So for Nerd Night™ the guys wanted to try something new. I’ve been wanting to to something more space opera-like and narrowed it down to two games: Battlestar Galactica (using Cortex), or Star Trek. The idea was to do a “pilot episode” and see if either took hold. I pitched Trek first, mostly because I enjoyed Season2 of Discovery so much I’ve actually rediscovered my love for the setting. I decided I wanted to use the new look and sensibilities of the series for the game pilot.

Now which system to use? We had been on the playtest for the John Carter version of 2d20 — the allegedly stripped down version of the game mechanics — and found it nearly unworkable, partly due to terrible writing making an overly complicated base mechanic impossible to grok. I thought of porting it into Cortex, then pulled the old Decipher Trek books off the shelf and had a look through. There’s a few things that are clunky with the game — especially damage in combat, but it was always a workman-like set of rules that I was mostly familiar with, although I’d forgotten quite a bit over the last decade or so since I ran it. Decipher it was.

The setting: It’s just the start of Season 2 of Discovery, and the Klingon War is over. The sudden win for the Federation, after what looked to be an inevitable loss, is still reeling both sides. How did they win? There’s a lot of obfuscation and politics surrounding it, and the command staff of the characters’ vessel is mired in “what really happened.” Their old captain, the famed Captain Robert Garth, hero of the Battle of Izar, has been removed from command for “mental breakdown”, but the crew isn’t buying it. He had been a major critic of the way the war was fought, and his ties to whatever manner they won the war have made him a liability to be pushed aside. His XO, Commander Fiona Kerr, has taken command, but Garth’s rivals in Starfleet Command have held up her promotion to captain citing her youth as a reason.

The characters: Stephen Archer, great-grandson of the admiral, is a hot shot pilot who was itching to get into the fight when the war ended. He’s just graduated the accelerated officer training program at the academy with his roommate and friend, Garav Idrani, a brash Andorian security officer. Right of the bat they find out there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes, as Idrani’s father — the general in charge of the Andorian Guard — invites them to a post-graduation party at the Andorian Embassy in Paris. There they meet their captain and her friend (and another PC) Doctor Sharas P’Trell, son of the Andorian Ambassador to the Federation and a chairman of the Defense Committee. He’s pulled strings to thwart Starfleet Command’s attempts to remove Kerr and any other crew who would not publicly disown Garth. P’Trell and she are tight, having been in direct combat with the Klingons, including the pyrrhic victory relieving Axanar. She’s saved his life and nearly died in the process; the ambassador has her back.

Aboard their ship, Fearless, an aging Walker-class (and one of three to survive the war), they meet the other two PCs, Lieutenant Olaf, a young Saurian operations specialist (Our conceit is that Saurians, like Linus, give themselves human names that other races can pronounce) and another loyalist to Kerr; and Lt. Kohal, the stereotypical hyper-competent Vulcan engineer who has become the ship’s troubleshooter.

The first adventure involved heading to Tau Ceti III to assist the population there with disaster relief, pending the arrival of large, better equipped ships. It’s been six months since the end of the war and 2/3rds of Starfleet is still in port under repairs or refit. They’re the first ship the fleet could afford to send. Along the way they suffer a horrific EPS conduit blowout that nearly kills two crewmen, the result of shoddy, rushed repairs at the Copernicus Yards. They encounter a ship hiding off the spacelanes. The captain is claiming issues with their drive and is evasive about what is going on. Kerr orders the characters to provide a “health and welfare” check of the vessel, and they discover the captain’s transporting Orion slaves to a meeting with a buyer. They promptly get into a fight, take the ship, and arrest the crew. They take the merchant ship with them to Tau Ceti, planning on releasing the women being trafficked and sending the crew to the appropriate officials.

Tau Ceti is a mess. The Klingon attacks here badly disrupted their infrastructure and the crew is hard pressed to address more than a few of the world’s needs. The leadership has felt abandoned and has been trading with the Orions and anyone else that can get them supplies. Starfleet’s arrival, while appreciated, is considered a bit late. The next few nights involved fixing maglev railways, power systems, air processing plants, and uncovering the mystery of a group of farmers who kicked the crap out of the Klingons that invaded a bunch of farming communities. It turns out they are the descendants of the Central Asian Khanate — the Asia-spanning empire of Khan Noonien Singh. There was some worry about what to do with them, but they’ve been staying out of the way of the world until the war. They find out that Section 31 (so far just called ‘the black badges”) cut some kind of deal with them in exchange for ignoring their parentage.

The last session ended with the crew having been replaced by a larger relief mission. They were celebrating in a famed whiskey bar in the world’s capital when their captain is beamed away suddenly — apparently taken by one of the Orion captains that have been supplying the world. It turns out that the high-ranking Klingon she killed was the favored son of House Mogh and there’s a bounty on her head. The crew is recalled hastily but it’s obvious that they are not going to have an easy time catching the much faster Orion freighter…

I didn’t expect the group to get into the game. I figured they’ve been interested enough to play, but it wouldn’t hook them like the Roman D&D campaign had. I was incorrect. Even though most of the players only have a passing knowledge of the shows, they clicked with their characters well, seemed to really respond to the more complicated universe I was throwing out, and bonded with their NPCs quickly. It’s one of the best starts to a game I’ve seen.

So now I’m writing up Decipher Trek versions of the new ships from Discovery. Because dead games are apparently my thing.