The Grand Adventure

I am continuing this narrative that I started here and continued here about a campaign I ran a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, . . . oh wait, I’m mixing my references.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I had returned from Peru in 1988 and began to run a campaign set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe (as it was known at the time, with only one season of ST:TNG out). My first collaborator was my good friend ruckawriter (who had run a Star Trek campaign for me set around the time of the Star Trek II, III, IV movies). His character was Captain Khelly Vander May. I had run him through several adventures, including one (inspired by Invasion of the Body Snatchers) in which a driven junior officer, Flight Controller Lt., j.g. Circe Protagon was promoted on his recommendation. However, for her to advance in ship seniority (from relief crew to command crew) she had to accept transfer to another ship. The captain and Protagon had a somewhat flirtatious relationship, but he really had only had eyes for his security chief. The ambitious young Lieutenant left Captain Vander May scratching his head a bit when she left. But it was on to the next adventure, an encounter with Kalandan technology.

After I returned to college for my senior year at U.C. Davis, I was badgered, in a friendly way, into initiating a separate campaign for my friend and housemate David, which started with me running the Kobayashi Maru scenario for his character, Captain Marc Antony Rhys Parthalon.

After getting to “kill” Captain Parthalon and his entire crew in our first outing, if only virtually, I let up on David, but only a bit. First, I made him play cat and mouse games with a Romulan privateer from the House of Khel, a Bird of Prey upgrade with which he traded fire, but never had a decisive engagement.

In his next major episode, near Gorn space, he had to mediate a dispute between a newly contacted race, the Bubahcuhb, and the Gorn, who were attempting to set up a base on the Bubahcuhb planet. After jousting a bit with the Gorn ship in the planetary system ((including having his first officer beamed over to sneak through the ship to disable certain systems), David hit on a “simple solution” to deal with the Gorn claims: hand to hand combat between Parthalon and the Gorn captain in the Nagato’s shuttle bay. No bamboo canon for Parthalon. Nope, a lot of running and screaming, and his high skill in martial arts (which we later determined to be
) managed to win the day and force the Gorn to relinquish their claims to conquest and agree to negotiate.

After that light little mission, I had the opportunity to bring my two “swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated, dictator[s] with delusions of godhood” together for a Star Trek event.

It happened that ruckawriter was back from Vassar on vacation and was available to come up to visit David and I. I quickly threw together some adventure ideas to bring together the two captains. The basic plan was to throw a series of issues at the two captains, one after another, to keep them off balance until I really pulled the rug out from under them. Then, after they got to experience some rollicking adventure, I was going to throw another curve ball at them and really give them a chance to shine.

One thing I had not planned for was that Greg brought with him a cousin whom I don’t recall having met before, and I certainly had not role played with him before. He was in high school, and there was some tension over whether he would get with the program of our “mature” play. Nonetheless, I had a place to fit him in and he quickly created a character, and actually worked out being a nice addition to the game.

To preface the description of this adventure, I should mention that I was diabolically mean as a GM, and everyone had an inordinate amount of fun.

The episode broke down into several parts:

Part I: Starbase 42
Captain Marc Antony Rhys Parthalon faces a Board of Inquiry. The Board stems from his solution to the Bubahcuhb/Gorn conflict. The Board accepts the arguments of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) prosecutor, Captain Horace Tildor, that Captain Parthalon is guilty of negligence and an infraction of the Prime Directive. The Board demoted him from Sector Captain to Subsector Captain and removed him from command of the U.S.S. Nagato. He and his command crew, minus his Betazoid counselor, were to await reassignment to the U.S.S. Peter Marlowe, a Wambundu Class Starship for which we used the unofficial stats from the FASA Decker Class. The Peter Marlowe did not rate a counselor given its size and mission. However, it did come with a small compliment of Marines, led by Lieutenant Rascar of Cait. The Nagato was transferred to the command of one Captain Janus and First Officer Terrence Navarre.

