[Star Trek: 1966] Let's story game it up!

edited September 2007 in Story Games
Here's the deal. This?

image image
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Is what I'm talking about. Spock friggin' judo throwing a death bot.

Also this:

Mirror universe! Phasers!

Just so's we're on the same page, here. Let's try -- if we can -- to leave the fandom and FAQs and tech manuals and all of that alone. Classic Trek is Technicolor space pulp adventure, through and through. They fight a giant hand in space! They meet Greek gods, sort of! It is over the top and awesomified already.

Now let's play it. Post here. Say how you'll do it.


  • Well, I without a gaming group so I can't actually play it. But if I could, I would either use PTA or a Full Light Full Steam hack.
  • edited September 2007
    Spirit of the Alpha Quadrant, baby.

    Edited to elaborate:
    I would fractal it up some: In character creation, you also define the worlds you come from by giving it a its people a couple Aspects -- like all Vulcans have "Logical" and all Betazeds have "Empath" -- even if they don't take any skills or stunts from that, that base Aspect can be invoked, tagged, and (very important) compelled.

    To keep the players having ten Aspects, I would remove two from character creation, possibly reducing each one from Phases 4 & 5 "Helping on someone else's Away Mission". Which brings me to the novel set-up:

    Step 1: Your race.
    * Change: Define four Aspects here, two of which are racial.
    Step 2: Your time at Starfleet Academy
    Step 3: Your big break on an Away mission
    Step 4: Helping someone on their Away mission
    * Change: Only define one Aspect
    Step 5: Helping someone on their Away mission.
    * Change: Only define one Aspect

    I think, to encourage early Compels, I would reduce the starting Fate point allotment & refresh rate to 5.
  • edited September 2007
    [cross-posted with Ryan]

    Given those comic covers, I'm thinking SotC. Or, more accurately, Spirit of the 23rd Century.

    James T. Kirk
    "To Hell with regulations!"
    Hot-Blooded Casanova
    "No one messes with my crew!"
    Double-Fisted Haymaker
    There's no such thing as a no-win situation.
    Starship Captain
    You ripped my goddamn shirt.
    "To boldly go..."

    It's just too easy. And of course, McCoy's "I'm a Doctor, not a... [blank]" is one of the best aspects, ever.
  • How would you hack FLFS?
  • edited September 2007
    Posted By: John HarperHow would you hack FLFS?
    I think the majority of the hacking, since it already supports pulpy space opera, would just be changing skills & in-game terminology around.

    It's been a bit since I played, but I know in both Star Trek & FLFS racial differences are issues. People do presume a lot when it comes to dealing with a Vulcan, Klingon, Human, etc. That would factor into my Star Trek games for sure (as I mention in my edited comment above).
  • edited September 2007


    When I did the Galactic playtest at GPNW, I couldn't stop thinking about Kirk and Pike in old-school Star Trek.

    I think you could hack that action pretty well. You'd just need parallel stories that didn't all involve the main characters from the TV show.
  • Me and Ron Edwards talked about this awhile ago. We were discussing how there's a couple different "types" of Star Trek. There's the ones that end happy, and the ones that end ambiguous. The "happy" ones tend to be the fan favorites, but aren't actually very good. The ambiguous ones are the good ones.

    And the ambiguous ones actually have a very DitV vibe to them. Kirk and crew land on some planet, and there's a problem. A couple different groups want different things, and Kirk and crew have to make a choice about what's to be done. But the options are never good, Kirk and crew have to choose the least bad of the bunch.

    Like there was this one where they picked up this kid who had been raised by aliens, who had mysterious powers. But the kid didn't know how to control himself, and was hurting people. The aliens offered to take the kid back, but it would mean the kid would live out his life without any sort of social interaction.
  • I love that one with the psychic kid. No, I'm not saying the episode title. We're not gorram fanboys here.

    DitV could totally work. I might mess with the situation generator a bit, just for kicks. Or leave it completely alone, which would also be pretty cool. Explicitly telling the players that they're the representatives of the Federation and what they say goes -- that sounds like hotness.

    I need to sit and read FLFS again. The race angle is grabby.
  • edited September 2007
    To hack FLFS, I imagine you wouldn't need to do much more than rename some skills, really. Nearly any race can be a thematic battery, or you could create new sets of perma-promotions and -demotions if you goy excited. I'd prefer the thematic battery option, if only because charging and discharging "Klingon" seems both fun and incredibly in-theme.

