Tag Archives: Star Trek

Star Trek Adventures: Outpost 51; The Inquiry

The crew returned from the Shakedown Cruise of the U.S.S. Adventure two months ago. Since then, the vessel has been docked at the Denali substation at Outpost 51 pending an inquiry into the loss of Captain Boardman and the subsequent actions taken by Commander Logan, particularly those that caused a diplomatic incident with the Cardassian Union and the Ferengi Alliance. The ship received minor repairs, mostly cosmetic; while the data collected on the mysterious alien vessel was analyzed and processed. The Maquis agents discovered at the mining colony were sent to Security for interrogation.

The Adventure‘s captain’s chair remained vacant while Starfleet conducted an inquiry. Over the next few weeks, all senior staff and department heads were interviewed by a panel of four of Starfleet’s top brass. The panel was chaired by Admiral Alynna Nechayev, and consisted of Fleet Admiral Shanthi, Admiral Owen Paris, and Captain Tomek.

It was not a trial, at least officially; but it sure felt like one. One by one, the officers were all called before the panel to give statements on their role during the maiden voyage of the U.S.S. Adventure. They faced some hard questions, particularly from Admiral Nechayev, who lived up to her reputation for being no-nonsense, tough-as-nails, and–quite frankly–scary.

“So, to be clear,” she said at one point, “On her very first mission, the Adventure lost her Captain and her Chief Science Officer, both of whom seem to have been mentally unbalanced; and managed to provoke and antagonize both the Cardassians and the Ferengi, both of whom are demanding concessions and satisfaction from the Federation. Sounds like a resounding success.”

Despite this, Admiral Nechayev seemed mostly concerned with the Cardassians; what they were doing, why they crossed into the Neutral Zone, and what the crew’s opinion was of the Cardassian officers they interacted with: Legate Jabrel and Gul Drazel. Fleet Admiral Shanthi and Admiral Paris questioned Commander Logan’s decisions and the decisions of Captain Boardman, up to and including his rash decision to abandon ship on a seemingly suicidal mission. They asked if there was any warning of Boardman’s tenuous mindset beforehand; any indication that he should have been relieved of duty by his First Officer ( Commander Logan) or by the Chief Medical Officer. They also asked about Chief Science Officer Shazak Fulexian; wondering aloud how anyone so unstable could be tapped to lead the science department on a Federation starship.

Throughout the proceedings, Captain Tomek said very little. In fact, he seemed to accept the official version of events presented at face value.

Eventually, the discussion turned to who would captain the Adventure now that Boardman was gone. As a new, Akira-class vessel; the Adventure would need a strong captain. Although Commander Logan assumed command under dire circumstances, was she the right person to sit in the captain’s chair permanently?

Admiral Nechayev made the case that Commander Logan is known to the Cardassians now; that putting her in command of the Adventure may be sending a message to the Cardassians that “cowboy diplomacy” is an option that is on the table, should it be required. This term elicited a collective chuckle from the three admirals; but predictably, Captain Tomek, a Vulcan, showed no reaction. Rather, he began to speak.

“I feel it is necessary to remind everyone that I never supported the decision to give Captain Boardman command of the Adventure.”

Fleet Admiral Shanthi sighed. “Gloating doesn’t become you, Tomek.”

“Gloating is something humans do,” said Tomek. “It is illogical to take pleasure in the knowledge you were correct when your counsel went unheeded, nonetheless. Rather, it is more productive to consider a future course of action in light of past lessons. I merely state that I believe now, as I did then, that there are better candidates for command of the Adventure. Commander Logan has exhibited sound judgement and has performed her duties competently. But she is not the best choice.”

Admiral Paris spoke up: “I feel like we’ve discussed this before.“

“That is because we have discussed it before,” Tomek said. “Ronan Lyko should captain the Adventure. It is only logical.”

“Captain Lyko commands the Ostrander,” said Admiral Nechayev.

“An antiquated, Cheyenne-class vessel, well past its prime,” said Tomek. “His abilities and experience would be better utilized in command of the Adventure.”

Fleet Admiral Shanthi cleared her throat. “After Wolf 359, Captain Lyko was offered his choice of vessels. He has made his feelings on the matter clear. He wishes to remain in command of the Ostrander.”

Tomek looked at each of the admirals in turn. “It is my understanding that Captain Lyko’s is still a Starfleet officer, and thus subject to assignment, regardless of his personal wishes.”

“Might I suggest we table this conversation for now?” Admiral Nechayev rang the bell to adjourn the inquiry. “This inquiry has concluded. You will be notified of our findings within a few days.” Everyone slowly filed out of the room.

The Adventure was docked for the duration of the inquiry; thus the senior staff was assigned to other duties around Outpost 51 and the Denali substation until it was concluded. Lieutenant Kl’rt Beta, Helm Officer, had to content himself with piloting shuttlecraft between the outpost and the substation, carrying personnel and cargo back and forth. It was a big step down from being at the conn of an Akira-class starship. Since all he really did was pilot the Adventure, his actions weren’t in question as far as the inquiry panel was concerned. His testimony was brief, merely verifying the version of events as presented by Commander Logan and the ship’s own combat data.

Chief of Security Daris Pak had a bit more to account for. She was in charge of the tactical station; so it fell to her to explain every phaser blast and photon torpedo launched during the course of the Adventure’s clash with the Cardassians and Ferengi. Until the Adventure was flying again she was assigned to menial duties aboard the Denali docking substation; cargo inspections and routine security details: a complete waste of her talent and ability. She supplemented her time by teaching self-defense classes to enlisted personnel who would likely never have need for her training. One of her classes was disrupted by a few rowdy Klingons who scoffed at Starfleet security training, since it emphasized de-escalation and non-injurious conflict resolution. Commander Pak took the opportunity to instruct one Klingon in particular about the danger of underestimating an opponent.

Chief Engineer Suvak was most worried about retaining his post aboard the Adventure; not because of anything he did or failed to do; but rather because he never would have been assigned to the Adventure in the first place if it wasn’t for Captain Boardman. Boardman was a strong advocate for the Vulcan, despite the fact the Suvak had spent decades in an alternate dimension. As a result of a transporter accident, he was now somewhat behind as far as current Starfleet technology was concerned. Nonetheless, Boardman saw something in Suvak that made him pass up more qualified candidates in favor of the Vulcan. In light of his obvious mental instability, would Boardman’s favor ultimately harm Suvak?

Suvak decided to spend his time as productively as possible. He proposed some modifications to the Adventure: remove the extensive shuttle bays in favor of improved power systems. After all, the Adventure didn’t need two runabouts and six shuttlecraft. It seemed destined for a more martial role; improved power systems would ensure the ship had power to phasers when it needed to fight, or power to warp drive when it needed to flee; and it would still allow Adventure to carry one runabout and three shuttlecraft. HIs proposal was accepted. He and Chief Station Engineer Malcolm Khofi spent most of the two months overseeing the modifications.

Commander Logan, meanwhile, was temporarily relieved of command duties while the Inquiry was ongoing. When not answering the panel’s questions, she spent most of her time in her quarters, wondering if she made the correct decisions in light of what had occurred. She was confident she had; in hindsight, she would not have done anything differently. She did not know either Captain Boardman or Commander Fulexian well, nor was she a counselor. She had no way of predicting their aberrant behavior.

She received an unexpected visit from Captain Tomek, who came to her quarters to inform her that the Maquis operative, Hoddek, had finally cracked under interrogation and was giving up some valuable information. Tomek was on his way to the Denali substation to meet with Kalar Duren, the Betazoid interrogator who was questioning Hoddek, and wanted Logan to accompany him. Duren was both Counselor and Chief of Security aboard the substation, dividing his time between the two positions as needed. Tomek seemed to hold him in high regard.

Tomek and Logan met in shuttle bay 3 an hour later to find Lieutenant Beta awaiting them. It was the first time Logan had seen her helm officer since the Adventure’s return. Beta flew the two senior officers to the substation, where he left them to pass some time playing dom-jot with Master Chief Engineer Holt Belmont, a likeable enlisted man whom everyone–including Beta–seemed to owe a favor. Along the way to the interrogation room, Logan picked up Commander Suvak, who took the opportunity to brief Logan on the modifications to the Adventure as they walked. All three arrived at the Security Office to find Lt. Commander Pak was there already, checking her duty roster.