Captain Parthalon’s new assignment is to rendezvous with the U.S.S. Investigator and initiate an investigation into Romulan privateering in the sector. His instructions are to proceed with caution and to use force only as a last resort. As a military commander in a military command operation, he is technically the ranking officer. Parthalon is also given a second briefing on his fellow Star Fleet Officer, Khelly Vander May. The briefing is provided by a Star Fleet Admiral. He instructs Parthalon to be very wary of Vander May. Though Vander May is a trained Star Fleet Officer, he has a mysterious past, which included Romulan training and conditioning, and although he has been thoroughly evaluated by Star Fleet, he may still have hidden sympathies with his birthright. Further, his father, Del Vander May, also had a history of breaking with Star Fleet policy.

Part II: Starbase 223
In the aftermath of an investigation into an ancient Kalandan outpost which resulted in the explosion of a Kalandan moon complex and the near destruction of the U.S.S. Investigator, Captain Khelly Vander May and his crew take some well-earned shore leave, while the Investigator’s warp core and engines receive repairs from the damage done by the Kalandan automated defense systems.

During the lay over, Khelly sees Lieutenant Tasha Yar for the last time while the U.S.S. Enterprise-D is in port. He also oversees the transfer of his counselor, Wyeth, an Edoan with whom Khelly, who was not much interested in sharing his feelings, did not get along. Vander May then receives orders that he is to take his crew far across the Federation to an area near the Neutral Zone and report to Star Fleet Military Command. His expertise and knowledge is required.

Phase III: Vicinity of the Romulan Neutral Zone
After careful posturing and discussion, the two captains and Parthalon’s Marine commander, set out a plan to search for Romulan privateers operating on the Federation side of the Neural Zone. During their initial patrol, they come into contact with an Orion “merchant” ship captained by one “Commodore” Zynast, aka Captain Zy. After a little back and forth, the Captains and Marine commander beam over to have a little face to face conversation with Captain Zy. He treats them to the usual dancing Orion women, smuggled Romulan ale and then gets down to business. He is looking to make “friends” with the Federation patrols in the sector. Captain Zy provides what data he has about the Romulan pirates. He notes that he has avoided any direct confrontation, but notes that he has observed Romulan ships fire on one another when he and his ship were concealed in an asteroid field.

With the additional information, the Federation Captains find themselves in yet another game of cat and mouse with three Romulan ships. The Bird of Prey upgrade from the House of Khel, as well as a Stormbird (a modified Klingon D-7 ) identified by Khelly to be from House Kur’ta and a Bright One identified, again by Khelly, to be from House T’Kara. Incidentally, all of these houses were foes of his mother’s house according to his training growing up. After tracking the ships, studying patterns of sightings and surveying the nearby systems, the captains are close to an engagement, perhaps a decisive one, with the Romulans.

But they get a priority recall for another mission.

Part IV: Mission to the Jaradan sector
Parthalon and Vander May receive orders from Starbase 42 to proceed to the Jaradan sector where new diplomatic talks have opened after the recent mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise . The orders are precise. The U.S.S. Investigator and the U.S.S. Peter Marlowe are to proceed to the Jaradan sector to rendezvous with the diplomatic ship U.S.S. Aquila II. Commodore Alexis Tangent is the ranking Starfleet officer and the diplomatic head of the mission is Ambassador Tkl’enKla of Kareria. Once the captains located the Aquila II, they were instructed to transmit an encoded message to the Commodore and then place them under her battle orders. This was classified as a military mission.

Captains Parthalon and Vander May did not take the bait. These orders did not seem right. A military mission into the Jaradan sector, during sensitive diplomatic discussions, just after the reopening of diplomatic relations, seemed like a reckless and direct provocation in their analysis.

Parthalon order his second in command, half-Vulcan Science Officer T’Sparlyk (some clichés have to be honored), to break the encryption on the “eyes only” coded message for the Commodore. T’Sparlyk, after breaking the encryption found the message empty, a hollow shell. Concerned over this deception, they decide to try to trick their chain of command at the Starbase and then return to confront whatever must be going wrong there.

Their deception is a complicated engineering effort to send a status report via subspace that they have repair needs that will delay their departure to the Jaradan sector, but actually star warp pulsing back towards the Starbase at speeds that will put them much closer to the Starbase than where they sent the message. It was a complicated ploy, worthy of Treknobabble tradition.

Unfortunately that meant that the neural parasites which had been slowly infiltrating the crews of both ships had to move up their timetables to deal with Parthalon and Vander May. The parasites took over the crew that was in charge of the complicated subspace radio/warp pulse maneuvers and purposely failed while reporting success. Lulled into a false sense of security, relying on their crew members, the Captains begin to plan for alternatives for dealing with the problems back at base.

