Sunday, 12 May 2019

ST:DISCO season 2: I really can't stand Kurtzman

I was thinking a few months ago about how silly and premature something I wrote a decade ago was. It was just a big listicle of everything I found offensive about Star Trek 2009. I still find it offensive, but what seemed out of date was just the title I gave it, referring to the death of Star Trek. That was meant as hyperbole at the time, but it seemed less valid over time. Clearly, I thought as Disco season 2 got rolling, that no longer applies, and we've seen much better stuff since then.

(Naturally, ST:Discovery spoilers below.)

And then they fucked it up yet again, in such a similar way. It's so similar, I'm inclined to put the blame on the one guy who wrote both, Alex Kurtzman. I could be wrong, but as big boss in charge of Disco, the buck must surely stop with him anyway.

Context and general impressions
I must first clarify that I am not and have never been a compulsive Disco hater, but nor am I an apologist for it. I don't think TOS was all that great, most episodes, and '90s Trek is my idea of the optimal balance of story elements (peaking with "Darmok", I'd say). But I was open to new approaches, and after struggling to accept the grim start to Disco season 1, I was very pleased to see that they'd had a decent plot in mind all along, and it all worked out well, with only some weird details like the spore drive left to be resolved (which I see as a technicality, not a fundamental scary problem). It may not have been the greatest thing ever, but it was good, sometimes even great, and nowhere near as bad as some rabid haters try to pretend. The grim dark style parted way to something brighter and more hopeful, which worked well. And I enjoyed every moment of Burnham; Martin-Green may not always have had perfect scripts to work from, but always acted the hell out of them all anyway. Almost the whole cast did an excellent job, though some were clearly not given time to do much of anything.

Season 2 should have been more of the same. It looked like it was starting great. Episode 1 was very cheesy, copying Star Wars pod racers, with a dumb launch system needlessly copied from BSG, and power ranger costumes. A lot of the dialogue was lame and the setup seemed terribly underwhelming. What's a red burst? Why do Starfleet care about them? Why should the audience? Why pretend there's any urgency to this? I was worried after that, but prepared to accept that they felt they needed a flashy special effects episode, just to get a wider audience hooked.
This would have looked cheesey even in an '80s kids cartoon made to sell action figures.

But then the second episode felt great. It was a real mystery to solve, it hinted that the red bursts might actually be worth investigating (though still not necessarily urgently). The pacing was good, the characters felt deep, it was nice. It was almost like TNG again, but with some nice new touches. I felt confident season 2 was only going to get better after the wobbly start of episode 1.

And then it sort of didn't. There were some episodes with great ideas. The handling of Pike's past and future links to TOS episodes was good, with some subtlety and delicacy in not fucking up the canon, while still adding some new detail that enriched the character. The episode "An Obol For Charon" felt like the broad, challenging stories TOS tried to tell, but with the budget and special effects to make it look adequately epic. "Saints of Imperfection" felt totally new and different, but seemed interesting and exciting. They were doing some real exploring again! No more Klingon War!

And then the second half of season 2 just slumped, mostly. Exploration and discovery were sidelined for timetravellers exposition. If Doctor Who and Back to the Future teach us anything about telling time travel stories, it's that you explain the setup quickly, early, and simply. If you're spending half your dialogue just spelling out what may or may not happen, and then most of that turns out to be irrelevant anyway, then you've maybe wasted my time. I can enjoy long discussions of made-up physics, but I have my limits.

I'm not going to repeat my mistake from a decade ago and write everything off from this point onwards. I'm sure we'll still get decent episodes in future. Disco may thrive in the far future, especially if they keep their better writers on, and leave them to do their jobs unimpeded. And I'm at least happy we'll get to see more Picard later too. But I won't feel fully comfortable until I know Kurtzman has dropped the reins and isn't going to fuck up more things.