Suvak, Pak, Logan and Tomek met with Kalar Duren to hear the results of the interrogation. Hoddek revealed that a high-ranking individual operating around Deep Space Nine was a key Maquis agent. He claimed not to know the person’s identity, and Duren believed him. Still, it wasn’t long ago that Lieutenant Commander Calvin Hudson had deserted Starfleet to join the Maquis; causing a significant amount of damage and security risk. Tomek recalled that Hudson was a personal friend of Commander Benjamin Sisko. Now, news of another high-ranking Maquis operating around Deep Space Nine was of great concern, and a bit too coincidental for the Vulcan’s liking.

Upon leaving the Security Office, Tomek pulled Logan aside. “I see no need to draw this out. The panel has decided that you are to retain command of the Adventure. Congratulations, Captain Logan. Unfortunately, there will be little time for formal recognition. Please ensure the Adventure is ready to depart, and make any changes to your personnel as you see fit. We leave for Deep Space Nine in three days.”

Logan saluted Captain Tomek, who returned the gesture solemnly. “Thank you, Captain.” She said. It sounded odd to her, not having to call him “sir” any longer.

Word of the Adventure’s destination spread rather quickly as Logan assembled her crew. Over the dom-jot table, Holt Belmont grinned at Lieutenant Beta. :So,” he said, “I hear you’re back behind the wheel, headed to DS9.”

“That’s what they tell me,” said Beta.

Belmont’s smile widened. “Beta, buddy…I was wondering if you could do me a favor…”

Star Trek Adventures: The Big Sleep Conclusion

After a brief hiatus to play some D&D 5th edition, I have started up my Star Trek Adventures campaign again. While preparing to document the continuing adventures of the U.S.S. Adventure, I realized I had left the story hanging several months ago, and never returned to it. Sure enough, in my unpublished WordPress posts, there was this account of our last gaming session: the end of the “Shakedown Cruise” of the U.S.S. Adventure, The Big Sleep: Conclusion. If you need a recap, the story immediately preceding this can be found here.

So, to resume:

Aboard the alien cylinder, Commander Fulexian was losing his patience. Despite his best efforts, the hatch to the interior of the object remained inaccessible. To make matters worse, the Cardassian boarding party was on its way to the away team’s location. Soon they would be trapped between them and the hatch. The Andorian was the Adventure’s science officer, not security chief; but even he could see that this was not a strategically advantageous position to maintain.

He ordered the team withdraw to avoid contact with the Cardassians. They would likely have no more luck accessing the hatch than he had, anyway. The Cardassians pursued the away team, pausing just long enough to vaporize the helpless Ferengi salvage crew in retaliation for the attack on their ship, when a stroke of luck occurred: the outer walls of the cylinder shifted suddenly, cutting of the Cardassians from the away team. With a little more room to breathe, Fulexian ordered his team to resume their exploration.

Meanwhile, aboard the Adventure, Lieutenant Beta informed Commander (now Acting-Captain) Logan that the Cardassians had some reinforcements on the way…three Hideki-class cruisers were entering the system, course uncertain but probably bound for the cylinder. The odds were changing, and Logan knew she needed to protect the science outpost as her primary duty. She ordered Beta to lay in a course to intercept the Sindral before Gul Drazel could reach New Coriolanus.

The conflict was swift and decisive. Gul Drazel was not inclined to further discussion, especially since once the Adventure gave chase, the Ferengi took the opportunity to destroy the helpless Cardassian ship. The Sindral fired on the Adventure, but the shields held. In response, Lieutenant Commander Pak targeted the Sindral’s weapons and engines with the phaser arrays. The shots blew through the Cardassian shields, disabling the vessel and leaving it adrift. Commander Logan berated Daimon Nogrix (who had returned to the bridge) for the cowardly actions of his crew and banished him from the bridge once again, while the crew of the Adventure took the brief respite to restore power and repair the shields before the Cardassian reinforcements arrived.

It was then that Lieutenant Beta informed Commander Logan that there was another Cardassian vessel on a course to the system, Legate Jabrel’s ship: the Ma’bran, a Keldon-class destroyer, bigger and more heavily-armed than the Sindral. To make matters worse, some kind of dimensional disturbance was forming several million kilometers away from the cylinder’s present position, directly in its path.

Aboard the cylinder, the away team discovered a strange anomaly of thier own. There was some kind of portal opening in the very corridor they were presently exploring. Wasting no time, and in accordance with his value “Defeat Ignorance”, Commander Fulexian ordered the away team through the portal. They arrived in the vast expanse of the interior of the cylinder, somehow separated from where they were by a dimensional barrier.

The away team found themselves surrounded by crisscrossing lattices and struts containing row upon row of smooth, ovular pods made from the same alien metal that seemed to defy tricorder classification. Although there were no life signs present, both Lieutenant Suvak and Ensign Tamral could sense the pervasive presence of a great many consciousnesses, all utterly alien and incomprehensible. Scans of the pods revealed there was indeed organic matter inside; but matter that showed no signs of life or decomposition. After several more scanning attempts, they were able to determine the pods contained vaguely humanoid forms, roughly 2.5 meters tall, with long limbs and featureless faces.

There was no power to any of the pods; or indeed, to anything in the cylinder, so far as they could tell. If these were stasis pods, they were not being maintained by any conventional means. The away team was metaphorically and literally in the dark.

Repeated attempts to reach the collective consciousness, either telepathically or empathically, had failed. Commander Fulexian, thoroughly frustrated, made the decision to open one of the pods, heedless of the possible consequences or ramifications. He simply had to know…

Meanwhile, the Adventure’s readings of the alien cylinder showed something alarming: it was beginning to accelerate, heading straight towards the now fully-formed dimensional rift. It would pass through it in a little under ten minutes, taking the entire away team with it unless Commander Logan could get them back aboard Adventure in time. The Sindral was disabled, and the Prized Possession was soon to have its hands full with the Cardassian reinforcements. For the time being, New Coriolanus was out of danger. She ordered the Adventure to close with the cylinder and beam the away team back, once they were in transporter range.

“Open it up,” ordered Commander Fulexian. The rest of the away team exchanged glances.

“But, sir…” protested Ensign Tamral, “we don’t have enough information..”

“I said open it!” yelled Fulexian, his Andorian antennae quivering. But before anyone could do anything, the entire away team was beamed back aboard Adventure to be met by the smiling face of Transporter Chief O’Malley.

“I got ’em, Commander..er, I mean, Captain,” said O’Malley.

“Good news,” said Logan. “Away team, report to your posts.”

The away team filed out of the transporter room. All except Commander Fulexian. He pulled his phaser and shot O’Malley, stunning the hapless transporter chief. Then he hurriedly set the transporter controls to beam himself back aboard the cylinder.

He had to know.

By the time Commander Logan got word of Fulexian’s actions, it was too late. Defying physics and logic; and seemingly without any known propulsion system; the cylinder accelerated to warp speed and entered the rift. It closed seconds later, taking both the alien cylinder and Chief Science Officer Shazak Fulexian with it.

All that was left was to mop up. Daimon Nogrix was beamed back aboard his ship, the Prized Possession. Since there was no profit to be had now that the alien cylinder was gone, and since he was soon to be facing three Cardassian corvettes and a Keldon-class destroyer on his own (Commander Logan made it clear he could expect no further assistance from the Adventure), he made the tactical decision to withdraw, vowing to report the actions of Captain Boardman and Commander Logan to his government. Legate Jabrel’s ship, the Ma’bren, went to the aid of Gul Drazel’s ship, the Sindral; while the three corvettes pursued the Ferengi. The Adventure took up a protective position around New Coriolanus, warily watching the Cardassians; but once repairs were complete, the Cardassians left the system without a word. Strange.

The Adventure remained in orbit around New Coriolanus until a small detachment of Federation ships arrived. These ships would maintain a presence in the system to ensure the Cardassians didn’t return. With the safety of the science outpost sorted, Commander Logan ordered the Adventure to break orbit and return to Outpost 51.

