Starting a new game is no easy task and it is one that an aspiring GM should not tackle lightly. A good game should be carefully prepared, the groundwork laid out before the GM even considers advertising for it. By way of example I use the idea of a series bible, a guide book a television producer might use to guide him and his writers and directors in producing the series. Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski used one of these series bibles to good effect. He did not adhere to it religiously, rather it was a guideline that was modified as necessary. A GM would do themselves a favor if they followed much the same model.
I have been pondering running a new Star Trek game, so let me set up my own campaign bible. Now some of this initially will seem simple and obvious to the experienced GM but I feel it important to assume anyone reading this has never, ever run a game and that taking this step by step is important. Now, the first thing I would want to do is establish the sett-
No, wait a second. If we are talking about a Star Trek PBEM the first question you must ask yourself is, do you want to be part of a fleet? The short answer is "no". Some day I might write an article detailing all the reasons I think fleets are Bad. But for now I have decided for my new game I do not need to be part of a fleet.
So, second thing: setting. It takes place in the Star Trek universe, of course. But which one? We have two, now. I am going to have it take place in the original universe, post Nemesis, the final TNG film (I will not go into the merits, or lack thereof, of that film. Others have done a more than satisfactory job of pointing out what a complete waste of time and money that film is). Second, where will the campaign take place in the Star Trek universe? Voyager, for example, took place in the Delta Quadrant, 70,000 light years away from Earth. Deep Space Nine largely took place around the station of the same name, with excursions into the Gamma Quadrant via the worm hole. The Next Generation...Well, TNG took place wherever the writers and producers needed it to. For me, I am going to have the series take place in the Alpha/Beta Quadrant much like The Next Generation largely did.
Second, we need to choose a ship. A ship says as much about the game as it does the NPCs and captain. It gives experienced players an idea of what the game is going to be like, what adventures they may enjoy. My original idea had been to use the comic book Shock Rockets as a basis of the game:
The problem is, very, very few people know what the heck Shock Rockets is and the interest in the concept is not very strong. Furthermore, I tried running this game twice already and both times it failed. So this idea is not going to work. I do not like the idea of a space station because they are static and ultimately the PCs are going to wind up on a starship sooner or later anyway. It happened on Deep Space Nine, it happened on Babylon 5. So we are going with a ship of some sort. But which ship? While I love the design, I do not like the idea of using a Sovereign class-
because the ship class is supposed to be rare, and honestly it is a little too big for what I have in mind. I do not like the Defiant class-
because the ship is too small and is not supposed to operate any length of time away from a support base. I never liked Voyager and the Intrepid class-
and I never warmed to the Enterprise D-
so the most recognizable canon designs from that era of Star Trek are out. Fortunately, the Star Trek universe have a great many ships to choose from. If I choose an older vessel like the Centaur-
or a science vessel like the Nova-
it suggests the campaign should take place in a low risk environment (Although I attempted to run a game where a Centaur class was stranded in a distant part of space, something I will touch upon at a later date). If I choose a vessel like the Prometheus-
it implies the game will have a very militaristic feel. There are plenty other ships to choose from and there are a couple that I really like, such as the Ambassador class-
And the Akira-
but really I would like to step outside of the box and go for a design that is not canon, the Luna class:
I love the look and I love it's multi-mission function. It is a well armed science vessel designed for long range exploration. But now this brings me to the next issue I must address: what material from Star Trek will I use, both canon and non-canon? Star Trek possesses a tremendous amount of material, from six television series to eleven motion pictures and dozens and dozens of paperback novels, novels of which I have only read a fraction. So, which novels do I include, which canon sources?
Ah, you may say. If it is canon, it must count! Nay, say I! I refuse to acknowledge Enterprise exists in any campaign world I create. Enterprise was garbage. It was a poorly produced, poorly written, poorly acted prequel series that did absolutely nothing good for the Star Trek franchise as a whole other than to finally(!) convince the execs at Paramount to get rid of Rick Berman and Brannon Braga as producers. So Enterprise is out. The Animated Series? Eh, it was inoffensive but except for one episode I am going to ignore it (Not that the one episode is likely going to impact my game.). That leaves The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Now, what about the books? I read the first couple Titan books and they were all right, and I have read many of Peter David's New Frontier series and those are awesome reads. But neither series contain anything that I deem necessary to me in running a game. Also, it would be unfair to players to assume they have read these books. Have some grasp of the Star Trek series and movies? Yes, absolutely. But the various novels? Not everyone reads, least of all the same material you have.
So we have established the setting for the game. Next we need to provide prospective players with guidelines and expectations regarding their characters and the best way to do that is to provide them with NPCs and GMPCs as examples. Next week we will tackle the development of the ship's captain as well as address the issue of PC creation...