    Ironically, I think your biggest problem might be situation engineering, which would create a situation that is is fact too tailored to individual characters for TOS. (Although it would fit latter-day Trek to a T.) On TOS, the planets and monsters the crew visits are rarely foils or commentaries on the characters themselves. I suppose you could just draw Inspirations more heavily from the group campaign creation rather than character thematic batteries.
  • Whatever this awesome game will be, it will need some pervy way of dealing with the dramatic imbalance of the cast. The Captain is the main man in Star Trek; everyone else is just a psychological projection of the Captain, or an aye-aye sir type.

    This isn't real satisfying as far as I know, so maybe Star Trek is best as a one-on-one game. Klingon Hunters, anyone?

    Or for a multiplayer game, maybe the Captain could be a special role that belongs to no single player but instead belongs to them all. Maybe there are rules and a currency for influencing him. Like, in the Mirror Universe you could influence him by torturing Chekov. Or in our universe, you could wear a short skirt.

    Maybe there are no PCs except for the Captain, and everyone plays his competing impulses. There was a game that did this back in the day .. was it Psychosis? And if you wanted to transition such a game to a regular one-PC-per-player game you could have a transporter accident.

    There's also the Galactic way of solving this problem, but Galactic would be more like playing Star Fleet than Star Trek, since each player gets their own ship and gets to be captain of it for a stretch.
  • Posted By: Joshua BishopRobyI'd prefer the thematic battery option, if only because charging and discharging "Klingon" seems both fun and incredibly in-theme.
    That's what I'm thinking -- either added a TB (which would probably make things wonky) or require one to be race-based. In fact, I think I prefer FLFS for this over SOTC, only for the way the TB play in the game, constantly being referenced by others and self-imposing your own penalties to charge them.
  • There's got to be a Sorcerer option. Kirk and Spock especially have so much baggage that representing it with demons seems apt. Spock's demon is the human blood constantly at war with his Vulcan upbringing. Kirk... well, I'm guess it's his massive ego, constantly urging him to bend one more planet to his will, or sexually conquer one more woman.

    But, I say this with only limited Sorcerer experience.
  • Dude, Kirk's demon is the freaking Enterprise.
  • Posted By: Joshua BishopRobyDude, Kirk's demon is the freakingEnterprise.
    Here endeth the lesson.
  • edited September 2007
    I'm thinking Spirit of the 23rd century nails it.

    Consider... many Star Trek solutions are what would amount to pixelbitching in a trad RPG.

    But in SotC... it's a science or academics roll. "The aliens have adapted to vacuum... they'll be vulnerable to pressure... put the cute lieutenant in the pressure chamber."

    And man, Spock's "Logical vulcan" and "Repressed human half" get compelled in some episodes.
  • Posted By: Caesar SlaadI'm thinking Spirit of the 23rd century nails it.
    SotC pretty much nails everything. :)
  • Good timing on this thread, though. I was home sick yesterday and caught some reruns on G4. Reminded me what a great series the original series was.
  • I'll play Spirit of the 23rd Century or Red Shirts in the Vineyard. Now, who's going to run this at OrcCon in February?
  • I had always been down on Trek gaming. The consistency of the universe seemed too wacky to "ring true" for me. (One reason the show, in any incarnation, never resonated.)

    Then John Kim schooled me with one suggestion: Just pretend the shows are the TV dramatizations of what "really happened". That made it interesting.

    Are these Federation propaganda pieces? After-school specials? Which episodes get suppressed when the humans and Klingons team up? And this opens up a wide range of possibilities - a free trader game where the post-scarcity Federation is portrayed as rapacious and resource-hungry, a Romulan-POV game where filthy humans and their Vulcan puppetmasters try to overthrow a grand utopia, and so on.
  • Mortal Coil worked really well, with "Treknology" replacing magic. I played this game last fall and it was pretty fun. I got to be the token blue guy. :-)

    That was more of a latter-generation game. To be honest, TOS interests me not at all, except maybe as Sot23C.

  • Posted By: JDCorleyI had always been down on Trek gaming. The consistency of the universe seemed too wacky to "ring true" for me. (One reason the show, in any incarnation, never resonated.)

    Then John Kim schooled me with one suggestion: Just pretend the shows are the TV dramatizations of what "really happened". That made it interesting.
    I'm glad you liked that. I've always been fond of the Star Trek campaigns that I did in 1994-95. (I have up my old notes on my site.) However, it seems to me that this thread is about the opposite -- about revelling in the inconsistent pulpiness of it rather than playing in what "really happened". My games had military directives, tech manuals, and star charts.

