GM’s Log, Stardate 98608.9. We have been patrolling the Cardassian Demilitarized Zone for several weeks now with no incidents to speak of. We have, however, gained a shadow in the form of two Galor-class cruisers on the Cardassian side of the divide. During our patrol, the crew has been in maintenance mode, and the ship has never been in better shape.
During a routine patrol route, the Federation starship Edmund Fitzgerald received a communication from Starfleet redirecting them to the Dran’Ankos system to answer a distress signal. Dran’Ankos is a Class-T brown dwarf star with a single, tidally locked and barren planet, and the Federation had installed there a research base staffed with scientists studying various aspects of the star. Starfleet’s directive was urgent, but vague: investigate what happened at Angstrom Base, but prioritize the retrieval of the research and prevent the base from falling into enemy hands.
The high-level purpose of the base’s research had been redacted.
The Captain convened a briefing with the senior officers and informed them of the situation. Angstrom Base had issued a distress signal and then fallen silent. The distress call was…distressing: audio only, explosions, screams, and phaser fire could be heard in the background. The signal had been sent by Senior Stellar Researcher Amelia Adams, but the only discernable message that could be herd was “the mutiny failed…they’re everywhere now.”
During a 7 hour trip from the DMZ to Dran’Ankos, Lieutenants Shane Makitoff, Leeland Bentley, and Geoffrey Plantagenent did what they could to prepare for the mission. Bentley was able to goose the warp drive to shave an hour off the trip, justifying the action since lives might be at stake. Markitoff attempted long-range scans of the Dran’Ankos system, but encountered a curious phenomenon: the system was impossible to penetrate due to high levels of radioactive interference. The team theorized that maybe the Cardassians had found the base, invaded, and the researchers did what they could to hold them off, but upon review, the firefight sounds from the distress recording were distinctively Federation in origin.
Arriving in the Dran’Ankos system, the long range scanner problems were understood: the central star was unusually hot, and emitting dangerously high levels of X-ray radiation. A scan of Angstrom Base indicated that there were life-forms present, but in wildly fluctuating numbers reaching as high as 942. The power was out and the base was running on backup batteries, but the solar shields were at maximum, preventing teleport. Damage assessments pointed out that the base had suffered severe internal damage, and that one of the tram lines connecting the light side and the dark side of the base had been ripped open, apparently from the inside, and apparently by a mining charge.
With transporters unable to get the crew to the base, an away team was formed: Maylox, Clark Robertson, and Halstat, special ops crew members, boarded a shuttle and departed for the base. Almost immediately, Robertson was fighting the controls as the deteriorating conditions in the system battered the smaller craft. As the shuttle approached the base, it was punched down onto the planet, forcing Robertson to complete the trip by skidding 50 feet into the safety of the hangar.
The shuttle bay, under emergency battery power, was dark and silent. The faint whirring of minimal life support was the only sound the team could hear as they began their investigation. They quickly came across a body by the bay’s main entrance. He had been killed by phaser fire, but upon closer investigation, Halstat found a small puncture wound on the man’s back. Scans indicated that his nervous system was in the process of disintegrating.
A quick pass through the base’s storage warehouse revealed nothing of note, aside from a secure crate that had been forced open. Seven of the eight type-1 phasers had been removed from this crate, so the team opted to take the last phaser to ensure it didn’t fall into hostile hands.
Unfortunately the sole turbolift was offline. Maylox was able to force the doors open but the lift was stuck at the top level of the facility. Instead, the team entered the Jeffries tubes to reach the first floor.
There they discovered and even more dire sight. This was the crew habitation deck. Dark, with emergency lights flashing, two life signs were detected, moving erratically. The team quickly but cautiously investigated some of the crew quarters but found nothing unusual; the quarters were utilitarian, a testament to how little time the researchers spent away from their work.
Turning into a hallway, two scientists appeared. “LEAVE!” one of them scremed as he lurched as if unable to control his own limbs. “NEVER COME BACK!” the other yelled, and they shambled forward with makeshift clubs in their hands. The team attempted to calm the scientists, but they were unresponsive.
Robertson was the first to fire a non-lethal burst that went wild. One of the scientists zeroed in on Robertson, smashing him with his club and knocking him to the ground. Halstat, rolling out of the way to get a better shot, was able to stun the first scientist, but the second grabbed ahold of Maylox. Quickly, the Bolian wrenched himself free and moved to a better vantage point. A blast from his phaser stunned the second scientist.
A survey of their current surroundings revealed that the team was right outside of the base’s medical facility. Halstat issued a sedative to the two scientists to prolong the effects of the stun, and discovered that both of them had puncture wounds similar to that found on the man in the shuttle bay, although the visible effects on these two were less pronounced. Inside the medical facility, the team was faced with a floor-to-ceiling specimen tank, inside of which was an organism resembling a giant nerve cell. The creature was dead, scans revealed, but parts of its anatomy seemed almost alive, as if receiving electrical signals from outside of the containment field.
