Saturday, August 4, 2012

Biblical Reference, part four

In previous posts we established the game's tone by choosing the universe, area and era the game will take place in, the ship the action will take place on, and which departments your PCs can choose from.  Now to further establish what the players can expect it is time to create your NPCs.  We shall start with the captain.  In this case I am going to use an old captain, in my case the Original Captain: Devin Hadenbeer.  Of all the characters I have created over the years Devin will always have a soft spot in my heart, literary warts and all.  And what I mean by that is that at the time I created her I took my cues from what I had seen from other characters, so some of the things that annoy me about Star Trek PCs could be seen in Devin. What follows is slightly modified Devin Hadenbeer, mildly retconned, if you will.

Name: Devin Hadenbeer
Age: 40
Gender: female
Race: Human
Birthplace: Southampton UK, Earth + July 30, 2342

Physical Description: Is attractive and has an athletic build.
Distinguishing Marks: none
Height: 1.6m
Weight: 50 kg
Hair: auburn, long and full and often worn in a bun
Eye Color: Hazel
Special Abilities: None
Parents: Dead
Spouse: divorced
Siblings: two older brothers (Jon and Del)
Children: None
Other Relatives: None known
Background: Devin was born to Robert and Hannah, two doctors who practiced at Bush Hospital in Southampton. She grew up the youngest of three siblings and took an instant interest in music, but soon the thoughts of exploration and adventure filled her head and she followed her brother Del’s footsteps into Starfleet. There she unexpectedly excelled in engineering and considered taking that rout, but her instructors saw her potential for command and steered her in that direction. Her father died during her time at the academy. After serving two years on the Relentless Devin was allowed to transfer back to Earth to help aid her dying Mother. While serving on Admiral Ogolvy’s staff under Commander Gabriel she learned much concerning Starfleet’s command structure and how things were done at the top. After her Mother’s death she finished her tour here and moved on. After serving some years on the Grant she was prepared to take command of a small ship. It was during this time she had fallen in love with Jorge Straum, the Grant’s chief engineer. They were married and soon she became pregnant, this temporarily quashed her chance at command. She was reassigned to Starfleet Academy until her child came to term, but she was involved in a shuttle accident and the child died. Crushed, Straum could not handle the death and their grief subsequently resulted in their divorce. Counselors at Starfleet kept an eye on Devin and after a year or so believed she was ready to handle the responsibility of command once more. Her tour on the Lionheart was to determine if she still had what it takes to command a ship of her own.
Things did not go as planned, however.  en route to Earth, the Lionheart was attacked by a ship from an alternate future.  According to logs found the Lionheart had inadvertantly delivered a computer virus that allowed a physical virus to go undected by Federation medical, sensor and transporter equipment.  This resulted in the death of over ninety percent of all humans, allowing the Dominion to win the war.  Lionheart was drawn into the future, where it was discovered her escort ship Terminus was the true carrier of the virus.  Linking up with this future's rebellion, Lionheart's crew found a cure for both viruses and a way home by using the rebellion's Romulan warbird to slingshot around Earth's sun, as the crippled Lionheart could not withstand the trip on her own.  Upon their return, the entire episode was classified and Devin was asked to help rebuild a shattered Starfleet Academy.
Months later the USS Grant went missing in the Kuala Cluster.  Devin was at long last given her promised command, the Lionheart A, and her first mission; find the Grant.  The mission turned into a pitched battle with the Gorn, who using an incursion into their space by a Federation vessel stolen by Klingons attempted to invade the Federation through the cluster.  The Lionheart and Grant managed to maul the fleet, but not without the loss of the Grant, and a substantial number of Lionheart's fighters.  The Gorn's invasion was momentarily halted and this gave the Federation time to send envoys to broker a peace.

