Star Trek: Peaceful Occupations

S4E08: Build the Tower
Unscheduled bonus episode

Session 18
Attended: Alex, Brad & Owen
Venue: DeeTwenty

Covers events on Stardate 53001.
(insert player logs here)

GM’s Summary:
Returning from a technical support mission on Klaestron IV, the Red Dwarf diverts to investigate an unusual energy signal, and finds debris of several ships. Before the crew (Commander Hagen, Ensign K’voDleH and Ensign Four) can determine what it all means, a warp core malfunctions rapidly devolves into a disastrous explosion, evidently destroying the whole ship.

Even so, the three Starfleet crew are surprised to find themselves standing in an unfamiliar place, with purple sand underfoot and heavy mists all around. Exploration of the area reveals others present: A Vulcan (eventually revealed to be a Founder in disguise), a Jem’Hadar, a Karemma, a Romulan and a Breen. A mysterious voice from a glow in the sky adds to the confusion, insisting that those present should “dig the sand, build the tower”.

The Starfleet crew manage to overcome inherent mistrust and miscommunication among the others and organise the digging out of 9 golden blocks and their assembly into a column. This triggers their return to the Red Dwarf, and the return of the others to their own re-assembled ships.

GM’s Commentary:
This one was thrown together in a rush, when Shaun was unavailable to run his scheduled game, and too many others were absent for me to run an episode of Peaceful Occupations instead. I thought it all up on the drive to DeeTwenty. Brad didn’t have his own character sheet available, so he borrowed Jay’s Number Four and did an adequate impersonation.

The main hook, the “you’re all dead and the afterlife is dull and confusing” was something my friend Arran once improvised for us in an ad hoc systemless game, c.2000, and I found it conveniently abstract and disconnected from the main plotline to cram in at random. The other elements sort of fell into place quite easily: The “everyone has to learn to work together” bit is fairly conventional Star Trek fare, the purple sand came from spending my afternoon playing Kerbal, and the cubic meter gold blocks came from Minecraft. The mist was intended only as a way to keep the environment finite, but Brad commented that is was reminiscent of Myst (where it was used for the same purpose).

The NPCs were mostly bland cardboard cut-outs. The Founder-disguised-as-Vulcan was slightly interesting, because I thought it was perhaps too obvious that the other two Dominion characters were blindly following a Vulcan for no clear reason. I also wasn’t entirely clear how to portray the Founders’ post-war attitude, but the promise from the player characters at the end of their word that the others would be allowed to go free seemed like the sort of thing that Odo’s influence would count a lot for.

The Romulan (Subcommander Tivoth) became a female-to-male transvestite on a whim, partly because Alex pressed me to see what interesting secrets he could dig up with Hagen’s telepathy, and partly because I’d recently watch Eddie Izzard’s Executive Transvestite bit. We considered the idea a little bit, and it did seem an interesting if slim possibility, given the apparent minimal gender differences in both Vulcan and Romulan culture.

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S4E07: Negative Reciprocity
Back and forth backstabs

Session 17
Attended: Alex, Brad, David, Gail, Jay, Owen & Shaun
Venue: DeeTwenty

Covers events on Mirror Stardate 52800.

(insert player logs here)

GM’s Summary:
The private freighter Sarah is contracted to smuggle slaves off of the Alliance world of Salva II, to the relative safety of Ferenginar. But among the passengers and crew are several agents for different factions. Lorat is working for the Terran Rebellion, carrying a package of old Terran Empire secrets, which he hopes to divert to Terok Nor. Kestra Hagen is a spy for the Alliance, trying to steal this package. Ruork is an agent for Memory Omega, also aiming to steal the package. And Number Four has had his mind replaced by another android working for Skraag, contracted to deliver the ship to the Badlands.

Several schemes are launched in parallel, all clashing against each other, with K’voDleH also eventually turning on Captain Carthright for his own ends. When nearly everyone is either killed or stunned, the ship is intercepted and boarded by an Alliance patrol. A transporter contingency by Ruork gets most of them off the Sarah and onto the bridge of an Alliance Vor’cha. The fake Number Four, returned to his undamaged alter-body, follows along, while Lorat escapes to the Klingons’ shuttle bay and sneaks off in a shuttle. The remainder secure the Vor’cha, before K’voDleH and the android kill Carthright and Ruork, and get as far as the Badlands. There, the android kills the Klingon, before Doctor Damaar beams the android into space and completes the flight to Ferenginar on his own, along with the surviving passengers and a massive warship.