Root causes
The explanation for why season 2 went the way it did probably won't be made clear until insiders start giving their perspectives, probably years or even decades from now. But it seems to me that the main cause was likely the change of showrunners a third of the way through the season. That's when the focus of the stories seems to shift towards time travel, but also when they seem to change course on some already established facts. In hindsight, it looks like a lot of ideas were summarily chucked and replaced by the new management, without too much consideration for overall narrative integrity. I'm told this is pretty common with management changes.

My initial impression is that Kurtzman may have been a little obsessed with "fixing" canon issues, in the sense of pleasing older fans who didn't like changes to the way things used to be. On the one hand, I don't think Kurtzman succeeded at that. On the other, I think it was mostly a mistake to try, and I'm compelled to digress a little to explain that:

Don't fix canon that ain't broke
Disco season 1 didn't break the canon. Fans who said otherwise were, at best, premature. The single biggest canon concern, to me, was how they'd handle the spore drive, which was just so extremely advanced compared with everything else until around Voyager, and so conspicuously absent in everything else. Its existence should make a huge practical, narrative difference. Voyager would have been home in minutes with such a drive, the Bajoran wormhole would have been irrelevant, and all the TOS/TAS conflicts over dilithium would have been moot. But I still didn't consider that a dealbreaker; it was just an interesting opportunity to write in the explanation for why the technology was ultimately a failure. If it was so bad that a century later, nobody would even consider using it, then there's got to be an exciting story about why that is, right?

What others have instead chosen to focus on doesn't usually make much sense to me. Bernd Schneider, of Ex Astris Scientia, has seemingly become obsessed with looks, more than anything else. This is silly. His explicit argument is that visual continuity is important, but that's a very 20th century anomaly. Before film, that was never true in storytelling, going back millennia to the first oral traditions. Images always changed, whether because the storyteller said that they did, or because a different artist drew them differently, or because the production design on stage naturally varies from performance to performance. And in reality, this is true of TV series too; entire actors get replaced in roles, sometimes, on the assumption that the audience can suspend disbelief and play along. The fact that things do still look exactly the same when you go back to reruns (which they couldn't if you watched a repeat performance of a play, for example) only helps to reinforce the illusion of visual continuity. Schneider pretends a little too hard, and so can't accept an inevitable change when it comes. The Klingons have never been visually consistent, just as elves and giants in fantasy have always had varying appearances over the centuries. It doesn't change their narrative function. And ships and technology look different too. That's inevitable. I remember laughing, years ago, when I first saw the ship's computer giving paper printouts in The Cage. Things change, visually, because they were never, ever real to begin with. This doesn't alter the story being told.

(I'm not certain, but it's possible the 21st century will change visual storytelling in a different way, because you'll now always be able to pull up an endless archive of images from the past, while watching the latest stuff, and compare them in real time. We'll have to learn how to navigate this option, making it something constructive and fun, rather than limiting and dogmatic. I feel Schneider's approach is more like the latter.)

So I wasn't bugged by canon concerns after seeing season 1, and I struggle to take seriously those who were concerned to extreme, panicked levels. I don't think Disco season 1's complications were necessarily all good, worthwhile ideas, but there was still plenty of room to steer back on course, and it looked like things were being set up that way. Discovery was the only ship fitted with a spore drive, and had already encountered serious medical, psychological, and reality-altering side effects from its use. The harm done to the miniature giant space tardigrade seemed a very clear indicator that they were going to say the technology was more harmful than helpful, and when season 2's "Saints of Imperfection" showed us an entire extra-dimensional ecosystem at risk from it, I thought that was precisely where they were taking this story arc. Given our modern need to urgently end the use of fossil fuels, that felt like an excellent analogy to draw, very much in line with the old TNG style of scifi parable.

But then Disco season 2 didn't end up satisfactorily addressing the spore drive problem after all.

