A New GM: Questions, Ideas, and Help

Hello all!

I am a soon-to-be GM, and I’m looking for a little help and maybe some ideas from people more knowledgeable than myself. My knowledge of lore and canon is extremely limited, I’ve seen a portion of TOS, most of the original movies, the Kelvin timeline movies, and I’m currently in season four of TNG. So my knowledge is limited, at best.
A little background: I’ve played two campaigns (in the second one now) as a player, both set in the late 2300s. Our players—a large group—include a couple Klingons, an Ocampan, a Vulcan, an Andorian, a betazoid, and a human.
I’m attempting to use The Guardian of Forever (TOS 1x28) to send my the crew back to the 2150s (about 5-10 years before the foundation of the federation) in an attempt to thwart a plot to destroy the federation before it begins.
The characters are the only remnants of the federation as they know it (we’ve dealt with much temporal phenomena, so I’ll come up with technobabble to support it) so naturally it’s very important for them to thwart this plan.
Basically Back to the Future 2 but in space.

So with the stage set, my queries are many. I have basically no knowledge of that era. So I’m curious how some of the people in that time might react to the characters whose species are yet to be discovered.
I’m imagining much hostility out of caution. But some ideas about culture of the time might help me out.

Additionally, I’m a little stuck for how the characters could earn the trust of an Admiral-equivalent character in order to acquire a ship (which they will desperately need). My current plan is to get them to earn trust by assisting in various missions as consultants/bodies to throw at enemies. It will really challenge certain characters’ values because they will be assisting a species at war, and have to do some questionable things in order to accomplish a greater good.

Missions are going to be tricky business too, just from my lack of knowledge.

Some potential mission/conflict/culture ideas, resources, and recommended viewing would be much appreciated.
I’ve been using Memory Alpha, which has proved invaluable thus far.
Pardon the rambling, I’ve got a lot on my mind with regard to the campaign and I’m very new to GMing and this forum.

Thank you all for your input, it is incredibly helpful.

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the time period you are asking about is literally the time period covered by Star Trek: Enterprise, who’s four seasons run between 2151 and 2154, at roughly one year per season. It is available on netflix, Amazon+, and (i believe) the CBS streaming service. watching it would be recommended, as it would help you get a very good feel for the period.
it is a time period where earth is only just starting to explore the space surrounding it, and it has relatively few ships and very limited technology. the big players in the region are the Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites, and Klingons. which have slighlty better technology, but compared top TOS and especially TNG, the ships are slow and primitive.

note that only a few years after the show ends, the Earth romulan war occurs (had it been renewed for a 5th season they’d planned to cover the conflict, according to the writers), which might be a better timeframe to use, since it is after the show ends and you don’t have to worry about stuff in your game clashing with the events of the show.

it is interesting that you are using a time traveling plotline about saving the federation’s origin… as there is a recurring plotline in the first three season of the show regarding threats to the future federation coming from time travelers. you see, the period is a front in the “temporal cold war” where factions from the far future use time travel of various forms to influence events in the hopes of altering the timeline in their favor. the far future federation (31st century mostly) has agents watching the era and attempting to stop these attacks. usually covertly, but sometimes they have to recruit locals where a time agent needs plausible deniability or where the enemy is using local agents themselves and a temporal agent showing up would cause more disruption than the enemy was doing.

as far as races go… it is a time where space is wilder and many races are still exploring their immediate neighborhood. an unknown race might attract interest but would not be considered overly strange in itself, especially if they are vague about where they are from. if anything, your group is more likely to be considered odd and have problems because you have klingons in your group. given that the klingons are the enemies of most of the races in the period.

as far as starships go, well space is pretty wild in this timeframe. you don’t really have to rely on a friendly starfleet admiral to get one, you just need to be able to afford to buy one or be willing to hijack one. or higher a freelancer. (be it an NPC or a new player)

if you really want to keep the friendly ally angle though, you could use the temporal cold war element… have a time agent on duty in the period recruit the players and arrange for them to get a ship, since he’s lost contact with his home time due to the plot the players are trying to stop changing the future. he’d stay in his temporal observatory (outside of time) keeping an eye on things and dripping Intel on enemy actions or where to get needed equipment when they need it.