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S4 Epilogue
The episode that wasn't

Wossname about how USS Onake Obavva NCC-75466 misses final Battle of Cardassia due to warp core malfunction.

GM’s Commentary: This was due to be a full episode, or at least filler for after part 2 of the previous episode. But we ran out of time, and frankly it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge, with the players’ stats now unreasonably high. Point is, it happened, they missed the final battle. The war is over, and I’m quite pleased about that. I had run out of ideas for interesting war stories.

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S4E06: Stimulus Diffusion, part 2
Same place, new faces

Session 16
Attended: Alex, Brad, David, Gail, Owen & Shaun
Venue: DeeTwenty

Covers events on Stardate 52800.

(insert player logs here)

GM’s Summary:

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S4E06: Stimulus Diffusion
Same place, new faces

Session 15
Attended: Alex, Brad, David, Gail, Jay, Owen & Shaun
Venue: DeeTwenty

Covers events on Stardate 52799.

(insert player logs here)

GM’s Summary:
With the Breen attack on Earth and new technology placing the burden of most of the fighting on Klingon ships alone, the USS Denali NCC-70258 is reported missing, along with the visiting Captain West, and Skraag assumes a more permanent command of the USS Onake Obavva NCC-75466, with Commander Ruork as his first officer.

A new mission is rushed to the Obavva via alternate channels, approximately repeating their mission to Delavi III, since Jem’Hadar forces were observed rebuilding and expanding the facilities there, to make up for other losses in the region. An away team is sent down to the planet to try to encourage the remaining Cardassian forces to switch sides and turn against the Dominion, while the Obavva engages in battle with a Breen cruiser and several Dominion vessels, including a mighty dreadnought, carrying thousands of new Jem’Hadar reinforcements for Delavi III. The Onake Obavva triumphs over these.

GM’s Commentary:
Running the same scenario twice in a row, which is essentially what this episode and the last have done, could have become dull and stupid. But I think the small twists were enough to make it work.

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S4E05: Interaction Distance
All a matter of proximity

Session 14
Attended: Alex, David, Gail, Owen & Shaun
Venue: DeeTwenty

Covers events on Stardate 52547.

(insert player logs here)

GM’s Summary:
The USS Onake Obavva NCC-75466, under temporary command of Commander Skraag, is sent on a mission in support of the Klingon Defence Force, aiming to knock out vital ground facilities at Delavi III. Dozens of security officers with heavy weapons are rushed into the main town, where they face steep opposition from Cardassian troops protecting military buildings, but ultimately succeed. Damage to civilian buildings is limited, due to Skraag’s strict rules of engagement, but two Starfleet crew are left seriously wounded. In contrast, only a single Galor class cruiser, the Content Not Found: cds-avenal, is present to defend the planet from space, and this is quickly defeated by the Obavva and the supporting IKS Krotahl.

GM’s Commentary:
Our smallest group in a while, but still what I’d previously have thought of as a perfectly large group.

This was an interesting one, as it was proper ground battles, with many troops (I believe 30 of the Obavva’s security staff vs. 150-odd Cardassians). I had to simplify this a bit, and the fighting turned out to be not too vicious, with the Starfleet side fighting by Starfleet rules. The players wanted to get more aggressive, and were mighty suspicious when Skraag wouldn’t let them off the leash. But for all Skraag’s nefarious traits, he is still Starfleet at the core, with more claim to that than any of the player characters, and he couldn’t have wanted the (mainly Federation) civilian population to be at any greater risk than necessary.

The players did notice that the space defences weren’t that great, but didn’t go into much detail about it. This was meant to be in the same pattern as the Dominion sacrificing the Cardassians at Septimus for the sake of other defences.

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S4E04: Division of Labour
Nobody worries about upsetting a droid

Session 13
Attended: Alex, Brad, David, Gail, James, Jay, Owen & Shaun
Venue: DeeTwenty

Covers events on Stardate 52448.

(insert player logs here)

GM’s Summary:
The USS Onake Obavva NCC-75466 is tasked with supporting the Bajoran resistance with quick raids on PLANETNAME, before joining a Klingon raid on the Cardassian shipyards at Septimus. A plan is hatched to send Number Four on a stealth infiltration of a large desert prison, staging an escape of the resistance members there, while most of the rest of the command crew beam down to the planetary capital. There, they plan to sabotage a Dominion laboratory. However, things go wrong when subspace interference disrupts the transporters, and Hagen is only able to retrieve four of the five away team members’ bodies. Even more worrying, the process bizarrely transfers the consciousness of all of them into the one remaining body, that of Ensign Lorat.