She was not looking forward to making her report…

Lower Decks: TNG

My latest Modiphius Star Trek set is one of my favorites: The Next Generation Away Team. Like the Original Series Landing Party, you get a pair (one male and one female) of Vulcan, Human, Denobulan, Tellarite and Andorian miniatures, for a total of 10 crewmen you can customize by Division as you see fit. Of course, ten is not evenly divisible by three, so you have to pick which uniform color you want to assign to the extra miniature. Once again, I chose the blue shirts (Science and Medical Division), which is weird, because I distinctly remember telling myself I needed more gold uniforms (Security and Engineering). Not sure how that didn’t happen. Must have been my subconscious at work.

This is a good set. Putting aside my problems with Modiphius in general, the poses are good and the miniatures look great. I have no complaints. These sculpts look a lot better than the TNG bridge crew, which was a real missed opportunity for Modiphius, in my opinion.

My favorite miniature is the male Andorian I’ve painted as a security officer; followed closely by the Human female to the left (I painted her in Command red). My least favorite is the female Tellarite (same as it was in the TOS set), but it’s still a perfectly fine miniature and it’s not like I hate it.

This brings my Star Trek painting almost to a close. I only have 5 more Modiphius Trek miniatures to paint, and they’re all from the “Iconic Villains” set. With the exception of Gul Dukat (my favorite Trek villain), I have no immediate need for any of them (and probably no long-term need, either), so they’re pretty low on my priority list at the moment.

I still hope to get one more submission in for Forgotten Heroes by month’s end, so check back soon!

My Dinner with Mugato

The following excerpt is from my forthcoming book, Domo Arigato, Mr. Mugato, soon to be available at fine booksellers everywhere.

From a small part in a popular 60’s science fiction show to the entertainment tour-de-force he is today, Mugato has been a giant on stage and screen over the last five decades. I caught up to him in London, where he was in the midst of a two-month engagement at the Southwark Playhouse. His portrayal of Torvald in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House has been called a masterclass in the Stanislavsky method.

AP: Mr. Mugato. It’s truly an honor. Thank you for meeting with me.

M: Please. Call me Mugato.

AP: Thanks. Sorry, I’m just a little nervous.

M: Don’t worry. I don’t bite. Not anymore, anyway (laughs).

AP: Do you mind if we talk about Star Trek?

M: Why would I mind?

AP: Well, it’s just that some people have said…

M: That I don’t like talking about it? Nah. I’d like to think I’ve done better work, that’s all.

AP: Of course. But…

M: Ask your questions, kid.

The role that started it all…

AP: Do you remember how you got the part?

M: Right place, right time, I guess. In ’67 I was working as a caterer in the Hollywood hills. Serving drinks, wiping tables…you know. One night I was working a party at Roddenberry’s house. He must have liked my look, because he told me to come to Desilu the next day. Couple of hours after that, I was tackling Bill Shatner on planet Mongo, or wherever the hell they were that week (laughs).

AP: And from there a star was born.

Mugato and Lucille Ball.

M: Not quite…I got offered a lot of parts after that, became the toast of the town. Everyone wanted me around. I was Hollywood royalty. But then came the seventies…

AP: Right. The blacklisting, because of the war.

M: Well, they didn’t call it that, not officially. Everyone was still raw from the fifties. But, Jane (that’s Jane Fonda; I call her Jane) Jane and I sure as hell couldn’t get any good work once everyone found out how we felt about the war. If that’s not a blacklist, I don’t know what it is.

AP: Still, you managed to find work…

M: Sure. My unique look gave me an advantage. I’m lucky. I’m a humanoid, apelike creature with a lethally venomous bite, so obviously I can play just about anything. It’s tough to typecast me, so no one ever tried. Melvin hired me, then Russ…it was an interesting time.

AP: You mean Melvin Van Peebles? And Russ Meyer, right?

M: You got it. Mel gave me that part in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Russ gave me the lead in Watch It Jiggle.

AP: Do you regret any of those movies?

M: Nope. Both gave me the chance to show my range as an actor, and Russ helped me understand that I like boobs. (Chuckles).

AP: About that…over the years you’ve been linked romantically to Raquel Welch, Uschi Digard and Serena Grandi, to name a few. But the most persistent rumor is that Carly Simon’s famous song, You’re So Vain, is about you. Is it?

M: I dunno. We dated for a while. You’d have to ask Carly. Anyway, I don’t kiss and tell.

AP: In an April, 1987 interview with Cinema Verite, Stanley Kubrick claimed that the five greatest actors of the last 100 years were Olivier, Welles, Streep, Day-Lewis…and Mugato.

M: I saw it. That was kind of Stan to say.

AP: What do you think?

M: I mean, I’m flattered, but I think Bobby D and Marlon got screwed (laughs).

AP: Yet you never worked with Kubrick, even though it’s rumored he had you in mind for Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket.

M: Yeah…Stan thought I’d be all over that because of my not-so-private stance on Vietnam. But I was ready to move on from that. I was doing a lot of coke at the time, too. That’s probably what cost me the lead in Children of a Lesser God earlier that year. Still, Bill Hurt did ok, I guess. So did D’onofrio.

AP: That brings us to the nineties…

M: Yeah, look…not to be rude, but I have a curtain call in 10 minutes. I do mostly theatre now. Back to basics. But remember, I didn’t get my start in the theatre. I’m doing things in reverse. Make sure you write that in your book.

AP: OK, one last question?

M: Sure.

AP: Why don’t you go to Star Trek conventions?

M: You’re kidding, right? (sighs). Look, I was practically a kid when Star Trek aired. Bill, De, Leonard…they were ok to me, but I wouldn’t call them my friends. Jimmy Doohan and I once ran into each other over at Pink’s, getting hot dogs. That was years later. By then I was a bigger name than him. But hey, Jimmy was all right.

The short version is that those guys and me…we only worked together long enough for me to attack Kirk and then get disintegrated. There wasn’t much chance of a recurring role after that happens to your character, and I was in demand elsewhere. I guess I’ll always be grateful to Roddenberry for giving me my shot. But I took it and managed to do pretty well. I managed to make some decent coin in this business, and I’m not looking back. Those conventions are just…sad. Anyway, thanks for dropping by, kid.

Thus, for a brief time, I had been in the presence of a master of his craft. I still had a million other questions for Mugato, but that was undeniably a dismissal. Regretfully, I shook his three-clawed paw and took my leave.

Monster May(hem) is winding down, and I’m happy to say I still have one more contribution to make, most likely on the last day. But…it’s my big ‘un this year, so if all goes well I will be happy indeed.

Be sure to check out all the other participants. Harry posted some pictures of his completed High Elf Dragon, Matt made the most terrifying (and clever) monster of all, and Ken completed a couple of Displacer Beasts that look great! That just leaves His Crow-ness, and I have faith he’ll deliver by the end of the month. (But even if he doesn’t, he’s been up to some pretty impressive Dr. Who gaming and diorama-making over on his site. You should go there and see.)

Blogroll

Roger, aka Dick Garrison, from Rantings From Under the Wargames Table

Dave Stone from Wargames Terrain Workshop

Matt from PMPainting

Coyotepunc from Coyotepunc’s Creativity

Ken from Blue Moose Arts

Jeremy, aka Carrion Crow, from Carrion Crow’s Buffet

Harry from War Across the Ages

You can find links to all these blogs (and others) in the sidebar as well!

Star Trek Adventures: The Big Sleep Part 3

With the Cardassians powering up their disruptor banks and the Ferengi vessel responding in kind, things were not going well. Remarkably, Commander Logan managed to convince the leaders of both ships to meet aboard the Adventure, to see if they could somehow resolve their differences without armed conflict.

Daimon Nogrix and Gul Drazel met across the table in Captain Boardman’s ready room. Commander Logan took the lead and tried to negotiate a peaceful resolution, mindful of her own away team aboard the alien cylinder. Nogrix began to angle for the best deal he could, a deal which would include, ideally, sole possession of the object and the protection of the Adventure. It soon became clear that Gul Drazel had no intention of negotiating anything. He once again insisted that the mysterious object was the property of the Cardassian Union, and that he fully intended to destroy the Prized Possession for their previous attack on a Cardassian vessel. Staring daggers at Nogrix, Drazel abruptly declared that the meeting was over and left the room, transporting back to his flagship, the Sindral.

