Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Barking Alien 101: Advice For Playing In My Games

My good buddy Jay at the ever-so-futuristically-fun blog EXONAUTS, recently posted a list of things for novice PCs to make note of when first entering into the exciting, fast paced world of adventuring.

Actually, I think he might have meant that the points listed were things novice Players should think about when they start in the adventure gaming hobby, but that's just semantics more or less.

I think his post is largely bang-on, but I also thought a slightly altered version of it would be more appropriate to what I am specifically hoping to see in a new player (those playing in my campaigns, or wanting to in the future, please take note).

Snark Warning: Snarkiness Level set to Chartreuse. So not too snarky.

Let's begin shall we? Being A Player in a Barking Alien RPG - Lesson 101

    1. GOLDEN RULE: Ask the GM questions and try stuff. Have fun!
 
    Don’t ask the GM if you can breathe or tie your shoe or whether the modern day city street your PC is on has stores. Are you dense? Try to imagine the place the PC is at, what it looks like, what it would be like. Seriously.
     
    1. Talk to each other, you're a team so get to know your teammates.
 
    OMG! Yes please. You are not alone in the game. Get to know each other.
     
    1. Look around at your surroundings, try to be aware at all times.
 
    If you have trouble doing this, let your GM know. Maybe he/she can draw a picture, set up minis or something. If you can’t picture the environment (see #1), get HELP.
     
    1. Listen - this means both you as a player and your PC in game.
 
    But be aware that you the Player can often hear things your PC can’t because they are not near the source of the sound. Learn to separate these two concepts. Please.
     
    1. Learn about your abilities, see Golden Rule.
 
    Less important to me. If it floats your boat, go ahead.
     
    1. Look in your gear bag, learn about your stuff, see Golden Rule.
 
    Less important to me. If it floats your boat, go ahead.
     
    1. Check for traps - decide if they should they be disarmed or sidestepped? Left for enemies to run into?
 
    OK, this can be summed up easily. Think. Don’t be stupid. If you are stupid, expect it to bite you in the butt.
     
    1. Always be searching for clues, information is as valuable as treasure!
 
    Yes. Yes. Yes.
    In most of the games I run, information is much, much more valuable than treasure. There usually isn’t much treasure per se.
     
    1. Record any clues you find or hints you might suspect are being dropped.
    Do you know what record means? Take physical notes! Good physical notes. If we read the notes from last sessions this session and don’t know who or what they are referring to, YOU HAVE NOT TAKEN GOOD NOTES.
    Remember fifth grade? Yeah. Like that.
     
    1. Learn about your enemies, keep a record in case you run into more.
 
    Notes. See above.
     
    1. In combat - look for cover and take up key positions when possible.
 
    Remember #7? Think and Don’t be stupid.
     
    1. After combat - loot the bodies, see #7, and see #8.
 
    Do this in one of my games and be prepared to face consequences unless appropriate to the genre.
    Starfleet Officers, Superheroes, Knights of Chivalry, and Samurai do not loot the bodies.
     
    1. Remember to get paid, collect treasure, and then convert it to liquid currency if needed. You earn XP for spending your income.
 
    Again, if genre appropriate, get paid, collect treasure, etc.
    Money has nothing to do with XP in any game I run. None. Not even D&D.
     
    1. Return to HQ/town/etc. and get information on what you've found. Refer to previous clues discovered.
 
    Good advice.
     
    1. Heal yourself and other teammates whenever possible (this includes rest and nourishment).
 
    Good advice.
     
    A few other, general pieces of advice.
     
    • Besides sticking to your class and/or race attributes, determine who's doing what on the team - (e.g., is one of you the group's "leader"? Who looks after team-owned gear, etc.).
 
    Not applicable or appropriate in the majority of my games.
    If you are playing Star Trek and you don't understand that the Captain is the leader, don't play Star Trek. Did I go too fast there? No? Good.
     
 
    Meh. If you want to. Probably won’t matter in a universe where people can fly, teleport, move at super speed, see the future, read your mind, etc.
     
    • When in doubt, ask the locals. Brush up on bribing, interviewing, and intimidating NPCs. Even if encounters appear to yield nothing, there could be a clue in their temperament or mood. What aren't they saying?
 
