Friday, June 28, 2013

USS Carter 12

12: Battle for the Burning Nebula

Synopsis: The joint Federation-Betazed fleet moves in to engage the Klingon stations in the Burning Nebula. To their surprise, the conflict is shortened by the appearance of the Tholian Assembly, who have claimed the center of the Nebula as a territorial annex. The Tholains yank the Klingon ships, along with the USS Petrov, into the interphase. Only the Carter has a chance to get the Petrov back by following them through an interphase rift and negotiating with the enigmatic silicon life forms.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

USS Carter 11

11: Passion

Synopsis: While mapping the Burning Nebula the Carter rescues an Andorian merchant and his passengers - Deltans, whose pheromones, empathy & open sexual mores play hob on the bridge crew's interpersonal relationships. In the midst of this The Deltans racial aptitude with navigation helps the Carter locate the hidden Klingon base in the nebula.

Monday, June 24, 2013

USS Carter 10

10: Maris Ue

Synopsis: The Carter is hit with a blast of energy inside the nebula, knocking Bernie into a coma. He is replaced at helm by a new Lt. - Maris Ue - as the Carter is sent by Star Fleet to a diplomatic mission of vital import: convincing a race inside the nebula to turn from the Klingons - before the Klingons attack! The mission goes badly, but Lt. Maris saves the day at every major juncture. Actually, she's an energy being feeding on the skills and emotional highs & lows, and can best be defeated by convincing her she is just a voyeur & parasite.  Some signaling needs to be done that players can expect one of their PCs to be sidelined relatively early in the scenario.

Friday, June 21, 2013

USS Carter 9

9: Stellar Nursery

The Carter, in its search for Dr. Knox's slowboats has finished its survey of the Virtuous Sector, and the ship has started doing the long slow survey of the more widely spaced targets in and around the Burning Nebula. Star Fleet has also asked that the Carter assist the Sagan Observatory in its research. Sagan has requested that the Carter - which just finished checking a lifeless, overheated Venus-like planet - add a week or so to its route to get some readings on a stellar nursery inside the nebula. Again, there will be a Captain's Log for Asha that explains all this.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

USS Carter 8

8: Gamma One

the Carter, in the face of mounting threats from the Klingon/Orion and now Terabian alliance, re-enters the Burning Nebula to discover a staging area planet that not only houses Klingons and Orion Syndicate members, but also the Gamma I survivors *and* remnants of the Silicon Empire. Everything comes to a head in this season finale!

Monday, June 17, 2013

USS Carter 7

7: Bones of Eden

At the heart of the starless expanse, the Carter finds the spatial anomaly that threw the slowboats so far off course, and learns that it can send ships through time. They must chase Lt. Vandermar, whose returning to 1960's Earth's to stop the birth of Kahn accidentally unmakes the Federation! But what are the moral implications of allowing the Eugenics Wars?


"After weeks in the Long Dark, I still can't believe that we're only halfway across, and that this is the fastest route back to the Sagan. Still, it is the fastest route, and at Warp 6 we're making good time. And finally, at least, we have something to look at: the Heart of Sin nebula is looming before us, and even if Dr. Cotton at Sagan hadn't asked us to give it a thorough going over, I would anyway, just as something to do. The Andorian ships salvaging the Aristophanes are nearby, and Sigfried has arranged a swap of entertainment broadcasts to give the crew some new diversion. Andorian drama is decidedly strange, and awfully bloody. Apparently Crewman Rey likens it to Hong Kong Police Drama of the late 20th century, where honor is avenged with gunplay. What a strange and dangerous time.”