Four successfully completes his mission, joining Carthright in rescuing the others from the air. At the same time, the body of Lorat, controlled by many minds at once, manages to steal some data from the Dominion lab, even fighting off some Jem’Hadar guards, before Carthright performs an extremely dangerous high-speed, low-altitude flyby of the lab building in order to beam Lorat to safety. Vulcan meditation techniques succeed in returning the away team minds to their correct bodies.

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S4E03: Eminent Domain
Charge!

Session 12
Attended: Alex, Brad, David, Gail, James, Jay, Owen & Shaun
Venue: DeeTwenty

Covers events on Stardate 52333.

(insert player logs here)

GM’s Summary:
With Commander Skraag now assigned as the new first officer, and Commander Ruork merely attached as a temporary advisor, the USS Onake Obavva NCC-75466 is sent to support isolated Bajoran colonies, starting with Dreon VII. There, Bajoran hostages are being held inside a Dominion outpost to prevent Starfleet from attacking. This does not stop the Obavva’s crew from sending an away team with a fairly blunt attack plan down to the surface, though ultimately this succeeds, due to a bold charge by Doctor Damaar.

In space, odd movements are detected around the system, until the Obavva finds itself with a Breen battlecruiser unexpectedly coming up behind it. Conflict is avoided and signs of significant ship movements are detected, but Captain Coe orders them to keep their guard up and watch for more.

GM’s Commentary:
I ran this with a slightly vague plan, as I’d spent the preceding weekend moving house. But I think everyone had a reasonable time, including our first unscheduled club walk-in player, Brad.

This was another one loosely based on a Spycraft: Battlegrounds plot hook, and I knew years ago it’d make a decent one, because the hostage situation combined with transport inhibitors really mucks with with a lot of the usual Starfleet tech the players rely on. I think the original Spycraft version would have relied a lot more on sneaking and the threat of hostage recrimination to build tension, but in a Star Trek game it just takes a technical hurdle to make a decent story. I’m not opposed to combining both, but I let the players make their own choices about sneakiness, and I did warn them they were going down in afternoon sunshine, so I assume they’re not interested in stealth.

This was their first full episode using the Onake Obavva to its fullest, and they tore through a Jem’Hadar fighter wing without sweating. The Aerowing was also much appreciated for being better than a standard shuttle, though I was surprised they didn’t use both for their usual two-ship attack tactic.

K’voDleH’s decision to take a purple space bazooka along almost tripped me up. Only seen once in ST: Insurrection, I didn’t really have an immediate objection to it, but I didn’t have stats for it either. I allowed it, and Owen kindly used it very little for only a very basic blowing-hole-through-wall tactic, but I have a slight worry that it’ll become a hassle later on. But I doubt it can really be much worse than a phaser rifle set to 16.

The Breen were in this episode for 2 purposes: First, to give the non-away team players something to do, and second, to foreshadow their joining the war later on.

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S4E02: Contagious Magic
Stealing the parts with the power

Session 11
Attended: Alex, David, Gail, Jay, Owen & Shaun
Venue: DeeTwenty

Covers events on Stardate 52248.

(insert player logs here)

GM’s Summary:
The commissioning of the USS Onake Obavva NCC-75466 is interrupted when the ship is suddenly stolen, mid-ceremony, and then apparently destroyed in an explosion. The crew’s examination of the scene leads them to a civilian trade station at Lorillia, where they ultimately uncover a conspiracy to steal the Onake Obavva and smuggle it away inside of a Ferengi bulk freighter, the K’veen. The freighter was raided, and its warp core accidentally destabilized. With Engineer Hagen critically shot by a surprisingly still alive Commander Skraag, the Obavva is pulled from the larger ship’s hold and the criminal crew taken into custody. The Content Not Found: aerowing, with assistance from the civilian courier Gertie, pulls the exploding ship to a safe distance just in time, saving the day.

GM’s Commentary:
I was pretty pleased with this plot when it was ready, but for the life of me, I can’t think how the idea came to me or how it started out.

