Variations on A Star Beyond the Stars

Mission SPOILERS follow

Recently I wrapped up running ASBS for my crew incorporating some variations to the mission to accommodate my players and as a start mission for our campaign. Because ASBS is an introductory STA short campaign and is likely a common experience by many, I am wondering how others may have adapted it and why the changes were made? Or, how did the direction or elements of the story changed in play as it came into contact with the players?

Spoilers will abound in the discussion, so be warned.

Set Up:
A basic change made with our campaign is that the PCs are crew of a Steamrunner class ship (USS Sojourner). This changes some of the ship to ship encounter dynamics a bit since a Galaxy class ship is presumed, so a Steamrunner is pretty clearly outmatched against the Warbird encounters.

The crew in play were focused primarily on sciences, engineering, and diplomacy. The PC crew had limited security skills which created some issues, and unique solutions, for the combat focused encounters (Security 3 being the max rating).

The home campaign setting timeline starts in 2380 which moves ASBS to the end of the TNG era. We decided we wanted to play after of the established TNG canon. The time change doesn’t really alter ASBS.

The Alcubierre Act I:
Although the away mission was nearly thwarted by a broken hand actuator, the crew was able to gain access to the ship. Taking note of the message on the computer monitor, the crew starts heading directly to… Engineering. Because engineers focus on engineering solutions. Who would ever need to go to stellar cartography or the bridge?

Act II:
Investigating the horrific scene in the corridor the away team quickly runs into a Romulan patrol. A volley of disruptor fire is quickly answered by… a jury-rigged bypass activating an emergency forcefield. Engineering solutions :slight_smile: The team decides to split up with engineers heading to engineering and the diplomats heading to the bridge. While the engineers cautiously make their way through the ship avoiding Romulan patrols, the command/diplomatic crew investigate the bridge and make their way to stellar cartography and meet ensign LaSalle and learn critical information about the Romulans and some hints about the danger of their sub-commander. Yes, they are in engineering ready to welcome the uninformed engineer team who are out of communication.

Next post Act III.

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This is scheduled after the conclusion of the Living Campaign (with extra missions added in). The Federation has just been made aware of changelings, and the pc’s have gotten tangled up with Section 31, so I’m hoping to add some filler missions in between to really heighten the paranoia and intrigue

My crew has a Nova-Class ship. So I scaled down enemy ships to a more manageable size. These ships are not cannon, I clobbered some stats together so that a fight might be interesting but winable.
Further the ship is stationed on Narendra Station since I plan to run a campaign in the Shakelton Expanse once the sourcebook is published.

I have 7 crew members, three of them with good security skills so no worries on that part.
However since 4 of them have strong science and/or engineering skills there are often 2 or 3 people capable of any given task so we often choose who does what by focus.
I change some of the engineering tasks to science so that the science officer has enough to do. And once the crew is on an away mission I often struggle to find things for our Conn officer to do but I do not have a solution as of yet.


Act III:
Ensign LaSalle’s directions helped the engineering and command teams to meet up and scale the turboshaft. Given the low security scores of the away team I should have bolstered LaSalle’s security score a bit to assist the PCs. A well timed disabling of the emergency lighting and a phaser attack from the turbo lift allowed the team to sneak into engineering.

The diplomatic characters negotiated with sub-commander D’Nal while the engineer snuck into a computer access room to try and stabilize the Alcubierre engines. The diplomatic distractions and ensuing firefight bought enough time to stabilize the warp field and reestablish communications with the Sojourner. Just in time to request a security team since the away team was rapidly falling to the attacks by the Romulans. However, even the security team was by overwhelmed by D’Nall and the Romulans. Clutching the away team commander in their hands D’Nall was going for the killing blow when the chief engineer was able to roll spectacularly and establish an emergency forcefield trapping the sub-commander. The remaining Romulans were quickly subdued. Engineering solutions for the win.

While no one died on the away mission there were several severe casualties, including the chief science officer. The CSO injuries prevented the primary xeno-biologist from investigating the neural parasite in detail. The captured sub-commander and other Romulans, along with ensign LaSalle, were turned over to Starfleet Command. SC also issued orders to restrict all knowledge of the away mission to the captain and the away team. Meanwhile the captain had a conversation with the commander about the need to strengthen the away team’s tactical resources. Overall the mission was a success, but the lack of away team tactical training and personnel contributed to the high casualties.

Next post We Are Not Ourselves

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Our crew started with five players, but dwindled during play due life issues to three players. While a bit short handed, the supporting character option helped to fill out the away team with security personnel.

