Monday, 24 October 2016

Ex Astris, Scientia (Despite The Boxes): Starfleet Academy, Season 1 Mid-Report

Welcome to my life
It's been a while since I posted, but then to be honest it's been a while since I did much fun.  It's chaos at thw Quailcave which has finally relocated from a flat in Glasgow a house in Glasgow.  I am now a home-owning nerd and one whose possession had to be placed in boxes.

You've seen my possessions, ladies and gentlemen.  Its a lot of boxes.

The new house is warm and dry with fully functional kitchen and bathroom.  Apart from that, however, it's a bombsite.  Redecorating has taken longer than expected and inevitably nerdity suffers because Sister Superior wouldn't be impressed if I put off painting the feature wall of the bedroom to go paint a Knight Titan's heraldry.

Though that feature wall paint will get some nerd use later on.  She says "feature wall", I say "Martian landscape"
In the long run it's gonna be worth it.  The new place is bigger and with an extra room taking over the dining room & study roles, the Nerd Room will be purely a lair for my silly projects.  A garden with shed offers a great place for spray-painting, casting and other more smelly/messy projects.  Sister Superior's parents have even offered us a larger dining table, meaning the existing one is about to become surplus to requirements and could easilly become a more permanent painting/play space.

For now this is all in potentia.  Right now I just live in chaos.

And not sexy chaos or cool chaos.  Just "where the hell are my Traveller notes" chaos

Still, after all the chaos we were glad to get some normality back so our RPG nights have resumed after a couple of week's hiatus.  That means I can now give a midway report on our current roleplaying game - a game set in Starfleet Academy during the same period as our other Star Trek game.

Four weeks into series 1.

Effectively this is the Deep Space Nine to our Next Generation - a spin-off show set in a static location that allows for a different style of story-telling than the traditional Enterprise hops from planet to planet every week" model.  Our game is set back on Earth, at the main Starfleet Academy campus and focuses on a single dorm inhabited by an odd-ball mixture of new and experienced cadets.

This was initially a bit of a tough sell to some of the group since it sounds like Dawson's Creek with lasers and nerds, bless them, don't usually get drawn into high school drama type proceedings.  Frankly, most nerds hate high school with a passion and treat it as a dark time where tyrants ruled which shall never be spoken of again - which is why my copy of Alma Mater remains unplayed.  To the typical nerd, it's about as enjoyable a prospect as a Schindler's List LARP.

...Apologies for the rather grim analogy there, but I suspect there's a few readers that are still sorta nodding along.

That said, Sister Superior was more into the idea because she has very fond memories of Saved By The Bell even if her own teen years sucked.  Furthermore the reason that an Academy setting appealed to me was the fallibility inherent in the premise - rather than being Picard, Spock, Dax or other super-skilled experienced characters these will be 17-22 year olds who aren't fully formed yet.  I'm sure we all have memories of things we or our friends did as younger people which seemed totally fine at the time but, on reflection, were majorly uncool - but sometimes we only learn by trying and failing and those shit moments of our past can be key parts of what make us people.

A Starfleet cadet game isn't going to be as grim as DS9's war arc - I don't think we'll be doing any Ben Sisko getting off scott-free with war crimes type stuff - but it does allow for players to mess up big-time because even in the utopia of the Federation, teenagers and students will be total idiots

This but with more aliens and less 90s fashion.
So, all the students are sharing dorms and will be somewhat flawed.  Who are these guys?

Despite the idea being centred on students not everyone is playing a fresh-faced teenager.   Matthew is Gabriel Santos, a third-year Medical student who is struggling his way through a course that he's only really doing because Everyone In The Family Does Medicine and has to learn a valuable lesson about what he really wants to do.  As the one with the most success in the academy so far he's the experienced voice who knows the campus, the town, the courses and the students.  He's not thick - he has the grades for medicine and he could probably do it if he applied - but he doesn't care enough,

Aaron is his friend Vladimir, imagined as a Fonzie-esque older character who hangs out with the others because he's young at heart.  He works as a hall warden for the student dorms and is endlessly resitting first and second year courses - he's been stuck at the academy for five to ten years and is determined that one day, one day he can make it.

Molly is doing a turn as our Chief O'Brien - the character from the previous show who transfers over to help boost initial rating.  K'Ratak was a medical officer on our Enterprise-F: now she's back at Starfleet Academy for a one-year course and struggling in a very alien environment to her.  It's not just that she's a Klingon - it's also that she's experienced at how it works in reality, so all the stuff you teach first year students might seem daft to her.  What's with all the saluting?  When did we ever salute anyone on the Enterprise?

O'Brien: Older, experienced and enlisted.  Er... sometimes.... but we'll get to that
Dave is playing Ranjen Bant, the youngest member of the group - a 17 year old farm boy from the arse end of Bajor, Ranjen had never even been off-world until he made it into the Academy.  The whole big city is proving a bit of a shock to him and he is very much going to have to watch himself if he's going to graduate and not burn out from partying too hard now he's far from the grim eyes of the Vedeks.

One person who might look out for him is Leo, Raj's character.  Leo is an Enlisted man - ten years service in Starfleet as a lowly grunt, running up and down corridors and shooting things with phasers.  In a tie in to our previous game he served alongside Jaheem Soto on the Damocleswho recommended him for officer training.