Months later the Lionheart A was outfitted with a special extra-dimensional drive.  What was supposed to be a short expedition of six months turned into a five year odyssey.  After numerous harrowing trials Lionheart eventually made it home, crippled, barely functional.  Devin decided to resign her commission in the aftermath and accepted a post as a music teacher at Oxford.  But soon space called again.
Personality Profile: Devin is a warm, friendly person who greatly enjoys commanding a star ship, more for the love of responsibility and accomplishment than for any thrill of authority or power.  She has a strong sense of duty and of right and wrong, and is willing to put both her life and career on the line to support friends, family and crew.  Such a decision brought her toe to toe with Admiral Strand, a decision that has had consequences over the years.
Devin loves to teach almost as much as she loves command.  Her time as an instructor at Starfleet Academy was very dear to her.  She had a reputation as being a very hard instructor, but only because she believed in tempering the minds and spirits of cadets so that they may be better officers.
Dislikes: Discussing her past
Interests: Music (singing and piano), darts
Academy Majors: Command, Engineering
Academy Minors: Diplomacy, Tactics
Other Education: 2367, Bachelors of Arts degree from Oxford for music
Languages: Federation Standard, French, Latin, Vulcan
Medical History: Suffered forced abortion due to shuttlecraft accident.  Heavy wounds to left shoulder and right thigh from arrows while on a mission to Tierga Prime.

Service Record:
2360-2364 Starfleet Academy
2365-2366 Ensign, USS Montgomery
2367  Lieutenant JG, assigned to Admiral Ogolvy’s staff, Earth
2368-2369 Lieutenant, Tactical Officer, Chief Tactical Officer, USS Damocles
2370-2372 lt. Commander, Commander, Chief Tactical officer, Executive Officer, USS Grant
2373-2374 Commander, Starfleet Academy instructor
2375  Captain, USS Lionheart, later resumes post as Starfleet Academy instructor
2376-2380 Captain, USS Lionheart-A
2381 Captain, Lionheart-B 

Okay, so what was changed?  Originally I had listed her awards and commendations because at the time that sort of thing was very popular.  If you saw the The Original Series episode Court Martial when Kirk takes the stand in his own defense the list of awards and commendations is staggering.  Spock and McCoy also had awards but they paled in comparison to James T.'s.  So every player wanted a list of decorations.  I do not think they are necessary to flesh out a character; competent PCs would receive awards, it is a given.

What else did I change?  Originally one of Devin's interests was martial arts.  It turns out a great many PCs are interested in martial arts.  The fact is if your character is a graduate of Starfleet Academy then they would have some martial arts training.  True, security personnel would have a more extensive background but every Starfleet officer would...or should be able to take care of themselves to some extent.  If your character does possess such an interest then it should have a bearing on their background history.

One thing I did leave in was her brother being in Starfleet.  It is annoying to me how a great many characters' parents-either one or both-were or are in Starfleet.   And not only are their parents in Starfleet, oft times they are captains or admirals!  It has become a ridiculous cliche and I think it is due in large part to a lack of creativity on the part of players and GMs.  There is nothing wrong with one's parents being in the military; my Dad was a petty officer in the United States Navy.  But he did not make a career of it.  Instead he learned a trade and moved on.  Not everyone has to have parents who are in the military.  You remember Ben Sisko, the baddest bad ass in Starfleet?  His Dad owns a restaurant.  JeanLuc Picard, master diplomat?  His parents owned a vineyard.  It was never said what James Kirk's father did for a living but apparently they were colonists.  Katheryn Janeway...

Oh, her.  Yeah, her father was an admiral. Figures.

Jonathan Archer's father was not an admiral, but he was a Very Important man, the creator of the warp 5 engine.  So that made him super special.  I think the only thing I liked about Enterprise was the dog.  The two worst Star Trek series had captains with super special parents.

Point is, when doing your character's background, be creative!  What if your character's parents were bohemians and utterly freaked out when your character enlisted?  What if they had, you know, normal jobs?  Whatever you do, do not make them Starfleet.