That’s very interesting. Looks like I’ll be watching Enterprise lol. Thanks for the help!

That information is majorly helpful, I don’t think I’d have figured that out without you saying it, which obviously would have been an issue in canon lol.

The time agent would actually be a very interesting addition as an NPC.

Welcome! And I have to say this sounds like a good, if ambitious, frame for a campaign - I came up with something in a similar vein way back before Enterprise, but never got a chance to run it (no Temporal Cold War, and the PCs were native to the period, but they were fighting to ensure the Federation actually would exist even if they didn’t know it.)

A lot of the long-term plots in Enterprise were TCW-related, from the Klingon/Suliban spy plot of the pilot episode to the Xindi arc of the third season. Most of those are better than their reputation :wink:

One of the great things about the TCW is that there are canonically at least 4 combatants, including the Federation of the 29th century, but we don’t know much about any of the others, except their names. They ranged from entire species to time-travelling criminal gangs and would be dictators. This means that you can have anyone you like be responsible for plots - and switch them out for others depending on what the players and others do. Something the players achieve could even eliminate one opponent from the timestream - and subtitute another group entirely. Plus there’s the eternal fun of time-traveling villains being killed outright, then reappearing later because the next encounter happens earlier in their careers…

Oh, possible inspiration for the effect of timeline changes - Voyager’s the Year of Hell two-parter. The Krenim had a weapon that could retroactively remove a species from the timestream, so that the political structure of the region kept changing - not that Voyager’s crew, as part of that timestream, were aware of the changes. Downside is, from the sounds of it, you won’t be familiar with Voyager’s crew and set-up so it might be very confusing! Might be worth looking it up in Memory Alpha at least.


two books i might suggest are in the “Department of Temporal investigations” series of novels… Watching the Clock and Forgotten History

watching the clock deals with the TCW and some of the factions involved (including additional ones that are only involved in the novel continuity/beta canon, like the Vorgons, the Na’kuhl, the Aegis (the people behind Gary 7), and 29th century starfleet (the Temporal Integrity Commission) the latter of which is often at odds with the 31st century Starfleet agents like Daniels due to the different methodology used.)
the book also introduces a fair bit of “temporal physics” in an effort to unify all the weird time stuff from across the franchise. it is pretty good stuff, and if you are doing a time travel focused game might be useful, if you can grok it.

Forgotten history mostly deals with TOS related stuff, but also includes a prolonged sequences involving a world where the federation never happened (due to earth no longer existing) and the old political realities from ENT carried forward.

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A bit on politics of that era, as depicted by ENT (thanks @mithril2098 for pointing out everything I thought of when I read @TheFrightenedGM 's initial post :wink: ):

  • Klingons are Klingons. They look like Klingons in the Movies / like Worf in TNG. Note that the Klingon Empire Core Rulebook contains some information on Klingons in the 22nd century on pages 23/24.
  • Vulcans adhere to logic, but seemed to have lost Surak’s ways (there’s a smaller ENT arc about that) and are, in general, a bit more aggressive, territorial and… well, for lack of better words: some kind of imperialistic? They are a lot more xenophobic than Vulcans of later eras and this, compared with their logic makes them really good at realpolitik with a certain amount of cynism. For instance, Vulcan High Command would not hesitate to cover a military listening post with a purely civilian facility (as, let’s say, a monastery) – or so the rumours say.
    After First Contact with Earth, they both guided and restrained the Humans in their ways exploring the stars. A recurring trope of ENT is that Humans feel infantilised by Vulcans.
  • Andorians are proud warriors and have a long history of conflict with the Vulcans (and vice versa).
  • Tellarites are Tellarites, I think. Sadly, they didn’t get much screentime during ENT.
  • Romulans are unknown to probably most or even all of the above.

