Kobayashi Maru-like intro scenario

So I’m trying to brain storm up some ideas on how to run a scenario that introduces new players to the rules, and was thinking something like the Kobayashi-Maru might be appropriate, but that it may involve more of the player-on-the-ground type stuff instead of specifically ship combat, but could probably involve as much of everything as I could fit in.

Any input would be cool.
I was thinking that maybe… players start on a planet dealing with something, or maybe they start on the ship in their off-duty shift, when surprise boarders get on the ship and they have to like… make their way to the bridge and then get to do ship combat. Something like that maybe…

I am, to be honest, not entirely sure whether a scenario that is ‘no win!’ by design, was appropriate for an introductional scenario. I would strongly recommend to have the players succeed (or have a real chance to do so) in their first mission.


Just start your characters out on patrol in the appropriate sector. Once the scenario has played out the front door to the simulator/holodeck arch appears, an engineer enters asking the crew how they like the updated scenario. At that point they know they were in a simulation. I did this for my players back in the days of Decipher. They really appreciated it.


Well I don’t nessisarily mean its a no-win situation so much as something like… maybe a starfleet academy simulation as part of the graduation exams. And then maybe it would have been a flashback for the characters remembering it or something.

Okay, then I misunderstood your charactarisation of the scenario. To me, the ‘Kobayashi Maru’ is synonym for a test involving ethical dilemmas, or, in other words, an excercise where you are tested in facing your inevitable defeat. While this clearly is a very interesting topic for an adventure (I, personally, like those ethical plots very much and include them in every RPG I GM), I do not think that it would be appropriate for a first session (exceptions possible).

The idea of running a holodeck simulation on the other hand is one I like very much. When I thought about running STA at a convention, I began planning a mission based on this idea, because it then would be very easy to include all sorts of characters, even from different timelines (“It’s also a simulation of the past/projection of the future!”) and have easy explanations for nearly every plot twist there could be. Go on with this!

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I really like this idea: there’s a precedent from the old Elite Force game. The opening scenario there has the player taking part in defending against a boarding operation.

Something like this, with melee and ranged combat, plus couple of minor non-combat problems to resolve (open the door or escape the breached corridor) and you’d have a nice little group exercise scenario that covers most of the basic rules.

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I am combining the Kobayashi Maru scenario with another Star Trek trope. (Don’t want to say too much, as some of my players watch this board) In short, I am creating this scenario “for real” as opposed to the simulation concept. I am reserving the right to suddenly crack open the view screen and order “BLOWERS ON” if they completely screw up and kill themselves. My shtick happens in Klingon territory, just like the KM scenario, the command staff will have to decide if they will violate Klingon territory. Here is the rub - it is set during a time of detente between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. A delicate balance…If they do not respond they will affect the entire campaign scheme. If they do and are destroyed, then I whip out the simulation scenario. If they succeed at the monumental task I have set for them, they will call me an Evil Bas^%% and positively affect Fed/Klingon relations for a century to come - think The Battle Narendra 3. (I will rather enjoy being called an Evil Bast%^#, BTW) Their ship may require months in space dock, but so be it! They will win accolades, time off, and be worthy of a real Star Trek episode.

The characters would know it was a simulation if it was a simulation. And the players thus should be told. Had a GM pull the very similar “it was a nightmare” on a bad session after the fact… and I, along with all but one of the 6 players, was peeved by it. It invalidated 4 hours of good character development RP…

So, it needs careful framing if you have players who’ll be unhappy about the reveal it was a sim. (I can’t think of any player I’ve played with who’d be happy unless their character had been maimed or killed.)

You’ve got to explain how they wound up in sim without knowing it was a sim to pull off the reveal as a gotcha moment, and even then, it’s not likely to be a happy reaction.


The cadets fell asleep in their starfleet academy bunkers, a sleeping agent was filtered in the air system to keep them asleep, VR headsets and body responce suits were put on them while they slept. Or something similar to “the matrix” kind of was put on over their heads while they slept, so the entire “day” they experienced was simulated?

@JohnDW Unless they’re all cadets, that’s not going to be sufficient for most players. If they are all cadets, then why do they wake up on ship?

they don’t they wake up in their bunks and get told they are going on a ship for their next lesson, so maybe they end up being in the “VR” for almost a week.

Edit: and come on man, if you run games you know you could make it work with a little thought, you don’t need to be so nit-picky about it :smiley:

Secret Transport to the Holodeck? I’m sure we already saw this in some Trek.

Random thought if you have the right sort of group:

Have the characters know exactly what it is in advance. They learn that within the next few days they are to be run through a simulation as a test that is a guaranteed loss for those not using “creative” solutions, and encourage them to pursue such solutions (maybe they have a superior that has given them such poor marks that they need the win just to keep position, or winning would guarantee a spot on a favored vessel).

So then they have a few days to engage in hacking, building tools to give themselves an advantage, bribing people for advance information on the specifics, etc. And of course they then have to cover up the worst of what they just did, so it just looks they were so smart / lucky that they managed a legit win that the simulation just didn’t account for. Not ideal Starfleet behavior but as I said, you need the right sort of group.

And the upside is that if they don’t succeed after all their efforts, they knew they were swimming uphill anyway. And there willingness to pursue out-of-the-box solutions might still catch the eye of some of the more Machiavellian arms of the Federation, potentially earning them a unique career track (which would still feel like a win) even if they lose. :slight_smile:

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Planning a new campaign and found this thread… I am thinking about running an actual kobayashi maru session as session 0. It will start in the middle of the action, they should fight the enemy ships, then get destroyed. Which is the moment the players will realise, that everything was just a starfleet academy exam.
The thing is now… it should definitely be a kobayashi maru situation, but the players experienced with the lore should not directly know, that it is a kobayashi maru. Any ideas how I could pull that off?