List of issues
The following is just a list, in no especially clear order, of all the things I object to in Disco season 2. Some have already been pointed out by others. It turns out, the majority of my complaints center on the final two-parter, "Such Sweet Sorrow", though a few problems have earlier roots than that.
* What were any of the plans anyone had? I spent most of the last half of season 2 struggling to work out why anyone was doing anything. Everything felt rushed and improvised by the characters, but it also felt like the writers, actors, and directors also didn't have a clear sense of where the show was going, with constant changes of direction. Things hop madly from plot point to unrelated plot point, and I found that tiring and boring after a while. I don't watch Star Trek for an adrenaline fix.

* Dr Gabrielle Burnham's body was found by Leland, and Michael heard her die. So how can she also have survived to become a time traveller? It's possible Leland was lying and Michael mistaken, but the show makes no effort to clarify this. It just looks like a plot hole.

* Why make Disco's time travel secret? If nobody can get that far into the future, as they had initially planned, it doesn't matter who knows they've gone. And if anyone can get that far into the future (which Disco shows they can) then there's no point in running, because anyone can chase them. The entire premise of "hiding" in the distant future seems nonsensical. Hiding means going where you can't be detected. By the end of season 2, Control already knew their plan, so that hiding spot (and perhaps the entire concept of hiding) was rendered invalid.

Related to this, we know Georgieu is expected back for her own Section 31 spinoff series. That would seem to imply that returning from the future is possible, further invalidating it as a place to hide. But we'll have to see what becomes of that.

* Why can't Control also just jump 1000 years into the future on its own, one way or another? Section 31 ran the Red Angel design process, so why don't they have copies (partial or complete) of the designs that Control can easily copy and use at it likes? There may be a rationale for this, but even so, several other time travel technologies are already known to exist at this point, and several more will be discovered not too long after Discovery jumps to the future, so what's keeping Control from patiently using any of those to jump ahead too? Even if Control had forgotten the details of these methods from its future self, it's future self should have access to these, or could at least advise its past self to look out for them. It's planned ahead for so many things, and it knows for certain that time travel is part of the scheme, but it doesn't have any better method than to hitch along with the Red Angel?

* What were Control's motives anyway? It appears on screen, via Leland, to monologue its evil plan directly to us, and I'm still not sure. Kill all life, yes, but why? I don't like a vague villain, I want motive and depth.

* Why does nobody ever work further on spore drive? It was staggeringly advanced and useful, but they'll just pretend to ignore it? Why can't anyone else ever independently discover the same tech, within or without the Federation? Simply ending the season with, "Shh, nobody ever mention this again," felt deeply unsatisfying. There were plenty of non-Starfleet witnesses to the technology, including the uncontrollable Harry Mudd. How do we now pretend that nobody's even going to try to re-invent it?

* Why set up that spore drive is bad for mycellial network natives, then ignore that huge threat? It seems that after the change of show runners, not only does the Discovery keep harming the jahSepp's ecosystem with more jumps, never once showing concern for the mycellial plane, but they also waste the story potential to show voluntary abandonment of dodgy tech for environmental reasons.

* Discovery & Enterprise were outnumbered 15 to 1, by Starfleet vessels of roughly equal technology, but still can't be destroyed? Why not? Sure, some of them were smaller vessels, but it was already established that Section 31 vessels are state of the art. Perhaps the battle was actually slowed down by Control using nanobot drones, instead of just shooting lots? The drones certainly seemed to have no real use.
Maybe they lasted so well becuse the Section 31 ships were all aiming 100 meters too far forward. That's not simply Enterprise & Discovery blowing things up before they hit, defensively, or we'd see explosions behind them too, from all those ships surrounding them. So the only logical interpretation of this image is that everyone is eager to blow up empty space 100 meters forward of the two Starfleet vessels.


This is very important for the plot, because the only reason Discovery is being sent into the far future, to hide, is because they're convinced that they can't win a direct confrontation against Control. And then they do that in this battle anyway. Two starships, plus later reinforcements, take on all 30 of Control's starships, and win. They even kill the Leland zombie itself. Hiding doesn't make sense, and fighting does work, so why still insist on carrying out a plan that assumes the opposite?

