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Starter Campaign review and suggestions (Spoilers)

posted Jun 11, 2018 11:53:17 by Elijah
Just finished GMing the 3 Starter Campaing Missions for my group and here are my thoughts and suggestions on running them. The Starter Campaing was written by Marco Rafalá. All my players are hardcore Star Trek fans, as we all actually met 10 years ago in the local Star Trek fan society. The group was 4 players with 3 Players per Mission due to obligations, one player is a Alpha Tester just as me, another a hardcore tabletop RPG player, one a casual RPG player and one a RPG novice, ages 25-40. We are playing in TNG era, 2371 (or 2370 actually for this starter Campaign)

MISSION I - THE ALCUBIERRE (PCs: Security Chief, Chief Engineer, Ship's Counselor)
The first Mission is fine. The big issue is that the Players are leaving the ship and do not return to it until the end of the Mission. It kinda feels a bit dungeon-crawling, in a bad way. To alleviate this, suggest to the Players to take a few Supporting Characters with them that they can leave on the Shuttle if not needed, but might be useful to have. This Mission also doesn't really have a moral dillema of any sorts. So fix this, at the start of the Missions when the PCs leave the shuttlebay and find a bunch of dead Starfleet Officers in the hallways, have them find one dying Romulan who needs first aid and then treatment in the Sickbay. Maybe he was shot by the Parasitic Romualans after he found out about them. This might be the first hint something is amiss. This can give the Players a short discussion should they leave the Romulan to die or carry him to the sickbay. Also, this Missions has way too many fights. This goes for the entire Starter Campaing. There are 2-3 combat encounters per Mission in the campaing. Way too much and I think it totally skews the feel of Star Trek to be shooting one another all the time. Add to that the Parasites with their 3 Stun Resistance and 2 Recovery, the fights last forever. Not good. I recommend ignoring the Parasite Recovery Talent unless your players all wanna have a 1-2 hour fight every Mission.

MISSION II - WE ARE NOT OURSELVES (PCs: Science Officer, Chief Engineer, Ship's Counselor)
The second Mission went by better. Also, why does every warp travel in this Campaing take a week to get somewhere? It kinda feels a lot, even for the edge of Klingon space. The first part was good, investigating the Klingon outpost. Kinda creepy as they found a bunch of dead Klingons and parasites. The way the backstory is all over the place it took a while to actually figure out what exactly happened and to be able to explain to my players in a non-linear way the entire story. Unless I missed a sidebar, it would be good to have a what actually happened in chronological order for the GM written out. My Players were curious who each of the dead Klingons was and so on. The description of the next Mining Station the Players realized immediately that it was a secret base definitely out of the way of everyone. In the mining station as the Players deactivated the jamming device, I added an overload booby trap. It was an Extended Task to fix it, but the Chief Engineer got 10 Work in a single Task and easily stopped the device from exploding. The players took a Security Team with them this time, so the two Romulan guards engaged the Security Team while the Players snuck around. Again, way to much unavoidable combat. In the final confrontation the combat was more engaging, as there was more space to move around. At this time we were at the 2.5 hour mark, so I was ok with this conflict lasting longer to fill up the time. It was ok and the Players engaged more interestingly with one another. So, I guess the biggest suggestion, note that you can make the fight last if you are running short.

