Continuing to post Star Trek: Discovery period ships for those CODA fans out there.


Here’s one of the ships I’ve really liked in the new series…the shuttlecraft! The weird red striping is cool. Here’s a pic of the Eaglemoss model (which is quite nice — heavy, well-built, but a bit nose heavy for the positioning of the landing gear.)


SIZE: 2     STRUCTURE: 10     CREW: 2+10 passengers     CARGO: 20     TRANSPORTERS: 1 cargo     LIFE SUPPORT: Class 1R (BB)      OPERATIONS: Class 1R (BB)     SENSORS: Class 2 (+2/+1/+1/0/0  D)     IMPULSE DRIVE: SBB (.5c/A)     WARP DRIVE: WE-5 (3/4/5  C)     ARMAMENT:  1 Type II Phaser arrays (2/2/1/0/0/ A)     DEFENSE SYSTEMS: PFF-2a  (Protection/Threshold: 12/2  Reliability: B)     MANEUVERS: CMD -1   HELM +2   TAC: -1


We saw this little ship at the Battle of Two Suns and in the amusing Short Trek involving tribbles. The idea is that these were used as a testbed for new warp designs, as well as small escorts.


SIZE: 4     STRUCTURE: 25     CREW: 80     CARGO: 40     TRANSPORTERS: 2 personnel, cargo     SHUTTLEBAY: 1 (2 shuttlecraft)     LIFE SUPPORT: Class 3 (D)     OPERATIONS: Class 3 (D)     TRACTOR BEAM: 1 dorsal/aft    SENSORS: Class 2R (+2/+1/+1/0/0  C)     IMPULSE DRIVE: SBE (.5c/D)     WARP DRIVE: PB-32 Mod 3 (6/7/8  C)     ARMAMENT:  4 Type II Phaser arrays (3/3/2/0/0/ A),  2 Mk12 IF Photon Torpedo Launchers (3/3/3/3/3 A);    DEFENSE SYSTEMS: PFF-2a  (Protection/Threshold: 12/2  Reliability: B)     MANEUVERS: CMD +0   HELM +4   TAC: +0     TRAITS: Small Warp Signature — +5TN to Sensor rolls to discover/locate ship, Vulnerable System, Throughdeck Warp Nacelles: When 1 block of propulsion damaged, also check a box of life support.


Here’s the “admiral ship” they created for the series. Of the Eaglemoss stuff, this is the most disappointing of the ships for detail, but I suspect the CGI models were pretty thin, as this was banged out for a quick set of shots during the Battle of Two Suns and is quickly destroyed; it most likely didn’t need to be terribly detailed. The bridge was originally supposed to be under the roll bar, but later was added. I prefer to think of that as some kind of observation/science area with the bridge still in the dish.


SIZE: 6     STRUCTURE: 40     CREW: 300     CARGO: 60     TRANSPORTERS: 3 personnel, cargo     SHUTTLEBAY: 1 Aft  (7 shuttlecraft, 3 workbees)     LIFE SUPPORT: Class 3 (D)     OPERATIONS: Class 3 (D)     TRACTOR BEAM: 2 dorsal/aft     SENSORS: Class 3 (+3/+2/+1/0/0  D)     IMPULSE DRIVE: SBD (.6c/C)     WARP DRIVE: PB-32 Mod 3 (6/7/8  C)     ARMAMENT:  8 Type II Phaser arrays (4/4/4/4/4/ B), 12 Mk12 IF Photon Torpedo Launchers (7/7/7/7/7 C) DEFENSE SYSTEMS: PFF-2a  Protection/Threshold: 12/3  Reliability: B     MANEUVERS: CMD +3   HELM +0   TAC: +3



Way back in 2002, I had picked up the new Decipher Star Trek RPG. I had liked the Last Unicorn Games version, but we hadn’t played it. The same team had moved on to Decipher, which had made their name in card games in the 1990s. I had a couple of friends at the time that were die-hard Trekkies, and I decided to run a post-Dominion War campaign for them. I had anticipated a short mini-campaign; nothing extended or extravagant. It wound up being a game that ran for almost four years in different “series” that built one on the other.

The company had issues and eventually the RPG folded around 2006. (As usual, it seems every Star Trek RPG collapses as soon as they do a Klingon sourcebook.) It was a quick collapse, leaving fans of their CODA system wonder WTF? If you look around the site, you’ll find a lot of the fan-made stuff, including a lot of my earlier work on Artilects and other aliens not included in their Species book.

