Last week (actually, about three weeks ago), the Away Team had found themselves in a bit of a pickle: the windows in the command center were dangerously close to breaking and a decompression event was immanent. The team raced back to V’Tol’s quarters and quickly decided that they would make an emergency trip to the warehouse two floors down in to hopes of scoring some environmental suits. Trouble is, the power was still out, and the Jeffries tubes were still rife with parasites.
Having found an unusual number of phasers lying around for a research facility, the team devised an emergency mega-battery that could power the turbolift for one round trip journey — for one rider. Clark took the lift down to the warehouse, secured four environmental suits (one extra in case one of the others ripped, or unknowingly foreshadowed), and the team faced their next hurdle: getting the power on.
The issue was this: Angstrom Base was engaged in stellar research of unusual stars like the one at the center of this system. One of the experiments had been to syphon off valuable gasses from from the star which was stored in a containment unit, but someone increased the pressure in the holding tank which caused the vessel to rupture. This spewed highly radioactive materials all over engineering and the system shut itself down in response. Now the team had to enter the contaminated zone to fix the issue.
Fortunately the score of environmental suits helped. With three of the team members working together, they were able to seal up the containment unit, prime and restart the reactor, and get the computer system online. The lingering radioactive gasses were vented outside of the facility.
Now for the last leg. The tram to the other side of the research facility was only 50% operational: one of the transport tubes had been destroyed, apparently on purpose, while the other was blocked by a raging fire behind the blast doors. Attempts to reengage the fire suppression system were unsuccessful, so the team opted to investigate the airlock in the hopes of maybe hoofing it across the blasted hellscape that is Dran’Ankos Prime.
In the course of investigating the airlock, though, the team was met with a surprise: a living, uninfected survivor had hidden herself away in a locker with an emergency bottle of oxygen that was dangerously close to depletion. It didn’t take much to get her conscious, and she identified herself as Dr. Amelia Adams, the one who had sent the original distress signal. She had been fortunate enough to find this hiding spot, and although she had been painfully grazed by a parasite, she showed no signs of infection or other damage.
With Dr. Adams in tow, the group opted for a risky move: rather than walk the 5km across the face of the desolate planetoid to the light side of the base, they would return to the warehouse and use the transporter pad. The problem was that due to the proximity of the planetoid to the star, the shields were at maximum which made transporters useless. Maylox offered the insight that if they adjusted the frequency of the transporter carrier waves to match the shields, and boosted their signal with pattern enhancers, they could give their signal a kick in the pants and skip through the shields. Unfortunately the initial tests did not look promising, but once they realized that it was the green wire and not the red wire, the transporter was up and running.
The team beamed directly into the research lab where they got the drop on V’Tol. The Vulcan was covered in neural parasites and was intently working the control panel of a massive cannon-like device in the main experiment chamber. This was the Stellar Inversion Drive, the machine responsible for syphoning off stellar material which, under more controlled circumstances, might yield a massive amount of scientific data but which now was in overdrive, destabilizing the star and flooding the facility with radiation. At first the team considered stunning V’Tol, but Dr. Adams mentioned that V’Tol was the only one who could shut down the Drive, plus the team realized they didn’t know what would happen if V’Tol became unconscious. Would it cause lethal neurological damage? Would the parasites disengage and seek new hosts? Amelia suggested they appeal to V’Tol’s Vulcan logic, but when confronted, the scientist was too far gone to respond. He grabbed his lirpa and began a halting advance towards the team.
While the party continued to plead with V’Tol, Maylox jerry-rigged a homemade biological EMP device from several scientific materials strewn nearby. Tossing it at V’Tol’s feet, this grenade disrupted the electrical signals that were so important to the parasites, causing them to shrivel and die. V’Tol was not unscathed, however, as his neurological system had become too dependent upon the parasites to function on it’s own. He lasted long enough to provide the codes to access the Drive console.
Securing the computer logs, all research, and the schematics on the Inversion Drive, the team realized they couldn’t extract the Drive itself. In order to comply with their mission directives, they opted to set the Drive to overload, destroying it and the entire light side of the research facility in the process.