I assume there will be any number of questions about the nebula their scans will reveal a very strong distress signal coming from the Gamma 1 – the slowboat they were looking for back in the first episode! It shouldn’t be anywhere near here! Further scans show that there are pockets of dark matter and subspace fractures inside the nebula. That slowboat was picked to make sure there was no chance the players think the thing is actually in there. Once they get the whole message they’ll hear that it’s the Gamma 1’s captain broadcasting a signal about the ‘bump’ that they hit, which corresponds with the message they pulled out of the wreckage in episode 1

Plot Turn 1

Further research will show that the nebula is not a standard Idari Class dark matter nebula, but a rarer Mar-Obscura class nebula - the sort that has temporal subspace fractures! They'll find this out when their scans start echoing back at them, and they begin picking up radio chatter from other ancient ships, including subspace ones from the frequency that the Andorains used during their first warp flights. I figure once they spend some time doing some research they'll get the following data based on how well they roll:

History or History  - Federation: "The Gamma One's radio call matches the designs of the time, and the other signals match similar slowboat ships from the timeframe, and are likewise distress calls about hitting a 'bump'. The other calls match the records of various other ships, dating back well over 200 years.

Communications/computer use A: "That's clearly the Gamma One's signal, but there is no way that it could be here. We must be dealing with some sort of echo. Digging through the static, there are other, less well defined signals. The most corrupted one I could salvage made reference to the Yena Kolari, or Greater Orion. That's the term for the Orion empire back when they *had* an empire, and the last time they used that term for it, Terran Pharaohs were building pyramids. 

Computer use B: "Combining the normal effects of both nebula and dark matter with these rifts makes the entire Heart of Sin into a non-causal area. By going through records, we've found 6 distinct cases of timekeeping errors recorded with ships passing through the edges of the rift. It's not a constant - there are 22 such transits, now counting ours - and none of the timekeeping errors were significant. But then, none went in far.

Space Science A: "The Nebula isn't an Idaria class, as it had been designated. It's a Mar Obscura class, only the second of its kind found in Federation space. These care classified by not just pockets of dark matter, but by a high occurrence of subspace rips, similar to the one we encountered in the Burning Nebula. It's impossible to read whether those rifts exist just in the outside edge, and what measure of safety there is in the center of the nebula.

Space Science B: "These rifts differ in that they are non-casual fractures in subspace - whatever generated them, they existed both before and after the instant of generation. Functionally, each rift serves as a hole not into just subspace, but through time.

Space Science C: "Given the nature of the transmissions and our scans of the area, this non-casual event is reaching its terminus. It exploded from here some time ago, and it's compressing back to this point. That's not a totally accurate image - imagine a sphere in space-time, and this nebula is its bottom pole. Now, fill the sphere with liquid, and say the subspace fractures were shaken into the liquid, but had a greater density. They have all now settled here.

Space Science D: "What could have caused this remains a mystery, but a careful reading of the starcharts indicates that the Sin Expanse might not be natural. The Nebula might be surrounded by empty space because whatever created the Nebula destroyed everything nearby. The force must have been enormous.

I figure this as being in the conference room, after the various departments have analyzed the data. This cross department analyzing will give sufficient time for Vandermar to find out what's going on and how he can use it. Towards the end of the meeting, the communications officer will get a message coming in from the Andorian ships, asking for one last conversation before they depart the area. 

Pinch 1

Vandermar, one of the crew members picked up from the slowboat in episode 2 and a fugitive from the Eugenics wars, becomes aware of the nature of the Heart of Sin Nebula and sees it as an opportunity to go back and prevent the Eugenics wars. He enters the shuttle bay, clocks the security guard with a surprise shot, grabs his phaser and stuns the other man in the room – if there is a PC security officer or a cadet then he can be here, but make it clear that this is one of those ‘this has to happen’ scenes and that Vandermar is spending drama points or their equivalent like water to assure that. Vandermar will then fire a couple of shots into key conduit panels, knocking out the ships systems temporarily. With their ability to stop him limited, he steals a shuttle and heads into the warp.

The bridge crew will find out about this when they suddenly drop to emergency power and the shields go dead. Sensors will register damage amidships, but the exact information will be confusing. There should be some good panicked minutes of repairing the ship and trying to figure out what happened, with a sketchy screen view of the shuttlecrat vanishing at warp speed into the nebula.