    Here’s a thought, instead of bribing, and intimidating NPCs, get to know them. Maybe, and here's a crazy idea, make friends. Who is more likely to give you good information, more often; the guy who hates you, and is afraid of you, and can’t wait for you to leave, or the guy who’s happy to see you and actually WANTS to help you out and see you do well?
     
    • Try to determine who might find value in the treasure or information you've discovered.
 
    Where and when appropriate, sure.
     
    • Always review your character sheet -- look for ways of improving yourself. How will you spend your XP?
 
    Meh. This is fine as long as it doesn’t lead to min-maxing. Don’t min-max. It’s asinine. Update your character logically based on their interests and goals.
 
Hopefully, this will give a little insight into how my games differ from most, with a little added humor. Hopefully.
 
Now put your books away.
Class dismissed.

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Barking Alien
     
     

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Golden Age of Pulp...Is About 10

With a new school year comes a new session of the Sunday program at the tutoring center where I teach. This semester, so far, Sundays are pretty light, with only four students signed up and attending regularly.

Saturdays are much busier, and I have been covering for a teacher who is on vacation. So, yeah, worked seven days a week for two weeks, plus working this week at the regular job. Saturday, Oct. 4th will be my first day off since Sept. 13th.

Be that as it may, I love it and the kids are awesome.

As part of what I do at the center, I run an RPG session each week, connected to a writing lesson and/or creative writing assignment. With both the game and the lessons, we try to encourage the students to think and be creative, as well as practice their writing skills.

Many of these kids are in ESL classes (English as a Second Language), and either have difficulty with English because they moved to the USA fairly recently, or because English isn't regularly spoken by their family at home.

For this 'semester', I started with two girls, each in 4th grade, and a boy in 2nd. Another girl has now joined them, also in 4th grade.

I initially had this idea I thought was amazing, combining a modified version of the game Psi-Run with creative writing, learning how to search for clues and information in text, and other elements that would have been both really helpful to the students, and incredibly fun. Unfortunately, with so few kids, the basic premise of project (each student learning about his or her character from questions created/asked by the other students) wasn't going to live up to its full potential. I decided to shelve the concept for now, and do something else.

I asked the original three students what they wanted to play. One girl said Fantasy, the boy said Superheroes, and the other girl didn't care as long as it had fighting and action.

I asked them when it should take place. The answer was discussed between them and they voted for the present, modern day. I asked where it should take place. I got 'the Ocean', 'the Sky', a 'Far Away Land'.

Pouring all these ingredients into my mental blender, I came up with an oddly Pulp Era-like supers game. Basically, HEROES meets Indiana Jones, or something akin to the game I mentioned not long ago called Double Cross. The only difference was the feel was much more 'Dime Store Novel' then I intended once we started playing.

What we ended up with is called, 'The Crime-Fighters' (named by one of the girls and winning the unanimous vote). The Crime-Fighters (we learn in Episode #3) are a team of international secret agents fighting against evil, and using either special skills, high tech gadgets or superhuman abilities.

Our first session found the team fighting a bunch of pirates who had stolen a priceless treasure, recently excavated from the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. The treasure was lost hundreds of years ago when a storm sank the boat carrying it.

Defeating the criminals, they loaded the treasure onto the team jet (a small craft owned by one of the PCs), and headed back to Washington, D.C. to hand the treasure over to a museum. Low and behold, it would not be so easy, as the pirates were working for a mysterious fellow known only as 'The Boss Man', who immediately gave chase in his own plane (a massive, modified B-52 Bomber looking flying fortress). The pirate ship was originally supposed to meet the plane anyway to transfer the stolen treasure.

The heroes had a head start but the enemy plane used 'turbo boost' style rockets to catch up. Eventually, one of the players (the boy), handed the controls of his plane over to a teammate so he could fly over to the enemy plane with his special suit...

Oh yeah, The Crime-Fighters are:

'Lucky', a girl with the power to give herself, and/or others, Good Luck or Bad Luck. It is sometimes hard to believe this young lady is only in the 4th grade. She came up with the idea that if she raises her right hand (or touches someone with it) it's Good Luck, but her left hand is Bad Luck. At one point, she hands the controls of the plane to the 'Fighting Girl' who says she doesn't know how to pilot the craft. Without missing a beat, or giving any other signal, the player put her right hand on her friend's shoulder and said, "Well, Good Luck flying the plane." Brilliant.