Leo let's us talk a bit about Enlisted men in Starfleet, something that the TV show has an erratic track record of showing.  Gene Roddenberry sometimes claimed the original series Starfleet had no enlisted men, but the movies/TNG/DS9 definitely show some people whose descriptions and jobs fit that bill.  More importantly, it's hard to imagine a fleet in which every job is filled by a four-years-at-university graduate.  You think people are bitter now at doing a degree and ending up in Starbucks?  Wait till all four years at the Academy gets you is a day standing in front of a transporter console waiting for someone to call.
Spock, Uhura and Chekox with some 23rd century enlisted.  Definitely!  Probably.  OK, just maybe.
Leo's issue is to some extent a class one, to some extent a personal one.  Used to life in the Enlisted ranks and mostly avoiding the Ruperts, Leo must now adapt to life in the upper circle.  Deep down he may not think he quite belongs there and may find going to university and living with a bunch of children difficult.

Everyone remembers the mature student in their course, right?  That's Leo.  Except most mature student's haven't killed anyone in their previous work.

We've rhymed off a lot of people so far but we're left with Sister Superior, who was perhaps the most keen to play this game but the less sure what sort of character to play going in.  However as we went over various fictions set in universities for inspiration we hit on one that appealed to her: and let her wear some fabulous oufits.

Oft seen but rarely explained
She is playing Astraea, an Orion - a race which appeared in the very first Star Trek episode and is in many ways synonymous with the series yet has seen very little canon expansion of their culture.  Cannibalising what we knew, what inspired her and some other odds and ends we created a character whose dad is some sort of "legitimate businessman" in the Orion Syndicate and who has just graduated with a degree in dance.  Not a lowly slave girl she, but a lady well-versed in the history and art of her culture -if still a bit air-headed.

She was so happy to  have a human boyfriend, and thought when she graduated they'd finally marry.  Instead he dumped her, saying that he wanted to go to Starfleet Academy and "you're fun and all, but Starfleet captains don't have Orion wives".  The cad!

However she's determined to win him back, so she applied to the Academy and was their first ever Dance entrant into the graduate program. A year later she's here and while wants to graduate, she also wants to win her darling back.

"It's, like, hard?"
Yes, Sister Superior has made Elle Woods out of Legally Blonde.  But in spaaaaaace!

We are four episodes into our eight episode first season.  So far we've had the inevitable coming together of the new students and introduced some important NPCs, including Astraea's fiancee Gabriel Van Linden and his fiancée Abigail Merton.  The two of them are part of Red Squad, an elite organisation of the best of the best students.  The players... bless them... are not in Red Squad and so there's sometimes a certain amount of geeks versus jocks tension with them.

We've gone to visit Leo's wife and their pet tortoises; we've seen Gabriel Santos's sister tell him it's obvious that he doesn't want to be a doctor while he can't admit it to his dad; and we've seen Ranjen's alcohol intake increase to unhealthy levels.

We've also met the faculty: Superintendant Selin being the younger brother of the Enterprise's Captain Satlek but the real star being Petty Officer Morag McCafferty the angry Scottish drill instructor.  We're keeping to a PG-13 sort of rating so no full-on swearing, but we do let in a fair bit of innuendo and factual sex discussion like you might see in Friends or a soap opera.  This does limit her from going totally Full Metal Jacket but she can still have some fun, even if she is only five foot nothing.

" I am not an officer, I work for a living!"

We're going to have a pause for a couple of weeks for one-offs over the Halloween period before resuming.  It's all but inevitable Ghostbusters is going to get run but I also want to break out Dread for the first time in a while.  Sister Superior is awaywith work this Thursday and can't join us so I might as well take the chance to make our Halloween game properly horrific since I won't have a nervous girlfriend to worry about in the night after!

My premise is still getting tweaked but I'm thinking it'll be Hallowe'en 2001 and the players will be a 9 year old birthday kid, their best friend, their bigger sibling and their sibling's boy/girlfriend.  The sibling is working a night shift at a family fast food restaurant and the little kid and their friend are "camping out" in the store for some family safe spooky fun.  They'll be all alone for a few hours, bar perhaps a chef and the occasional drive-thru patron, in the twilight of the spooky season.  Just all burgers/pizzas/chicken wings and lots of cheerful kids meal toys to play with.

...I think Sister Superior will freak out enough reading this let alone playing it.

"...the animatronic characters here do get a bit quirky at night, but do I blame them? No. If I were forced to sing those same stupid songs for twenty years and I never got a bath? I'd probably be a bit irritable at night, too."
After we finish Star Trek, there's another old game I'd want to go back to.  It seems appropriate to restart it around Christmas since it's based on a TV show which usually has a TV outing at Christmas - and we left it with something of a cliffhanger.

What say you, gang?  Want to spend the end of 2016 and the start of 2017 dealing with Faction Paradox?

Coming to Christmas 2016... Doctor Who: The Quantum Archangel

1 comment:

  1. That Dread game sounds interesting and could be fun (although I'm still bitterly disappointed that I'll miss Ghostbusters - maybe Archie is away at a conference [probably causing mayhem if any London Branch {spit} people are also present]).

    I'm definitely up for Doctor Who again, especially if I get to do the theme after the pre-credits sequence ;).