Saturday, 26 January 2013

First Command, Completed

Season 1 has boldly went. I'm happy to report that my first planned season of Star Trek roleplaying for the crew of the USS Dauntless has been successfully completed. The series (officially titled 'Edge of Nirvana', though that seldom comes up) has been officially renewed by Commodore Swart for a second season, which we'll be starting pretty much immediately. This post is both a summary of season 1 for any interested party, and an attempt to draw more of our Joburg members in to play with us in future (perhaps even some brand new members too). The complete Obsidian Portal records of the game can be found here, and these now include my previously concealed GM's notes about each session.

The Maquis starship Hur'Un, demonstrating why spacecraft painted black are artistically problematic. The red racing stripes had not been added yet.
To review, the game revolves around one small cell of Maquis terrorists/freedom fighters (but if we're honest, definitely terrorists), who stole an Oberth-class starship, the former USS Rutan, for their fight against the oppressive and mean Cardassians. They renamed their ship the Hur'Un, a Klingon term meaning something close to "out of the frying pan," as in that which precedes going into the fire; it's a fantastic name, which if I remember right was jointly devised by Alex and Owen. Their little ship is massive by Maquis standards, but still tiny compared with any serious Enterprise-like starship, it's seriously under-staffed, and it certainly isn't a proper combat vessel. It didn't even have photon torpedoes until the last episode. Even so, a combination of running away like frightened targs, completely amoral opportunism and occasional aggressive insanity have combined to allow the Hur'Un's crew to strike a few nasty blows against the Cardassian occupation.

We've been playing every Monday evening, though there's some discussion about changing that to accommodate new players. We're using Decipher's CODA rules system, which is decent enough, except for its over-complicated skills list. I've been GMing, and the players so far have included 4 established Dauntless crewmembers, some who had never played a pen-and-paper roleplaying game before, and 3 civilians who I brought in from my usual roleplaying circle. Two of those three didn't have the high moral virtue that it takes to engage in Dauntless away missions (basically, willingness to stay out a little late on a work night), but one has become our newest recruit, already risen to the high rank of Crewman. I think the biggest single crowd we pulled together was 7 people. As organiser of the events, I count as having "commanded" them, which'll go some way to getting me my next promotion. Have I mentioned I like shiny medals? Anyway, I'm fully aware that I've been running successful roleplaying games for years now (and unsuccessful ones for even longer), but it still pleases me more than I would have expected that the first thing I've done for the USS Dauntless, my first command, has gone reasonably well.

I've also been spending a lot more time than usual with DeviantArt, Paint.Net, GIMP and SketchUp, making frivolous but fun visuals for the game. Some of that has already ended up on Obsidian Portal, but I've also done a different banner for each week's Google Events invite, which I've filed away for your perusal on Pinterest. My thanks to all the real artists whose work I've hacked up without permission.

Here is the plot so far:

Episode 1: The Oberth Effect
Our Maquis cell steals a retired science ship from a Starfleet shipyard. Running away with it, they're confronted first by an inexperienced young lieutenant (an Orion, who they capture) in a runabout (which they turn into an automated warp missile, launched at the nearest Cardassian planet), and then by a more serious Starfleet captain in a more serious starship. They manage to evade her (partly by throwing one of their two hostages out of an airlock, to distract her) and flee.
Running death toll: 3

Episode 2: Forces in Three Dimensions
Examining a rogue planet near the Badlands as a potential Maquis base, the crew of the newly-renamed Hur'Un spot that there's already a facility there. They try to land their shuttle behind the horizon and sneak up on the base, but are clearly spotted and apprehended by the Breen pirates living there. The Breen commander flies one Maquis up to the Hur'Un to assess the crew's offered ransom and is killed once he gets there. At the same time, the rest of the Maquis break out and engage in a firefight with the Breen ground crew just as they're trying to launch their raiding ship. The raider is crashed inside the giant hangar and the Maquis claim the remains of the base for themselves.
Running death toll: 35

Episode 3: Conservation of Energy
The Hur'Un visits a class M planet deep in the Badlands to assess it as another base site, and discovers a local species has already filled most of its one small continent with a low-technology but vast interneccine war. Peculiar sensor readings draw their attention to one untouched valley in the middle of the thickest fighting, so the Maquis abduct some random aliens to question them about it. This yields nothing, so they beam down and discover a shield of some sort is both protecting and concealing the valley, where an isolated group of locals live quite oblivious and peaceful lives. This turns out to be thanks to the Bajoran Orb of Sanctuary, apparently brought here centuries ago. The Maquis decide to steal it. Meanwhile, up in orbit, the Federation starship Tempest is closing on the Hur'Un, apparently battle-damaged and still looking for more fights. The Maquis get the Orb aboard and use it to conceal their own ship, allowing them to flee the system.
Running death toll: 35

Episode 4: Measurement Uncertainty
An investigation of a Cardassian listening post near the Badlands reveals that an experimental Cardassian ship is being tested there. The Maquis seize it and capture its small crew, but accidentally destroy the whole ship, before blowing up the listening post and escaping the system as a Cardassian warship approaches. The Cardassian prisoners are tortured, but reveal nothing.
Running death toll: 35

Episode 5: Impulse
Using data taken from the Cardassian listening post, the Maquis are able to intercept an arms convoy. They skirmish with its light escort, ultimately winning and forcing the freighters to surrender.
Running death toll: 38

Episode 6: Elementary Charge
A small Maquis fleet assaults a Cardassian planet, partly to raid its military facilities, partly to rescue some prisoners. Several Cardassian warships are engaged and ultimately forced to withdraw, but the other Maquis ships are all fairly badly damaged too. On the ground, the raiders steal lots of stuff and set some explosive ambushes for the Cardassian troops coming to deal with them. With that distraction in effect, the raiders beam across to the prison and start to release the captives. During all of this, a Maquis shuttle starts pursuing a Starfleet shuttle that unexpectedly rises from the Cardassian base, making towards the equally unexpected USS Tempest. The shuttle is destroyed (prompting the Tempest to exit the scene) and its dead pilot, dressed all in black leather, is beamed up to the Hur'Un for examination. With Cardassian reinforcements on the way, the Maquis fleet withdraws.
Running death toll: 99

Episode 7: Resisting Force
Asked to collect intel from Maquis spies, the Hur'Un crew must first deal with one of their own getting mind-controlled by their Orion hostage, the young Starfleet officer, and leading an attempt to storm the bridge. Amazingly, nobody actually dies. Then they learn of a Cardassian plan to test biological weapons on the Maquis-alligned planet they started out from, and they must fight solo against advanced Cardassian ships and, once again, the USS Tempest. Folowing the great Maquis victory, the USS Zephyr arrives on the scene to investigate and allows them to leave unhindered.
(I also used this episode as an excuse to update my list of ships named Dauntless.)
Running death toll: 899

I don't want to give away too much about season 2, but it should reflect a more matured Maquis organisation and I hope to give the players a little more freedom to plan their own actions.