I really disliked the episode "Conspiracy.". Something about that episode just made me think "ick." However, later on it was going to prove important.
So, anticipating the second season, I ran things for my friend, spinning adventure ideas for he and his crew off of old Trek episodes, such as "That Which Remains" and even old animated series episodes like "The Slaver Weapon." I had the character, Captain Khelly Vander May, in charge of a ship that was highly diverse and Terrans and other human-type species we a minority (as it turns out, anticipating by years a selling point of the recent U.S.S Titan books about Captain William Riker's first regular command which is advertised as having only 15% humans in the crew). As I said, it was great fun, but ruckawriter had to return to Vasser and I had to go back to Davis for my senior year.
The game went on hiatus.
In Davis, I had been really fortunate to be included in a deal to rent a house with four other guys that was brokered while I was still in Peru. My housemates included my roommate from the first two years of college, two guys who had been in the same dorm with us as freshmen and sophomores, and one other guy, David, who been in the dorm the last year I was there, but he was a transfer student, and now, although younger than me, he was in a graduate program because he was really smart.
As it turned out, he was our token conservative Christian Republican. Also he was dating a girl (his future wife) who I had dated as a freshman (really nice girl). He also liked RPGs, and Star Trek and fantasy and science fiction books. And he had the room next to mine. And he slept in late (relatively) and I was an absurdly early riser (I blame my farm raised father). And I wasn't sure if I liked him.
Needless to say despite my mild idiocy, we are dear friends to this day, despite many differences and because of so many similarities.
It started out slowly, but we got to know each other, to know each others routines. We watched the second season of Trek together avidly.
And, I told him about my Trek campaigns with ruckawriter and my Captain Waver and his Vander May.
So, the natural question from David was, when are you running it for me? I put him off. Running some things was pretty easy for me to do then, but I was pretty up-tight about Trek. I felt I needed a good amount of prep time and thought to do a good job. There was a defined universe, and with new NextGen episodes out about every week, I was liable to get contradicted or otherwise messed up trying to pull it off. At least, those were some of the excuses I told myself. Also, it was one thing to run a solo "captain's" campaign for ruckawriter, with whom I had a lot of shared experience, deep friendship, and a lot of trust. It was another thing to put together something for David, or so I thought.
David was persistent, however, and I shared with him the character creation materials to buy me some time. He quickly generated an iconic character, Marc Antony Rhys Parthalon, not the youngest captain in Starfleet, not a prodigy, but a careful, brave, compassionate and mature man, an engineer and a teacher who, by dint of steady and reliable duty, rose to the captain's chair in his late 40s. That was harder to imagine 20 years ago than it is now.
We also put together his First Officer, who just had to be a Vulcan Science Officer (some clichés have to be honored) and I sketched out the rest of the command crew that included an 8 foot tall Kzin (animated series/Larry Niven Known Space crossover) at tactical (okay, so we out-Worfed Worf).
We decided that Captain Parthalon commanded the USS Nagato, a ship of the same class as the Enterprise C. Of course, in Season 2, no one really knew what that ship was like, so we used the unofficial "Royal Sovereign" Class from FASA's imaginative but very apocryphal NextGen Officer's Manual (eventually after "Yesterday's Enterprise" on down the line, the Nagato became an Ambassador Class vessel).
So, after all that, WHEN WERE WE GOING TO PLAY? I finally gave in.
We set up with the Nagato on the star map, and Parthalon on routine patrol duty as part of his Galaxy exploration mission. To start off, I played a clip on tape of the beginning of Star Trek II that ruckawriter had made for me. I played the distress signal from the Kobyashi Maru (16 periods out of Altair 6 . . .).
David thought he was responding to a distress signal "like" the Kobyashi Maru. He ordered the ship into position to effect rescue efforts.
Then Romulan ships started decloaking. Parthalon had not been lax during all his years coming up through the ranks. He knew his tactics and he, the crew and the Nagato gave a good account of themselves. The Romulans paid in ships and soldiers. In the end, however, the Nagato's warp core exploded, killing all hands.
David looked up at me with an expression that told me he could not believe he had failed so badly in his first outing with the game. He was not the kind of guy who would think that I had done anything but played fair. He had just not done things right. That was on his face. He said, picking up his sheet as we sat on my room's floor, "I guess that's it for my character . . ."
And I said "All right, open her up! Crew to after action debriefing! Mr. Parthalon, congratulations . . . Captain."
It was only then that David realized that he HAD been taking the Kobyashi Maru scenario.
He had performed to the best of his abilities at the "no win" scenario, and he and I were really playing Star Trek. I will never forget his mixed expression of shock, relief, and appreciation that I (really by dint of luck alone), had taken through the classic scenario, with a few tweaks, that resulted in him being completely taken in and transported (no pun intended).
It was a great start. But this was just the beginning.