Yes, I found the options for science checks to be somewhat limited in ASBS, and there was a fairly strong reliance on engineering checks. While this worked out ok for our engineering heavy crew, I can see that you would have issues with a larger crew needing a broader range of skill checks.

I also created a more balanced opposing ship for the Steamrunner-Class ship combat. Since I am a TOS fan I really like the Romulan Bird of Prey design, so I design the Malem-Class light warbird using the Bird of Prey as a starting point.

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Okay, now that life has settled back down a bit I’m going to catch up on this thread.

The crew of the USS Sojourner is running a bit shorthanded with primary players reduced to three PCs. The primary away team is lead by a human CMDR and Number 1 with skill in Command with leadership, diplomacy, and improvisation focuses. Team position two is held by the Tellarite engineer and Operations Manager, skilled in Engineering and Conn with focuses in power systems, warp field dynamics, and small craft piloting. The Holographic LTJG rounds out the trio with skills in Command and Medicine is the Ship’s Councilor and Diplomatic Advisor. Focuses in computers, linguistics, psychiatry, and diplomacy. They are joined by supporting characters as needed, which typically includes a Vulcan ensign from Security.

We Are Not Ourselves
Act 1: Kortar Station
At the edge of Klingon space the Steamrunner class ship takes an unexpected pounding by the asteroids. While the escape pod was successful recovered from the asteroid field, the Captain was unexpectedly injured when the ship was jolted by a large asteroid (I found it amusing that the Edosian NPC Captain lost their balance and was almost killed by the Vicious asteroid). Number 1, finding themselves unexpectedly in command of the bridge, after investigating the body of the rescued Klingon directed a small away team to Kortar Station.

The engineer, counselor, and security ensign beamed onto the command level of the station in order to investigate and stabilize the station. The overly cautious crew had some difficulty getting the station secured, and generating threat complications as they did so that would cost them later. Concerned about mutated Klingons and Security traps as they investigated the station and infirmary they were overly cautious. In particular at the infirmary where engineering solutions were used to beam in tricorders to the small infirmary for scanning before entering. The threat build up had resulted in the player’s being convinced there was going to be an attack by a mutated Klingon.

The investigation of the infirmary was cut short when the station automated disruptor cannons started firing on the ship. The disruptor cannon variation to this section was fun since the crew had accumulated a bit of threat with their complications, and the CMDR player hadn’t been using their primary character having played the Ensign for most of the session. The attack gave them an opportunity to do something with the ship while in command. The away team was able to deactivate the cannons while the CMDR maneuvered the ship away with only damage to the shields. Improvising a change like this is something I am used to doing. But I am also finding that I like the Threat mechanic as a way of building tension through the session and how it works in conjunction with the improvisation process. The accumulation of threat puts the players a bit on edge, while the use of threat is nice for managing the danger level and impact of the improvisation.

Next post Act II: Cordolan IV

We Are Not Ourselves
Act II: Cordolan IV
Setting course from Kortar Station to the Cordolan system the recovered Captain directed the CMDR to contact the Klingons about the change in flight plan to Cordolan. A bobbled communications test aroused some suspicion and prompted a demand from the Klingons to keep the Klingons updated on the status of the mission to Cordolan. While Kortar Station and Cordolan are not popular places for the Klingons, they are part of the Empire and cannot be traveled to without authorization.

While this is a minor variation, if I run the ASBS again I think I will fill out the Klingon’s involvement a bit more. This chapter occurs in Klingon space and impacts citizens of the Empire. While these areas are not important to the Empire I think there is a missed opportunity here to have a scene or two that could ratchet up the tension a bit. Challenging the crew with how much the do or don’t reveal to the Klngons about the Neural Parasite, and the impact that decision might have on Federation and Klingon relations. It would also be an opportunity to highlight characters with diplomacy type talents.

Arriving at Cordolan IV, the away team shuttled down to the outpost. Exploring the ground level the team pretty quickly deactivated the device amplifying the diamagnetic interference. Faint life signs were confirmed on the lower level so the away team promptly… went to investigate the Tellarite freighter lead by the Tellarite engineer.

Several fine tooth combs later, the GM spends some threat and redirects the Romulan centurions up to the ground floor to investigate the change in the diamagnetic field. A difficult fight later resulted in one of the centurions being stunned and the other transported to the ship’s brig. Engineering solutions again. The Neural Parasites are tough for the away team, but the fight also establishes that some of the away team seem rather phaser averse. The Neural Parasites don’t allow for many diplomatic solutions which is a bit frustrating for the diplomatically focused characters. Realizing that the lower level is likely to be a fight, the CMDR orders a Security team to beam down to the outpost. A crowded turbo lift ride takes both teams to the lower level.

Next post Act III: Machinations Revealed

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