Meanwhile, in orbit, the two Cardassian ships that had been shadowing the Edmund Fitzgerald arrived in-system, taking up position opposite the Federation ship. Gul Anvok offered assistance, assuming that any ship lingering in a system with such an unstable star must be experiencing technical difficulties, but the team assured Anvok that everything was OK. Again, Anvok insisted that his ships send additional shuttles down to Angstrom Base, “to assist in any evacuation efforts underway”, but the team convinced the Cardassian that the last shuttle was on its way up and that the base had become far too unstable for another trip. Begrudgingly, Anvok turned his fleet around and left the system, and the Edmund Fitzgerald followed shortly after.
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In all honesty, Star Trek Adventures isn’t as good as I had hoped it would be. I think one problem is the rules, and the other issue is that this module, while relatively short and straightforward, is almost 100% mechanics as written.
Like most RPG rulebooks, STA’s core rules don’t centralize information. It starts out by offering the most basic concepts that everyone needs to know in order to play, but then it peppers exceptions and circumstantial footnotes and gotchas over the course of the next few hundred pages. For example, the job of getting the power turned on was a gated challenge which means that there are several steps, some of which need to be completed before others can be attempted. The module mentioned that the team has a certain number of intervals to complete this challenge, so I wanted to refresh my memory on how intervals were calculated. I couldn’t find it. Gated challenges are mentioned in one small paragraph in the tasks section. This morning I found it mentioned in the extended tasks section, with the usual shrug that is STA’s hallmark: an interval is whatever you want it to be. A day, a week, an epoch, whatever. In the end we made it the number of task attempts, meaning that each success or failure would be an interval, so take too long with the process and it could mean bad things. Was it correct? No, but STA didn’t seem too concerned with specifics, so we followed suit.
This module, though, was good from the perspective that there wasn’t a whole lot of need for “silly voices” as the players didn’t really interact with anyone outside of each other, Dr. Adams, V’Tol, and Gul Anvok. Most of the time they were exploring, pulling levers, and shooting stuff. Of course, as the GM it’s completely on me to make the module what it ultimately turns out to be, but I didn’t feel particularly inspired to add much to this one. In fact, I had originally chosen it because it seemed straightforward, would be a good introduction to roleplaying for the team, and would be an introduction to the Star Trek Adventures system for everyone. Adding more combat or more survivors would have thrown more complexity into the mix, and considering how often I had to look up rules for clarification, that would have been a lot of on-the-fly work that only dragged the sessions down.
We had a discussion after the session last night in which we talked about the process. I mentioned that the module went about as well as any other for players who were relatively new to TTRPing and with an unfamiliar system to boot. A lot of time in-game was spent looking up, discussing, or making up rules, though a lot of time was spent by the players doing what they thought they should be doing: checking under every rock, dotting all the i’s, crossing all the t’s.
One of the trouble spots, though, was that we as a group didn’t quite adhere to the “Star Trek-ness” of the game. Characters had been made in relative isolation, meaning individuals created what they thought they’d need and what they wanted to play. As a result, we lacked the specialist vibe that is so endemic to Star Trek. Every task became a “points swap” committee as the team shouted out their values and the best man for the job was chosen. I believe we ultimately agreed that characters should have been created as a group, and defined roles assumed so that when a medical task presented itself, one player was always at the fore. Same with engineering, same with operations. The team relied a lot on assisting tasks which is completely OK, and even encouraged, but it’s also not necessary that assistants share the same skills. We needed more specialists, and less generalists, and I think that would have been a massive boon for the proceedings both in time, effort, and satisfaction all around. Shout out to Mindstrike, though, the resident Star Trek knowledgebase for his completely-on-pointe plan with the transporter modification and his insightful idea to fashion a device that could disrupt the electrical signals of the parasites.
The good news is that we now know the pain points of STA. We know what kind of trouble a party can get up to. We know how the players tend to approach situations. We know that it’s difficult to easily find specific information in the STA Core Rulebook. We also know that this is just one type of typical Star Trek adventure one might expect. Decades of Star Trek have left us with many templates ranging from the action packed to the slow boil of a detective story. I don’t want to say it’s a more flexible universe than any other TTRPG, but as far as offering examples of source material, it simply cannot be beat. We will now discuss the future of this iteration of AdventureCo, if we want to continue playing, and if so, whether we engage in continuing missions with STA or venture into another game system entirely.