This left Nogrix alone with Captain Boardman and Commander Logan, a situation he found to his liking, at least until Lieutenant Beta informed the Captain that the Sindral had broken ranks with the other two Cardassian ships and set a course inbound towards the science outpost on New Coriolanus. While the crew discussed this development, the other two Galor-class ships powered up their weapons and opened fire on the Prized Possession.

Meanwhile, aboard the alien cylinder, Commander Fulexian had his hands full; a Ferengi salvage team had covertly beamed aboard and had taken up positions around the away team. The crew was not prepared for an assault, as they weren’t expecting any trouble when they initially transported over. Acting quickly, Lt. Commander Suvak decidd to modify the mass spectrometer to emit a high-frequency sound wave, inaudible to the crew but overwhelming to sensitive Ferengi ears. Assisted by Chief Specialist J’zhara, Suvak managed to make his engineering modifications successfully. The entire Ferengi salvage team collapsed, stunned!

Fulexian gave orders and the Ferengi were quickly disarmed. With this threat dealt with, he turned his attention back to the hatch. He could find no obvious way to open it, and it defied brute force attempts. While they searched for a solution, Suvak and Ensign Tamral tuned their attention to the mysterious consciousnesses they could sense all around them. It’s was as if they were in a darkened theater; aware of the other patrons and hearing their whispered conversations, but they could not make out any meaning or message.

Suvak decided to attempt communication by means of a Vulcan mind-meld. As there was no physical being present, he attempted to meld directly with the cylinder. Ensign Tamral assisted him with her empathic abilities, but the mind-meld was unsuccessful, revealing only that the consciousnesses aboard the cylinder were concentrated behind the hatch, deeper within the object, despite there being no detectable life signs. They didn’t have much time to ponder this, however; as Ensign Tamral sensed the presence of a more immediate problem; a team of Cardassians just transported over to the cylinder. Their intentions were most definitely hostile.

Understanding the Sindral posed a threat to the Federation science outpost, Captain Boardman leapt into action. Leaving Commander Logan in command of the Adventure, he took the remaining runabout, the Yoruba, and set off in pursuit of the Sindral. His intent was to evacuate the science outpost using the Yoruba and the runabout they left at the outpost. It was a really stupid plan, and Boardman was never seen again. Most likely he’s counting lights in a Cardassian prison somewhere.

(The group had previously discussed getting rid of Captain Boardman and promoting Commander Logan to captain, as Boardman was more of a hindrance than an asset to group play. My reasoning for having an NPC captain is because I wanted to avoid having one player dictate the actions of all the characters. My heart was in the right place, but Boardman just got in the way. I was going to kill him off in the coming battle, but the group decided his fate for me. This was much funnier.)

The Ferengi Marauder traded fire with the two Cardassian ships. Commander Logan ordered Red Alert status and Lt. Commander Pak raised shields. Unfortunately for everyone, Daimon Nogrix was still aboard the Adventure, not having had an opportunity to transport back to the Prized Possession before both ships raised shields. He immediately made himself a nuisance on the bridge. I spent some Threat to add the Scenic Trait: Annoying Ferengi on the Bridge. Nogrix’s presence would make any Tasks the bridge crew might attempt more difficult for as long as this Trait was in place.

Fortunately for Commander Logan, this wasn’t for long. Lt. Commander Pak, Chief of Security, politely escorted the Ferengi from the bridge after overwhelming him with her formidable presence. In Main Engineering, Ensign Mokta (a supporting character, as Chief Engineer Suvak was on the away team) tried to scan the Galor-class ships for weaknesses. In response, one of the Cardassian ships fired on the Adventure, taking a good chunk out of her shields. But the shields held, and the ship suffered no damage.

In response, Lt. Beta ran an attack pattern, setting up a counterattack. Commander Logan ordered Pak to fire the phaser arrays, targeting the Cardassian ship’s engines. The blast crippled the ship, knocking out the shields, disabling the engines and causing a further breach to the sensor systems. The Cardassian ship was effectively dead in space.

Before the other Cardassian ship could come about, Logan ordered the launch of the rapid-fire torpedo launchers, full spread. The resulting damage was devastating, annihilating the other Galor-class vessel in a fantastic explosion.

Commander Logan was now faced with a dilemma: pursue the Sindral, and leave the away team unprotected; or remain with the cylinder and leave the outpost to the mercy of the Cardassians. Meanwhile, Lt. Beta reported the Prized Possession was largely undamaged and about to make a run at the helpless Cardassian cruiser. Logan hailed the Ferengi vessel and warned them off, but not before Nogrix returned to the bridge and insisted the Adventure finish off the Cardassians.

Logan ignored him, and set off in pursuit of the Sindral, hoping to catch it before Gul Drazel could use the science outpost as a bargaining chip in pressing his claim to the mysterious object. Once again, hailing frequencies were opened.

Gul Drazel promised Logan and the crew that they would regret their interference in this matter and their decision to assist the Ferengi. He knew all about the Adventure from Legate Jabrel, who informed every Cardassian vessel in the sector of their previous treachery involving the Maquis. Logan reminded Drazel that he was leaving behind Cardassian soldiers to die, as the Ferengi were unlikely to show them any mercy if the Adventure had to chase the Sindral. Drazel stated flatly that death in service to the state is the highest honor a Cardassian can achieve. With a wicked grin, he said he hopes the scientists on New Coriolanus feel the same way…

Star Trek Adventures: The Big Sleep Part 2

The away team beams back up to the Adventure, which breaks orbit around New Coriolanus to investigate the strange object detected on the fringes of the system. On the viewscreen, the object is revealed to be a featureless cylinder (I know what you’re thinking, but that’s where the similarities end), roughly 2 km long by 1.2 km in diameter. It is moving quite rapidly, but is not moving at warp. The cylinder is rotating around its central axis. Its present course and speed will take it into orbit around New Coriolanus in 3 standard days.

Hails to the object are unanswered. Scans reveal it is hollow; spinning at a rate of .86 rotations per minute, with a rim velocity of 104 m/s. This would, theoretically, create artificial gravity inside the object approximate to standard Earth gravity. The method of propulsion is unknown. There are no readings that would indicate atomic, ion or chemical engines; and, although moving fast, the object is not moving at warp. There are no life signs detected inside.

Commander Logan forms an away team to investigate, consisting of Commander Fulexian (Science Officer) and Lieutenant Commander Suvak (Chief Engineer); accompanied by two supporting characters: Chief Specialist J’zhara (Engineering) and Ensign Mara Tamral (Medical Officer). Commander Logan remains aboard the Adventure to assist Captain Boardman. Lieutenant Beta likewise remains at the helm. The away team brings along a mass spectrometer in addition to their tricorders, to better evaluate and analyze any samples taken from the mysterious object.

The team beams aboard, arriving inside to find themselves in a long, featureless corridor. Tricorder scans reveal that the vast emptiness of the interior of the cylinder is above them. They are traversing the interior surface of the object. It is eerily silent and completely dark. There is no hum of machinery, no vibration of engine operation to be felt. The crew’s voices do not echo, as would be expected. The walls, floors and ceilings have no adornment or markings on them at all, and are made of an unknown metal. The corridor they occupy seems to tun the entire length of the cylinder, with many branching and intersecting passages. Exploring them would take months.

While the team gets it bearings, Suvak, a Vulcan, and Ensign Tamral, a Betazoid, both feel that they are not alone. Despite their tricorders registering no life signs aboard, the two officers can feel the presence of many consciousnesses, utterly alien and incomprehensible.

Meanwhile, outside the strange object, a new arrival to the system drops out of warp. A D’Kora-class Ferengi Marauder, the Prized Possession, hails the Adventure. Appearing onscreen is the huge face of a Ferengi, who identifies himself as Daimon Nogrix. Nogrix claims “sole and proprietary salvage rights to the…object” under the Ferengi Salvage Code. This allows him to take possession of any abandoned property. He discovered this “thing” several days ago and staked a claim to it then, but “circumstances developed” he had to leave the area. Now, he has returned, and he wants his property.