Three bodies were discovered here. One bore the now familiar puncture wound, though his body was was the worst off of any bodies the team had thus far encountered. Maylox surmised that this might be patient zero on account of how far the deterioration seemed. The other two bodies had died, oddly enough, of asphyxiation. A PADD next to one of the bodies was open to a report which mentioned that a Mr. Myroki and two others had been outside of the base to clear an intake of a strange “biological matter”. Myroki had been injured while outside, somehow, and had turned a laser drill on his two companions. Although Myroki had found his way back into the base, once subdued the medical team discovered and removed the strange creature that was now in the stasis field.
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Welcome to the first installation of AdventureCo’s Star Trek Adventures.
To start, we were down by two crew members, but this our third week of meeting so we opted to go ahead. I wasn’t sure how long this module would take, so we might have been able to plow through it before we were rejoined by the other players. In retrospect, the length of any module is determined by how much detail the players want to put into it.
We had to start by appeasing the weird system that STA uses. In an episode of Star Trek, stories usually focus on members of the bridge crew. When the story happens on the ship, that’s cool because the bridge crew can be anywhere and it’s not weird, but when the crew has to leave the ship, then protocol dictates that not everyone gets to go on the field trip. So STA has the concept of “primary and supporting characters”. Primary characters get to progress and have advanced features and rules, while supporting characters are “made on the fly” and are issued standard Starfleet red shirts. While this is intended to allow players to create characters as circumstance dictates, it also makes things complicated when some of the module’s action takes place on the ship, and some takes place away from the ship. I didn’t see the point of making the bridge crew the main characters since most of the action here was going to be on the planet (hence all the experience and such), so the away team is made up on the player’s main characters and the supporting characters are the heads of their departments. This allows an excuse for why the NPC captain drags them into the conference room for mission briefings, which then filter down to the special operations away team. So the players needed to create their supporting bridge crew before we could get started.
This was as much a learning episode as it was a gaming episode. We had done a mock combat situation last time (2 weeks ago) but we had all pretty much forgotten what we’d learned. As the story unfolded, we all took our time to figure out “the best” way to handle a situation — not always the way the rules wanted us to handle it, but ways that were hopefully fun while also maintaining that Star Trek feel and still being within the bounds of “a game where things don’t always go as planned”.
The team spent a lot of time analyzing the first body they came across. Naturally players want as much info as they can get because no one wants to miss anything they might need to know later, so they scanned the body. They examined the puncture wound. They scanned the puncture wound. They scanned the nervous system. They wanted to scan the chemical makeup of whatever left residue around the puncture wound, but there comes a time in any player-GM relationship when the GM just can’t gin-up any more information and has to go into “interference mode”: I said that any further analysis would require a more detailed medical database, but the stellar radiation was interfering with large data transfers between the planet and their ship. A gentle reminder that the primary directive was to secure the base and get the research, and further analysis could wait, and the team was back on the investigation.
I realized that progress was blocked. With the power out, the turbolifts weren’t working, which was by design because the team was meant to move about through the maintenance tubes, but there was no obvious indication on the map that there were ingress points for these. I should have seen that the players would want to force the turbolift doors open in the hopes they could climb the shaft. That could potentially take them straight up to the top floor which would have bypassed the habitation floor and some important module information. So I made the lift stuck where they couldn’t reach it, and I hinted that, like starships, standard Federation building codes required Jeffries tubes.
Combat was a problem. We had learned a lot from our mock battle earlier, but in a “live fire” situation things still got difficult. Turns out I had been mis-reading the cheat-sheet I had set up in Roll20, and had treated ranged combat as melee combat and vice versa when it came to rolling the dice. I had also misunderstood how adjacent enemies affected ranged attack difficulty, but with some help from the team I got it squared away. We still weren’t completely sure how “non-lethal” hits worked: if a target is hit by a non-lethal blast that does less than injurous damage, is the target stunned? Or do they need to take an injury under non-lethal circumstances in order to be stunned? I opted for expediency and decided that one-hit-one-stun was the order of the day, but I will review the rules when not under pressure, just to make sure.
The session did take longer than anticipated, but it was a good longer than anticipated. As first time or long-time-since-last-time players, the group did very well. Being familiar with Star Trek goes a long way towards deciding what options are available if one can envision the scenario as if it were on TV, and the players were up to the task. My brother in particular took a massive amount of notes, so I’m actually relying on his info to write this post.
At the end of the session, though, Maylox’s player rolled a 20 when scanning the creature in the containment field, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out a Complication that happens as a result of flubbing an action that’s considered to be “walking and chewing gum at the same time” in the Star Trek Universe. The batteries on his tricorder died? He “butt dials” an old team member who’s jealous of his current assignment? Someone looks over his shoulder and catches a glimpse of his browser history? I have no idea what kind of consequence this situation should invoke.