'Fighting Girl' is a modern day Hua Mulan, apparently replacing her aging father who was a member of the Crime-Fighters, but retired. She has no supernatural or superhuman powers, but is an extremely skilled fighter. She is a master of numerous martial arts techniques, an expert archer, and an incredible swordswoman (Swords are her main weapon). She also carries various grenades (flash, smoke, etc.), and a grapnel gun (made for her by the male member of the group).

Referred to as 'The Pilot' and 'The Flying Hero', the male member of the team is an inventor with a host of nifty gadgets. Largely inspired by the Falcon from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Flying Hero wears a winged suit that lets him fly and turn invisible (though he can still be heard, smelled, etc.). He wears goggles that enable him to see himself when he's invisible (Very clever on this kids part), see in the dark (as night vision goggles), and shoot lasers from the sides (the beams are not very powerful but he can weld things, burn you, cut ropes, etc.).

Coolest thing? He gave a spare pair of his googles (sans lasers) to each of his fellow Crime-Fighters so they too can see him when he's invisible. Teamwork! I was so proud and impressed by that idea.

Their assignment for next week is to come up with actual names for their characters, and give a little background as to where they are from and why they are members of the Crime-Fighters.

After getting over to the enemy craft (eventually accompanied by Lucky, who travels over by grapnel gun line), the Pilot manages to get into a fight with a few of 'The Boss Man's specially gifted henchmen. So far, the team has fought a super strong man with tough (although not invulnerable) skin, a samurai girl who is also very good with a sword, a man who can disappear and reappear in a puff of black smoke (a mystic), and a teenager who is either a cyborg or a robot.

'The Boss Man', originally seated in the front area, ran to the back of the plane, and locked the cabin door behind him after sending the cyborg/robot kid out to engage the PCs.

The team was aided in the last episode by a new member, another female character who can shape change into a variety of frightening monsters. She can not duplicate people, and her size is limited to roughly the same as her true form, but she has the most overtly noticeable supernatural ability in the group. The rest of the group is saying it's likely magic. I am curious to see what the player says in the writing assignment.

We've has three sessions so far, and yet, there is a lot more details I could tell you about. The kids are awesome, and having a ball with this. It's so odd how the genre is feeling very Pulp as I mentioned, even though these kids are way too young to have any clue what Pulp even is. Not unlike that time I ran Superheroes with the older kids and it felt very Silver Age even though none of them read comics, let alone ones from the 70s.

Anyway, going to stop here and get back to other projects. A lot going on lately.


Talk to you soon.

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Barking Alien




Thursday, September 25, 2014

Core Values

Good friend of this blog, and all around royal thinking person, Lord Blacksteel, made an interesting post over at his Tower of Zenopus on the subject of getting into a 'well supported' RPG.

By 'well supported' he means (if I understand him) that the game has, in addition to its core rules, a large amount of supplemental material produced for it including, but not limited to, sourcebooks, adventures, and other splatbooks of various kinds.

I think what Blacksteel says on the subject is accurate and valid, but (unsurprisingly I guess) I have a slightly different take on the subject.

These days, I really don't want a well supported game. At least, not in the traditional sense. Certainly not supported like the example he gives, which is Paizo Publishing's Dungeons & Dragons 3.x, also known as Pathfinder.



That's Too. Damn. Many. Books.
 
 
Now don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting every RPG company produce a single book of rules, and be done with it. That's no fun, and certainly not very effective from a business stand point.
 
Also, I will totally admit to owning damn near everything for every Star Trek RPG ever produced (except Prime Directive/Star Fleet Battles of which I own very little if anything), the Star Wars D6 RPG by West End Games, Mutants & Masterminds (all editions), and classic Traveller (including The Journal of the Travellers Aid Society magazines).
 
That said, I will name two games I've grown to really dislike, and perhaps you will notice a similarity between them:
 
Pathfinder and RIFTS.
 
Both share the distinction of being over-supported in my personal opinion. How can a game possibly be over-supported? Well let's take a look at some of my favorite games in comparison...
 