To add to this mess the comm officer is in contact with the Andorians, who are still some distance away. Once the Horus disappears into the nebula, the message shifts suddenly from an offering of aide to a threat from a fully armed Adorian ship!


Midpoint here is them going from investigation of the nebula to an emergency of having to fix the altered timeline. Since they were in the Nebula they were unaffected by the time shift, but now they have to decide what to do and how to do it. The Andorian ship, well, the new Andorian ship has enough firepower to pose a serious threat to the Carter even if she were in peak condition, but is an hour or so away. The damaged system can be repaired quickly by some creative rerouting of power conduits, so there should be no longer term sense of dead in the water.

I wonder if the players will as readily realize what happened – if they don’t some history rolls will make it clear that somehow the Eugenics wars didn’t occur, humanity never made first contact and the Andorains and Vulcans, without humans to act as a social lubricant between them, never joined forces. In any case, they have till the Andorian ship turns up to figure out what to do, and try to guess exactly what occurred. The Carter can certainly survive the travel back through the Nebula’s time rifts if the Horus did, but they might be concerned about that and start making emergency preparations for the voyage.

One thing that will come up is the research on 20th century earth that the historian has been performing with Rey (the other 20th century slowboat refugee) and Vandermar, combined with local records. That should open things up for a few possibilities of where he'd go. 

A complex History test reveals one record that a 'Superman' made, commenting on their being the scions of Brahmins. As we all know, Brahmins are the highest Hindu caste, which fits with Kahn's Indian heritage.

Of course, as time goes on Knox, knowledge will give her a growing sense of the timetable. I'm abstracting from Gre Cox’s Eugenics Wars books here (Gary Seven vs. Kahn; they’re worth reading), but the project itself should take place in India, in the late 1960s. In the early 1960's the scientists involved were still in their various institutions, the core of whom were doing work in the New England universities.  Dr. Singh is still at Harvard.

Vandermar is following the Brahmin reference in its colloquial sense, and is tracking down likely biologists/biotech people in the Boston region. This will fairly quickly connect him with Dr. Singh, who will likely think she's being stalked by a mad killer.

Which, on a certain level, she is.

Pinch 2

This is the trip through time – at least I sure hope the players think they have to follow the Horus -  which should feel rough and tumble, not something worth repeating except to get back and generally shake the crew up, but not too much. Some damage to the shield, a panel shorting out, and if they roll really poorly have the eps conduits go down again. However, they are able to track the Horus' trail through the rifts back to Earth, Spring of 1963. May 15th, to be exact.

A time when all the eyes of the world were on the sky, and they run into some good old fashioned Air Force or Nasa Interference They nearly hit Gordon Cooper, in one of his 22 orbits of earth in Mercury 9 (the faith 7 capsule) between the 15th to the 17th. This should make their arrival a little problematic, but the subspace rift they need to return through is just beyond Saturn. This is a chance fo the helmsman and science officer to show off, but even a failure means they make here, just with a damaged ship; a critical success means one panel shorting out and some cinematic bouncing around.

Plot Turn 2

The sensors on the Carter pick up the signal from the Horus, but they aren't anywhere near India - they're in New England - specifically the wilds of Maine. What the heck is he doing there, you may ask, or you may just throw dice at me for a really bad pun. In any case, there is evidence that he dropped off somewhere and sent the ship on autopilot to here. He was dropped off near Boston, some 36 hours ago.

Armed with this new knowledge, the PCs will have to track down the people that Vandermar is tracking down, and that takes them to beantown. They'll have to confront various types of legalistic hurdles and informational ones to get the info they need, as well as one massive moral dilemma:

This is open ended of the GM, as any group of players is going to approach this differently. In my case we had a) a medical officer who was a fan of baseball and the Red Sox in particular (sad news, Red Sox Nation – the Eugenics Wars interrupted the timeline enough that the Sox never broke their World Series losing streak…) and the PCs parleyed that into a chance to win some money betting on games with her 20th century souvenir $20 bill. The PCs will likewise have to find a way to get the resources they need. If there are PCs who aren’t people who would be commonly accepted or afforded respect on the streets of Boston in 1963 then the GM should work in a scene to address that, given that this is Star Trek.