Technically, it’s not the captain’s responsibility to determine what is and isn’t abandoned property, or to regulate trade agreements; but Captain Boardman (played by Zach in this particular scene, as his primary character, Suvak, is aboard the object) immediately denies the Ferengi claim without so much as a hearing.

Predictably, this angers Nogrix. He claims to be “very important” in the Ferengi government, and implies that dire consequences, perhaps of a career-ending or diplomatic incident-causing nature, may result if the crew doesn’t show him proper respect and honor his claim.

Meanwhile, the away team continues to investigate the vast interior of the object. They can find no door, hatch, or means of ingress to the main area of the cylinder; and every passage seems to defy tricorder mapping. They discover that parts of the outer cylinder seem to be spinning at different speeds, which results in corridors shifting and changing constantly.

(In game terms, this investigation is an Extended Task; a series of skill checks that build a number of successes in order to complete a work track. The characters’ success rate is dictated by the difficulty of the task and opposed by a certain amount of resistance, which removes successes, costing more time. A good analogy would be to equate the work track with hit points and resistance with armor; each success removes a hit point, while each level of resistance (armor) prevents a success.)

Commander Fulexian continues to scan the interior using his tricorder, assisted by Chief Specialist J’zhara. Meanwhile, Suvak tries a different approach. Assisted by Ensign Tamral, they attempt to navigate their way around by telepathically “following” the consciousnesses they both can feel. The combination of both methods yields results. About an hour later, they discover the faint outline of a hatch in the ceiling. If accessed, this would presumably lead further towards the center of the cylinder.

Aboard the Adventure, Lieutenant Beta reports that ship sensors are detecting more arrivals to the system: three Cardassian Galor-class cruisers entering at high warp, making a beeline for the Prized Possession. Damon Nogrix hails the Adventure, and demands that Captain Boardman assist him in protecting his property from the Cardassian interlopers. Before Boardman can reply, the commander of the Cardassian squadron, Gul Drazel, hails the Adventure. He states plainly that he intends to destroy the Ferengi vessel in retaliation for a previous attack. He further states the “object” is the property of the Cardassian Union, and that the Ferengi stole it after the Cardassians staked their claim. Gul Drazel warns Captain Boardman not to interfere before terminating communications and adopting an attack formation.

Back aboard the mysterious object, Commander Fulexian attempts to access the hatch by finding its operating mechanism. Before he can, the crew hears sounds indicating new arrivals to the interior: a Ferengi salvage team taking up positions in intersecting corridors, setting up a crossfire. None of the away team are security personnel; and they are very much outgunned (especially since I spent some Threat to increase the number of Ferengi). It’s not looking good…

“We Are The Borg.”

“Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”

I bought these Modiphius Borg Collective miniatures at the end of last year, since the price was right at $24 for the set. You get 10 Borg drones, an even mix of male and female. A good amount of them are one-piece castings requiring no assembly (beyond basing), so that’s a plus. The ones that do require assembly are just as fiddly as ever to put together. Sigh.

Six of the models are duplicates (three male, three female), while the remaining four have different poses. Since one Borg drone is pretty much the same as any other (kinda the Borg raison d’etre), this lack of variety doesn’t really bother me much. Same goes for the “scenic” bases; they’re standard deck plates, which makes sense for the Borg as they’re constantly assimilating starships.

Painting them was ridiculously easy, although tedious. I used mostly Citadel paints: the skin (what little there is of it) was based in Rakarth Flesh, then washed with Agrax Earthshade. Then I applied a highlight of Flayed One Flesh and a final highlight of Pallid Wych Flesh. This is the same skin recipe I used for Solomon Grundy. He’s a pasty fellow, too.

The Borg “uniform” was based in Vallejo Heavy Charcoal, drybrushed with Citadel Celestra Grey. washed with Citadel Nuln Oil, then given a final highlight of Citadel Longbeard Grey. The metal bits were based in Vallejo Gunmetal Grey and highighted with Citadel Mithril Silver.

Between composing this post and actually publishing it, I acquired another box of Borg (part of a two-box deal with the Next Generation-era away team). I didn’t plan it, but I guess having more Borg isn’t a bad thing, as every time they assimilate someone, they make a new Borg.

Since the price was also right ($18.97), I bought the Star Trek Iconic Villains set, too (I wouldn’t have bought it, otherwise). I’ll eventually get around to painting that set, but it’s a pretty low priority. I mention it here because three of the iconic villains are Lore, Locutus of Borg and the Borg Queen, who actually does have a scenic base other than a deck plate, complete with snaking cables and power conduits. Since I can’t see using either Locutus or the Queen without some standard Borg drones (and since I painted them at the same time as this set) I included them here, along with Lore.

Locutus and the One Who is Many.

These make up the entirety of the miniatures I have painted thus far in 2020, which is a pitiful output, considering current circumstances are pretty much confining me to my home. I have been wholly preoccupied with The Witcher 3 and running my Star Trek Adventures campaign (game tonight! woohoo!), and thus my painting has suffered.

BUT: Around the corner is May, which has traditionally been “Monster Month” over here at Dead Dick’s Tavern. This year I think I’ll open it up as a painting challenge to any and all who want to participate. More on that soon.

For this year, I decided to “reset the clock” on the Insanity Pile, that way it will give me a more accurate account at the end of the year.

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Purchased in 2020: 20

Miniatures Painted in 2020: 23

Total +3

Tug of War: A Fantastic Worlds Star Trek AAR

Captain’s Log Supplemental: We have escaped the Klingon prison and regrouped in the jungles of Hubbard’s World. Mr. Scott has beamed down a security team to assist us. We managed to retrieve our tricorders and have set off in pursuit of the source of the strange energy that seems to be the cause of the unchecked, sentient plant life here on the the planet. Being above ground again should feel good, but the oppressive humidity hasn’t gone anywhere and once more, it’s difficult to breathe. None of us, except perhaps Mr. Sulu, will be sad to leave this place.

The air shimmered as three humanoid forms began to take shape. A moment later, Lt. Hikaru Sulu and two Starfleet security officers stood in the clearing. They glanced around for a moment before Sulu approached the Captain.

“Security team reporting, sir,” Sulu said.

Kirk grinned. “Nice to see you, Mr. Sulu.”

“Nice to be seen, Captain.”

“Glad you could join us. Although I was expecting Mr. Chekov.”

“I pulled rank on him, sir,” said Sulu. “Sentient plants. I wasn’t about to miss that. Hope you don’t mind, sir.”

“Not at all. Your knowledge of botany could come in handy. It’s a…rather unique…place.”

McCoy grinned at Sulu. “Glad to have you along. At least now we won’t have to hear about how the Russians invented plants.”

“Now that we are all present,” said Spock, “I recommend we proceed with haste to the site of the tricorder readings. The Klingons are certainly not waiting.”

“Agreed,” said Kirk. “Fan out, everyone, and watch for threats. Spock, take point. We’ll follow you.”

A few minutes later, they followed Spock into another underground cavern. They could hear the echoes of raised voices arguing in Klingon. Kirk motioned for the team to take up positions silently and crept forward, accompanied by Spock and McCoy. In the midst of the cavern was a strange machine pulsing with visible energy. The Klingons kept a healthy distance from it, but it was clear it was the focus of their attention.

“That machine is the source of the energy, Captain,” said Spock. “It is almost certainly extraterrestrial in origin; nothing like it has been observed on this world.”

“Jim, look!” McCoy pointed. Guarded closely by a pair of brutish Klingons was a bedraggled and exhausted-looking Dr. Hubbard. A Klingon with the unmistakable aura of authority barked an order and Hubbard began working feverishly with his tricorder. Whatever he attempted must have failed, as a moment later, the Klingon captain swore loudly. He whirled on Hubbard and the scientist quailed.

“Looks like they’re trying to beam that doohickey out of here,” said McCoy. “Hubbard is probably being forced to help.”

“Agreed, Captain,” said Spock. “However, removing the doohickey would ensure the catastrophic destruction of this planet’s ecosystem. It is therefore imperative that the Klingons not succeed at their endeavor.”