Mind that these four (not counting the Klingons and the Romulans, of course) were the founding members of the Federation in 2161. ENT shows two major obstacles in the way of founding the Fedaration: Leading Vulcans to trust the Humans and see them as equals (1) and leading Andorians to trust the Vulcans (2).

The Mission of the Enterprise NX-01 had a major part in both, so an obvious approach to prevent the founding of the Federation would be to sabotage the NX-01’s mission in the first place by whatever means. This could be an arc of your campaign: Allowing the Enterprise to start in the first place, or protecting it on its journey while remain unseen.

You could also focus on Human-Vulcan relations. Your players’ enemies could try to sow (more) distrust between their governments, ultimately planning to damage or even break up their alliance. Their plans must be stopped.

Another approach would be to focus on Andorian-Vulcan relations. Think of two neighbours on the brink of war and a third party that would love to see tensions flipping into a full-fledged war. Again, their plans must be stopped.

You could do whatever you want if you would go with the Tellarites. They could very much be involved in the next approach:

Klingons! Always good for an adversary, but what if the Klingons are some kind of victim of the temporal shenanigans, too? If any of the Founding Members of the Federation would be subject to the Klingon Empire, there would be no Federation, at all. So maybe that’s the plan of the players’ enemies: Making the Klingons conquer one (or more) of the Founding members of the Federation. Not only do the players have to actually stop the invasion, but they also have to convince the Klingons that the war would be a loss for the empire. Not easy, if Klingon warriors are claiming victory after victory after victory…

Regarding the ship: There are not too many Federation ships around that date so this will be difficult if they don’t want to damage the timeline simply by flying a ship that should have been commanded by someone else. So maybe they use a captured enemy ship (e.g. a Klingon Bird of Prey), an upgraded merchants’ vessel or the ship of a band of mercenaries? Or you find a way they can take their ship with them. This would give them an advantage in fights, but since they cannot risk damaging the timeline, this should be mitigated. “Stay unnoticed” (or “Stay out of the History Books”) should be a directive of most of your missions, I think.

Regarding missions: Think “players first”. Star Trek is always about the characters and their conflicts and relations. First, find an interesting conflict. Values will help! Then think of how this conflict can be integrated into a story of your campaign.


Those bullets are extremely helpful, thanks!
The villain I have in mind is very targeted to the telepathic members of my crew, who is an extremely powerful telepath whose influence can stretch like a spiderweb throughout the galaxy (with the aid of a device he is attempting to build). I’ve been trying to figure out what political buttons he should push to spark all-out war throughout the alpha quadrant.
I’m open to other ideas for a villain if one comes to me and will work better within the story, but this is a character I really want to write lol so I want to use him as a villain.

That’s definitely something I should do, is get character sheets from everyone. Figure out some angle for the rest of the crew, which will help inform where the story can go.
I think that’s a large part of my issue, I’ve been too focused on the narrative, instead of making it about challenging the characters.

Thanks for your help!


There is a lot of great information here. I love the idea/premise of this campaign. An angle I would add in is that many times the plot/moral guiding compass of star trek is that often times the characters have the power to stop somthing…but should they? The federation in most eras possess pretty advanced technology compared to many of the species they encounter or even the technologies they develope to combat said species. But the challlenge often lies in the moral code of it. Much of starfleet is principled to a fault and the challenge is often finding a way to “talk it out” or create a diplomatic opportunity. If they go back in time with their ship from whatever century they are from, part of the challenge may be covertly going about their business; dodging enemie encounters or engaging them at a level much less than what they are fully capable of, as well as dealing with founding federation members and perhaps them wanting some of that “advanced tech” or even enemies for that matter. Also another idea is what if they are not the only ship “chosen” to go back. Maybe there is another crew and ship as well. With differing morals/values giving tech away or using it to “right some wrongs” they feel happened throughout history. And part of the challenge maybe undoing what they have done…removing advanced weapons out these waring species hands or sabataging some of the tech that has fallen into “hands too primitive” to use it yet.