Currently, when I run Champions, I use one book and one book only for 90-95% of the campaigns content. I use the famous 'Big Blue Book', the hardcover rulebook for Champions 4th Edition. That's it. Honestly, what else do I need? Ah, there is lies the key word...need.
 
Let's take another favorite of mine, Star Trek. I have every supplement and sourcebook for every Star Trek RPG because I love Star Trek, but honestly, I hardly use anything that came out from Last Unicorn Games when running Star Trek campaigns, outside of the corebooks.

LUG created some great stuff, don't get me wrong. It's just that, between my knowledge of Star Trek, the excellent rules in the corebook, and my own imagination, I can run the game without any help from the game itself.

I will use material from a few of the supplements here and there, and from the FASA game, such as starships, species information, planets that strike my fancy, etc. Note that I do this because I want to. I found these elements interesting, so I want to use them. I don't use them because I have to, or I can't make the game work otherwise. I don't really. I mean honestly, outside of the rules and the basic information of Starfleet, their vessels and gear, some data on a few of the hostile space governments, what else do you need to run Trek?
 
Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

A big reason why I love these two games, Champions and ICONS Star Trek, is that both games do something no version of D&D has ever done, which is give the players, and GMs, the mechanics behind the rules so that they (the gamers) can build new, compatible stuff themselves.
 
Where as most games like to sell you model kit after model kit that enable you to build and use their cars, or their buildings, or their airplanes, and what-have-you, Star Trek, Champions and many other games I like sell you a box of LEGOs and say, "Go to town my friend. Get crazy."
 
 
 
What is it?
 
It's awesome is what it is. It's what I wanted to make.
Why? Because LEGO m*^#erf*^$ers!
 
 
I've noticed that with Pathfinder and RIFTS, for example, GMs and players alike can't sneeze until they find the Sneezing Splatbook that tells you everything you need to know to get the most out of your sneeze. Screw that noise.
 
Don't get me started on Adventure Paths. I don't want a path. Paths don't lead to adventure. Paths lead to well travelled bed and breakfast lodges for a weekend getaway. Paths are the safe ways up the mountain. For far, in my experience, Adventure Paths are too heavy handed, too railroad-y, and not one, strangely enough, is tailor made to our groups' campaign. Not one. You'd think they didn't have us specifically in mind when they wrote it. The nerve!
 
What I want game companies to give me are sourcebooks that help me build my own settings, my own adventures, and my own creations. That, or they supply information I do need for the setting I am playing. A book of ships for Star Trek or Star Wars, character profile books for Marvel or DC, descriptions of the nations of Mythic Europe for Ars Magica, etc. True game support, if I may say so, supports the GMs, and the players, by allowing them to make more out of the games basic rules, setting, and premise.
 
A book on how to min-max the rules for the deadliest, deadly 'Deathdealer'? Five hundred more monsters when you haven't given me a Monster Creation system? A series of adventures that locks my group into a story we find boring a quarter of the way through?
 
No thanks. Just not my cup of joe.
 
Finally, note that Champions 4E, Star Trek by LUG, Star Trek by FASA, Star Wars by WEG, Ars Magica 3rd, Bushido, Mekton II, Faery's Tale Deluxe, InSpectres and many of the other games I play are not currently commercially supported. Doesn't effect me one bit.
 
The Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Monster Manual came out recently. Beautiful book with lots of monster entries. And no system for making your own. Tsk tsk.
 
 
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Barking Alien
 
Yesterday was the birthday of my hero, Jim Henson. Jim (Can I call you Jim?), would've been 78 years old. You are deeply missed.
 
Today commemorates the birthday of another departed favorite of mine, Christopher Reeve. Chris would've been 62.
 
In a different quantum reality, these guys are working on some crazy, awesome project together. I wish we could see it.
 
 
 
You will believe a monster can fly.
 
 
 
 



Marvel Two-In-One

I have a new pet project.

I am taking TSR's classic Marvel Super Heroes RPG (aka, the FASERIP system), and merging it with MWP's Marvel Heroic RPG.

Marvel Super Heroic!




What If? Indeed!
 
 
When it comes to Superhero RPGs, there are two games that sit in a very strange place in the Sanctum Sanctorum that is my brain.