About six months ago, I wanted to take a break from the 1930s game we’ve been playing for about a year. I really wanted to get back to some space opera and it was down to Battlestar Galactica or Star Trek. I had already run an epic (in the classic sense of the word) BSG game that last five years and was one of the better bits of GMing I’ve done in about 40 years of gaming. About the same time, one of the players got me access to Star Trek: Discovery — which I was unenthused about, but liking the idea of a series not based on the captain, I figured I’d give it a try.

I loved the aesthetic of the show (which I see as a reboot and not a prequel, no matter what the producers say), and saw some potential in a modernized Trek universe. When season two rolled around with the fantastic portrayal of Captain Pike by Anson Mount (and tip of the hat to the writers for getting the character right), I was in. I picked up a few of the Eaglemoss models for the series’ ships. I was originally doing the old-time fanboy thing and rejecting the Klingon aestethic, but my young daughter’s excellent critique of the look of the vessels, and the desire to break away from the Japanese samurai in head makeup, led me to go all in on the look and new style of the Klingons. I did, however, keep the Andorians with the moveable antennae from Enterprise.

With that lengthy intro, what’s Decipher’s CODA like and is it a better option than the 2d20 system that Modiphius has been using for the setting? Right off the bat, I’ll start with this: I despise the 2d20 system. We were on the playtesting for John Carter and found the rules badly written to the point of the game being unplayable. There were simply too many moving parts for the players. CODA ain’t perfect by any stretch, but it’s much easier to play.

The basic mechanic is simple: roll 2d6 plus a character’s attribute modifier (like D&D, the actual attribute rating is meaningless) and the skill level added together and try to beat either a similar roll if opposed by another character or NPC, or a target number. This basic mechanic holds true throughout the game, including the ship combat. There are also class and race traits, features, etc. to modify your rolls. I’m not a fan of the race/class thing, but Decipher was under the thumb of the mighty Wizards of the Coast from the start, and at least they didn’t force them to go d20 — which I understand, at the time, was what WotC wanted. There’s an option for randomly creating attributes or picking them; skills and other character elements are chosen during a short background and career package build. You can build beyond the basic starting character with advancements. I’ve found for basic department head level characters, you want to give the players about 5-6 advancements to get started.

Combat is fast and can be pretty deadly. The weapons of Star Trek are pretty damned deadly. Firefights are over and there’s not a lot of leeward for characters. The old Star Trek game we had saw most of the players lose a character or two over the course of play. Hand-to-hand and melee combat, on the other hand, takes a while — especially if you have a tank of a character. First aid and medical attention is pretty good in the future, and if you survive, they can usually fix you up. (With the Discovery aesthetic, a lot of this is cybernetics. I went with the idea that if it was something they could organic 3D print, you would get a skin graft or organ replacement using your own DNA, but for major limbs or other complicated structures, it’s easier to just have engineering whip up a robotic part in the manufacture lab.)

Starship combat was pretty good in this game. It was designed to give everyone on the bridge something to do. Certain maneuvers required the helm, tactical, and operations guys to hit targets, and the commander to do the same to pull something off. Engineers were busily jury rigging repairs, medical teams were aiding injured. the ships were fairly evenly matched — which is something we see even between largely mismatched sizes and capabilities in vehicles in Star Trek — hell, a Bird of Prey killed Enterprise D. It’s how good the characters are that matters. The basics of Trek are there, as well. So long as the shields hold, you’re golden. You still take damage; the shield absorb some, but not always all of the damage; if you lose shields, you’re dead and pretty quickly.

By today’s standards, save for D&D, there’s a lot of fidlly bits — off-hand modifiers that are a bit ridiculous, heavy mods against you for extra actions, in the name of game balance, but overall, it’s a serviceable and clean system. You can find the PDFs around the web with ease, and the books turn up from time to time.

Is it worth it? Yes, if you want to play Trek and don’t want to pay the premium prices that Modiphius is charging for the 2d20 system. (Don’t get me started on their sourcebooks — just hit up the Memory Alpha site online. That’s where most of it came from.)

On another note, I’ll have up more CODA versions of Discovery ships in the next few days, I hope.