* Similarly, whose dumb idea was it to have Discovery & Enterprise disgorge literally hundreds of shuttles to act as fighters? Star Trek shuttles are just space buses, usually unarmed, and it's long been established that even the huge Galaxy class doesn't carry hundreds and hundreds of them. Now, if there had been a good narrative or artistic purpose for it, I might have accepted it. But instead, they just mention it, very briefly illustrated with an unreasonably large swarm of them, and then the rest of the episode proceeds with their vast numbers being totally irrelevant to anything.

If anything, I feel it would have been more dramatic if only a dozen or so had been available, few enough that we could have shown the pilot of each as a real character, not a distant video game icon, with tensions rising as each unlucky one is killed in the battle. My first instinct was to dismiss the whole shuttle-fighter concept as lazily stealing from the fighter scenes of Star Wars and BSG, but I now realise that the more character-driven scene I've just suggested is actually closer to watching Luke or Starbuck struggle through in their lonely little cockpit. So I guess "Such Sweet Sorrow, part 2" didn't really plagiarise, it was originally stupid. People used to mock Voyager for maybe having one or two shuttlecraft more than it ought to be able to fit inside. I would love to go back in time and show them this new thing, to put their complaints about Voyager into perspective.

* On a related note, there's a throwaway line about "7000 ships" in Starfleet. That's a tricky little factoid, considering the registry numbers have not yet exceed NCC-1800 by this point, and we can be pretty sure that most of the vessels with registries lower than NCC-500 are out of service already. So the 7000 can't be refering to the core number of major Starfleet starships. Perhaps it's a grand total that includes the Federation Merchant Marine's vessels and probably also little dinky shuttlecraft. It seems some of the Disco writers don't distinguish between big starships and little shuttlecraft, so if the average starship carries half a dozen shuttles, then that roughly adds up correctly (~1000 starships + (~1000 × 6) shuttles). If you want to be more conservative on the starship numbers, then swap things around and say it's half as many starships carrying an average of a dozen shuttles, and it still comes out close to the same (~500 starships + (~500 × 12) shuttles). Assume many shuttles would actually be based on planets and space stations, and you can easily make the numbers work however you need them to. I have no idea why the writers actually made up this weird 7000 number, but it can be excused away easily enough.

But never mind that. Let's take it as given that there are these 7000 vessels of one sort or another, and yet none can help Discovery in any way at all? Sure, they make the excuse that communications are limited for security reasons, but they work around that limit fine when they want Enterprise and Sarek and Amanda to pop by. So is there a limit or not? Is there a workaround to the limit or not? Maybe some of the 7000 starships are too far to get there in time, but none of them can make it at all? No major starships are faster than a little Vulcan diplomatic shuttle? And only Enterprise can help? It seems a silly gaff by the writers, and I think fixing this might have saved them the trouble of feeling they needed to cram hundreds of anonymous extra shuttles into the end boss battle. Just two or three additional starships, rushing to be the cavalry, could have added some decent extra tension, evening out the battle numbers to something slightly more realistic, and they could even have shown us quick glimpses of their non-human captains, for a little bonus variety.

* The idea that the season had to be resolved with a big battle seems terrible to me. It's just too video gamey. Even season 1, the "war" season, cleverly wrote itself out of that mess with some internal Klingon diplomacy, sidestepping a big, dumb battle to the death. It wasn't a flawless ending, but it shouldn't have been that, or Kirk wouldn't still face trouble from the Klingons a decade later. So given that, it was a damn clever path out that the season 1 writers found. But the season 2 ending was just "shoot everything until we can magically escape"; I feel this was uninspired, and a bit un-Trek.