Whatever reply Kirk was about to make was cut off as the ground began to tremble violently. “All right,” Kirk said when it subsided, “it seems time is against us. Rescue the doctor if possible, but make sure the Klingons don’t get what they’re after. Let’s go.”

Scenario: It’s the final showdown with the Klingons over the alien technology responsible for the plant life on Hubbard’s World. The Klingons are trying to beam the machine off-world, but they need Dr. Hubbard’s help to do that. The Enterprise crew is trying to stop them and rescue Dr. Hubbard. Meanwhile, the strange alien machine is protecting itself…it doesn’t want to go anywhere!

Victory Conditions: The Klingons win if they succeed at beaming the machine off-world, or if both Kirk and Spock are KO’ed at the same time. The Enterprise crew wins if they manage to KO both the Klingon Captain and the Klingon Lieutenant before the machine is beamed off-world. Should this occur, the remaining Klingons surrender.

Forces: The Klingons have a Klingon Captain (Grade 3), a Klingon Lieutenant (Grade 2), and four Klingon Warriors (Grade 1). The Captain also has two more Klingon Warriors in reserve, not deployed at the start of the game. Starfleet has Captain Kirk (Grade 3), Mr. Spock (Grade 2), Dr. McCoy (Grade 2), Mr Sulu (Grade 1), and two Security Officers (Grade 1). The two teams deploy on opposite table corners, with the alien machine smack in the middle.

Special Rules:

Countdown: There are no encounter markers in this scenario; rather an event deck randomly determines what occurs at the beginning of each round. Three of the cards in the deck represent a Klingon transporter lock; once the third such card is in play, the machine is beamed off-planet at the start of the next round and the Klingons win. If Dr. Hubbard is rescued before the Klingons achieve the third transporter lock, Starfleet wins.

Dr. Hubbard: Dr. Hubbard is crucial to this scenario. The Klingons are holding Dr. Hubbard hostage and forcing him to work for them, as their transporter technology isn’t as good as Starfleet’s. As long as there is a Klingon model within 2″ of Dr. Hubbard, he is captive. If that ever changes, Dr. Hubbard makes a run for it. He can’t sprint of fight, but he will move towards the nearest Starfleet model at his full move. He is recaptured if a Klingon moves within 2″ again. He is automatically rescued if a Starfleet model moves within 2″ of him and there are no Klingons within 2″.

Dr. Hubbard is scared, but he’s still a Starfleet officer and he doesn’t want the Klingons to succeed. Two of the cards in the deck represent intentional miscalculations designed to give the Enterprise crew more time to stop the Klingons. If one of these cards is drawn, shuffle a transporter lock card back into the event deck.

Dr. Hubbard cannot be the target of an attack, nor is he affected by any events in the Event Deck.

The Alien Machine: The machine cannot be attacked or destroyed. The Klingons want it too badly, and Strafleet would never risk damaging the planet.

Turn 1: The Klingons get the first turn. Before they act, an event is drawn from the deck: Dr. Hubbard manages to get a transporter lock on the alien machine! Not off to a good start for Starfleet! The rest of the turn is taken up by movement. The Klingons move towards the machine, maintaining cover for the most part, while the Enterprise crew splits up, attempting to flank the Klingons. One Klingon soldier tries to shoot Ensign S’lyr, the Vulcan security officer, but he misses.

Turn 2: The Klingons retain initiative. The event deck draw is a cave-in! The Klingon player nominates an enemy model-in this case, he decides to stick with the Vulcan security officer, Ensign S’lyr. She fails her Dodge test and is buried under a ton of cascading rock! Oh, the humanity (Vulcanity?)!

Now, sadly, as I write this, I have discovered that my iPhone’s voice memos, which I use to record these little game sessions for later transcription, just decided to NOT FUCKING WORK. So, apologies to all. I am winging the rest of this, because my FUCKING iPhone FUCKED ME. So, no turn-by-turn anymore. I’ll just give the general results as I recall them. Above: Kirk kills a Klingon soldier. I forget the context.

At some point, the Klingon Captain made use of his “Meet My Minions” ability, which allows him to instantly “summon” two low-grade henchmen to his person. These Klingons were the models not deployed at the start of the game.

Captain Kirk promptly shot one of them after shooting the Klingon above. He spent Hero Points to do it. The Klingon Captain shoots Kirk, and uses his own Hero Points to activate his Deadly Accuracy ability. This increases the strength of his disruptor enough to cause 2 wounds instead of one. Ouch!

Spock shot the Klingon Captain and managed to KO him. I forget how. I think Kirk might have shot him first. But I forget.

Meanwhile, the Klingon Lieutenant snuck around the rock, trying to flank Sulu. Some Klingon shot and killed the Andorian security officer, Ensign Vendax.

Not sure of the Turn here (FUCK YOU, iPhone!), but the Klingon Lieutenant charged Sulu and put him down hard. I made the Klingons beasts in melee, as they should be. Sulu’s no slouch, but he got charged from behind.

It looks bad for Starfleet, but the event deck draw is an energy burst from the machine that knocks down anyone who fails a Dodge test. Everyone above who is on their ass, except for Sulu and the Klingon Captain, who are both Ko’ed, got knocked over by the burst.

This gave Starfleet some breathing room. McCoy shot the Klingon Captain, who had revived but wasn’t able to stand up in time. He KO’ed him again. Kirk shot the Klingon Lieutenant, KO’ing him, too. With their leadership decimated, the remaining Klingons surrendered!

Victory for Starfleet!

R.I.P. to the fallen Starfleet security officers of the Hubbard’s World campaign. L-R: Ensign Gatwick, Ensign Heathrow, Ensign Stansted, Ensign S’lyr, Ensign Vendax.

Cue the bagpipes, Mr. Scott.

Analysis: This short campaign was a lot of fun. I’m happy with the changes I made to the Fantastic Worlds rules, as they only served to speed play by eliminating some of the bookkeeping. If I had opted to track wound locations and effects, the games would have undoubtedly been longer, but I’m not sure anything would have been gained by it.

To be honest, Starfleet was on a losing streak and I didn’t think they would pull it off. I do know there was an event in the deck that could have made things more interesting: the machine would have animated some of the Deathspitter plants, which would have been another obstacle for both players to deal with. The luck of the draw was with the players, however, and that particular card never appeared.

Starfleet tried to get close enough to the Klingon guarding Dr. Hubbard in the hopes of shooting him and freeing the doctor, but he was deployed too far away.

On a personal note, I am really annoyed with Apple, as my voice memos recorded, but can’t be played back. A quick visit to the Apple forums shows that I’m not the only person to experience this, and Apple doesn’t seem to have a solution beyond “upgrade to the latest iPhone.” Bullshit. From now on I’ll use a digital recorder, circa 1999. At least it will do what it’s supposed to.

I want to do another FW Star Trek campaign soon, perhaps using the TNG crew. I have an idea already…

The New Golden Age of RPGs

A funny thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I got a notification from Amazon that my package had been delivered, which I found odd because I did not recall ordering anything. I ventured outside and lo and behold, a mysterious box was resting comfortably on my doorstep. I opened it up and found this:

I checked my order history and sure enough, I had ordered it the night before, but I had no memory of doing so. I opened up the liquor cabinet and regarded the level of gin in the bottle with a critical eye.

Well, that one look explained a lot.

My first impression of the game is that it looks like a lot of fun. With rules for running both cinematic games (where you’re likely to die) and campaigns (where you might live), it’s a comprehensive system that’s very true to the source material. The book itself is beautiful, but to be honest it could be about half the size; much of the pages are light on actual text, taken up instead with (beautiful) illustrations and lots of empty space. It’s a design choice, but it also contributes to the cost of the finished product. I don’t know if I’ll ever run it or play it, but it’s a great read nonetheless and it has inspired me to dig out my Dark Horse Aliens comics for some re-reading.

