What's your campaign style?

Ok, I thought of this reading the discussion on starter ships, where I found it extra clear that different players have different takes on running a Trek game, so I was curious as to the approaches taken by those here?

Having run games during the Icon/Coda era, I tend towards stories and scenarios that echo the TV shows in form. There should be a definite narrative to each session (or usually group of sessions), with a defined begininning, middle and end. Character development arcs are good, especially if they can be worked into parallel (B, C) plotlines, but powergaming is right out. Spotlight all the players in a session where possible. Accurate science takes a back seat to the needs of the ongoing plotlines. Action should be fast, cinematic and ultimately favour the players (this is Trek not Battlestar Galactica!). While I don’t go for the reset button, I do look to close down most episode plots before moving on to the next one.

Due to the limited time for my games (I play at a local club where I get about 2 hours per session and have to clear the way for new GMs and games after a few months), I also tend towards a mini-series model, with a tight ongoing arc for the whole campaign, with a definitive start and finale.

I know other GMs are looking for simulations of what actually working in Starfleet might be like, while others go for open-ended (even open-world) campaigns where the players do what they want, within the rules of their organisation. I’ve played in con games where the GM took the basic Trek canon and completely wrenched it into new forms (one actually had Earth destroyed as a pre-scenario plot element).

So, what’s your Trek like? I’m keen to hear form players too…

So, this is very much the style that Star Trek Adventures is written towards - during development research, I found that the previous editions (from a mechanical perspective) had a natural tendency to be more universe simulator (simulate how the world works) than story emulator (emulate the stories we see on TV and in movies), because that’s been a common tendency in RPGs for a long time. I wanted Star Trek to be distinct from that, leaning more towards the story side of things, and covering a number of the challenges of running a Star Trek game in the process.

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In the game I run and the game I play in, there is a consensus that we want tropes. Mirror episode, time travel episode, stuck in the holodeck with the safeties off episode, the works. In both games the campaign runs in a DS9-esque format of individual episodes with a weaving overarching narrative. I am a reactive GM, allowing my players to do whatever they want, however they want within the confines of the story (thankfully my players are responsible Starfleet officers). Their actions influence what I write for the next story, or indeed the next session in the same story.

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The campaign I’m running is set in 2269, aboard the Constitution-class USS Essex. The Essex is out on the Beta Quadrant frontier (toward the Shackleton Expanse, an area visited according to the Star Trek Star Charts by Kirk’s Enterprise during TOS). I’m scattering political intrigue and the purely alien with equal helpings, emphasizing story and characters over everything else.

We’ve had a multi-episode Lovecraftian arc, some Section 31 intrigue, diplomatic interactions with the Romulans and an ongoing, developing antagonism with a potentially rogue Klingon captain.

My campaign is a sandbox, with a recently founded desert planet colony and the Starfleet members assigned as colony support team. I leave it to the players to decide their characters’ contribution to the colony’s development and concentrate on providing the planet and the various non-player characters.
Overall it is a somewhat “simulationist” approach, with lots of problem solving and comparatively little
cinematic action.

My campaign is set in 2374, in the midst of the Dominion Wars. I am trying to do it in an extended-arc style, with an overarching story but each gaming session (or two, depending on time constraints) is an episode in the arc. The main story arc is currently a small squadron behind enemy lines, carrying out raids to hinder the Dominion without compromising either their position or their mission. They had a “prequel” episode (which was mainly us getting to grips with the star ship combat - still not easy), then a couple of “Captains Log” entries via WhatsApp, followed by a preparation mission, and then the main Arc started. They have had three episodes so far in the main Arc, they will probably have another 2-3, before their mission comes to an end and they withdraw - which may be a fighting retreat.

After the Arc, they will probably have some r&r before they are sent back to the front line, or they may be deployed on a different ship and do a different type of mission (perhaps science-y, although I think they would prefer some espionage, so S31 might be involved)

I’m currently on the second ‘season’ of adventures covering the USS Indelicate, an Akira class. The first season I had them patrolling on the far edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone during the hostilities with the Klingons, so that the new crew could be settled into their new ship and to fly the flag so Romulans wouldn’t try and take advantage of the situation. The second season is them taking part in the Dominion War.