* Forcing in guest cameos as fighter pilots was weird. Saru's sister, Siranna, was a rural, pacifist priest, and then suddenly she's recast as a generic Star Wars fighter pilot character, pew pew pew. It made more sense for Queen Po to be present already, as she was engineering shit, her established major talent; making her then also have to be yet another fighter pilot was weird. It made good enough sense for the Klingons to arrive as the cavalry in the end, with full-size starships, and it probably would have been much cleaner, clearer writing if it was just a way to show the two recent war-enemies suddenly working together towards a common goal. Trying to make the Xaheans and Kelpiens fit in there too muddies that nice, simple demonstration of cooperation, not least because they were then forgotten for the rest of the final episode anyway. There was no advantage to including them, it was just weird.

(Although, why did Control stay neatly inside Starfleet computers only? If there was free communications with Klingon and other alien receivers, why didn't it copy itself onto their computers?)

* Ruining Kelpiens. This one is a matter of opinion, but I'm not the only one who felt a bit annoyed by how Saru was rewritten. It was great to have a character succeeding in the face of constant, almost crippling anxiety, sort of like a different take on TNG's Barclay character. Simply washing that away didn't feel great. I guess it's nice for the Kelpiens that they don't have to feel shit and be eaten anymore, but it's unfortunate that they weren't allowed to keep their own shared personality and culture in the process. They were just turned into default Americans, against their will. I think it also would have been far more interesting to keep the Kelpiens more alien and less human, not to other them, but to explore modern human meat-eating habits through their opposite position. Instead, it feels like the writing in "The Sound of Thunder" and subsequent episodes was suggesting that herbivores/vegetarians are just not trying hard enough, and if they can just be "corrected", they'll start getting properly aggressive and confrontational, the way they "ought" to be. It's a bit insulting, really.

(I also think it would be nice to see who the Ba'ul really are. There was a Wizard of Oz analogy waiting to be grabbed there, once we saw a little of the Ba'ul behind the curtain, but the show never progresses them much beyond mysterious semi-magic demons.)

* Is Kaminar supposed to be insanely close to Xahea? We know the Ba'ul first achieved warp 1 only 20 years ago, and the Kelpiens seem to have simply taken over the Ba'ul fleet (surely a story worth telling properly, not just rushing by us). For comparison, it took Earth something like 40 years, with advanced Vulcan help, to achieve warp 2, and around 80 years to reach warp 3. So either the Ba'ul/Kelpiens progressed their technology incredibly fast without outside help, or still have very primitive technology that would have taken literally years to get them to even a fairly close neighbouring system (for a sense of scale, at warp 2, that's still a month and a half's travel for every lightyear the Kelpiens have to cross). I don't mind fudging the warp travel times a bit for narrative convenience, but this just looks like nobody thought it through at all, and it was such a useless mistake to make, considering how little the Kelpiens contribute to the plot.

* Pike's time crystal doomed him to a certain doomy doom, locking him into a predestined horrible accident, as seen in his vision. Burnham's time crystal doomed her to nothing. Nothing she foresaw in her vision came to pass in reality. So was Pike lied to? Was Burnham merely given a serving suggestion? Or are time crystals kind of badly written, inconsistent plot devices?

* Pike safely watched the whole front chunk of the saucer section blown clean away, implying a blast radius of at least several dozen meters, through a little window in a door maybe 5 meters from the exploding torpedo. Tough little window; no wonder it was so crucial that this door be closed before the bomb detonated.
How come they had drones for repairing the outside of the hull under extreme conditions, but none to just pull down the door-closing lever for Cornwall? How come all those clever Starfleet brains, who built a new time-jumping suit in record time, couldn't improvise a lever-pulling gizmo to close the door without needing to kill anyone? I mean, I could have rigged that for them with just a length of sturdy string...

* The Red Angel suit was ridiculous, once revealed. It wasn't super-science, of the sort we just have to accept in Trek (like transporters and warp drive, and even spore drive). It was just magic. It can fly better than a full starship, it's ridiculously survivable, it never runs out of power, once started up, and its computer memory is far more vast than Discovery's. And it can do all sorts of plot-convenient combat and medical things too, literally raising the dead! And this is early 23rd century Federation technology? Nonsense. It is level 9 magic.