The whole of the game from here on in is pretty loose, based on what they do, but it should ultimately lead them to Dr. Singh's offices at a science facility outside Harvard. There is some fairly tight security, but depending on where the Carter is they might just be able to beam by it. I leave it to player ingenuity, and the only thing I want to have is an encounter with students trying to get them to join the equal rights movement, hoping that they can change the world.

The final scene of this should involve chasing Vandermar or somehow interrupting him in the offices of Dr. Singh. They will have to be extra careful that she doesn't realize what's going on, but instead take this insane intrusion as a reason to move her facility elsewhere. Like back home to India. 

As per the laws of Star Trek the return time trip is small potatoes but they might have to figure out what to do with Vandemar, if he’s still among the living. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Musings: Man of Steel

No, I haven't seen it yet. I'm leaning against it at the moment. Here's a review from Moviebob, whom I've linked to before. It corroborates a lot of the things I was worried about, but not all of them. Still, the central charge - that it lacks heart - is very easy to believe given who wrote the screenplay.

It might well be visually stunning - again, very easy to believe given the director - but as I commented months ago in this day and age YOU DON'T GET POINTS FOR LOOKING RIGHT. Looking right is easy. In 1978 looking right was hard and we give the Donnar superman full points for that. Now? It's a max 0 category, with lots of room for down.

End of day I don't want to see a movie about Sentinel or Gladiator or Hyperion or Mr Majestic or Supreme* or any other Superman-esque comics creation, someone with Superman's powers and rough origin but not his character or personality. I want to see a movie about Superman, and I'm not sure this is it.

Comments are open for you to convince me otherwise.

* This, my friends, is a big fat lie. If someone made a faithful movie based on Alan Moore's Supreme I would be in line with bells on,

USS Carter 6

6: Lysestrata

The discovery of the trader Aristophenes inside the Temptation nebula exposes the Carter's crew to a disease that kills anyone with a Y Chromosome. An away team needs to comb the freighter to discover the diseases' cause while Dr. Mark struggles to keep the men of the crew alive, and the men face their impending mortality.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Musings: Playtest Follies

I've finally broken down and started listening to Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, and the first episode I listened to included a discussion on what it means to be a good playtester. I'm curious how my readers fell about commenting on the stuff I'm presenting here, or indeed for ant formal playtest or any time they're talking to a game designer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

USS Carter 5

5: Writ in Tooth and Claw

Sensors detect a potential terran settlement orbiting a variable star, but the planet's EM fields blocks transport. Their shuttle damaged, the away team explores terran and native ruins to learn the field is artificial, has expanded to cover the Carter and causes emotional instability in terran life! Dr. Knox's team must deal with transplanted terran predators and the Carter must fight a Klingon scout, all while on the edge of sanity. Some signaling is needed to the players to let them know what this this is a physiological test adventure, not a combat or ambush, to keep the right feel.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Classic. Just Classic


No, not Airwolf or Street Hawk. I mean SUPER-VEHICLES!

So here's a question for the crew: pick your favorite super hero from an RPG (ideally your own, but hey, whatever) and design their single silliest toy tie-in.

For example, my personal favorite superhero PC is Legerdemain, an alien with magnetic control who flies around on a metal 'flying disk' that he can also use as a shield, or shrink to the size of a Frisbee to store or use as a smaller ranged weapon. And sure, one comes with his action figure since it's a core character visual. However the toy line also included his LEGERDESCENDER, a car-vehicle with six little drills on the front that he can use for BURROWING UNDER THE EARTH! Did Legerdemain ever have a story in which he needed to burrow under the Earth? Don't be silly! We just needed another toy tie in!