    My general formula was to put together a situation that melded a science fiction trope (like nanotech, immortality, virtual reality, etc.) with a social/ethical dilemma. A dramatic hook would drag the PCs into the middle of it, but after that we played it out by cause-and-effect and went with whatever the consequences were.
  • SotC pretty much nails everything. :)
    That hussy.
  • Captain Kirk's mission was a 5 Year Mission. The question is... why?

    Ahh, crap, I'm thinking "Awesome-ify". My bad. Still, you might be able to work in some "Story Reason" for the 5 Year Mission, and have every character tied to it.

  • edited September 2007
    Andy! Please bring your awesome-o-fier to bear!

    John Kim: Yep, you're right. I want to focus on what was an often wacky, pulpy space show from the late 60s. NOT "The Universe of Star Trek" as a fully realized thing -- the way that fandom thinks of it today. Let's try to wind our minds back and see the thing as an artifact of its time, as if we were going to play a Hawaii Five-O RPG, or I Dream of Jeannie. I'm not saying this is the one way to do Star Trek, but I want to try something a little different.

    Alan: I had the exact same experience watching the show recently, which is why I started this. :-)
  • Posted By: John HarperNOT "The Universe of Star Trek" as a fully realized thing -- the way that fandom thinks of it today.

    Okay, maybe this will go in the wrong direction, but here's a thought: after the players make up the main cast & the ship, throw everything else out. If I'm reading you right, part of the awesome was discovering things as a viewer, opposed to many of the later ideas which involve playing with established ideas (while often making up more stuff, sure, but inside a known universe).

    Granted, I say the following without having watched many TOS eps, but: Does Star Trek need Klingons? Or does it need an enemy that we, as viewers, start off not knowing about? Which is more TOS?

    Create a Bizarro doppelganger character whose traits oppose the original character's traits in every way,
    and then have them fight over the sexy alien who secretly arranged the transporter malfunction.
  • Ryan, I think that's an excellent idea. Let the players have the fun of exploring (and authoring) the universe, without having to stick to a canon. I think you can throw out a whole lot and still maintain the thing as "Star Trek."

    Also: Transporter malfunctions are cool.
  • (I wrote these notes in 2005)

    Star Trek Works Like This:
    1. Human cowboys/adventurers/dreamers
    2. A bunch of cool alien species embodying human tendencies
    3. Nify gadgets galore
    4. Smooching up green-skinned space hoochies
    5. Punching God in the nose.
    6. All of which is done in an optimistically secular humanist way.

    It's actually kind of hard to do Numbers 4 and 5, which owe something to the pulp adventure serials. If you could have combined Jules Verne, Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Howard to work on a TV show, you'd end up with Star Trek.

    Now--I can change all kinds of funky color and silly stuff! But those are the invariable essentials of what makes Star Trek so wonderful and enduring. Note that *thinking about it too hard* endangers several points--notably 2, 3, 4, 5, and arguably 6.

    Note that over the years Star Trek has really downplayed the Space Hoochie angle; the last you really heard about that was the allegations that Riker was a ladykiller in Season 1 of TNG. The sexual revolution ended thirty years ago in the Federation, too!

    Star Trek has also downplayed the Aggressive Atheist too. Kirk had a chip on his shoulder: he punched God in the nose, obliterated world-governing AI systems with a sneer, and generally scorched all available earths once the fire of his skepticism had been ignited. Kirk was a bad ass! Kirk would roll up to a planet, laugh at its idiotic belief system, humiliate an entire culture, and then fly away. TNG, at least, moved to a "softer, gentler" humanism, where it's okay to believe stupid things so long as it doesn't hurt anyone: Picard never angrily shows a benighted culture the error of its ways.

    (Damn! "Firefly" really *was* a Star Trek rip-off--- right down to the two-fisted atheist!)
  • Yeah, pulp is nice and all but original Trek for me is all about the Issues of the Day writ large - "ZOMG he's half black and half white! And his brother is half white and half black!" So to do it really right I think you have to have a big checklist of 1960's social problems and hit one per session.
  • edited September 2007
    Jason, might it be possible to 'pulpify' modern-day social problems in a really ham-fisted, Trekkian way? Or is reflecting on the present in that way one of the Trek writers peculiar talents?
  • edited September 2007
    Posted By: James_NostackStar Trek has also downplayed the Aggressive Atheist too.
    I never found TOS "aggressive atheist" so much as often addressing the timeless issue of those in power manipulating the masses.