The Marvel Super Heroes RPG by Jeff Grub (TSR, 1984), and the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game by Cam Banks and Rob Donoghue (Margret Weiss Productions, 2012).

I really don't like the Marvel Super Heroes game by TSR. I don't know why exactly, beyond the fact that it always struck me as sort of silly, and childish. I also felt it was odd that there were so few levels of power to differentiate everyone in Marvel Universe from Frog Man to Galactus.

I do like Marvel Heroic. A lot. It's very thematic, giving one the feeling of being in a modern Marvel comic book. It also has some nifty mechanics such as Assets, Complications and the ever awesome Doom Pool. I am not a big fan of big crunch, but I do like it when crunch translates directly into genre tropes, as is the case here.

Unfortunately, MH suffers from several obstacles when trying to win over many people I've spoken to about the game, at least in relation to long term play.

First, the character creation system is somewhere between vague and non-existent.

There is little to no system for (traditional) character improvement, even though the game has a really cool experience point system. There just isn't enough to do with your XP once you get it.

Power levels and effects don't feel particularly different from each other mechanically.

Each game has, IMHO, certain strengths, weaknesses, and interesting approaches to Superhero RPGs that the other covers, improves upon, and compliments. In the interest of searching for the perfect blend of genre simulation and game mechanics, I feel this mutant hybrid is worth exploring.

Basically I want to use the Assets, Complications and other situational modifiers from Heroic in FASERIP. Also, the cool XP system in Heroic (as in, how you gain XP), could give you MSH Karma instead. What do you think?
 
There are a few other elements of FASERIP and Heroic I'll be merging, but the key to this hybrid (the reason I'm doing it), is to give Heroic (my favorite of the two), the two things it sorely lacks. #1. A character creation system most players can wrap their heads around. #2. A system for improving your character through XP that benefits from Heroic's dramatic XP rules.

More on this idea as it develops. If anyone has any ideas, questions, or recommendations, feel free to let me know.


Excelsior!

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Barking Alien

 
 
 


Monday, September 22, 2014

Splitting Up...The Final Frontier - Part II

Continuing with my recap of the first session of one of my old Star Trek campaigns, OUTBOUND - Phase II, by the end of the first third of the game the PCs were split into a number of distinct groups in different locations. As this recap is also being posted to highlight elements I've been discussing in my Split The Party series, it is important to note that:

The NPC Captain, and PCs Jose Santiago (Helmsman) and Serin (Sensor Officer, Asst. Navigator) are on the bridge of the Loknar Class USS Thunder Bay, which has just been struck by a barrage of Disruptor energy and a Plasma Missile (similar, although not identical to, the Romulan Plasma Torpedo).

First Officer-Commander Lily Munroe, Science Officer Green Shine Wandering Wave Miragh, and Security Officer Shilana Kincaid, are in a shuttlecraft heading for a scout sized vessel of unknown origin. The team uses the earlier damage the Thunder Bay had done to the Romulan ship's sensor array, and the communications jam, to hide the shuttle's departure and flight path. Quite clever. They hope to make first contact, assist in repairs and/or convince the crew  of the unknown craft that the Thunder Bay will help them as soon as it can. Hopefully the group can also find out why the alien ship was attacked by this unusual Romulan ship in the first place.

Mataeo Rozza was in Main Engineering, ducking under fallen debris and dodging sparking panels. His goal was to ascertain exactly what the damage was, and what systems to prioritize in his repair schedule..

Dr. Shran was in Sickbay, now looking at a parade of the injured and deceased coming through his doors. He quickly went over to a computer console, initiated his 'secret program', and prepared to contact the bridge.

Since you're here, a quick analysis of the mystery of the Romulan attacker. The enemy ship in this scenario is believed to be a Romulan V-9 'Night Flyer' Class Light Cruiser. The PCs' ship should be more than a match for it. However, it appears to have some characteristics inconsistent with a normal V-9.