* What were the first seven red signals that the season started with? They definitely were not the seven that Burnham later retroactively creates at the scene of each episode, because those episodes all happened after the season had begun. And the original seven signals all appeared before Pike arrives to take control of Discovery. The first one they visit is described as having lingered when the other 6 vanished, so there's 1 that's possibly justified, unless Burnham's signal there was just appended to the lingering 7th. But then there are 6 signals Starfleet definitely received weeks or months before Discovery spots 4 further signals that lead them places, adds 1 more shortly after, and 1 that is somehow sent back in time to signal to Spock, many months later. So in fact, there were 13 or 14 signals, and we still have no idea at all where the first 6 or 7 came from or why. Is it even worth asking for a rational explanation? Clearly, if one was written, we're not being given it.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Central Collection: All my Star Trek Adventures stuff

With the death of Google Plus, most of my public contributions to Star Trek Adventures ain't public no more. And even my own players may not have kept track of all the links they ought to be able to check. I know one or two of my items were linked on the Resources Wiki, but I thought it might be helpful to someone (even if it's only me) to make a post here, linking everything I've made for this rules system. I'll update this post as I come up with new stuff.

I've divided it mainly between general rules stuff, and stuff that is specifically for my personal campaign groups (collectively titled Star Trek: Explorations). My own players should treat the latter as potentially spoilery. Other GMs may steal whatever ideas they like from it, and if you as a player know your own GM might use some of this material, then perhaps you'd like to follow the guidance I give my players too.

*My own players: Assume everything below is GM-only content, unless marked with an Asterix. Open un-Asterixed links with caution, if you must open them at all.


General Resources
Stuff that could have some use in anyone's Star Trek Adventures campaign, regardless of setting or era.

Adventure: Flora & Fauna - A medical/exploration away mission to a planet with some unusual biology. Includes an appendix on how it can be adapted for my Explorations campaign setting.

Adventure supplement: 'World With a Bluer Sun' calculator -  A spreadsheet for imperfectly estimating how much a thing might affect the player characters, in the published adventure 'World with a Bluer Sun'. Saying any more would spoil the plot. If you're running that adventure, you'll figure it out. If not, it's no concern of yours anyway.

Campaign Ideas list - A bunch of hooks I have for different styles of campaign that could be played in future. Some of these could possibly also be shrunk down to single-session adventures, instead of full campaigns.

Character Creation Guide (general version) - A walkthrough of all the major steps of character generation, including some fluff, and including Species added in the Beta Quadrant book, and one or two smaller sources.

Critter: Tribble (NPC) - The very first thing I ever created with the STA rules, just to get a feel for them. Coo coo coo.

Critter: Gormagander (NPC/ship) - House rules for the species of space whales (who look more squiddy to me). As space-dwelling creatures, their stats use the starship format.

Dice-free Rules for Promotion & Reputation - House rules to replace those in the core rule book for handling rank promotions and reputation changes without having to rely on the randomness of dice.

Equipment Guide - A combined list of all the items of gear listed in the official rule books, sorted by type, with their available era, costs, and reference page.

Expanded Transporter Rules - Extra house rules for using the transporter. I still consider this an experimental work in progress.

NCC Registry Number Picker - For years, it bugged me that I could never be sure if I was picking  appropriate registry numbers for my invented Starfleet vessels, and I've previously blogged about exactly that. This spreadsheet condenses everything I've researched on that infuriating, illogical system, and offers simply an indication of what NCC numbers most likely first appeared in a given year. It still needs some improvement and updating, but this should be fine for most uses.

Power Effects table - Summary of all rules effects that add or subtract from the ship's Power.

Random Encounter Tables - Rough guidelines for random starship encounters. More of a quick hook generator than a full encounter builder.

Solar System Maker - Random generation tables for creating astronomically realistic(ish) stars and their planets.