I have been on a RPG buying spree lately. It started before Christmas (when I was supposed to be shopping for others) and hasn’t really let up. In addition to my unexpected Alien purchase, I bought all of these:

Not to mention several supplements and sourcebooks for Star Trek Adventures and Red Markets not pictured here. (Addiction is a disease, people, and it’s real. Sadly, one addiction often feeds another, as in the case of my gin-fueled Amazon binge that made me the owner of a hardcopy of the Alien RPG.)

The keen-eyed among you may notice I haven’t even opened my 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons set or my Delta Green set yet. This is because I have been all-in on getting my Star Trek Adventures game up and running (more on that soon ) and delving deeply into Red Markets, which is a 400+ page hardcover I had printed at Indie Press Revolution. (I just can’t seem to navigate PDFs very well. I prefer books.)

What do these games have in common? Well, all of them have received stellar reviews, and all of them are extremely well-produced. I became aware of some of them from listening to various podcasts and watching YouTube videos. The small press is king nowadays, and Kickstarter has a lot to do with that. Otherwise it’s unlikely games like Red Markets would ever get made, and that is a shame indeed, because it’s pretty damn cool, with a system that is unique, innovative and often very harsh.

I have been a Call of Cthulhu player since I was in high school, and D&D since well before that. So why buy into new editions? Put simply, because that’s what people play nowadays. My last edition of CoC was the d20 OGL edition, which was great (at least I thought so, but I like the d20 system). Previous to that it was 5th edition. Now I can’t hear enough great things about 7th edition, and it’s what my friends play. If I want to run a game (and I do), then this is the way to do it. Ditto with Dungeons and Dragons. My last edition was 3.5. I skipped the horror of 4th edition entirely, and would have been happy to play 3.5, Pathfinder or even go back to 2nd edition for the rest of my life. But once again, I hear the buzz, and it’s pretty universally great. I picked up the core rulebooks to give it a shot.

I never played Delta Green in its earlier incarnation. Listening to actual play podcasts has given me the fever to run a few games of this, as it’s pretty much made for the one-shot scenario (and that’s about all I can seem to get going nowadays). This current edition has received almost universally positive press. Much like Alien, I don’t know if I’ll ever actually play it, but I know I will enjoy reading it.

Finally: Savage Worlds. I’ve been hearing about this system for years now. Much like Fate and GURPS, it’s a universal roleplaying system that gives players a lot of agency in how they create and play their characters. I haven’t had much time to look these rules over and it’s unlikely that I’ll run a game using them, but I collect rules sets, and always like to see what various systems offer.

I mentioned I wouldn’t have even heard of some of these games if it weren’t for my new love of actual play and gaming podcasts. (Since I don’t get to play very often, I can at least listen as others do.) I’ll list my favorites here, along with my pithy commentary. You can obviously find them anywhere you get podcasts, but I’ll link to their respective homes on the web.

The Roleplaying Exchange: These folks play a lot of games I like, like Star Trek Adventures, Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green and Slasher Flick. This is the first podcast I found, and through it I discovered many of the small-press games I’ve bought since. They share the Red Markets 10K Lakes campaign with Technical Difficulties, so you can find episodes crossing over on both podcasts. In addition to actual play, they do a lot of interviews with game creators and discuss topics related to the roleplaying hobby as well.

Speaking of Technical Difficulties, they play a lot of Red Markets (among other things). I have mixed feelings about this podcast, good and bad. The good: They play small press games. They have a handle on the rules and illustrate them well during the podcast. They have interesting ideas for game scenarios. The bad: they’re mostly annoying people to listen to. You will lose track of how many times someone utters the sentence “That’s fair”, often when there was never any question of the fairness of anything. (It’s like a shared nervous tic.) Not everyone is insufferable; some regular players are funny and interesting in spite of the podcast’s shortcomings. But sadly, it’s often true that there’s always at least one huge asshole in every gaming group. (If you don’t think there is one, then chances are it’s probably you.) This group has more than one. I won’t name names, but let’s just say there’s a guy who has to correct everyone all the time, another guy who only plays asshole characters because “that’s what I like to do”, and another guy who always wants to start some player vs. player bullshit. Luckily, not all of these people are on every podcast. Assholish behavior is generally not my cup of tea (YMMV, of course), but I can grit my teeth and enjoy what they do offer, which are some good examples of various games’ rules in play. I learned of several games I would have otherwise missed through this podcast. And I DID subscribe to it, so obviously I feel there is some value in listening.

Terrible Warriors: This is hands-down my favorite actual play group to listen to. The podcasts are all about an hour or less, the pacing is top-notch, they play REALLY interesting games, and the players are fantastic. I would love to play in this group. Unfortunately (for me), they’re based in Toronto. They play a lot of Star Trek Adventures (which is how I found them), but they play a lot of Kickstarter-funded games as well. It’s through them that I discovered so many indie games I would have otherwise never heard of. Recent highlights are Bluebeard’s Bride, a feminine horror game in which the players all play a part of the Bride’s persona (an awesome concept I wish I thought of) as they explore her new home and create their own version of the classic fairy tale; and Zombie World, a diceless card-based rpg that plays so smoothly, I’m dying to try it out. Both of these are from Magpie Games and use the new Powered by the Apocalypse Engine. Well worth a look, and I can’t recommend the podcast enough. Sometimes they get the rules wrong, but they always manage to have a lot of fun nonetheless.

The Lovecraft Tapes: This is an actual play 7th edition Call of Cthulhu podcast that uses Roll20. (It doesn’t look like they’ve done anything for 2020 yet, so maybe they’re on a break.) Although it’s a horror game, it’s often quite funny rather than scary, and the amount of time they put into editing it is apparent. Once again, each session is usually about an hour long. Great fun, with a talented GM.

One Less Die: I became aware of this actual play podcast through the creator’s appearance on the Roleplaying Exchange. It’s still in the early stages, with the beginning episodes focusing on the latest edition of Shadowrun. The Shadowrun campaign is still ongoing, but I started listening when they began a Call of Cthulhu campaign. I got annoyed because one of the players is playing a Russian investigator and he insists on talking like the most over-the-top Pavel Chekov you can imagine, so I bailed on it for a while. It sounded promising, so I’ll probably give it another shot at some point.

Coming next: the conclusion to my Fantastic Worlds Star Trek campaign: Hubbard’s World!

Captured! A Fantastic Worlds Star Trek AAR

Captain’s Log Supplemental: Commander Spock, Dr. McCoy and I have been captured by Klingons and taken to an unknown location. It appears we are in a subterranean cave the Klingons have modified for use as a base of operations. At least we are out of the oppressive heat and humidity of the jungle. They’ve taken our phasers, tricorders and communicators and left us here. Every once in a while, one of them comes by to laugh at us, but for the most part we are left alone. Their arrogance can benefit us. They think we’re helpless. Attempting escape is our first duty. We won’t discover the fate of the science team or the Klingons’ plans by sitting here.

“Klingons sure like their caves dark,” said McCoy. “I can’t see my hand in front of my face.”

“As your hands are presently bound behind your back,” said Spock, “you would be unable to see your hand in any event.”

“The Klingons must want this…strange energy source…very badly,” said Kirk. “Otherwise why risk breaking the Organian Treaty?”

“Klingons aren’t the sharpest tools in the galactic shed, Jim,” McCoy scoffed. “They probably haven’t thought this through very well.”

“Neither are they fools, Doctor,” said Spock. “The energy source seems to have a profound effect on vegetable life, causing exponential growth.”

“That much is obvious, Spock,” McCoy snapped. “You think they’re doing this out of some desire to take up gardening?”

“On the contrary, Doctor, I believe the Klingons are considering harnessing this energy for military purposes. Consider the effect on populated worlds should it be introduced. Plant life would grow unchecked, soon taking over the entire planet.”

“Mother Nature run amok!” Kirk exclaimed. “That has to be it, Spock!”

“It is the most logical of my several working theories, Captain.”

“Well,” said Kirk, “one thing’s for sure. We can’t do much sitting here in this cave. We need to get to the source of that energy and find out what happened to the science team.. We must stop the Klingons!”

“How can we find the source?” McCoy said. “They took our tricorders. They took everything.”

“The tricorders should contain all the data we collected prior to our capture,” Spock said. “If we can recover them, we should be able to find the source.”