Now, there is one element in the history that might stand out to some people if they know me at all, and that is the mention of fighter craft.  Tom, you might say.  Don't you hate that fighter wing, ultra-militaristic crap?   Yes.  Yes, I do.  That particular adventure had the Gorn invading the Federation over a misunderstanding, and a rescue mission turned into a pitched battle.  As to the fighter craft, I felt it made more sense to have the crew members of an Akira class crossed trained on flying such craft rather than have dedicated fighter wings.  So yes, there were fighter craft but there were no flight wings.  Did it makes sense compared to modern militaries?  Not exactly.  You know what else does not make sense compared to modern militaries?  Keeping the same command staff for fifteen years.  That simply does not happen especially in war time when senior officers get promoted to their own commands in the face of heavy losses.  

Star Trek takes some cues from modern military structure, it is not wedded to it.

Another point: I find it admirable when GMs create captains who do not have a captain's rank, especially when you see smaller ships like Novas or Defiants.  "Captain" is both a rank and a position on a ship, you can hold the latter without the former.  Destroyer captains are often lieutenant commanders, for example.  Submarine captains can be commanders.  Ben Sisko was originally a commander when he commanded Defiant.  And Devin Hadenbeer started off as a commander, commanding a Saber class vessel (an under rated design, in my opinion), and was promoted later when she was put in command of an Akira (Quite possibly the most bad ass looking ship in all of Star Trek).  What I find really annoying is when GMs decide to place commodores and rear admirals in charge of ships.  Perhaps some of these GMs are taking their cues from the classic series Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea:
In that series (Great show, by the way.  You can watch the first two seasons on Hulu for free.  It takes place in the far flung year 1978!) you had Richard Basehart playing Admiral Harriman Nelson who was in charge of the Seaview...Only he wasn't.  Basehart was the Seaview's creator and he was in charge of the special missions the ship went on.  The ship was really in command of commander Lee Crane.  But actually I find it far more likely GMs who have their GMPCs as admirals are just playing out pathetic power fantasies.

Equally annoying are the extremely young captains.  Sure, Hadenbeer was 33 when she was a commander, and I think she was 34 when she was made captain.  Young?  Yeah, a little on the young side.  My excuse was in the wake of the Dominion war lots of young commanders received commissions to fill the horrific losses Starfleet had sustained.  That is no excuse for twenty four year old captains (Trust me, I've seen them.).  Please show a little common sense.

And speaking of common sense, let us discuss your character's race.  Please don't make your character a half breed: they are cliched.  Please do not make them joined Trills: they are cliched.  Please do not make them of a non Federation race like Klingons, Romulans, El Aurians or Bajorans: this has become a sad, pathetic cliche.  What most GMs like this are looking to do, much the same way GMs who create admiral-captains and twenty four year old COs are attempting to create Special Snowflakes or Mary Sues.  You don't want your players doing it, you should lead by example.

Finally, let us discuss your other NPCs.  Your ship should have a few so your PCs can interact with others in their departments.  You do not have to make them bland, but please do not make them so overly competent that it seems they should be running the department.  Do not make them unusual.  When I ran my Firefly inspired game Star Trek: Vixen, I made the mistake of having some super special NPCs on board.  There was Grudge, eight foot tall extra-dimensional alien:
And there was George and Gracy, the exo-comps, last seen in the Next Generation episode The Quality of Life:
Potential players resented the fact that I was being picky about the sorts of characters they could play and here I was sprinkling my game with weird NPCs!  GMs really should practice what they preach and be fair when discussing character creation with their players.  If you wants your way-cool NPCs then be prepared to deal with a player who wants to run his Angosian super soldier from a parallel universe who wears a miniature Bajoran Prophet stone around his neck after winning it in a poker game against Q.

Next week...or whenever I get around to finishing it, I will submit the final installment of Biblical Reference. There I will discuss the creation of long term campaigns as well as villains/antagonists.

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