  • It is able to cloak, decloak, attack, and recloak, faster than a standard Night Flyer.
  • It's cloaking device flickers on, and off, like a dance club strobe light, instead of having the regular wavy fade visual effect.
  • It launches powerful, though conventionally designed, missiles that carry compressed, superheated gas in a warhead. When the warhead detonates, a blast of plasma is released. These Plasma Missiles are very different from the typical Romulan Plasma Torpedo, which is a ball of dense, superheated plasma from launch to impact. The Plasma Torpedo looses strength over increased distances. The Plasma Missile does not, although it becomes less accurate.

Bare in mind that I am leaving out a good deal of player questions, character moments, in-jokes, references to various episodes and movies, people running to the kitchen for snacks, people going to the bathroom, etc. A lot happens in a 6-8 hour RPG session other than the story and the actions of the PCs. Still, this group was always really focused once things got started, and they were really into the game.

Now then, there is quite a bit to go.

***

Warning klaxons wail, emergency lights come on, and smoke is absolutely everywhere. It is very difficult to see for a few moments as crewmen thrown from their chairs try to get back to their posts. Some tend to those wounded instead.

The PCs roll to see what happened to them as a result of the attack. I make a few secret rolls myself.

Ensign Serin sees that Santiago (the Helmsman) is wounded and unconscious, the Chief Navigator is dead, and so, sadly, is the Captain. Serin immediately hails Sickbay but there is no response. Confused, she hails Engineering. No response. Checking her console, her sensors determine that while the was a hard hit they took, there is no way it destroyed Sickbay and Engineering.

She asks for a damage report, and is informed that the attack shut down internal communications. Ship-to-ship communications are also damaged. It would seem that the central computer may has been damaged, since in addition to communications, the emergency light came on as if the ship were on auxiliary power, even though main power was still online. The computer was telling the bridge power was down, but it wasn't.

For a brief period, Serin is confused as to who to report this information to. The Player does an excellent job of conveying a young Vulcan, working desperately to control her feelings of fear and frustration. With the Captain dead, the First Officer and Science Officer off the ships, and the Helmsman unconscious, the highest ranking and/or most appropriate officer to take charge would be the Engineer, who she can't get a hold of. That's when it dawns on her. She is in command of the ship (This was one of the funniest sequences in the game, play with Emmy winning talent by my ex-wife. She was the least knowledgeable person in the group regarding Star Trek and had only been gaming for a couple of years. Everyone else had a least double her years of experience. Fantastic scene).

Realizing he can't get through to anyone either, Rozza makes communications a priority. In the meantime, his engineering staff let him know that although the systems are reading full power, many sections of the ship have shut down and gone to auxiliary power. Confused, he gives orders to his engineering staff, and then takes a tool kit, an Engineering Tricorder, a Communicator, and a Phaser, and starts climbing the ladders to the upper decks (he is on Deck 5).

Dr. Shran activates his custom 'Medical Administration Assistance Program' in Sickbay. His wife's face appears on a computer screen, and asks what the status of the situation is. Shran gives her the run down. She asks who's in charge, and with great inner turmoil he says that he is. His wife's image chuckles.

Dr. Theyla Sh'Hiri Shran (Th'Tivra's Wife's Image):

"Oh Th'Tivra, if you needed my help, all you needed to do was ask? The formality, the reverence...I am your wife. It is not like I would deny you aid."

Dr. Aldeth Th'Tivra Shran:

"Of course not my love. I know that. I just wasn't sure I could get a hold of you over...such a distance."

Dr. Theyla Sh'Hiri Shran:

"Distance? We were assigned to the same ship. We requested it. I...why am I speaking to you over the computer system? Where are you...and...where exactly am I? Oh dear. Th'Tivra my love...am I dead?"

Dr. Aldeth Th'Tivra Shran:

(Stoically holding back tears) "Yes my sweet. I am afraid so."

Dr. Shran, the living one that is, explains to his wife that he used the 'Medical Administration Assistance Program' and crossed referenced it with her notes, journals, and personal log files to 'bring her back', as the ship was in great danger and he was in need of help he could count on without a doubt. She agrees to help, but suggests they discuss the ramifications of this later. He agrees.

(Precursor to the Emergency Medical Hologram? Perhaps...)

Meanwhile, the Shuttlecraft Burroughs* found themselves dodging and zig-zagging through a small field of limpet mines. Kincaid's deft piloting skills, backed by Miragh on sensors, enabled the shuttle to make it through safely. They assumed the mines had been dropped earlier by the Romulans, although that really wasn't their style.