Those plans, however, would never be realized.

Phase V: Marooned
Despite clear orders, each captain finds that their ships have veered off course from the return to base. Captain Parthalon confronts the crew on the bridge and is told that he is under arrest. Indignantly he orders his Security Chief to arrest the second officer and others supporting him in trying to take the ship. Instead, the eight foot tall Kzinti Security Officer seizes Parthalon and the next thing Parthalon knows he is confined to his own brig along with First Officer T’Sparlyk and Marine C.O. Lieutenant Rascar. The reason behind the mutiny is unclear, but all command level officers, besides those locked up appear to have turned against Parthalon. Later they are escorted to the transporter room and beamed off the ship.

On the Investigator, Vander May senses trouble. Noticing the course deviation, he attempts to secure the bridge with the assistance of his Andorran Tactical Officer, with whom he is also romantically involved. She, however, at the prompting of the parasite infesting her promptly beats the crap out of him (you may recall, the parasites boost strength and endurance significantly) and he next wakes up in the brig with C.M.O. Singes Kang (Klingon exchange officer), and First Officer Yank Kumis. Although Vander May attempts to overcome his guards with the backing of a Klingon and a Malaysia warrior woman, but they are embarrassingly easily overcome and dragged to the transporter room.

The captains, their first officers, C.M.O. Kang and Marine C.O. Rascar find themselves marooned on the surface of a Class M planet, in a vast desert on Sohkta-4. They have their duty uniforms, minus their communicators. Khelly Vander May, having grown up in survival training on a desert planet from the age of two to fourteen, takes charge of everyone’s survival. Science Officer T’Sparlyk is able to relate basics about the planet. Sohkta-4 is a planet in an arid phase of its climate development, similar to Vulcan. The planet is host to two disparate cultures. One is nomadic and inhabits the desert and oasis system of the major land areas. They tend to be tall, lean and have orange hued skin. The other is mountain dwelling and organized around feudal principals. They tend towards stockier builds with olive brown skin. Each has a technological level approximately equivalent to cultures extant on Earth, circa the Middle Ages. Federation surveys have detected significant and untapped mineral wealth on last review of the planet, but due to the lack of technological sophistication, the Federation decided against first contact, citing the Prime Directive. Animosity between the nomads and the mountain dwellers was noted, with some institutional enslavement by the mountain dwellers of the nomads.

Khelly conducts the stranded crews to a rockier area that holds the promise of vegetation, water, and some resources to build some survival tools. They find the promised oasis and put together survival gear, including making some bows and arrows (something with precedent in the Treknoverse). However, they are soon driven from the oasis by a raiding party of the mountain dwelling Omars. The problem is that, somehow , the Omars have acquired helicopters and other technology, including low level disruptors, which cannot be a natural technological progress. They manage to evade pursuit, but Vander May is wounded.

Later, they come upon a battle between the nomads, who had been mounted on their equivalent of camels, and an Omar slave raiding party. The Omars have ground troops and an armored hovercraft. The stranded starship crews enter the fray with their bows. Briefly they are pinned down in a canyon. Vander May, against the advice of Dr. Kang, vigorously participates in the battle, but is a poor shot, wounded, with his bow (to much playful mockery of the Klingon doctor). Eventually, they manage to capture a disruptor pistol and kitbashing it into a makeshift grenade, take out the hovercraft.

The grateful nomads take them in, and return with them to their camp. There, the captains learn that Ferengi traders and privateers have made illegal contact with the Omars. They are able to work out that the Ferengi have supplied various Omar lords with technologies, including small arms, helicopters, hovercraft, and VTO jets to raid the nomads and to protect against retribution from the nomad tribes. In return, the Ferengi had apparently obtained unlimited access to the mineral wealth of the planet. The Omars supplied nomad slaves for unskilled labor and the local Ferengi operation contracted with smugglers to take the wealth off world.