Maybe it starts with a distress call from a civilian vessel, the moment the players arrive at the vessel, a borg sphere warps in and destroys them. That takes out the decision to fly into a neutral zone, but the rest could fit. And maybe this could be the little thing, that doesn’t let them think about a kobayashi maru situation…

Let me emphasize the “directly” in your quote, there. I think you should leave some clues that this is a Kobayashi-Maru-Situation, at least to be read in hindsight. Basically, I’m suggesting making your players say something like: “Oh, I should have known this since the moment communication to Starfleet Command timed out without really taking time in the first place. This had to be a holodeck-simulation!”

You aim for the destruction of the ship. If you come out with “Haha, it was just an academy test!” it looks like a very bad excuse for a unprepared GM carelessly committing a total-party-kill. If there really were no clues at all, you might encounter a situation were players are frustrated.

Now to the situation itself.

I would leave that situation in. Of course, facing some Borg at a rescue-mission also is a no-win-scenario and could be called a Kobayashi-Maru situation/test. But in my humble opinion, the decision to (or not to) fly into a restricted area (doesn’t mean neutral zone, can also be quarantined etc.) and break a rule to not break a rule is the pivotal question of the test. It is not about “do the right thing and die all guns blazing” but “decide what is right when all is wrong”. There is no correct solution of the test; cadets can pass and fail while ignoring the distress signal and they can pass and fail while going to rescue. The Kobayashi-Maru test is not about the result (because in either case the result is a breach of the law), but about the decision. This is, what makes it so interesting!

Maybe take out the distress signal and make it a search and rescue mission. Have the ship lost in the first place, let the players find trails of debris, a ship drifting. Don’t have a neutral zone, but only a quarantined planet within a system. When the players finally find the ship and enter the system, give them the possibility to stay out of the quarantined zone (and out of transporter reach), but establishing communications to the ship (that due to a heavy accident, completely lost every propulsion system). Being out of reach and having a distinct, but short distance to overcome even gives your players the chance to beat the test due to creative thinking (i.e. expanding transporter range through some interesting way).

If they don’t come to a good idea (or fail trying out), stay with the tough decision to either render assistance and breach the quarantine (and eventually be destroyed by some angry aliens) or keep a safe distance and see the ship eventually crash on the planet’s surface.

Regarding the aliens: As I said, keeping the Neutral Zone out should do part of the trick, as should keeping out Klingons (or Romulans). Since having the enemies decloaking is neat, maybe use some angry Xyrillians or Minosians; the system/planet being Minos in the Lorenze Cluster in case of the latter.

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If you want to keep the situation hidden from the fans, put them in a ground scenario - hostage rescue or negotiations that cannot possibly succeed.

There’s a similar example in one of the Short Treks. I won’t say more in case of spoilers :slight_smile:

Remember that it’s all supposed to be how the commanding officer responds in the face of inevitable death. Technically, the other characters are not being tested, but they may not be aware of the simulation’s parameters.


Sorry, but that is not the essence of Kobayashi-Maru. Yes, maybe that is how it is depicted in that 2009 movie. But that movie also shortened the test and took out the decision, completely changing it.
Okay, I now thought twice about it, and it can be narrowed down to “facing inevitable death”. But I want to emphasise that it is not necessarily the own death the commander has to face. It can also be the death of others. Because:

The Kobayashi-Maru as depicted in TWOK, was about the choice to either
a) break interstellar law and violate the Klingon Neutral Zone, or
b) break Starfleet Protocol and refrain from rescuing the Kobayashi Maru.

The test is not about going down all guns blazing, but how to decide what is right when all is wrong. It’s an ethical dilemma and not a test of morale and dauntlessness.

I strongly disagree. Because in either way of their decision, the command-character has to communicate this to their crew (and having that communication resulting in compliance and not mutiny). Thus, everybody is tested.

I’ll agree that inevitable death was the wrong spin to put on it, but it is neither an ethical nor a morale test (which was not what I was saying). It’s not about what choices they make, but how they make them, especially given the stress of that situation. A cadet that goes into a panic and fails to make a decision would certainly fail, while decisively sending the ship and crew to certain doom to achieve a beneficial outcome would be a pass.

I’m usually open to disagreement but, in all the canon versions of the test we’ve seen, the tested individual is the CO. In the original depiction, the whole bridge crew were playing the role of Saavik’s subordinates. And it was Kirk that failed 3 times, not his crew, etc…

There maybe equivalent whole-bridge tests, but they are not the Kobayashi Maru.

Since I was playing smart about focusing on decision-making and not on dying, I shall yield in this argument. In TWOK, Saavik was the only one tested (clearly not the Enterprise crew) and in that 2009 movie, McCoy and Uhura were mere extras to Kirk’s test.

So, you’re right, in all the canon versions of the test, we’ve seen, the tested invididual is the CO.

I just want to make that the “primarily tested individual”, as at least misconduct of their bridge crew (if they’re cadets, like in that 2009 movie) would lead to further evaluation of their behaviour, too. :slight_smile:

An easy way to adapt it for the crew is change a few core details.

Rename the ship to something else, maybe the SS Aquitinia
move locations, maybe put it in the Romulan neutral zone or the Cardassian DMZ (actually the Cardassian DMZ isn’t a bad idea if the time frame allows it because it removes the word neutral zone, but still maintains the “Area a armed ship isn’t allowed”) and then move in much the same pattern as the test goes. if you change names and location, but keep things more or less the same, those in the know will proably groan at how obvious it was in hindsight