If you’re thinking of setting up a play-by-post RPG in the Star Trek universe then you’ve probably already considered the basic formats; a starbase, a random Federation Starship with an open-ended mission like that of the Enterprise, a medical ship or something with a more Klingon flavour, for example. These formats traditionally work well and each have the potential for a lot of interesting story arcs. However, if you want your RPG to offer something that the show did not then you might want to consider some of the following ideas…
Colonize a Planet on the Outskirts of Federation Space
With a Star Trek RPG you basically have a choice between a land-based concept or a ship-based concept. For a land-based concept, the most exciting thing you can do is to establish a new colony on a previously unheard of planet. Your characters would face the challenges that come with building a new life on an alien world with limited resources. If your colony is on the fringes of federation space, perhaps near a hostile empire, it will also face numerous outside threats.
Is your colony in a system with no strategic value? If so, it will have to defend itself with little help from Starfleet. If your colony is strategically important, on the other hand, it might quickly grow into a bustling port, with a different Starship calling in every week. Personally, I’d chose the former. I’d give my colonists a runabout and maybe one or two Starfleet officers (a communications officer and a security officer), and let them fend for themselves. Perhaps the colony is in a DMZ and Starfleet is not allowed to interfere.
The world building potential is huge. How many different ecosystems does the planet support? How is it governed? Do the colonists have different sociopolitical agendas?
Star Trek: ER
Exploring an pre-established planet could be fun too. Within each Federation world lies a world of opportunities for new stories.
I like the idea of running a busy medical centre or police department on one of the core (but rarely shown) Federation worlds such as Betazed, Bolarus or Andor. Just look at how many stories and issues ER managed to cover, or the BBC’s Casualty. Of course, you can still go into space, driving cool space-ambulances around the busy solar system and transporting donor organs to nearby worlds.
You could also choose a world that has been a member of the Federation for many years but has never been mentioned (or rarely mentioned) before. There are over 1000 planets after all. Perhaps a colony of one of the many Federation species.
Set Up Business on Ferenginar
If you like the idea of a land-based Star Trek RPG set outside the federation and you’re tired of the Federation’s morality police getting in the way of your money-making schemes, why not set up business on Ferenginar?
There are many role-players out there pretending to run Quarks bar, but running a business on the Ferengi home-world would provide challenges and opportunities on a completely different scale. You could play the stock market, trade in the great marketplace, sell weapons of mass destruction or set up a clothing shop for women. The market for female clothing and accessories is growing right now, thanks to the feminist movement. In fact, this might be the ideal time to open a branch of Anne Summers in the Ferengi capital (just a thought).
You are limited only by your ambition and the size of your wallet. Who knows, within a year you could be a District Sub-Nagus.
If you prefer a ship-based game one option is to explore the Gamma quadrant – something that Deep Space Nine never did particularly well. Your ship might have become trapped in the Gamma Quadrant when the Dominion War began. When the wormhole closed (the end of season 6 DS9) they might have thought it would never open again and decided to take the long route home.
There’s a lot of space between the Federation and the Dominion and it would take years to cover the distance. The Voyage would be as long and as dangerous as that taken by the USS Voyager and it would be made even more interesting if you were stuck with an even smaller ship (perhaps a scout ship of some kind).
The Milky Way is starting to get a little crowded don’t you think? So much of our galaxy has now been visited by the various Star Trek franchises that it’s difficult to find new territory. Of course, there are still huge swathes of the Delta and Gamma quadrants that have yet to be charted but why not take your adventures even further afield – say, to another galaxy? This could be done via a wormhole or one of Q’s cruel games, but if you fancy something a little different you could actually have your ship strike out into the vast void between galaxies. You might think that intergalactic space would be too boring but come on, this is Star Trek! It’s bound to be full of strange energy lifeforms.
The long journey would also give you a chance to work on your character development. Remember the Voyager episode ‘Night’? Before that used to think that both Neelix and Harry Kim should be euthanized, but the character development was actually quite good. Now I just want to watch Neelix stab Harry in the neck with a sharpened clarinet.
Star Trek: Babylon 4
If you must insist on having Q (or some other obnoxious space-prat) transport your characters across the galaxy, then you should make it different from Voyager in that they have to stay there. I’ve often wondered what it would be like if Janeway was forced to take responsibility for her actions and actually stay and help the Ocampa survive. Why not transport your crew into the middle of a war zone and force them to take sides. They’d have to get their hands dirty for once, instead of sitting on the moral high-ground apologizing (and secretly laughing) at the uncivilized aliens below.
Instead of a Starship, why not set your game on a space station or a small ship with only limited warp capability (perhaps a freighter, construction ship or tug). This would force the crew to rely on alliances with aliens.
Of course, you could combine land-based and ship-based ideas to create a multifaceted game. One idea for such a game is to have a space station instantly transported to a distant corner of the galaxy (as above), the twist being that it is a spacedock (or dry dock) with a starship moored within. Maybe the starship is undergoing repairs or maybe it is still under construction.
Would the crews of the spacedock and ship attempt to journey home together or stay put? Perhaps they would attempt to build a bigger, faster ship? If the situation were dire enough they might even be forced to manufacture ships for an alien government.
Remember the communications relay station from the TNG episode “Aquiel”? Wouldn’t you love to hang out there for a while – chillin’ on the Klingon border?
Ok, so there were only two crew members on the relay station and two people doesn’t make a game, it makes a conversation. But here’s what makes this idea interesting; there must be many more of these stations scattered across the Federation, particularly in its most remote corners. Don’t you think the lonely operators of these stations would form long-distance freindships? Dont you think they’d get together for a big party once a year? Don’t you think they’d all be crazy, unsociable and interesting people?
This little idea would suit those of you with an interest in the Vulcan/Romulan reunification story arc.
If the Romulans really want to be reunited with their Vulcan cousins they’re going to have to find a way to live together. The best way to do this would be to create a place where Romulans and Vulcans can live and work side by side. How about a colony in or near the Romulan/Federation Neutral Zone? This colony would have to be independent of both governments and would experience an extreme clash of cultures. It would therefore need strong leadership. Are you up for the task?
United Federation of Somewhere Else
My final and most ambitious idea is to bypass the Federation, Starfleet and the Alpha Quadrant entirely. You could create a game in a completely new region of space far from any currently explored region.
By setting your game in the Star Trek universe you will have a basic framework to work with, particularly in terms of technology and what is/isn’t possible. However, by distancing your game from all existing Star Trek characters, races or story arcs you will give yourself total freedom to explore new possibilities, such as bigger story arcs and even better technology.
You could give yourself the option of linking your game to the alpha quadrant later on, perhaps via a wormhole, a lost starship or an Iconian gateway.
See our second article for even more Star Trek ideas.