The captains further learned that there was a Ferengi base and, what they deemed to be a subspace communications network at an Omar castle. While the crews recuperate, they forge an alliance with the nomads and the captains, some of Starfleet’s tactical geniuses, sketch out a plan to storm the Omar castle and obtain access to communications network and get a message off world. Although the nomads, the captains and their officers are definitely out gunned technologically, they use the terrain and skills of stealth to their advantage. There is a terrific battle. Captured weapons, wielded by Starfleet officers, take out helicopters and hovercraft, and the nomads, lead by Starfleet Marine Lieutenant Rascar, manage to storm the gates and breach the castle.

At this point, Captain Vander May took the lead and while Parthalon, Rascar, Singis Kang, Kumasi and T’Sparlyk begin to secure the perimeter around the tower housing the communications array. Vander May, handily wielding a nomad’s hand and a half sword, cuts a swath to the top, where he confronts some Ferengi trader-adventurers. The Ferengi attack with energy whips, but Vander May handily avoids damage and pursue the terror crazed Ferengi, who can only scream “Insane Vulcan! Insane Vulcan!!” Soon, the Ferengi are in custody, and Parthalon and T’Sparlyk are able to bring up the array to begin transmitting a Federation distress signal.

Almost immediately, they begin to receive an incoming distress signal. The coding is from the U.S.S. Nagato. Broadcasting on all distress channels, the acting captain, Flight Control Officer, Lieutenant Circe Protagon reports that the Captain and First Officer down, the ship suffering severe damage after an unprovoked attack by a Ferengi squadron. The Nagato was withdrawing, seeking assistance as it could not hold its own in its present condition against the invasion force. Both Parthalon and Vander May were more than nonplussed by the message. However, soon they receive messages from the Investigator and the Peter Marlowe that they are returning to planetary orbit around Sohkta-4 and will be able to retrieve the marooned officers. Acting captains Solon and Sten explain, with much embarrassment, that the command crews had been under the influence of neural parasites which had infiltrated. Actions by the U.S.S. Enterprise on Earth had eliminated the parasites influence; however, the tactical situation here on the perimeter had become critical in view of the shakeup throughout the Federation, causing significant confusion and chaos.

The Investigator and Marlowe enter orbit and beam the officers aboard, along with the captive Ferengi who are beamed to the brigs.

Phase VI: The Battle of Hostile Takeover
Both captains, despite being ragged, dirty and, to some degree, injured, immediately take the Conn. On Vander May’s investigator, his loyal crew is still in shock over the fact that they had been controlled by the parasites and forced to maroon him. His tactical officer is punching up the tactical situation with tears falling onto her consol. Vander May gives a short and to the point speech “Get over it. We have a job to do, and I expect you all to perform to the best of your abilities.” On Parthalon’s Peter Marlowe, the crew get over greetings and apologies quickly. Marine Lieutenant Rascar leaves the bridge to prepare his marines to attempt and/or repel any possible boarding action. Parthalon rejects Security Officer Tal Warrior’s offer to commit suicide to atone for the mutiny and orders a tactical assessment of the situation.

Thus starts the defense of the Federation frontier by two weary captains in what would come to be known as the Battle of Hostile Takeover.

Both ships tracked the departure from the system of the U.S.S. Nagato at top speed. Approaching almost as fast were three Ferengi vessels, a D'Kora-class Marauder and two privateers known as Enforcers. Nagato acting captain Protagon transmitted all data recorded on the three ships that had attacked, wishing both captains “good luck.”

The Investigator and the Marlowe prepared photon torpedo spreads to take the ships as they dropped to sub-light to engage the Federation ships. The Ferengi vessels broadcast a message. “The Federation has fallen into chaos. In view of its weakened position, in the name of the Ferengi Alliance, we announce our hostile takeover bid for this sector. Withdraw, or be destroyed!”

The answer was a full volley of photon torpedoes.

Three torpedoes from the Investigator hit the D’Kora, collapsing its sheilds and severly damaging its sensor array.

Vander May then ordered the Investigator to engage the damaged D’Kora and one of the privateer Enforcers. The second Enforcer began a full assault on the lighter Peter Marlowe. The Marlowe returned fire with incunclusive results. On a return volley, the Enforcer took down some of the Marlowe’s shielding and the ship began to take damage.