Once really close to the unknown craft, Miragh sent out signal using alternative means of communication to contact the alien vessel. For example, he used a morse code-like pattern using the shuttle's running light, fired off very low powered microwave bursts, etc. Meanwhile, Munroe tried to enhance the shuttlecraft's communications systems while Kincaid tried to counter the jamming signals. Their combined efforts paid off! Soon, they got a clear line, and hailed the alien ship. Munroe, Miragh and Kincaid made first contact with The Rafalians!


 
Rafalian Male, Late 'Teenager' Years
 
Illustration by Keith Conroy.
Colors by me.


As the Rafalians begin to relay the truth of what is going on, Allen (Miragh's player) believes he's figured it out, and asks if he can tell the group his theory before I divulge the information via NPC exposition. The other players, who are listening with rapt attention, tell Allen to go for it.

Allen (As himself):

"The enemy ship is not Romulan. Rather, I would surmise that it is an unknown or rarely seen hostile species, using hologram technology to fake not only a cloaking device, but the appearance of a Romulan 'Night Flyer'. They are after the Rafalian ship because it knows the truth.

My guess is that these 'faux Romulans' have been terrorizing the vicinity like pirates, stealing from vessels they surprise and waylay, with any survivors taking up issue with the Romulan government who has not idea what they're talking about."

Correct! Allen is awesome. Have I mentioned he's awesome? 'Cause he's awesome.

Additionally, the Rafalians fill the shuttle crew in on some further story elements. The Rafalian ship is their first Warp Capable vessel ever! They just achieved war drive after years of research. Their technology shares some similarities with that of the Romulans, their closest, major stellar neighbors, causing Miragh and Kincaid to wonder if they reverse engineered a crash Romulan ship in order to achieve warp technology. Something for later down the line.

The 'faux Romulans' were sitting idly when the Rafalian ship entered into sensor range of it, and noticed it initially had a very different configuration. The Rafalians show footage of the 'Night Flyer's true appearance to the Burroughs crew. Commander Munroe recognizes it...

Cut back to Serin on the bridge of the Thunder Bay, with crewmen (Me as GM) giving her status reports and sensor information. The Communications system is still down. Serin commands a team of technicians to go to the lower decks, find other engineering personnel and check out the Computer Core. If it is damaged as she believes it is, fix it!

Serin's player then goes quite, looks off into space for a brief second, and says...

Selina (As herself):

"Don't we carry communicators or can I get to one? I grab one of those flip open, hand-held Communicators and call the Chief Engineer."

I rule that, although the ship's communication system ordinarily governs the Communicators as well, they are capable of contacting each other even if main communications are down by modifying one of the sensor arrays. Selina has Serin work with on of the Engineers to do this, and then sends a message to Rozza.

She apprises him of the situation, including the fact that she is currently in command, and asks him if he, now updated and the senior officer, will be coming to the bridge to take over. Ken, smiling, looks right at Selina and says:

Mataeo Rozza:

"Ensign, you've done a fine job so far, and I need to get the computer thinking clearly. As far as I'm concerned, it'll go on record that I gave you the Conn. I'll be up there as soon as I can. In the meantime, just don't let us die."

In sickbay, the Shrans has another great character moment as the Captain's body is brought in. There is a personal note that Th'Tivra attended Star Fleet Academy with the Captain's brother, where the three became close friends. Proper Andorian cultural burial rights are discussed. On a more practical note, the Shrans combined medical skills save three crew members with terrible injuries.

They also patch up and awaken Jose Santiago. Santiago refuses to lie down and heal up while the ship is still in battle,. Uncharacteristic of most Star Trek doctors, Th'Tivra, a member of the passionate, warrior race of Andorian, says he would expect nothing less. After a quick hypospray stimulant, Santiago heads back to the bridge

Rozza connects with his team in the Computer Core and does a crazy dangerous, shutdown-reboot procedure that makes the ship appear completely dead in space for several moments. The fake Romulan ship decloaks and closes in on it's prey.