The ‘campaign’ as such is a lot more episodic, with a solid focus built around the mission that they are assigned, or reacting to a situation they find out nearby. Episodes in the first season were much more about the players getting to grips with different mechanics (combat, extended tasks, Scientific Hypothesis, social situations etc.), while second season episodes tend towards higher stakes combat and some diplomacy actions. Storyline wise there are some recurring elements, including a long term series long plot that occasionally gets tapped into progressing.

My style can vary somewhat depending on what the players are after, but my current one they asked for a “day in the life” style campaign. So that has meant a variety of missions, with my decisions being made in as much as a real world way as possible. It also means that actions have consequences, both good and bad, which can be a lot of fun to consider.

The premise this group have gone for is set in 2372 (I think from memory), starting off while the Dominion is a consideration and the Klingons aren’t exactly the Federations best friend. This had lead to resources being stretched a bit thin.

As a result the USS Errant, a Constellation class, has been brought out of mothballs and assigned to the group’s leader- a Commander ranked officer with some experience as an XO, but probably a little rushed into the command chair. He then had to go around and recruit his new crew before heading off to DS5 (now under the command of Captain Jellico) to support the area.

They’ve made some friends at Ivor colony, and had a couple of dealings with the patriarchy so far, as well as developing some character details and working on upgrading the ship. It’s been very episodic so far, with the patriarchy being their first taste of a small story arc. Currently running “Border Dispute” to give myself a couple weeks off from writing, but it also fits their location.

My in advance writing mainly revolves around character backstories, alongside canon events and how the ship will interact with them (Ivor is mentioned in First Contact for example, but the ship is currently stationed away from where the majority of the Dominion war will break out). Beyond that, I’ve been tending to see how the group deal with each mission and then writing the next mission in accordance to that, while also trying to present sessions that feel like an episode.

Alongside, I have also been running in universe oneshots with other groups that have an affect on the campaign group’s future missions as well. (I feel that adds an organic element).

Thus far, I’ve run STA as a series of episodic one-shots, where I pre-make the characters and players can jump in, since they typically play D&D and don’t want to learn a new system…

But I really, really want to steal a bunch of ideas from Mass Effect 1 and throw them into a longer-term STA campaign… Alas, maybe in a few years when I have more time.

Basically the sort of compromise between the historic Star Trek model of one-off episodes, but with the TNG/DS9 era nod towards ongoing plot lines that happen WITHIN those episodic adventures in terms of overlapping arcs. Like imagine how Worf vs. the house of Duras played out across several seasons and otherwise disconnected episodes.

For other background, the time period is “in-between” Discovery and TOS. The crew is on one of the first constitution class ships. The one offs lean heavily towards science-oriented plots, usually a mix of social sciences and physics or biology. I have done some pre-gen, and some my own. The crew acts as diplomats and scientists exploring the galaxy, beams down to planets, and solves problems back in the days when captains wore gold.

The ongoing background arc is that section 31 (or is it really them?) has been trying to develop “super weapons” to defend the federation against Romulans, Klingons, etc. Even the one mirror universe game we did included a trade deal between prime universe section 31 and mirror universe villains. Sometimes this is subtle, sometimes it’s very much not.

Play has been more cinematic/abstract than simulationist. Sort of light tone mostly.

I use the living campaign, which provides an episodic feel, but I’ve been writing adventures that introduce characters and foreshadow situations in the These are the Voyages book… which I’ll get to during the season hiatus for the living campaign. Still. they feel episodic. I have added elements of things that would not make the show, like meetings with admirals or cantina time with the other crews.

I try to keep things as episodic as possible. The players fill in the gaps themselves to provide a sense of continuity with roleplaying. It works well. All of my sessions complete the story at hand in one sitting to give everything the feeling of a series. It keeps my players excited because they know whatever we put together is going to feel exactly like Star Trek.

I come up with themes, morals for the story, and try to keep combat limited to like one or at most two encounters. It’s a different kind of work to put into running a tabletop RPG because Star Trek is more cerebral.

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