Captain Parthalon decided to take a decisive gamble. He ordered his marine contingent to transporters to be ready to board the Enforcer. Then he ordered the Efrosian Flight Control Officer, Sten, to engage the Picard Maneuver. The gambit worked and the next hail of fire missed the Marlowe as she suddenly appeared right next to the enforcer. On Parthalon’s command, his Kzinti tactical officer battered down the Enforcer’s shields and suddenly the Ferengi had a contingent of steely eyed Federation marines on their bridge, in their engine room and at their computer core.
Meanwhile, the Investigator continued to further disable the D’Kora, ensuring the massive ship would not be a threat, taking engines and weapons offline. The Investigator maintained a steady defense against the Enforcer escort vessel. However, before the Investigator could turn its full attention to the Enforcer, the canny Ferengi privateer captain ordered an all out attack with everything his vessel had. The attack proved overwhelming to the Investigator’s defensive systems, and only the valient efforts of the First Officer directing damage control and, even moreso, the Chief Engineer’s actions to hold the ship together with little more than spit and paper clips, prevented a total warp core implosion. For all intents and purposes, the Investigator appeared to be dead in space.

Captain Parthalon viewed with horror the sensor readings on the Investigator. Another hit would undoubtedly consign every being on the ship to their death. They had been about to engage the D’Kora as the larger threat when the Enforcer had pummeled the Investigator.

Again, he reacted with crazed imagination. Abandoning any attempt to bring damaged shield back online, he ordered his engineer to dump power to the engines and the tractor beam system. He ordered the Conn Officer to plot a warp jump followed by a drop to maximum impulse that would bring the ship as close as possible to the Enforcer. He ordered his Tactical Officer to calculate what amounted to a tractor beam lasso which would grab one of the Enforcer’s warp engines as they passed. The planned effect was to charge, lasso and slingshot arround into attack position on the far side of the Enforcer while also damaging or tearing away a warp engine.

Against all sense or reason, the “Parthalon” manuever worked, though the Marlowe burnt out its tractor beam and knocked warp engines off line.

Captain Vander May, from his smoking ruin of a bridge opened communications with the Ferengi ships. “Surrender or die!”

The Ferengi, viewing the seemingly crazed half-Romulan captain muttered “Insane Vulcan” and quickly calculated how to cut their losses.

“We withdraw our bid for this sector.”

Then it was all over but the shouting.

The captains dispatched security teams to each of the Ferengi ships, taking scans of all computer data and logs for analysis by Fleet intelligence. They began to assess and repair damage. They began to write the hard letters home about the dead among their crew.

The Ferengi ships eventually limped off, taking with them the unauthorized personnel and as much equipment as they could repossess from the Omars on Sohkta-4.

The Investigator and the Marlowe were eventually sound enough to limp back to Starbase 42; all told, a month passed between the battle and their triumphal return. Each received Starfleet decorations and commendations. Captain Parthalon was returned to the command of the Nagato.

Finally, all seemed right with the world again.

But the terror of Shore Leave, would eventually leave the two captains wounded and separated.

But that was another adventure.

A good challenging movie

This movie, "I've loved you for so long," is a really good movie. It was an amazing human drama, with a gentle pace, dramatic tension, and genuine and interesting characters. I watched it with my wife and we were both left with that amazing feeling you have when experiencing a piece of art that teaches about the tragedy and the resiliency of the human spirit.

The movie is about love, as much as anything else. Quiet, unflagging, patient, family love.

I don't want to do any kind of spoiler review, but just sketch out the set up of the film and tell people to see it. The movie takes place in France and is almost entirely in French. Watch it with the subtitles and hear the poetry in the soft gallic dialog. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Juliette, a woman just released from prison after a 15 year sentence for killing her son. Elsa Zylberstein plays Léa, her younger sister who takes Juliette into her family home while Juliette tries to reintegrate into society. Slowly, over the course of the movie, we learn who these characters really are and what they really mean to each other.

The movie is beautiful and amazing.

I highly recommend it.
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PDQ# Trek Character Creation (work in progress)

I have been inspired to try to post information about using PDQ# and Swasbucklers of the 7 Skies (S7S) as the basis for designing characters and adventures for playing in the Star Trek Universe. I am here going to post my initial proposal for character creation.