Any other suggestions?

Monday, June 10, 2013

USS Carter 4

4: The Only Tar Who Ever Jumped Ship From Vanderveken’s Crew

The USS Carter is at Hope III when it discovers a stellar anomaly in the nearby Type D Star: it has a ring that is only occasionally visible. Investigation reveals that this is not an actual stellar occurrence but a lost Terran slowboat, trapped in the star's gravity and perpetually accelerating in it's hydrogen atmosphere - it is now orbiting at .9999c! The crew must find some way of freeing the ship from this predicament, but when they get on board they learn that the combination of radiation and time dilation sickness has driven the crew a off-kilter, and they will react violently to the presence of outsiders, posing a whole new problem.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Musings: still not getting it

It is going to take some reviews from a lot of people I trust to get past the degree of Superman Mythos Fail that is embedded in the link below.

Man of Steel

It looks more and more like Zod has _conquered_ Krypton. Maybe I'm wrong. It could also be that the Zod Trio have taken over some other spacefaring species or space pirate group or something. I could deal with that as a way to give them cannon fodder for the 'we have to put Amy Adams in a combat suit because otherwise Lois Lane, worlds greatest investigative reporter who wasn't captured to be used as a hostage in the comics but was captured because she had already uncovered the villains plot and broken into their damn base, might not be seen as sufficiently proactive' thought process to give the humans something to shoot at. I really hope that's all it is.


EDIT: James Cambias has told me that the track list for the soundtrack has one entitled "Krypton Explodes", which is heartening.

Friday, June 7, 2013

USS Carter 3

3: The Stars Overhead, the Stones Underfoot

The Carter arrives at the Sagan Observatory just in time to rescue it from a Klingon attack. During the attack Dr. Knox discovers a strange sensor blip from Charity V. This proves to be the drive compartment of a terran slowboat with records that the crew compartment was launched into the Burning Nebula some centuries ago. Their plot should be easy to track, and the nebula will have slowed them down -- can the Carter rescue them?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Musings: Table Size

I had an odd dream last night where I was running a D&D game (in fact, when I have these games there's always one dungeon I'm running where I can almost see the map when I wake up) in a relatively public space. At first it was for 5 players, but then we met again and there were 5 more and the dream got recursive where I had to explain to the newcomers what happened last game, and at the end of the dream I was doing it again to explain it to the 5 more players as I had 15 people at the table.

This is way more people than I like to game for - I don't care for tables larger than 5, maybe 6 at the outside. The most I've ever done is 9, and that was with a co-GM. That smaller preferred table size is one reason why I so often fall back on the primary and secondary PC models to fill in the cast of a campaign without having so many players.

So the question to the throngs is "how many people do you like having at the gaming table at one time?" bonus points for "and how well does that work?"

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

USS Carter 2

2: Series Bible

This is a common term from TV series – the Bible is the list of what the key ideas are and what has been established about the characters to date so that later writers won’t run afoul of what has come before. Here is what I produced for the players on this:

Monday, June 3, 2013

USS Carter 1

1: Analyze Source Material

Given that the new Star Trek movies have decided to basically ignore any canon I think it’s time for canon to fight back. The next month is dedicated to my Original Show style Star Trek campaign.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Today's strange idea

Had a great idea over tea this morning. You know those characters in movies who the moment they appear on screen you know that they're playing the heroes for suckers? (like, say, Robert Downey Jr. in US Marshalls or anyone played by Gary Sinise.) Anyone with an awareness of film plotting or  Hollywood casting know this is coming despite the filmmakers ardent belief that they are setting the audience up for a 'big twist'? In a role playing game the players will sometimes make that connection with an NPC, which is why the GM should never hinge the plot on "the player characters will fall for this guy's BS story" and then insist the players do so even when they don't. 

Sos I had this idea - a comedic element of a game in which that awareness is explicit.