MISSION III - THE PIERCED VEIL (PCs: Security Chief, Science Officer, Ship's Counselor)
The last part and probably the best of the 3. I mostly didn't change much here. The virus infected the ship and the Players went into the Computer Core and Main Engineering to reboot and fix the Computer, they ended up with 2 hours to spare. Another player actually suggested calling the incoming romulan ship after the Computer was fixed and explaing the situation. She succeeded at the Task to convince the Romulan Commander, so they Warbird showed up to help them in act 2. I suggest giving the playing a hint that they can try to contact the Romulans anyway even if they fix the ship on time. At Moana III the players actually created an advantage to search for Cloaked Warbird before the Warbird deacloked. They detected something and debated whether to raise shields or not to give away their hand. The Security Chief had the final say and decided to Raise Shields, at which point the Romulan appaered and fired upon the ship. Now, a complaint. In the Campaing it does not describe what the benefits or dangers of moving into the Asteroid field might be. I think there is some in the CRB, but I didn't have time to look it up as the players went into and the Romualans followed. The Allied Warbird showed up and helped the Players defeat them. The Players Excelsior took a lot of beating, eventually taking 4 Breaches on Structure, and a couple on Computers. (But most of the beating was from the fact that one Player decided to use the Tractor beam to catch an asteroid and sling it at the Romulans. They failed the Task and scored two Complications, yep they rolled two 20s on three d20s. I ruled that as the Astroid actually hitting the PC ship and scoring two breaches.) There was brief discussion on using Torpedoes to disable the enemy engines as the enemy started to flee. The players debated on using a Salvo or single warhead, but choose to be cautious not to destroy the ship. Also, for all the structure hit one PC was hit twice by an injury. (I rolled a d6 5-6 to see if anyone was hit and then again a d6 to randomly pick a PC to get hit) So the PC ended up in Sickbay, but having an Advanced Sickbay allowed the Players to heal the injured PC immediately to participate in the next scene. The players took a shuttle down to the Planet and actually beamed LeSalle up, at this point I used revealsal, since I had 10+ threat, to have to Romualn fire some anti-aircraft weapon to crash the PCs shuttle down. The rest of the Mission went as scripted, but I did skip a bunch of the translation Tasks, since we were already at the 4 hour mark. I just told the Players as we went along what was going on. The final battle thankfully only lasted for two rounds. I had the Commander Avoid Injuries all the time and the Scientists got shot instead. Also, there was a Security Team. I used them as following, essentially 6 men and every time the Enemy scored a hit I didn't roll damage, just had a Security member shot instead. The players even joked as that being their armor, and the Romulan Commander having the scientist as armor also. The end was a bit debate that I shared on reddit already. At the end there is the choice to kill, imprison or make a deal with the parasite queen. Everything was going fine until the players started to debate the choice. The ranking officer wanted to kill the queen while the other two wanted to hand off the decision to the higher ups. This ended up as a 10 minute real life discussion on the merits of all the decision. As the commander pulled out her phaser to kill the queen the master chief chief shot at the cmdr. This was an opposed Task. The security chief sided with the master chief and shot at the cmdr also. They had a security Team so they surrounded all of them unsure who to side with. The cmdr and the security chief ended up with another opposing Task to order the security team. The cmdr won the Task and the security team arrested the security chief and the master chief. Then the cmdr killed the queen. Now I have to decide what to do next, which Character to get punished and which rewarded, reputation gain and what next to happen.
Overall the Starter Campaing Missions are a good way to start a Campaing for sure, even if I do see overly critical of it. My suggestions for GMs and writers of future missions are not to put that much combat in. That is kinda old-school D&D mentallity but this is just plain stupid. You must fight and they do not negotiate, and you must shoot to kill the Parasites and if you suck they recover health every round. Maybe change into more normal Romulans where they can be negotiated with? Also, is there a point of having LaSalle come back for the 3rd Mission? He doesn't do anything at all, my players just arrested him and send him back to the ship. I get the, oh remember that guy, but there is no point in him being here. Also, to note, my players did not get imprisoned in Mission 2 nor did they take live captives to Scene 1 and Scene 3 of Act 1 of Mission 3 we had to skip.

Have any of you ran the Started Campaing? Do you plan on to? What do you think? Do you agree with my assesment? Do you have suggestion on how to improve stuff? Please chime in.
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8 replies
TimKellogg said Jun 12, 2018 20:30:09
I have only read it. The developer of the game is at pains to explain the game is about character development, not about combat. HOWEVER, in my vast experience running RPG, players expect and LIKE a little combat, some puzzle solving, some plot development, and some "skill work" (Advancing the plot through use of the skills on the character sheet.) But then, their starter campaign has a lot of combat! I do not mean to be critical, because I enjoy roll playing as well as role playing!
PatHenry said Jul 05, 2018 17:30:39
I've also read through this. I appreciate Elijah's critique. The Starter Campaign takes a lot of care to note that the start of every new scene should cost the players one point of Momentum (from their group pool?), but I’m futzed if I can find that requirement stated in the Core Rules. If I’m missing it, where is that stated (page)? I guess I am not seeing the logic in penalizing the group pool every time the scene changes.
TonyPi said Jul 05, 2018 18:12:18
Page 84.
Contributor to Continuing Mission at F&SF author.
PatHenry said Jul 05, 2018 18:18:11
Thanks. Guess I missed that :-)
Nizaster said Jul 06, 2018 11:16:38
I just ran the first mission on Tuesday night for my crew. We previously ran two seasons of LUG's Trek and this was their first mission running STA, so it took about four hours which was pretty quick I think considering all the rules explaining going on. The only major modification I made to the story was that I changed LaSalle to an NPC that the characters had met a while back just for fun.