The new Star Trek campaign has necessitated writing up some new ships and some new versions of old ships. It’s a bit difficult, as the new show has done a lot of handwaving about the capabilities of the new vessels. They are generally larger than TOS had vessels being, and they are much technologically advanced (because it’s not 1966 anymore), and I used some online sources as well as the excellent Eaglemoss models to slap these together. First: Federation ships…



I love the stripping some of the new ships have in the show, and our explanation is that the colors denote where the vessel was constructed. Red (as with the Shenzhou) is Utopia Planitia, turquoise (the original stripping color for the same, is Andor), there’s a green in our universe for Tellar, and a rust-color for Vulcan.

SIZE: 7     STRUCTURE: 45     CREW: 350     CARGO: 80     TRANSPORTERS: 3 personnel, 3 cargo     SHUTTLEBAY: 2 (7 shuttlecraft, 4 workbees)

LIFE SUPPORT: Class 2R (CC)     OPERATIONS: Class 2R (CC)     TRACTOR BEAM: 1 aft SENSORS: Class 3 (+3/+2/+1/0/0  D)     IMPULSE DRIVE: SBE (.5c/D)     WARP DRIVE: PB-16 (5/6/7  C)

ARMAMENT: 10 Type II Phaser arrays (4/4/4/0/0/ B); 4 Mk12 IF Photon Torpedo Launchers (4/4/4/4/4 B)

DEFENSE SYSTEMS: PFF-2a  Protection/Threshold: 13/3  Reliability: B




In DiscoveryEnterprise isn’t the biggest, baddest ship. She’s got “impressive specs” according to one of the characters, but she is now a light cruiser, a bit bigger than the old ship.

SIZE: 6     STRUCTURE: 35     CREW: 210     CARGO: 70     TRANSPORTERS: 3 personnel, 3 cargo     SHUTTLEBAY: 1 (7 shuttlecraft, 4 workbees)

LIFE SUPPORT: Class 3 (D)     OPERATIONS: Class 3 (D)     TRACTOR BEAM: 2 dorsal/aft  SENSORS: Class 3 (+3/+2/+1/0/0  D)     IMPULSE DRIVE: SBE (.5c/D)     WARP DRIVE: PB-32 Mod 3 (6/7/8  C)

ARMAMENT: 6 Type II Phaser arrays (4/3/3/0/0/ B); 4 Mk12 IF Photon Torpedo Launchers (4/4/4/4/4 B)

DEFENSE SYSTEMS: PFF-2a  Protection/Threshold: 13/3  Reliability: B




This sleek ship was originally a design pass for Shenzhou but is larger and more modern. There are a few art pieces floating around out there of this class with the stripping seen on the Walker- and Cardenas-classes. I like to think those are older ships, and the grey paint schemes are ore modern. She’s listed as a “battlecruiser” in a few sources, so I went with that.

SIZE: 7     STRUCTURE: 35     CREW: 250     CARGO: 70     TRANSPORTERS: 3 personnel, 3 cargo     SHUTTLEBAY: 1 (7 shuttlecraft, 4 workbees)

LIFE SUPPORT: Class 2R (CC)     OPERATIONS: Class 2R (CC)     TRACTOR BEAM: 1 aft  SENSORS: Class 3 (+3/+2/+1/0/0  D)     IMPULSE DRIVE: SBE (.5c/D)     WARP DRIVE: PB-16 (5/6/7  C)

ARMAMENT:  8 Type II Phaser arrays & 6 PC-10a PD pulse cannons (4/4/4/4/4  B); 2 Mk12 IF Photon Torpedo Launchers (3/3/3/3/3  B)

DEFENSE SYSTEMS: PFF-2a  Protection/Threshold: 13/3  Reliability: B




I love the look of thing — even with Eaves’ fascination for negative space making some of the design seem…anti-functional. I set our Trek game on a sister ship, Fearless.

SIZE: 7     STRUCTURE: 40     CREW: 160     CARGO: 90     TRANSPORTERS: 3 personnel, 3 cargo     SHUTTLEBAY: 1 aft (6 shuttlecraft, 4 workbees)

LIFE SUPPORT: Class 2 (C)     OPERATIONS: Class 2 (C)     TRACTOR BEAM: none SENSORS: Class 3 (+3/+2/+1/0/0  D)     IMPULSE DRIVE: SBE (.5c/D)     WARP DRIVE: PB-8 (4/5/6  C)

ARMAMENT:  8 PC-10a Pulse cannon batteries (4/4/4/0/0/ B); 2 Mk12 IF Photon Torpedo Launchers (3/3/3/3/3 B)

DEFENSE SYSTEMS: PFF-2a  Protection/Threshold: 13/3  Reliability: B


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.