I cannot claim much originality in this. Of course, I would be nowhere without the creator of the PDQ# system and author of S7S, Chad Underkoffler. Further, Chad posted on his blog (here) the work of another genius Markwalt providing a first draft of a Character Creation system for Trek characters using PDQ#. He also posted characters descriptions , and actual play examples from Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3.

This was nothing short of a bolt from the blue for me. But, I thought I would like to make a few changes, especially after I started reading the application of PDQ# in S7S. To be as generic as possible, I will make references to the free PDQ# publication, but some elements as I describe them for character creation and other issues in other posts, will require me to make some S7S references. I will try to be clear.

Obviously, if you are going to play a game in the Star Trek universe, you are going to have to decide between the game master and the players a number of basic issues like what era is going to be the setting for the game and what the general role of the players will be that will bring them together. Chad has some great general advice in this regard (PDQ# 16-17). My assumption to start with for these guidelines are that players will choose to play characters from the Federation, with all or the majority in Starfleet.

I also find useful a number of on-line references that are really quite fantastic: Memory Alpha (a Star Trek Wiki), Memory Beta (a non-canon Star Trek Wiki) and Ex Astris Scientia-Bernd Schneider's Star Trek. And, of course, with so many people who love Trek out there, you will find an almost endless source of Trek ideas, stories and resources out on the web. But those are my favorite so far.

I will also probably consult a scattering of previously published Star Trek RPG materials to which I have access. FASA started it all for me, and I have been able to look over offerings from GURPS (Prime Directive), Last Unicorn Games and Decipher, and there are vibrant RPG communities keeping elements of all those games alive. A Trek game has to be your own, but I am a big fan of begging, borrowing and stealing all that I can to make my life easier, get inspiration and get the job done as a game master, narrator, etc.

I must again acknowledge that this is inspired by and borrows from the work of Markwalt and his players as linked to here.

1. Choose a name, rank, and job on the ship. Good background information on these issues can be found at Memory Alpha: Starfleet Ranks, Starfleet organization, Senior Staff positions, and Federation Starships. These choices should help you start to put together your back story. The information about your past and how you got to where you are is going to be important to how you play and what your character can do.

2. Choose two or more Foibles (PDQ# 5; S7S 137-38).
A Foible is a failing or feature that presents opportunities for interesting failure. These should flow from and be interwoven into your character's background. All Starfleet crew and Federation employees should take the a Foible related to Starfleet Regulations(which includes the Prime Directive, but much more as well). Generally a second Foible should reflect the character;s personality and a third may be linked to cultural or species specific issues (Betazoid rituals, Vulcan Logic, etc). The cultural or species specific Foible could be generic ("Vulcan"), but the more descriptive flavor you give it, the more it can shape your character. For example, Spock and Sarek both come from the same Vulcan family, but I would think you could come up with very different Vulcan Foibles for them.

Some Foible examples:

Always helps those in need
Honest to a fault
Says what people don’t want to hear
Some social situation require nudity (Betazoid foible)
Klingon Idealist
Andorian honor code

3. Chosing Expertise (aka Fortes, see PDQ# 4-5, 7-9; S7S 132-37, 142-69).
(Note, PDF# and S7S use the term Forte and I am simply, based on my own foibles and desire for a more "in genre" term, changing the term Forte to "Expertise").

I. Pick a Motivation Expertise.

A motivation starts out at Good [+2] and serves as the primary reason you do what you do. These tend to be long term dreams and goals.

Some example motivating Expertise:

Explore the Galaxy
Heal People
Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations
Learn about other life forms
Bring honor to my planet and its people
To boldly go where no man has gone before

II. Pick a Past Expertise.

A past Expertise starts at Good [+2] and explains how you came to be here, what made you the person you are today.

Some example past fortes:

Brilliant Researcher of Interspecies Sociology and Psychology
Science wunderkind
Graduated with honors
Reformed master thief
Mister Fixit

III. Pick a Cultural/Species Expertise (compare S7S 184-86 (Nationality))

A cultural/species Expertise starts at Good [+2] and explains particular skills, connections and abilities that stem from cultural experience or inborn species characteristics, or a combination of both.