Spaceframe: Asia class - House rules for making starships of the ENT/TOS-era Asia class, as borrowed from Starfleet Museum. Created as a spare for the Explorations campaign, but not yet used at all.

Spaceframe: Gagarin class - House rules for making starships of the ENT/TOS-era Gagarin class, as borrowed from Starfleet Museum.

Spaceframe: Moskva class - House rules for making starships of the ENT/TOS-era Moskva class, as borrowed from Starfleet Museum.

Spaceframe: Paris class - House rules for making starships of the ENT/TOS-era Paris class, as borrowed from Starfleet Museum.

Spaceframe: Suurok class - House rules for making starships of the Vulcan ENT-era Suurok class.

Starship: The Phoenix - House rules for the first Earth warp vessel, as seen in First Contact.

Species Stats Table - A thing that's going to be turned into something more complete, similar to the Starship Stats Table. For now, it's a list of all official and fan-made Species rules stuff, together with my attempt at working out when everyone joined the Federation and Starfleet, and when they first started appearing at all.

Species: Rigellian - House rules for making player characters of the Rigellian species. Cobbles together bits and pieces from the many confused possible versions of this species (or group of species, depending who you ask), into something I felt was at least fun to play as. This has since become supplanted by the official Rigellian species in the Beta Quadrant book.

Starship Crew Breakdown Table - House rule, linking Modiphius starship Mission Profiles with the crew departmental percentage splits from the Last Unicorn Spacedock rules. For a ship of a given Mission Profile, divide its total number of crew into departments per the given percentage. Each department can then be further divided by the rank category of its crewmembers. Assumes a total crew of close to 100, so some manual adjustment may be needed for very small and very large crews.

Starship Random Names Tables - Guidelines for coming up with a healthy variety of Federation starship names.

Starship Scale Table - House rule, expanding on the Scale table on page 215 of the core rule book. I was pretty sure Modiphius had made theirs by adapting the old Last Unicorn Size table, especially the version given in the Spacedock rules, so I decided to see if I could work out the logic behind it, and present it in a more precise way, to help classify new spaceframes I was making.

Starship Stats Table - Summary list of all starship spaceframes and specific named vessels from all of the official rulebooks (including some minor spoilers for published adventures), plus many of the unofficial fan ones. Also includes a tool (the copypasta shipyard) for quickly throwing stats together per the ship design rules. I've also included known canon warp speed limits, and my own version of the Scale table.

Valuematic 3000 - A walkthrough for creating a Value that will hopefully be more fun and useful to play, and to GM.

Warp Tables (public version) - Includes a more detailed version of the warp speed table on page 205 of the core rule book, as well as a speed-distance-time calculator, and a list of known canon starship warp speeds (all Alpha canon, with one or two Beta canon examples, in grey, thrown in where I felt they were helpful for getting the big picture). All three of these tables include three different measures of speed: the ENT/TOS "Cochrane" scale of warp speed, the TNG "Eugene" scale of warp speed, and simple multiples of c (speed of light), made equivalent using semi-canon formulae. If anyone can figure out how to fully reverse the TNG formula, to solve for W from a known c in all cases, I'd appreciate it.

Campaign Resources (Star Trek: Explorations)
Explorations is a multi-group shared sandbox-style campaign setting, set in the early 2200s, halfway between the ENT and TOS eras. It is centered on one region, Sector 21, which is frontier space at that time, though by TNG it would be pretty central within Federation space. Most of our content from actual play is hidden in our Roll20 game for now, but below are the basic starting elements we began from at the start of 2018, plus a selection of useful house rules and other components. (I'd also like to point out that I don't much like the bland blue-on-black computer UI seen in ENT, DISCO, and on the USS Kelvin. LCARS is much more interesting and fun to me, but I've stuck with the older blue-black look for a lot of my campaign handouts.)

I was very amused at how easily I could find my completely non-canon Sector 21 stars in a map from 50 years later.