    The episode (edit-quick google search:THIS ONE) wherein an uprising on a Romanesque world being led by (author-sympathetic) "Sun Worshippers" and at the end, it was revealed they were really "Son Worshippers" sort of smacked me as anything but atheist. :)
  • Posted By: RemiJason, might it be possible to 'pulpify' modern-day social problems in a really ham-fisted, Trekkian way?
    Not if you want that Desilu flava. You know I'm no expert, but I think Battlestar Galactica is the "genre problem show" of today, but probably not quite as inept in its earnest presentation.
  • Well, I think inconsistent narrators are pretty awesome, so I stand by my suggestion. :)
  • I think PDQ is a natural fit here. Most especially if you consider the main characters as supers in Truth and Justice.

    As an editorial comment, there is no other Star Trek than the original series. There are only mistakes.
  • A little while back some of the GI Joe fanboys on Abulafia made a Star Trek Plot Generator that might help or amuse anyone pursuing this.
  • I'm with Jason this one-- Star Trek is intimately bound ip with the issues of its day, and very intentionally so. In fact when I was talking about situation engineering, I nearly suggested you pull a news story or contentious issue and start there. I dunno whether or not that aspect is important to what we're going after here, but it seems to me that without that social consciousness, the result would be rather hollow.
  • edited September 2007
    Consider too that when TOS aired, TV writers still had the experience of writing radio drama. I used to audio tape TOS episodes and they hold up really well without video. But only part of this is the "discuss the theme" style of writing, it's also a style of story presentation that puts the key plot moments foremost -- noteably at add breaks as if they were little cliffhangers.

    I do think that an awesome Trek rpg needs the Captain and crew and ship and their relationships, then throw out the rest of the since-established Trek universe. I'm thinking of the way Ron handles "the world" in Sword and Sorcerer or Trollbabe -- we start with some sketchy assumptions and then put whatever is useful for the story (or session) into the blanks on the map.

    I think too that a situation generation system -- like Dogs town creation -- is essential. The obvious starting place is "the planet where such and such a present day issue has been taken to extremes." (This suggests using current day issues that interest players and technological shocks just as Shock does.)

    But I think it would be worth looking at TOS for the types of conflict in an episode, then creating a situation generation system that allows for each type. The story types I can think of for TOS are:

    - Enterprise arrives at a planet with a situation/issue [there's lots of these!]
    - Enterprise encounters superhuman beings (that represent the awesomeness or perversity of the universe)
    - Crew-focus episode -- a main character gets in trouble

    The first step of situation generator might be to choose between 3 or 4 overall types like these.

    Remember the episodic nature of the show, too. One episode almost never follows directly on the actions of the previous one -- they stand alone as stories. Also, it's okay to graft new issues into PC lives between episodes.
  • Posted By: AlanI think too that a situation generation system -- like Dogs town creation -- is essential. The obvious starting place is "the planet where such and such a present day issue has been taken to extremes."
    I'm intrigued by your thoughts and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. ;)
    Posted By: Alan(This suggests using current day issues that interest players and technological shocks just as Shock does.)
    Maybe, maybe not. I may be old, but I think I was in diapers when TOS was in first run. I learned to love TOS when I was a kid and there were reruns on first thing when I got home from school. Though many of the issues they spoke of persisted then, I was too young then to appreciate them as much as I did the wide-eyed space opera camp. Uhuru doesn't balk at being called a "nigress" by Abraham Lincoln? Interesting. Kirk has to find a way to blow a starship up in the mouth of the doomsday machine? Cool!

    So I'd say there are two ways to play this... or some continuum betwixt.
  • Oh, you absolutely need both. Yeah, these guys are all degenerate proto-yankees and proto-communists and whatnot, ZOMG horrors of atomic war, but Spock still needs to judo some fuckin' robots.
  • Okay, I surrender to the true path of SotC-Classic Trek. It's just too perfect.

    John, was your intent to use the original crew and the Enterprise? Or to create new characters and bold, new missions?

    And what the hell is TOS?
  • Posted By: Caesar_XAnd what the hell is TOS?
    TOS = The Original Series

    (Or for some of us, The Only Series. ;) )
  • Posted By: Caesar_XAnd what the hell is TOS?
    The original series.
  • edited September 2007
    Posted By: Caesar_XAnd what the hell is TOS?
    The Original Series.