The technical details were hardest: How do you steal a Starfleet starship from the heart of the Federation in the spacey equivalent of broad daylight? For one thing, I’d had an idea months ago for a decoy tactic using replicators and transporters to fabricate a false debris field, to fake an exploded starship. But that wasn’t quite enough. Getting the ship out of Federation space undetected would be another major feat, plus a variety of smaller things too. The “hide it inside another ship” solution was fun, though perhaps not entirely realistic. The varying sizes given for the D’kora class made this even harder, and I considered splitting the ship into two halves in two different D’koras. But that would have spoiled a potential final action scene (a chase or battle) should the players had gotten the Obvavva operational faster, so instead I fudged that the K’veen was of the largest size I could find for a D’kora class.

The episode title also helped shape the plot, but I kind of lost the original meaning of that too, as the story changed.

I was careful to name all the other ships and captains present at Lorillia, so that it wouldn’t be obvious which one was the plot-relevant one, but the players badly misread this when they examined the Satisfaction first, and assumed this was the one and only ship to focus on. They didn’t even ask about the other 4, even though I repeatedly mentioned them.

The SS Satisfaction is what Jagger can’t get, and so it was captained by P. McCartney instead. Its Ferengi crewman, Keb, was improvised.

The Romulan ship was named Clupea, latin for Herring, as in the red variety, as this one was meant to make them worried, even though the Romulans are technically current allies.

Gertie is a blatant Cabin Pressure reference.

DaiMon Waeet was an in-joke between me and Alex.

Bringing Skraag back to life was risky, but potentially fun. I didn’t really know what more I wanted to do with him until after we’d played this session.

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S4E01: Anomie
Screw the rules

Session 10
Attended: Alex, David, Gail, James, Owen, Scot & Shaun
Venue: DeeTwenty

Covers events on Stardate 52001 to 52111.

(insert player logs here)

GM’s Summary:
The survivors of the Rutan spot a Durgem freighter stopped for repairs and hijack it. On board, they find a human Starfleet prisoner and evidence that the ship was heading for Wadi space, where other Alpha Quadrant prisoners seemed to be held.

Meanwhile, back in Federation space, Commander Ruork is summoned to an informal discussion with Captain Coe. She expresses doubt in the Rutan’s chances of survival and explains that it had been assumed the ex-Maquis crew would most likely assassinate the Vorta leadership instead of capturing any. She also informs Ruork that he’s been assigned as new XO of the USS Nexus NCC-74879.

Raiding the station at Wadi, the away teams are immediately lost to giant games. Other prisoners held there exhibit strange symptoms, which some of the away team also start showing. This is eventually found to be the Psi2000 infection, brought to the Gamma Quadrant for study by the CDS Dabray. Ensign Kulia works out how to interrupt the station’s complex transporter system and succeeds in rescuing the away teams as well as 73 prisoners, including 6 other survivors of the Rutan.

Station records indicate that the Bajoran wormhole may be becoming active again, so they take the cloaked Kekoot there, through a large Dominion fleet, and are able to return to the Alpha Quadrant. Jem’Hadar fighters follow them through, but the Nexus is present to cover their safe return.

GM’s Commentary:
It was great to get back to this game, and so we ended up running much later than planned. The new venue worked really well for this, being more central for most. It was also great to have Scot in as a guest player again.

The players had months to tell me their intentions, and these ranged from sitting and hiding in fear, to trying to carve out their own empire. Nobody, it seems, felt up to a Voyager-like slog through 70,000 light years of adventure. In the end, I picked up on their “steal a bigger ship” plan, as it was convenient to me that they not be limited to a single little shuttle. The freighter crew were a species of my own invention (though played here by the District 9 aliens), with a thorough backstory. Unfortunately, they met the angry Klingon first, so the players never uncovered any of that detail.

The games were pretty simple, but I don’t think the players thought much about how they were intended to run and they didn’t try to participate in them much (even though that should have been a fairly obvious possibility for escape). Game 1 was a resource gathering thing: Get things from the little domes to your temple, and at some point it’s enough and you win. It was somewhat like 3D backgammon. Game 2 was snakes and ladders, but apparently this was very hard to discern in the first-person perspective, and they mistook it for D&D.

The cut-scene with Ruork was a new style of play for me, and I think I kept it brief enough to be a valuable storytelling gimmick without boring the others. Putting him on the Nexus also served to show another part of the future-past of that vessel, before it got unstuck… in time!

I changed the head of the 8th Fleet at this point from Admiral Ankora to Admiral Sel, just for a bit of variety. With contradicting sources saying different things about who was in charge, I opted to make both true.

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