Tuesday, 31 January 2012

What I want in a Star Trek Game

Amongst my many sins, I am a fan of Star Trek. Well, let's be more specific: I love The Next Generation; you can keep the rest.

The thing about NextGen is that it's episodic. There might be recurring characters who sort of develop over the course of the 7 series, but ultimately it's rather like The Twilight Zone in space - every week the Enterprise rocks up at a new planet/space encounter and there's a new, self-contained story, almost always presenting itself as a problem followed by a solution. There may or may nor be a sub-plot.

I want a game that emulates this. It would need, primarily, three things:

  • A way to randomly generate unique planets/space encounters quickly and easily. (Examples: A large gas giant orbited by a Ferengi space station. A jungle planet populated by ostrich people. A huge space fungus.)
  • A way to generate unique problems. (Examples: A disease which makes the sufferer invisible. A Klingon spy. A star that's about to explode.)
  • A sub-plot generator. (Examples: An ensign is in love with character Y. The holodeck is malfunctioning. Lieutenant Barclay thinks he's gay.)

The important thing here is, you don't know what the solution to the problem is - not the players and not the GM. You just have a hurdle, and how it gets solved is open-ended, with the GM acting as a sort of ideas arbitrator, deciding what would or would not make sense.

Ideally, there would be some sort of teching the tech pool, whereby the players could spend a finite number of tokens to pull technological bullshit out of their arses, so long as they made it sound sufficiently plausible/amusing/Star Trekish:
Picard: Mr. Data, can't you figure out a way to re-route the manganese sub-particle detector shield to emit caesium rays?
Wesley: Yes, sir, and that might positivise the helium ions and create a mass-resistant vortex to pull us out of the radon nexus! 
Face it: it would be awesome.


  1. You could get some solid mileage out of something like this, then.


  2. Well, there's Where No Man Has Gone Before for Microlite D20 http://www2.abillionmonkeys.com:3389/trek/
    Then there's Sector Zero for Savage Worlds http://www.relsden.com/home/sector-zero
    Both have some nifty random tables but I've yet to see a good way to emulate technobabble. The closest that I've seen is actually the thaumaturgy rules in the Dresden Files version of fate. Sounds weird, but read the bit about Iron Man in this article http://www.rickneal.ca/?p=632

    I'm picturing a something almost like a freeform magic system in which the players determine the results , but have to take limitations to help the chances of success. For example, if the gizmo only has one shot then it's more likely to work, or if it needs a rare fuel, or if it drains all of the ship's shields, and so on.

  3. Seems like you also have to have a mechanism for each "episode" to wind up in the alloted time for your gaming session.

    Also, players do not gain "experiance" but can accumulate ephemera which can be used in future "episodes".

  4. There needs to be a Picard rule where either the player playing Picard, or the DM, sum everything up and finish the whole thing off with a massive sub-shakesperian speech that explains the moral of everything thats happened and persuades any aliens present that they were wrong all along and the federation rocks.

    And a Worf rule where if bad guys turn up on the bridge of the enterprise they always always go after Worf first and take him out really quickly to prove they are real badasses.


    I just realised that Q was the DM of Next Generation.

    'Why is this fucked up thing happening Q?'

    'Because I say so Mon Capitan' fucking deal with it.'

  5. did you ever see this? it has a "teching the tech" mechanicand some related stuff...


  6. This is interesting. I use a very similar concept. I call this 'regular gaming'.


    The only differences are...

    1)I don't generate the plots or characters of the adventures randomly. Instead I come up with stories based on ideas from things I read, episodes of TV shows I like, movies I've seen, Anime and Manga, game material from the game I am playing and others and just weird ideas I have.

    2)I do focus on the recurring character who develop over the course of the series. This is what my subplots are for.

    Otherwise, what you describe is basically every campaign I've ever run, pretty much across the board.

    I guess that because Star Trek is one of the games I have regularly run, I developed this style of play back in the mid-80's to reflect the nature of the show.

  7. @ Noisms:

    Have you not seen Sword & Shield's version of "Far Trek?"


    A great little game...it makes ME want to play Star Trek and I am NOT a fan.
    : )

  8. I am sad that I missed out on buying the Lulu print copy of Far Trek when it was available. But it was pulled a few months ago...

  9. 1: I love that.

    Joe: Yeah, that's a nice concept. So you have to trade off success for further problems.

    Lasgunpacker: Yes, or maybe if the episode doesn't finish in time it becomes a two-parter, which automatically means something awful happens to a random party member (Picard gets kidnapped by the Borg, Data gets his head chopped off, etc.)

    Patrick: Well, he does the ultimate dick DM move at the end of series 7, doesn't he? "Do this impossible thing, otherwise rocks fall, everybody dies!"

    Zak: No, I didn't see that. I like that teching the tech mechanic. Combined with that random tech generator 1 linked to it would work very easily...

    Barking Alien: The randomisation element sort of seals it for me, because as a GM I like the idea of being surprised by the "monster of the week" as much as the players.

    JB: Hmm, I'll take a look...

  10. The idea for a "cliff hanger" if things do not wind up by the end of the session is excellent, and could be used in other games (at least in those where you do not kill off players when the dice say to do so)

    I think it would be good to avoid the Enterprise, and have everyone be the command crew of the Constituion or some other D class ship.

  11. There also needs to be a mechanic that rewards the metaphor explanations for how a technological fix for something works.

    Geordi: "If we reconfigure the plasma flow from our starboard nacelle, and focus the resulting ati-protons into the aliens' forcefield, I think we'll be able to break free."

    Riker: "Like blowing too much air into a balloon!"