PCs = Security, Science, Conn, Engineering
Supporting Characters = Medical

I thought the mission was fun and was good for a crew that had never played the system. I think the Location Trait of Emergency Lighting made the combat scenes a little more drawn out because it was much harder to hit and by the end I think the crew learned better how to use momentum. Early on they weren't spending it for extra dice, so rolling on difficulty 3's to hit was pretty hard. I liked the special abilities that D'Nal had, it made him tough to take down. The minor NPC's dropped with one hit each time, but the players really had to think about what was going on with D'Nal. I liked how they decided they needed to try to get main power back during the middle of the fight to A) get the lighting back on and make it easier to hit, and B) generate momentum to use during the fight.

I do like your idea about putting an injured Romulan in with the dead crew, that would be interesting and would get them to explore more of the ship maybe. Because they got that message to go to Stellar Cartography they never made it to sick bay or the bridge.

I think overall it was a good mission, I agree a moral dilemma may have made it more interesting, but from a teaching a crew the game aspect, I think it hit on the basic rules well and served its purpose for an intro. Looking forward to playing part 2...
[Last edited Jul 06, 2018 11:19:32]
PatHenry said Jul 06, 2018 16:29:00
Good thoughts on this. I will run this soon, but probably I will allow the possibility that not everyone aboard is dead. That will complicate matters a little and perhaps foreclose on overly aggressive tactics from players.
Nizaster said Jul 08, 2018 01:29:43
I was actually surprised the crew wasn't more skeptical of LaSalle, although maybe thats because I changed it to a character they had met before. Curious to hear how accepting other crews were of him on first encounter.
PirateGent said Jul 16, 2018 13:50:49

Well my players went through Part I: THE ALCUBIERRE. Talk about Bulls in a China Shop.

1. Players see the shuttlebay doors open and say "I've seen horror movies... nope - we are docking with the docking port as planned.
GM Solution: Okay I stick them in a generic hallway and still get the "come to stellar cartography" on nearby terminal.

2. Ambush by Romulans goes according to plan but.... Players on the other hand want to space the Romulan bodies into space. GM says "what about the dead starfleet officers?" PC #1 say "we'll just catch them before they fly out". PC #2 "bad plan - with the way we're rolling 20s..." Discussion/argument breaks out about what to do with the Dead/Stunned Romulans. PC Chief of Security (playing in character) points out if they do anything bad it could be considered a war crime. Rest of PCs now excited about committing war crimes! GM reminds them the Chief of Security is in charge of the away mission and Starfleet doesn't behave this way. PC Security Chief pretends to have computer issues and drops from the game (found out later he was not happy with the rest of the way the PCs were behaving like murder hobos)

3. All goes "well" now the PCs are playing a little more serious (Chief of Security became a NPC who elected to "guard" the stunned Romulans)

4. Final encounter in Engineering - PCs have quietly made their approach. Took out the firs three Romulans with timed shots. Spent threat to give the Romulan's rifles and had reinforcements come from other side of engineering.
PC Solution - take one of the stunned Romulan disruptor set to overload and throw it down the hall causing a fire. Another PC shoots at a cooling tower by the warp core trapping the rest of the Romulans and D'Nal in the section with the Master System Display and argued that the warp core cooling tower would cause the "safety bulkhead" to come down (you know that shield Geordi rolls under all the time to get away from danger?) PCs then spend momentum to find radiation suits and take control of engineering.

My PCs going through Part II - WE ARE NOT OURSELVESThey only got half way because they were playing super cautious after the dressing down from Starfleet Command they received for plowing through the USS Alcubierre like a bull in a China shop.
1. Players debated the pros & cons of using a shuttle, transporter or tractor beam to retrieve the Klingon Escape Pod. The finally went with Tractor Beam. After some tense moments (thanks to compilations with the asteroids getting caught in the tractor beam) they brought the escape pod into the cargo bay next to the shuttlebay and quarantined the area. They were expecting parasites to come pouring out of the escape pod. When they learned it was just a single Klingon they were ready to do a rolling quarantine to sickbay to do an autopsy.
2. Half the PCs go to Klingon Station, the other have remain in "overwatch" from their ship.... just in case.
3. PCs spent way too much time examining every little detail.
Ran out of time and will pick up the second half or part 2 next week.
4. PCs opted to fly shuttle to mining colony - no problems
5. Pretty much plowed through the outpost into the caves
6 PCs keep wanting to find kligon "treasures" to take home like disruptors and knifes
7/ When they found the Trill the PC Vulcan Councilor made some amazing roles and roll played it to the hilt showing the Trill the error of his way (I kept forget gender of the Trill which was my bad as GM). PCs elected to beam the scientist back to the ship for their safety.
8. They get the drop on the final badies. While talking to the prisoners their jaws dropped when they heard what was really going on after putting all the pieces together.

Part III won't be for a month as I catch up on Real Life and re-read Starship Combat.
[Last edited Aug 15, 2018 20:49:54]
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