The new(ish) game group has settled in nicely over the last two years. We started as a 5th ed D&D group — that was my sales pitch for two of the gamers — but they have tried out Hollow Earth ExpeditionTales from the Loop (which was very popular with the gnag, as most of them are of that particular late ’80s childhood.) I introduced them to a house rules version of cortex to run our end of Roman Britain campaign, swapping for the high fantasy of Dungeons & Dragons. I floated the idea of a new science fiction campaign; I’ve been getting the itch to do sci-fi, and particularly space opera again.

The ideas I threw out were a Star Trek campaign in the reboot (and let’s face it, it’s a reboot) Discovery universe (minus the awful spore drive McGuffin). I like the aesthetic of the ships and gear of the show, and the more gritty tone fits me well. And I would get to use the Eaglemoss starships for battles. (The Discoverse ships are gorgeous! and I’m warming up to the Warhammer 40k aesthetic of the Klingon designs from first season (which I initially didn’t like…) I’m thinking of either busting out the old Decipher Trek rules set, or porting it to classic Cortex, which remains a house fave for rules mechanics.

The second choice was to try and catch lightning in a bottle one more time with Battlestar Galactica. I miss the old campaign, loved the universe we had created, and think I could do a nice variation on the themes without repeating myself. And I would get to use the Eaglemoss models for combat scenes.

Something tells me with the current crop, Trek would fly better.

I’ve been kicking around a few ideas for a sci-fi campaign for our Saturday group, and started working on a Star Trek campaign.  Trek represents a particular problem for the GM that wants to fiddle with Roddenberry’s universe due to the canon-thumpers in its fandom, but fortunately, I don’t have those in this group.  We’re going back to the original show period, and keeping elements from both the Original Series and the new Abrams movie, but this will be its own universe.

One thing that has to be fleshed out:  the United Federation of Planets… How does it work?  What are the politics?  Is it federal, confederacy, or a unified government?  Working from the Abrams movie and the first six or seven episodes of the show, I’ve chosen a very loose federal system:  most of the worlds and their colonies are ruled from their respective planetary governments, but overall security is handled by the UFP and Starfleet.  Poverty, hunger, energy allocation — that’s all been handled in a post-scarcity economy…on the home worlds.  The colonies are another story.

Most of the colonies are either outposts struggling to get the ecologies of their respective worlds wrestled into shape, or are refusniks — worlds where the settlers are moving to escape the new government, or to preserve their particular culture.  (Remember how often people weren’t happy to see Starfleet in TOS?) One of the players is particularly interested in exploring the identity issue of colonial worlds.

To make things worse, there’s a shortage of usable real estate out there in space; plenty of rocky, desolate worlds to land on, but not too many “Class M” planets.  This gives more reason for the respective great powers of the ST universe to need to squabble over those places that can support humanoid life.

Gone are the “head of the week” aliens.  Our imaginations have a bigger budget than Abrams had, so less head prosthetic and more weirdness.  Most of the TNG and later alien races are aced  — I’m keeping the big boys from the show and a few from the movie — but the gangster and Nazi planets..?  Gone.  So Klingons (with ridges), Romluans (without; they’re a nation of Vulcans that refused the precepts of Sarek), Andorians (Enterprise-style), Tellarites (same), Deltans (not Betazoids — which I might have as human/Deltan hybrids), and possibly Ferengi.  A central theme will be why there are so many humanoid races in this particular area of space, and why some are genetically compatible.

On the trappings side:  the new movie uniforms.  Keeping them.  The gear didn’t go far enough.  Our communicators will be, in essence, smartphones capable of most of the features (with access to a network) of TOS tricorders.  Tricorders will be full-blown sensor platforms and computers.  Phasers have two settings: stun and kill…and no you can’t dodge light.

For the ships — keeping the look of the show, but using some of the fantastic reimaginings that artists on have been turning out.  The Constitution-class is the laters bad boy for the fleet, is roughly the size of the original ship, and the interiors will be closer to the original movies, but with some of the trappings of the new movie.

