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Star Trek Adventures - First Response - Session 1 (Pilot, part A)

Background

A few weeks ago, Ron and I met online to record a discussion about the word 'story' but unfortunately technology let us down. One thing that grew out of having that conversation, however, was the notion that we really should try to carve out a time and choose a game to play together. That game turned out to be Star Trek Adventures. I am very glad for a chance to return to STA, although the irony of the two of us selecting a game that is so far from my preferred approach to play is not lost on me. The prospect of an original series era campaign is exciting, however, so: Warp Speed Ahead! Not long afterward, the very interesting Trek and Me video appeared, and not long after that a group was assembled from compatible time zones to play. 

Read About Preparation and Session 0

Watch Session 0

Play was delayed by a week which turned out to be for the best as it gave us more opportuntunies for the players to get a sense of each other, and for me to gather resources to help support that all-important sense of size, shape, and crew to the ship. It also gave some time to ponder about what was ahead.

Watch Campaign Announcement

Watch Ron's Pre-game Reflections

Watch Anthony's Delay Reflections

Play Begins

The first session ran on Wednesday, December 2, 2020 and fortunately technology did not fail us. Although there are many options these days for Virtual Table Tops with a variety of visual and automation assets which can handle dice rolling and display, card draws, rules pop ups, with pool and point tracking and use, I have noted that this introduces a barrier to learning the game, affects imagination, and increases the workload on the host. There are distinct advantages too, but in this case they negatives for me outweighed them. As a result, we have a low-tech approach to play which no doubt detracts from the viewing experience, but serves the purpose and matches the feel and concept of friends (and potential friends) gathering together to play. 

Watch Session 1

The first session constitutes a pilot both literally and figuratively. It is a test of concept and things done during the number of sessions which will form that episode (2 or 3?) may or may not continue into the campaign itself. This includes thngs such as the basic elements such as the traits of the characters all the way up to specific GM techniques. Session 0 can only go so far, and some practical testing and flexibility in early sessions can go that little bit farther to help make adjustments for a satisfying game - if one can be had. 

This first session introduced the Main Cast and the first mission in their new duty assignment of Crisis Response. In the briefest of terms, we had an opportunity for some insight into each character and then then encountered the perplexing and threatening situation which sets up that first mission: a deserted hospital ship, an outpost being torn apart by tremendous tectonic activity, and a chilling message from the surface: "You've killed us all! Why did you do it?" I am really looking forward to seeing where the players take us from there!

Ongoing 'Play' Begins

After play, a few reflections were made on the experience of that first session. These are optional and are recorded in isolation before watching the AP video or the reflections videos of others. I like to encourage this process, in whatever way a player chooses to pursue it, in order to deepen the learning experience and help reveal more of what is realing going on under imagined skies and in the minds of each participant. These are usually not exhaustive analyses, generally featuring the more important things on the players's minds.Ideally, we do them right after play. Discussion, once we have viewed each others' reactions and reflections, proceeds from there. For a campaign like this, at first, I think there is a lot to say about the first session, so I hope that each player will contribute some feedback and reflection on play, but as it goes on I expect these reflections to work on the episode level rather than the session level. 

Watch Anthony's Reflections on Part A

Watch Ron's Reflections on Part A

The reason for this is the duration of play. A window of 2 hours is available for each session and some of that will of course be used up by getting ready and the social aspects of play. It can't all be phasers and styrofoam rocks! For my part, after each session I will be contributing a summarized version of events in recap videos to let those who cannot stand or have no time to watch other people play in on the events and decisions that arose from play and how the system and our intentions facilitated or interfered with that. 

One alternate version of the reflections video that we have started doing as isolated topics for separate recordings is for the GM, the What were you thinking? video, as I call it. We started doing these for the Circle of Hands actual play series. These videos tend to focus on the rationale behind NPC decisions or the use of a specific technique in play. I find these helpful to produce in order to highlight shortcomings of language in explaining myself or points of assumption (as opposed to interaction) that occured. They are perhaps more useful in helping the group find common ground and to learn to read each other better. 

Watch Anthony's 'What were you thinking?!' 

As an effort to connect specifically with things here at Adept Play, I have isolated the pre and post game conversation into its own video. The second half of this was retained on the Actual Play video of the session, but the first part was trimmed out to speed viewers' ability to get into the action. If nothing else, this is just a way to look at how a group interacts during a game when they aren't engaged in the game part of the game~

Watch Session 1's Table Talk

As it stands, an unusually high number of videos were produced for this first session, but I am taking that as a sign of enjoyment in the opportunity that this campaign represents for fun and discovery. 

Watch Ron's opening credits

Next Steps

Where will things go from here? Who can say? I have hopes that we will be able to keep schedules synced and interest high long enough to move through what might be considered a Season of our imaginary Series, and thereby feel a measure of completion with this ship and its crew while demonstrating the particular elements that make the game do what it is does - but more on that later. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Sean_RDP's picture

It is definitely something that exists, as has been mentioned before. I feel like, at least in terms of the aliens in Star Fleet, that it should be said that these beings want to be here/ They understand the suspicion they are walking into and would likely be the most open minded and calm souls of their people.

