My second Star Trek session went off pretty well a couple of weeks ago. There were a few rough patches, but you get that in early sessions of anything. In Trek, where there’s a very definite language to learn, protocols to follow, and all that, it can take even longer for a group – or a crew – to come together.
But I had one chance in the game to really realise something. Half the bridge-crew were off the ship, inspecting a so-called mining operation they’d just discovered hidden in a Nebula. The only PCs left on the ship were the Captain (two sessions in and he’s only left the bridge once, and that was to talk to someone in the brig!) and the Tactical officer; so when the Captain needed something from Ops, it was an NPC – played by me – who answered him.
There’s a truism in all kinds of media that if you make the film/book/game that you want to watch/read/play, then it’ll likely be good. It counts double for roleplaying, I think, because of how active in the experience the games master has to be, and man, if there’s one thing I love more than running a game like this, it’s playing in one. I really cherish those moments I get to be actually on the bridge, rather than just watching.
So there I was, at Ops, telling the Captain how hard it was going to be keep the Ballista’s long range sensors operating in the nebula, and it occurred to me that back when he and I first started playing in Trek games – over fifteen years ago! – we put a lot of effort into really getting the dialogue down, about learning how military people talked within a chain of command. We did it for years, too, and both of us won more than one Best Player award at roleplaying conventions playing Trek games; and here was worrying about my new group, and feeling like they weren’t quite getting it...
It’s more than a little unfair of me, let’s say.
They’ll get there, though. The trick is to present them with the right tools that really help them disappear into their roles and characters, and to present them with plots and challenges that engross and involve them.
Which leads to that second session.
I presented the players with a simple mission, to explore and scout out a nebula that ran from just inside Federation space, to unclaimed space, and into the Dimililtarised Zone, and beyond into Cardassian territory. Fleet Command had suspicions that criminal parties might be using it as a covert way to violate the DMZ.
The wrinkle was that, while in the nebula, the ship would be unable to raise shields, would be cut off from outside communication, and would have drastically reduced sensor capabilities. The Captain received these orders, then called that most classic of Next Gen institutions – a senior crew meeting in the bridge conference room. Bless.
They nutted out the issues they’d face, likely problems, and a few solutions. The ship’s engineer suggested rigging drones to run ahead of the ship, relaying sensor data and also allowing for greater ability to triangulate anything in the sensor-confusing nebula. Lots of other good stuff besides. Then, max speed, rig the ship for silent running, and off they went.