Another note to add is that the ship is essentially another PC in the fact it represents what brings and binds the crew together. So generally (depending on how you play) in game it is somthing they build and agree upon togetheras a team as well as modify/spend points on and so forth. EX each series follows the voyages of the vessel they are on ENT, TOS, TNG all being the journey of the “Enterprise” and even DS9 (even though later they also had the defiant), VOY going so far as to name the series after the ship/station the characters are asigned to. In essence while the characters are the main focus, the ship is the glue that holds them together and gives them purpose to not just descide to go their seperate ways

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Much has been said by others that addresses your questions, so instead I offer these to supplement what was already said.

So that is to a fan created sourcebook for that era for the Decipher RPG but don’t let that scare you off, ignore the crunch and embrace the fluff which includes some really good stuff for your consideration.


That link leads you to the Enterprise novels – while you can skip some since they are episodes and you can just watch those, others pick up where the series left off and in particular focus on the Romulan War.

This is a link to the Last Unicorn Game book that covered Time Travel, with great stuff about the Guardian of Forever in the TNG/DS9/VOY era … which seems to be when your previous games were set – and it has a great part about the Department of Temporal Investigations and the Temporal Prime Directive and Temporal Accords that covers the other Powers of the time period as well like the treaty with the Romulans to not wage a time war and how the Romulans are thinking about doing it anyway – all before the Enterprise show ever came out so perhaps this book had some influence on the Enterprise series like some other LUG books came from.

That all proffered, the HOW to get your crew a ship in the Enterprise Era – well asking the Vulcans at the time is off the table as the stringently deny the possibility of Time Travel as all (see the Enterprise series for more on that). The Andorians have lots of ships as well, but if the story is set before the accords then they aren’t likely to be cooperating with Pink Skins and definitely not with Vulcans.

Oddly enough, since its a couple of Klingons that is perhaps your best bet. Using databases from the 24th century they can pick out some likely targets in the 22nd. Not targets to murder necessarily but ones to “con” perhaps. Provoke a dual with an independent ship owner; gamble for a ship, or if the Klingon’s honor can stand it – steal one. You can have an entire Ocean’s Eleven or The Sting type adventure on a Klingon backwater, and once they have a ship, slip to someplace quiet and upgrade it with 24th century tech using the Guardian to move the upgrade parts into the past so it looks like they have a 22nd century ship but the guts are 24th century and the cloaks will be several generations better accordingly.

OR – you could just have them slingshot around a star with a 24th century ship and avoid the guardian of forever completely. But I like the idea of them underhandedly acquiring a ship and then upgrading it as best they can as a story-line better personally.

Anyway – good luck!

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honestly i love the idea of using the guardian and obtaining a ship once you are in the past. it would make the campaign that much more interesting, since you’d be limited to only the 24th+ centurytech you brought with you (the idea of feeding hardware through the gate would be a logistical improbability… even you set up a logistics base in the guardian’s ruins where it would be (relatively) immune from changes to the timeline, it would be very dificult to send large amount of material through at the right time and place. remember that the guardian works by showing a stream of history. you have to enter at just the right moment. in beta canon you can narrow it down slightly by asking to show a specific world and period of time, but even then you still have precision issues. especially as the aperture is only wide enough for 2-3 people at a time to enter… if you stagger your group, 3 entering at a time, they are likely to land hours or days apart and probably not all in the same place. trying to feed hardware through would suffer the same problems, your supplies would be scattered over the timeline.

of course having a scattered landing would make for an interesting session 1, as the groups of players each have a mini adventure on their way to an agreed upon meeting point on the world they picked to arrive at. as a Gm you can be nice and have them arrive fairly close together (a few hours apart) as the guardian seems to steer people to where they need to go. (otherwise kirk and spock wouldn’t have arrived in the same city as McCoy)
personally i’d suggest someplace like Rigel, a major trading hub. plenty of options for ships, whichever route they pick for obtaining a local ship.

