Last night we had our “session -1” to hash out a few pre-session 0 things.
We hadn’t formally opted for a game system, for one. Call of Cthulhu was the initial front-runner (with a solid vote of 1, and a “sounds good” vote of 1) but after some discussion it came down to “what is the ‘easiest’ system to play”. That, of course, is a loaded question, and even now I’m not entirely sure about the answer. D&D is “easy” simply because it has massive support, a ton of resources, and I’ve run it three times now and am familiar with it. Ultimately, I suggested Star Trek Adventures because the way I play, STA is going to focus more on narrative than on mechanics. The character sheet is only one side of a page, and uses only a handful of 6-sided dice. I feel that the act of character creation might be a bit more difficult than other systems, since some of the “stats” are free-form ideals that the players choose for themselves like “Respect the chain of command” or “Leave no crew members behind”, but since everything is “a task” using two numbers from the character sheet, it seems like the easiest system to grasp — on paper. We’ll see how things play out.
Because we chose STA, we’ll unfortunately have to ditch Fantasy Grounds because the third party who is currently developing the Star Trek Adventures ruleset for FG hasn’t yet released their work to the marketplace despite having been on the cusp of doing so for the past several months. Instead, we’ll be trying Roll20. I’m not a massive fan of Roll20; it’s simple to use, but the design makes me uncomfortable, like if I were forced to use Windows 95 in 2021. They do have a STA character sheet with automation, and that’s really what we need since STA uses a weird die set which I’m convinced was a decision made specifically to get people to have to buy their dice.
We also went over philosophy. Although I don’t have them here on Scopique.com, I wrote about my general TTRPG approach back on Levelcapped: I am not a rules-lawyer. I don’t memorize well in my old age, and having to retreat to the rules book for every nickel and dime situation turns what should be a fun game of roleplaying into the equivalent of having opted in to work the weekend filling out TPS reports. I despise when players run to rules to justify why they think my decisions are wrong, despite the fact that I’m trying to make the game challenging but fair and fun. TTRPGs allow so much freedom that I prefer the players think about the situation, concoct a crazy plan (or a logical plan) and argue their point. Yes, we will still use dice to represent the limits of the characters or the severity of the circumstances, but we’re not going to live and die by rules to calculate the sharpness of a bat’leth or exact duration of a stun blast from a phaser. I also plainly stated that the job of a GM (in my opinion) is not to kill the characters; if the characters die it’s their own damn fault. I have as much interest in keeping the game going as the players do, so our relationship is more collaborative than adversarial.
Finally, I thought back on my past situations in running online TTRPGs and stated plainly my personal expectations. Other sessions I’ve been in charge of have not gone as well I had I wanted, and I have to own that as the head cat wrangler. I explained to this group that we’re all here to enjoy ourselves, but that there’s fun and then there’s fun; if the team wants to play more on the “Lower Decks” side of the scale than the “The Next Generation” side, we can do that, so long as everyone agrees on the tone of the game. We’ll also be running one of the adventures that I acquired in the Big Pack of Star Trek Adventures bundle from Humble last year, and those seem to be rather short and to the point. I mentioned that they feel like Star Trek scripts that never got made, so while I don’t anticipate a resolution in an hour with commercials, I suspect that we’ll be able to get through one out without tempting burn-out.
As usual, I will be writing up the morning-after reports, which will be a recap of what happened followed by analysis of how the session went from my point of view. Look for those on Thursday mornings.