I just thought I’d post a captain’s log, as it were, detailing the two campaigns I’m running for Star Trek Adventures.
The dual campaigns – one with my home group and the other online via Google Hangouts – serve different purposes, and I’m trying hard to differentiate them in various ways to give me as wide of a perspective as possible about the strengths and weakness of the game system. Both campaigns help me learn the game in different ways and, with some luck, also will help me write more official scenarios as well.
I’ll start with my home group’s campaign, set aboard the Constellation-class USS Gemini. My home group has trudged along with more or less the same personnel since the release of “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” kicked off the 5e era back in 2014. We started with D&D, then I ran a Last Unicorn Games Star Trek campaign set in the immediate aftermath of Star Trek Nemesis, then switched back to D&D for a while and now we’re playing Star Trek Adventures.
I set the Gemini campaign in the Shackleton Expanse so I can run any of the Modiphius Living Campaign scenarios, plus any of the standalone scenarios from “These Are The Voyages, Vol. 1.” My goal here is to sample as many of the officially released scenarios as possible to get a sense of what ingredients work well at the table. I also occasionally use my home group as guinea pigs to playtest ideas I might include in pitches to Modiphius for new official scenarios. The campaign feels much like the original series or The Next Generation so far, with episodic storytelling and not a lot of continuity from one scenario to the next (though that’s not always the case).
I’ve run six sessions with the Gemini group so far (with an seventh scheduled for this weekend), and the highlight of the campaign for me so far was running “Biological Clock.” Watching the players immediately dive into the Prime Directive ramifications surrounding Optera IV without any effort whatsoever on my part put a big smile on my face. It felt just like that scene in Captain Picard’s quarters during TNG’s ‘Pen Pals.’ During that scene, the crew debates the limits of the Prime Directive as they determine the fate of Sarjenka and her entire species. It was good drama and central to Star Trek’s philosophy.
The second campaign I’m running contrasts with my home group in some important ways. First off, it’s the first full-on campaign I’ve run over Google Hangouts. I’d run one-shots before, but scheduling always seemed too difficult to put together anything more. And, sure enough, there have been some drop-outs and some scheduling snafus. But, undaunted, we press on. I’ve now run three sessions with the online group, and you can watch them all on my YouTube Channel here, here and here.
The online game takes place aboard Starbase 23, near the Romulan Neutral Zone. For this campaign, I’m coming up with totally original scenarios and encounters each time. I don’t want to spoil anyone out there by running official adventures. I’m also taking a page out of Deep Space 9’s playbook by allowing each scenario to lead into the next and building long-form story arcs. The plot of the last two sessions, for instance, has centered around a pair of cloned humans genetically modified by the Tal Shiar to act as viral carriers.
The highlight of the online campaign took place during the second episode, titled “Plague Ship.” The Andorian engineer mounted a one-man rescue effort to save a child aboard a doomed freighter. The freighter’s engines were on the verge of a catastrophic breach. The engineer attempted repairs, but time ran out. An emergency beam out saved him, but the explosion left the Player Characters in dire straits.
Beyond that, I’ve also run the odd session of Star Trek Adventures at my local game store. I’d do that more often if I felt I had a good scenario to run that could be played in two hours or so for new players. “Signals” and the adventure included in the core book work alright for that purpose, but I can’t help but feel neither one gives first-time players the real sense that they’re taking part in an episode of Star Trek. I’ll elaborate on that later if the opportunity arises.
All told, I’ve run 10 sessions of Star Trek Adventures since the final core rules became available. I’m having a great time learning the ins and outs of the system, and it’s always a pleasure visiting the Final Frontier and telling brand-new stories.