Failed student of Kolinahr
Exceptional Betazoid Telepath
Old country doctor
Masai Warrior Woman
Ambitious Kzin soldier

IV. Choose a Fleet Expertise (see "Swashbuckling Forte" PDQ# 5, 16; S7S 137, 186).

This replaces the Swashbuckling Forte in the PDQ# and S7S rules (Markwalt refers to it as Starship Forte in his writeup, but since I want to eventually use this to build non-Federation characters who may not even be on a starship as a usual base of operations, I choose the slightly more generic "Fleet" as my substitute for "Swashbuckling."

A Fleet Expertise begins at Good [+2]. This should be your area of expertise for your role in your organization, be that Starfleet, the Federation Diplomatic Corps, or whatever.


Seasoned Ship's Counselor
Tactical Leadership by Example
THE Captain
Command the troops
Phaser marksman
Master and Commander

V. Add more Expertise and/or increase your existing ones.

You have 3 additional Good [+2] ranks to create new Expertise or bump up your existing ones as high as Master [+6].

4. Add up to 5 points of Techniques (PDQ# 6; S7S 139-42, 190).

Techniques chained to a Fleet Expertise cost 1 point, chained to another Expertise cost 2 points, and unchained techniques cost 3 points.

5. Style Dice.

You get to start with 1 style die.

6. Write your background.

For me, the biography of the character is going to chart the penumbras of his or her expertise. It is hard to capture everything a character can or should be able to do in a word or phrase, but when read in context with a rich background, it makes sense and makes things all the more interesting. Obviously, a background can and should grow as you work with the character. However, the richer and more interesting your background is (as long as exceptional or extraordinary events and past achievements are cleared with your game master) the richer the character, and the more things you can do with your expertise.

One thing that I did like about the old FASA game, was that it provided Starfleet, Klingon, Orion and Romulan characters with a detailed history creation mechanism, with numbers of tours and assignments from education through early career that, while not making a story in and of itself, gives a structure to hang many interesting back stories on. I am working on a character sheet for Federation characters that will provide some options to sketch out the framework of professional education and career that will support some really interesting back story. But that will be another post.

Post-Trek muse

I hope whoever has decision-making power is listening to suggestions like this one for future Trek movies.

Please no remakes of classic episodes or movies (and no KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!)

You created a parallel timeline to free yourself from the baggage of 43 years. So be free dammit!
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Spoilers. This just in, spoilers, the new Star Trek movie, spoilers, does not suck spoilers

Not going to do a full (spoilers) review. The timeline is changed. Movie is fun, entertaining, and my 9 year old and 11 year old were fine at it. Am I troubled by them throwing out the old timeline and starting over with young, pretty actors? Yes. Did it spoil the movie for me? No.

The movie rocked. Odd number curse is pretty well bucked this time.

I hope that more is on the way, despite misgivings.

Reviewer over and out.

PS the music is worthy!

The needs of the Franchise outweigh the needs . . . ?

Well, new Star Trek is out, and I do plan to see it. I do wonder if it is New Coke or the film that breaks the "odd number" curse for Trek films.

The is an absolutely reverential review in yesterday's Washington Post and Rotten Tomatoes is running it at something over 90% positive reviews at the moment.

I'm adopting a wait and see attitude, and yet I am hoping to return to that place, a universe of hope and optimism and science and swashbuckling.

We shall see. I don't believe in the no win scenario . . .

Continuing voyages

This continues the narrative about the evolution of my Star Trek: TNG campaign started in the late 80's. I started this narrative here.

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.

an addendum about "New" Star Trek

I wanted to mention a bit more about this new Star Trek movie coming out. Warning, non-specific but troubling spoilers.

Having only watched previews, I had assumed, wrongly, that this was a "prequel" of sorts to the original series. It seemed that there would be some inconsistencies and retconning, but within the bounds of other Trek inconsistencies.

However, after poking around the net, I find that we have a reboot or reimagining (bleah) of a different color. As much as there appears to be an attempt to claim that this is not a revision like Battlestar Galactica, the plot of the movie involves a pollution of the original timeline that changes certain relationships, technology and chronology, such that the movie essentially can or could invalidate TOS chronology, in favor of the new cast and continuity supplanting it. There is a Treknobabble explanation of how this won't change ST:TNG, DS9 or VOY chronology, but the idea of either redoing old series episodes, or just having a "do over" with different Kirk, Spock and McCoy just makes me shake my head.