Right now, the characters’ vessel with be a slightly older frigate, USS Shenandoah.  The player character ideas are coming together:

A super-smart scientist type that comes from a human colony.  His only way off the rock was Starfleet, but his family and community see him as a sell-out (What?  This dirt farmer’s life isn’t good enough for you?)  He is top in his class, but surprised to find he actually has competition here at the academy.  He was raised with the idea that aliens weren’t any smarter/stronger/better than humans, and is finding that to be the case.

An Orion communications/cultural specialist who came to the Federation because she wasn’t quite sexy/dangerous enough to be enslaved (see Enterprise season 4.)

An Andorian security/tactical chief who has been posted on Andorian-only ships to date.  This is his first tour on a primarily human ship.

In Mongoose’s 2nd edition of the Babylon 5 Role Playing Game, the designers added an interesting mechanic which my players found fun to use:  influence.  Since the B5 universe involves intrigue and politics, the players are assumed to have to wrangle, call in favors, etc. to find out information or influence people they do not have direct contact with.

The character has a certain number of influence points in various fields — military (their own or other), society, media, political organizations, or criminal ones.  This is added to 2d6 and any modifiers to beat a set DC.    You can use influence to gain access to equipment and resources, or to pressure groups to aid you in some way.  This latter bit is particularly fun:  say your an agent from the Earth Intelligence Agencyon assignment in the field and you have to find out who is the Narn agent in charge in your location is, and get him to give you information on a group you’re after.  You tap your Earthgov influence of 12, roll 2d6 (7):  the difficulty to get this information is not hard, but the exerting the influence through the Narn government might be.  The difficulty to get aid from Earthgov is 10 — easily passed.  EIA pressures the Narn government for the contact — DC12, since you are are going a step further from your initial contact, you take a 5 penalty on the original roll…and still pass the test.  The Narn AIC is alerted to your presence and need for aid.  He has the information you need.  Now if say, you had needed the Narn to get information from the group, itself, and the GM had set that difficulty at 10, the cumulative penalties (two steps from your EIA contacts) would have provided a 7:  the Narn does not have what you want, but does have some of the information you need to point you in the right direction.

We liked this mechanic, so I ported it over to my Cortex games:  Battlestar Galactica and Serenity.  Here, your test roll would be Intelligence+Influence (Bureaucracy, Politics, Business, whatever…)  If you have Contacts that are applicable, add that die (this is “Friends in High/Low Places” in Serenity, or “…in Strange Places” in BSG.  Political Pull might also be applicable…  Set the initial difficulty, with a step up the difficulty ladder per faction you must go through (another route to go would be to add a die step difficulty per faction…)  So if your trader in Serenity needs to get hold of a smuggler working for the 14K Triad for get access to his supplier of X, he would tap his own contacts — say the Brotherhood of the White Chrysanthemum.

He rolls his Int d8, Influence d6 and Friends of d4 for a 7+3+3: 13.  Tapping his friend in the BWC is an Easy (3), who talks to a frienemy in the 14K (Average, 7), who talks to the smuggler (Hard, 11), who does give you the name of the purveyor of X…you needed a Formidable, 15 to get his assistance and failed.  What you don’t know — the smuggler does want competition and informed his supplier you were coming…and that he should dispatch you with haste.

This mechanic would be easily replicated in most game systems.  In the Decipher Star Trek game, a Negotiate or Investigate test might start with tapping Starfleet agents on a world, have them talk to Romulans, then to whatever group/faction they needed to talk to.  Set the initial TN, then add +2 for each step the request goes through (with possible additions for interaction stance, etc.)  Or have the degree of success moderate how many groups can be influenced in a chain.

For Hollow Earth Expedition, you would use the Bureaucracy or Streetwise skill (plus whatever bonuses for Ally, Contact, Mentor, or Fame) to make these remote influence tests:  each step away from your Ally/Contact/Mentor would be a step up the difficulty ladder.  (Say your connections to the Council of German Jewry give you a Easy task of asking your friends in the CGJ to contact their people in Berlin about the disposition of a friendly agent.  That Average to get information from Germany.  But say you need them to get a message to the agent, who is currently under surveillance by the Gestapo…that might be Tough, as the CGJ needs to go to a Jewish sympathizer in the polizei to get past the SS.

It’s an interesting mechanic, and one that my players seemed to find a lot of fun.