“Getting our communicators back would be nice, too,” said Kirk. “We could contact the ship, have Scotty beam down some reinforcements. But first we need to get out of these bonds.”

“How do you suggest we do that, Jim?” asked McCoy. “I’m a doctor, not an escape artist.”

Spock casually dropped his restraints on the floor. “If you will permit me, Doctor, I believe I can soon have you both free.”

McCoy stared at the Vulcan in shock. “Are you telling us you’ve been free this whole time?”

“No, Doctor,” said Spock. “I slipped my bonds 38 seconds ago. I merely thought it prudent to formulate a logical plan of action before we proceed.”

Kirk cut off what was certain to be a loud oath from McCoy. “Gentlemen, I suggest we act quickly, and silently. Our main priority is to locate our gear. We won’t get far without weapons.”

Scenario: The Enterprise crew has been captured by the Klingons and are being held in a cave below ground. They must escape and continue their search for the mysterious energy, and for Dr. Hubbard.

Victory Conditions: In order to win, the Enterprise crew must find their equipment and escape the board via one of two board edges chosen by the Klingon player as escape routes. The Klingons must prevent at least one of the Enterprise crew from escaping in order to win.

Forces: The Enterprise player has Captain Kirk (Grade 3), Mr. Spock (Grade 2) and Dr. McCoy (Grade 2). They begin play in the center of the board. The Klingon player begins with 4 Klingon guards (Grade 1). He also has a Klingon Lieutenant (Grade 2), who is not deployed at the start of the game. The guards are placed at least 10″ away from the Enterprise crew, and at least 6″ away from each other. They begin on guard duty (see below).

Special Rules:

Guard Duty: The rules for guard duty are in effect for this scenario. I won’t reproduce them here: just understand that the Klingons act like guards (which they are) until the alarm is raised. Once the alarm is raised, they act normally, and the Klingon Lieutenant is deployed immediately.

Darkness: The cave is dark and the Klingons didn’t bring much light. This limits visibility to 8″.

Stealth Takedown: If an Enterprise crewman can engage a Klingon guard in melee and defeat him in one round, then he does so silently and does not alert any other guards. He can then take the Klingon’s weapon. If he fails, the alarm is raised automatically. In addition, if melee occurs within spotting distance of a guard, the guard gets +1 to his roll to spot the attacker.

Initial setup.

The Enterprise crew must exit the board by either the right edge or the bottom edge in order to escape.

Turn 1: The Enterprise crew gets initiative. Kirk activates an encounter marker but it turns out to be nothing. McCoy triggers a restless guard, who activates out of sequence but fails to spot the doctor sneaking around in the darkness. Spock activates an encounter marker and startles a cave-dwelling critter, which makes a noise loud enough to alert the guard nearby. Unfortunately for him, the guard fails his brains test and doesn’t bother investigating the sound, so he doesn’t see Mr. Spock at all, despite being only 6″ away from him. The remaining Klingons all move around, but fail to spot any of the Enterprise crew.

Kancho!

Turn 2: Spock activates first and stealthily moves towards the closest Klingon guard. He applies the Vulcan nerve pinch and the Klingon goes down silently. Spock helps himself to the Klingon’s disruptor. (Game mechanics: Spock and the Klingon both have “Dirty Tricks”; Spock wins and gets an extra d10, which represents his nerve pinch. He handily defeats the Klingon in melee.)

I see nothing.

Despite being within spotting distance and despite Spock engaging in melee, one of the Klingons fails to spot Spock and turns away. Nothing to see here. McCoy activates another encounter marker, but it’s nothing. The remaining Klingons move. (It’s around now that we realized we’ve been playing guard duty rules wrong; that until the alarm is raised only ONE guard is supposed to move each turn. The others can change facing, but that’s about it. We decide to play it correctly from this point on.) Kirk activates and moves closer to the action, but doesn’t really do anything substantive.

Some folks wouldn’t think to use a giant penis as a weapon. Kirk isn’t one of those folks.

Turn 3: The Klingons gain initiative. One of them moves towards Kirk, but he fails to see the Captain. Kirk activates an encounter marker: “I got a rock.” He finds a heavy, interestingly-shaped rock that he can use as a weapon (functions as a club).

Kirk wastes no time, immediately taking a Heroic Action and charging the closest Klingon from behind. He brains the Klingon into unconsciousness and takes the Klingon’s disruptor. (He also inexplicably holds onto the rock.) That’s two guards down, and the remaining Klingons are none the wiser. Spock and McCoy both move off towards other encounters. The remaining Klingons change facing.

Turn 4: The Klingons activate and one returns to his original position. Kirk activates an encounter: reinforcements! Two Klingon guards enter via a table edge that is not an escape route. They’re loud and obnoxious, which makes it harder for the Klingons to spot any of the Enterprise crew this turn. The downside is they’re here to stay!

Turns out those GW artillery dice are still useful.

Spock triggers another restless guard, who moves in a random direction. He walks right between Spock and McCoy, but doesn’t see either one of them. (These guards are bad at guarding.) McCoy ignores the guard and activates an encounter marker. It’s the crew’s gear: communicators, phasers and tricorders! Now that the Enterprise crew has secured their gear, they can move off the board! McCoy and Spock are relatively close to the right edge, but Kirk is still pretty far away…The other Klingons change facing, etc. No one spots any of the Enterprise crew.

Turn 5: The Klingons activate and one immediately spots Mr. Spock. He sounds the alarm and fires at Spock, hitting the Vulcan and inflicting 1 wound!

Behold! I walked through this wall!

The Klingon lieutenant is deployed immediately, from a board edge that is not an escape route. Spock returns fire on the Klingon guard, killing him. The lieutenant charges into combat with Spock. Klingons fight better in melee than with guns, but not this time. Spock wins, inflicting one wound on the Klingon lieutenant!

McCoy adds injury to injury, firing into the melee with his newly-recovered phaser. He hits the Klingon lieutenant and puts him down for good!

The closest Klingon to Kirk charges him from behind, but it doesn’t go well for him. Kirk swings his big, manly rock with abandon, clubbing the Klingon to the ground.

Kirk sprints towards the right side of the board, spending two Hero Points to gets some extra movement.

Turn 6: The Enterprise crew makes a run for it. They can all reach the edge of the board, but can’t exit until next turn. The Klingons pursue, but fail to catch them.

Turn 7: The Enterprise crew gets initiative and escapes! Victory for Starfleet!

Once he realized they were not being pursued, Kirk slowed to a halt. “Now we can contact Scotty. We could use some reinforcements. We have to find Dr. Hubbard and stop whatever it is the Klingons are doing here.”

McCoy stared at the rock in Kirk’s hand. “You know, that thing looks like just about the biggest-“

“That’s enough, Bones,” said Kirk.

“I concur, Doctor,” said Spock. “It certainly bears a remarkable resemblance to a-“

“Yes, yes, Spock,” snapped Kirk, impatiently.

“Look, Jim,” said McCoy, “I’m a doctor. I’ve seen a million of ’em in my day. That one’s definitely noteworthy.”

“Whatever! It served its purpose!” yelled Kirk.

“Right,” said McCoy. “Can’t argue with that. But Jim… why are you still holding it?”

Spock raised an eyebrow.

Kirk tossed the rock aside and flipped open his communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise…come in, Scotty.”

Analysis: We played this scenario a couple of times. This was the most fun. (The first time we played, the Enterprise crew found their gear on the first encounter marker and it quickly degenerated into a firefight with no stealth at all. Boring.) It played very quickly, only about 25 minutes or so.

When creating the encounter markers for this scenario, I just had to include the infamous phallic rock from the classic episode “What are Little Girls Made Of?” Watching that scene really makes you wonder if the props department was deliberately fucking with the network, or if maybe Gene Roddenberry was. How could anyone see that and just see a rock? It had to be deliberate.

This was my first time playing a scenario with the guard duty rules in the 2nd edition. I was struck by just how difficult it is for guards to spot the heroes, even when they’re standing right in front of their faces. At least, it turned out that way the second time.

Coming soon, the final chapter, as Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise face off against the Klingon Captain and his men for control of the strange energy of Hubbard’s World! Watch for “Tug of War!”