The crew of the Burroughs, now aboard the Rafalian Prototype Warpship, enact some repairs, and the Rafalians are so grateful, and so fascinated by the diversity of species in this 'Federation', that they offer to aid the Starfleet officers in defeated the threat of the Romulan imposters.

The Thunder Bay suddenly roars back to life. Communication systems and main lighting come online as the turbolift opens, and Santiago hurries back to his seat. Without missing a beat, Serin says...

Serin:

"Bridge to Rozza. Are you fully operational Sir?"

Rozza:

"That we are Ensign. All systems go! We still have damage, but pretty much everything works the way it should."

Serin:

"Excellent. Mr. Santiago, welcome back. Now, if you would be so kind, I believe the proper, Human colloquialism is, "Let them have it."

Santiago (His player chuckles at Selina's deadpan delivery of the line):

"Aye sir."

He tells me he keys in a Phaser barrage followed by three Photon Torpedos, BUT only when the enemy is really close. Rozza enters the bridge from a ladder well. Serin says, "Captain on the Bridge", and takes position at the Navigation station. She assists Santiago's attack by plotting a course that will get them into the perfect firing position.

*Various sound effects provided by both my mouth and sound bites on someone's computer*

KRAKA-THOOM! The 'Romulan' ship's visage flickers out, revealing...

Munroe (aboard the Rafalian ship):

"Malurians. That's a Malurian Type-3 light cruiser. I knew something seemed familiar about this set up. The Malurians are known to take advantage of pre-warp cultures through disguise and deception. Ever since the destruction of their homeworld they have also resorted to piracy. They use advanced make-up, holograms and the like to hide among a native people, or to appear to be someone else."



Malurian true face revealed by torn pseudo-skin disguise.
 
 
 
Malurian Light Cruiser with Holographic Shield deactivated.

The Malurians sustain considerably heavy damage. They hail the Thunder Bay, but Rozza, now in command, makes them wait. The Rafalian ship comes up alongside the Thunder Bay, which then transports Lt. Commander Munroe, Science Officer Miragh, and Security Chief Kincaid back over, along with two officers from the Rafalian vessel.

Munroe gets to the bridge, and takes command from Rozza as he and Serin explain what has transpired in her absence. With the Captain dead, the Thunder Bay is Munroe's ship now. She slips a whisper to Serin and Kincaid, then answers the Malurians' hail.

Munroe informs them that they will be escorted back to their people's nearest spaceport by the Thunder Bay, and another Starfleet vessel. In addition, the Romulan Star Empire has been informed of their shenanigans, and they shouldn't expect to be able to pull them off again without a severe reprisal. (Serin contacted Starfleet, Kincaid contacted the Romulans as she speaks Romulan).

The Malurians are not sorry, but rather sorry they got caught. They blame the Federation for the destruction of their planet, since the probe that decimated them was of Earth origin (only partially correct. See Nomad). The Thunder Bay has an enemy now, but one wary of jabbing the hornets nest with a stick, less it come to life suddenly and sting (as it did in this battle).

Soon, the USS Griffon arrives to assist with the escort duties. The Thunder Bay bids the Rafalians good bye for now, vowing to return and looking forward to establishing further friendly relations with them.

***
 
EPILOGUE
 
 
One year later, Captain Lilian Munroe walks onto the refitted bridge of a repaired and upgraded USS Thunder Bay. Lt. JG Serin, the new Chief Navigator, greets her and hands her a computer pad, which she signs. As she takes the center chair, she shares some witty banter with her new First Officer, Lt. Commander Miragh. All stations sound off as the Thunder Bay prepares to depart for Rafalia Prime.
 
And Beyond...
 
***
 
I hope you enjoyed this recap, and found it helpful in gaging how to set up a Star Trek adventure of your own in the future (for those new to doing so). In addition, I hope the retelling of this session gave some insight into what can be accomplished dramatically by splitting the party in a way that give everyone time to shine.
 
Thanks everyone, see you soon!
 
 
Live Long and Prosper,
 
AD
Barking Alien
 

*The three shuttles aboard the Thunder Bay were the Burroughs (named for Edgar Rice Burroughs, author, and creator of the John Carter of Mars series), the Raymond (for Alex Raymond, creator of Flash Gordon), and the Nowlan (for Philip Francis Nowlan, creator of Buck Rogers).