GM's Starter Pack - All the stuff I'd created for myself at the time that the campaign began, packaged for other GMs to borrow from. Includes setting info and maps, extra Species rules for Aenar (by David Gibson) and Rigellians, extra Spaceframe rules for the Asia, Gagarin, Moskva and Paris classes, and premade starship stats for the USS Delhi, USS Jemison and USS Johannesburg (our three player starships).

Map of Sector 21 in the Federation, circa 2208 - My best estimate of how my Sector 21 fits into the galactic map (red box), and what the extent of the UFP is during this period (space marked in blue). It's intentionally much more spindly than the vast UFP that the 24th century map presents.

Panda Span map - The full extent of the nebula, beyond the part that's within Sector 21.

Handout: Interior layout of Starship Wehikore - I wanted to replace the Atlantis from the published adventure "A World with a Bluer Sun", as Earth's smaller Intrepid class felt more interesting to me, and also closer in scale and purpose to the USS Jemison, so there was a better narrative link. But then I had no good sense of the interior layout of the ship, so I made up my own.

Handout: 400 years of astronomy records of the Panda Span nebula - Images of this region of space, as recorded from Tellar Prime since 1800.

Handout: Observed subspace flux and Handout: Map of subspace observations - Final versions of the list of all subspace field measurements taken by the Starfleet vessels in the sector, over the course of about a year, and the map that marks their positions. Also includes separate list of equivalent measurements taken at Kontunel. My players spent a year analysing this to try and figure out the hidden pattern behind it, and got pretty close, so I'll be interested to see if other GMs or anyone else can work it out, without the benefit of me explaining any of it. Ask if you really want to know.

Sector 21 major worlds images - Portrait set of most of the major planets the players visited during 2018/2208. I've got various other maps and images of these planets, and others, but it would take a long time to gather them all. (Still missing: Brissid, Duboz and Silik 6.)

Suliban faction chart - Showing how the Suliban factions from canon and of my own invention are related to each other. We got very, very little canon background on them in ENT, and even the subsequent novels have barely mentioned them, so I haven't had that much to build on.

Player Intro - Brief introductory booklet for players starting this campaign.

Player Map - The starting version of the player's map of Sector 21, as it stood at the beginning of 2208.

Character Creation Guide (Explorations version) - Same as the general purpose public version, but streamlined and repainted to be specific to my era and setting.

Class C shuttlepod -  The little sublight crew shuttle my players mainly rely on. The image is taken from a John Eaves preliminary design that wasn't used, but I liked how it implies a shared design lineage from the earlier ENT shuttlepods. (It wasn't until over a year later that DISCO finally named its own shuttles as Class C too, which is an unfortunate coincidence. I had assumed they'd go with Class E, a generation before the Class F of TOS, but oh well.)

Class D shuttle - The larger, rarer warp shuttles that our campaign seldom uses. The image is from an unused Matt Jefferies preliminary design for the Class F.

Starship: Trade Station Kruh - The starship stats for the Tellarite merchants' space station in orbit above Starbase 21. Its image is copied from a Tellarite trade station seen in ENT, which was itself a reuse of a model of Cardassian station from DS9.

Handout: Missing Starships - Silly little thing I made to frame some story elements together with similar canon stuff.

Handout: News: Suessor elected president - A random factoid I borrowed from the FASA roleplaying, just because it fit our timeline and added some more detail to things.

Probe Design Rules - House rules for a complicated ad hoc build of a long-distance warp probe. Borrows ideas from the Last Unicorn Spacedock rules. Never used, because the Jemison players felt they had left it too late to begin, for the specific purpose they had at the time.

Species: Zenian survivor - House rules for making player characters of the Zenian species. I threw this together after the crew of the Jemison found their group of survivors on Thuln. It seemed like a fun option to make available for any future character creation.

Warp Tables (Explorations version) - Same as the public version, but with our campaign-specific starships included (in red).