Even if they called this a parallel dimension version of Trek, it seems wrong to hijack a franchise with over 40 years of history and a decent attempt to herd the chaos into a consistent continuity of "future history" and a playbook that established rules that governed a million dreams around the world.

So, I sense "danger" and "bad feelings."

But, you ask, are you going to see the movie?

And damn, the answer is "yes."

Trek revival interlude

As you might imagine from the "vast" traffic on my page, I write mainly for myself.

However, just to help with the sudden onset of full blow Trekkiness here, I'll mention how this state of affairs developed.

Now, those having been hit by the media blitz might well assume that my new found Trekkie faith has been spurred on by the new Star Trek movie set to come out May 8. While I'll admit to having been impressed by the trailers, the new movie is not at the heart of the action. And after all, we do have to realize that this is, in many ways the same idea that a decade or so ago was shouted down by the fan base, who hated the idea of a reboot of TOS. Now, hungry Trekkies/Trekkers who have not even had a new show running for the last four years after 18 years of mainlining new shows and movies.

I however, got derailed in the last season of Deep Space 9 (basically due to TV reception, work, and young fatherhood). I abandoned the voyage in Voyager even before that, and I never signed on for Enterprise. My Trek hiatus has been much longer.

The main motivation actually has to be laid at the feet of Chadu as the author of the PDQ# rules set (available free) and a set of links Chad posted on some work done by markwalt did adapting the free PDF# rules for Star Trek.

First PDQ# is a bright little rule set of simple rules designed to flexibly support a vast number of situations and narratives. It underlies a new game called Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies ( S7S ), which looks pretty brilliant (I have the pdf and the limited edition hardback is coming). The utter simplicity, yet supportive depth of PDQ# completely energizes me to think that easy Star Trek role playing could be in my grasp, and the information (actual play!) Posted supports my sense. Added to that Skyship combat (really cool) from S7S and I can imagine much Trek goodness.

That said, the touchstone of the revival was PDQ#/Trek rules, catalyzed with the new movie trailers dredging up all that I had invested in watching, enjoying and building friendships on Trek. It all comes back.

Perhaps it will be a brief revival, but I am glad to have these feelings and memories and to have some creative juices flowing on the Trek vibe for now. And now, perhaps I'll get back to my narrative stories.
Spooky me

To Boldly Procrastinate

A long time ago, when I used to play RPGs a lot, I first entered the world of Star Trek through the (now long defunct) FASA Star Trek RPG. My gamemaster was ruckawriter, and he was a great Trek storyteller (and he had most of the supplements and could really throw all sorts of things out at you). Of course, what generally happens when you play one on one, is that the player (me) wants to be Captain (I mean, why not be the boss). So was born Captain Darel Waver of Mars, UFP; Captain of the USS Investigator, NCC 1492. This was a "movie era" campaign. Captain Waver was wearing the very cool maroon Starflee Uniform and the Investigator was a Miranda Class starship (like the Reliant from "Wrath of Khan").

Many of the stories, no surprise, were full of intrigue, espionage, betrayal and politics. Within a couple of playing sessions, my close friend, the Chief Medical Officer, had been exposed as a Klingon spy, and had murdered my best friend, my Science Officer, right in front of me. I developed a rivalry with a Klingon ship captain. Then, through several sessions of play (and, I might add, years in advance of the start of ST:TNG and the release of Star Trek VI), my enemy and I realized how futile the Klingon/Federation conflict was, and we made our peace when we jointly faced (surprise surprise) an alien power more advanced and powerful than the two of us.

Lots of other very interesting things happened and the stories and characters really developed.

Good times.

So, then we had a big break in play when I was out of the country in Peru for a year. That was the same year that ST:TNG started. At one point during my stay in Peru, ruckawriter sent me a big care package that included pictures of Piccard, Worf and the novelization of Encouter at Farpoint. I started jotting notes, and pretty soon I put together our own Next Generation game, this time with me as gamemaster and ruckawriter as Captain, the Captain of the Investigator NCC 1492-A, a Constellation Class Starship on its continuing mission.

What was better, was when I got back, he and I played and it was great. Ruckawriter created a great character, Captain Khelly Vander May, a half-Romulan/half-human military genius. His first adventures were much fun.

But more lay in store . . .