    [X-posted with everyone and their mother.]
  • Nope, no fanboys here...

    I kid, because I love.

  • edited September 2007
    Now we are cooking, people! Jason, you are so, so right. Also, James, Alan, Josh -- I pretty much agree with all your comments. We're starting to put a good shape on this thing.

    (I can't believe I forgot about Lincoln. Man, that show was so weird and great.)

    TV crew or make-your-own? I can see goodness either way. I think my gut feeling is to use the TV crew, but BSG-ify them a bit. Not to deconstruct, exactly, but to better situate them to deal with our modern perspective on the issues they'll be dealing with. Also, to disconnect them further from the canon of the show. Plus, I'm a huge Justice League Unlimited fan. Think about what that show did with the timeless, iconic characters they had to work with. There's still plenty of tread on those old tires.

    So... it's space pulp action + issues + re-imagined iconic TV crew. I like the sound of that.

    From the crazy indie game angle, I'm also digging the idea that each game group has the same pool of PCs to work with. It would be cool to see what happens when you take character creation out of the mix and also to see how each group interprets the characters. We did that with our classic Buffy series and it was great.
  • edited September 2007
    Posted By: John Harper
    TV crew or make-your-own?
    For me, and again I think I'm awesome-ifying this a bit:

    But I'd treat the show as something that people in the 26th century watched when reflecting upon their history. The REAL history behind the crew? It's gritty, and there's dark stuff that history forgot.

    For me, I'd probably use PTA or something to play it (or something significantly rules light. Perhaps With Great Power, even???). And I'd have the players pick up the main members of the crew: And from there, have them add some details that were "left out of history".

    My Kirk will have been a Starfleet genius, prone to fits of rage or melancholy. He'd been in and out of military brigs. Then Starfleet puts him in the chair of the Enterprise, against even Kirk's own will (at first). Why did they do it? What does that say about the "mission"?

    My Spock would be an outcast from Vulcan. Sure, he's all Mister Logic now, but he was on the outs in his society for losing control once too often. Those that can't control themselves get shuffled off-world, either be force or by "social suggestion". Spock gave his Advisors "the finger" as he left in his shuttle towards Earth, and Starfleet Academy.

    My Bones would be Doctor Gregory House. Period. But imagine the pain killers one could have access to at that tech level.

    My Sulu would be 100% homosexual, and not "Will and Grace" homo. He'd also be an ex-Federation assassin.

    My Uhura would be an ultra-genius. Like, she puts Spock to shame, and could out-manipulate anyone. The question is, why does she settle for the miniskirt and headset? There's a reason, and if the others knew, they'd probably throw her off the ship.

    Add in secrets and twists, and watch them play out over time.

  • edited September 2007
    [cross-posted with Andy's cool post]

    I've been IMing with Matt Wilson and this came up:

    Think about how amazing re-imagined Uhura is. She was already 80% awesome, anyway. But on our show! Damn. Picture the scene she'll have with the Orion slave girl. "In our world, women don't have to be green in order to be sex objects." I don't know if you're on the same wavelength as I am, but if you are, that is giving you goosebumps -- and I didn't even get to the slavery angle.

    Plus, Uhura gets to wear pants and does more than answer the phone. After Spock judo-throws the death bot, she hacks its brain to turn it against the Robot Lords.
  • Not to harsh on your buzz, because you are going somewhere cool here, but...
    Posted By: AndyMy Sulu would be 100% homosexual, and not "Will and Grace" homo. He'd also be an ex-Federation assassin.
    Why would that be?

    One thing I found interesting/instructive was the factoid that in filming the episode where Sulu gets infected by weird water and galavants about the ship with a rapier, he was originally slated to appear in samurai armor with a katana. George objected to the idea that he was being typecast this way and requested a change here... and got it.

    So, to keep in the spirit, is there a reason you think Sulu should be gay other than George is gay?

    Jus' curious.
  • edited September 2007
    Posted By: Caesar SlaadSo, to keep in the spirit, is there a reason you think Sulu should be gay other than George is gay?
    Nope: Just that one (George being gay, and awesome) inspired the other (Sulu being gay). Retconning based on the outside reality.

  • Yeah. Given the chance to go back in time and play an openly gay Sulu on an even more progressive Star Trek series... I think George would be all over that.
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