I am curious if any of the tensions mentioned between Vulcans and Andorians in Enterprise will come up. 

Ron Edwards's picture

I certainly hope not. One of my strong views prior to play was that retconned/reimagined versions of the original series were not part of our source material, including anything outside the original series. Anthony's surprise depiction of the air date and viewing circumstances of our show reinforces it further,* insofar as there is no need or expectation for our fiction's future to occur as depicted in later shows. There is certainly some wiggle room due to personal preferences among us - for example, I think we've tacitly chosen, without ever mentioning it, to leave the 1970s animated series in a grey area, and Anthony seems to have retained a fondness for the first movie - but citing and openly drawing upon later franchise versions is flat out.

* As well as giving me flashbacks concerning avocado- and flesh-colored refrigerators and telephones.

The 70s were a dark time for appliances....  which might explain why the late 70s and early 80s had so many silver foil and silver lame objects in SF shows! (Which I did not take as an improvement). 

As the GM of this campaign, and weighing the effect of the system and the interests of the players, my focus seems best-placed more on the episodic side of a scale of self-contained episodes vs season-long arc models. There will need to be some development of the "Starfleet Universe" for some aspects of 'the ongoing mission' to take shape with things like reputation, promoton, and Milestones, but as it is intended as a series-that-never-was, as Ron notes above, we are free to imagine and re-imagine the show. Having a strong 'crisis' to respond to and in which to interact with one another is where it is at for me. 

Joesph did latch on to that episode featuring the monastery/listening post at P'Jem from the Enterprise series when creating the character, but we talked about keeping it within what we know from the original series. We ended up recognizing that the vulcans are a private people and have little reason to blindly trust the other species of the Federation. Collecting information is logical. Doing so quietly is also logical, so as to avoid diplomatic upsets. The later franchises love affair with spy sections and shadow governments is not a good fit for my view of the rhetoric of the original series. The vulcans can do much more simply by living among their fellow Federation members. The rolled background of the character is a vulcan outpost. Joseph has taken that to be near or among humans and his character has adopted a fascination for and appreciation of human philosophy - particularly stoicism. 

Helma's picture

In my opinion the “low tech” approach does not distract from the viewing experience, on the contrary. But that may just be personal taste, I can get easily distracted when to many things are happening at the same time.
I really like it that you talk trough rules the way you do, it makes it so much easier to understand what is going on. But what I like the most is the amount of dedication everybody puts into this endeavor. It is sheer luxury to be able to see the session analyzed and commented on from different perspectives. I can only imagine how much work it is to put all this together but hope you will be able to continue providing this “insider information” every now and again even in the future. Special thanks to Ron who compiles an “all in one” playlist for us here at Adept Play.
I’m learning a lot of things that hopefully will make me a better player in the games I am part of and I’m putting some things on my list of “what I would like to try in the future”, like STA (maybe), a game where I roll one (or a couple) of d20, a game where I roll my characters life path. That especially seems a fun way to start of and is the one point where I do have a question to all of you:
Would you say that the rather detailed background (compared to what I use to know about my characters at the start of play) is more a result of the life path creation or of player personality?

Ron Edwards's picture

Would you say that the rather detailed background (compared to what I use to know about my characters at the start of play) is more a result of the life path creation or of player personality?

That's a complex question, so I will pull it apart a little bit.

First, from the earliest days of role-playing, some players have dedicated a lot of effort to the backgrounds, personalities, and priorities of their characters, even (or perhaps especially) for games which included no rules or explicit expectation to do this. The player who becomes a wee bit too obsessed with such detail is one of the humorous stereotypes of the hobby, but the fact remains that a lot of people like it and do it, to a functional and fun degree.

Very quickly, even within four years of the hobby's formal existence, rules or procedures appeared to permit or require some attention toward these things. The most famous is Traveller (1977), which introduced the lifepath system for character creation. Others included aspects of social status, family relationships, and (with Champions, 1981) a wide variety of customizable details. Almost all role-playing games since then have at least a few "orienting" or "backstory" procedures ... or they maintain the potential for inventing them anyway if you want to, often providing colorful detail in the character's present which practically demands some elaboration either now or later.

As with all textual rules procedures, rules like lifepaths cannot make a player want to provide a relevant character backstory (and personal outlook, problems, et cetera). Therefore both of the following are true:

  • Plenty of characters constructed using these games' lifepath or similar rules are as bland and uninteresting as the people who made them.
  • Conversely, if a player does want this kind of backstory and current relevance for their character, then they'll make it up no matter what the rules require, and woe betide the GM or other player who fails to recognize this desire.

Therefore the "good" found in such rules is best understood as the way each particular game may inspire or utilize more background or personality, or provide a focus for it in some way, and whether this way leads to a more powerful experience and better utility for the shared aspects of play, as opposed to being empty navel-gazing.

My experience echoes Ron's. The way the lifespath has you think, the amount and type of information it covers, the wsy it can help structure character creation plus how a good one can teach you about the setting have been positive experiences for me more often than negative ones~

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