and i think limiting them to whatever they can carry through the guardian themselves wouldn’t be a huge hurdle… their future knowledge of science and engineering, combined with say, a toolkit and parts from their tricorders, commbadges, etc., ought to be useful in upgrading the 22nd century ship systems to gain an upper hand over 22nd century vessels… knowing how to optimize the warp engines and eak out an extra warp factor, or rig a 24th century tricorder’s processor unit to 22nd century sensor arrays to boost their ability to detect stuff, knowing how to safely route power from the warp core to the ship’s particle cannons for extra punch, etc.

also, an interesting idea for the “steal a klingon ship” idea… perhaps have a ship like Korok’s in ENT “Marauders”… a D5 class cruiser converted into a cargoship. it would lack the heavy armament of the standard D5 (probably lacks the belly disruptor cannons and torpedoes of the standard D5) but would still be a tough and hardy ship, which could be improved with 24th century know how. plus as a freighter/tanker, it would be able to pose as a “civilian” ship and thus try to hide in plain sight. at least until you try to go to earth, vulcan, or other capitol planet. (but if you obtain a warp capable shuttle or two you could stage off it for such trips)


Having accidentally dabbled with time travel in my last campaign, can I suggest you work out exactly how you are going to handle changes?

Are you going to go with the approach where the group’s actions cause the timeline to take it’s proper course, even in failure? In that case, is their starting point an alternate future?

Are you going to dive head first into going with whatever changes they cause, and just do the math of how much everything is different?

Are you going to take an alternative approach?

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… or you let your players work that out. Using the scientific method for that sort of problems sound very fun. :slight_smile:

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Their starting point is in an alternate timeline, I’m not certain how they will fall into it though. If they fail (which is unlikely, but always a possibility), they will likely be stuck in the alternate timeline or in the past. I do want them to win, largely for the sake of other GMs lol. We are rotating GM duties campaign by campaign so I don’t want to throw too big of a monkey wrench in things lol.
Their actions will likely not have a huge overall effect on the future, like the federation and stuff will still be around and they’ll have a ship to come back to, but the details may be different. It will depend on what political ties they mend, who lives/dies, how far the bad guy’s plan goes, etc. I think I’ll also get some ideas based on what the players work out in their decisions.
The “past” they arrive to will already be significantly altered from the canon, mostly to give myself more leeway and to make things more interesting.

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Will they have the possibility to project the effects of certain actions? Maybe through a device to “read” the “timeline / stream of time”?


Maybe aquiring such a device or, even better, parts of the blueprints so they can build it on their own, over time, could be an interesting arc? Or maybe it’s not a device but a Bajoran orb that spits out enigmatic visions at certain points in the story?

In this case, presenting the players with a no-win-scenario could be a very dramatic (climatic) moment. Don’t use this too often, though, but maybe as the first climax. Maybe they actually can go relatively straightforward to the big-bad-evil-guy behind al the time shenanigans, but the can only defeat him by changing the timeline significantly, on their own so they need, for the last third of the campaign or so, to rectify their own makings? They have to be presented with a choice at that moment, though. Let the alternatives be equally bad and immediately present a glimpse of hope at that moment so they know that they can clean up their mess, later. They will then decide what mess they create and how the story will go forward.

Thank you for sharing your campaign ideas, I now so want to play a campaign like this, myself! :smiley: And thank you for igniting my creativity! :smiley:

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I’m actually considering using a Time Agent from the future to assist in that. She has all the tech and stuff to help with that, and she can help them now and then. I’m thinking of making a sort of usable item (or maybe just writing such occasions in to the plot) to allow for that.

I’m thinking that if they go straight to the bad guy, the timeline will be an absolute mess. They can win, but the future they return to will be very different from their own.
They will likely be playing politics to repair ties between cultures while simultaneously discovering plot information. Depending on which ties they repair, they help fix the timeline. They need to repair at least some ties if the federation is to exist in any meaningful way.