Thoughts On Putting a Star Trek Campaign To Rest

So last week my fortnightly-on-Wednesdays group put our Star Trek Adventures campaign out to pasture. The adventures of the USS Audacity aren’t necessarily 100% over, but we’ve decided to declare the most recent episode the season finale and pick it up later if and when we feel like doing so. (One of the group has been cooking up a Ravenloft campaign we’ll be dipping into in the meantime.) Now that we’ve had just short of a year of play under our belts, here’s some thoughts on how it went.

Boldly Going Where No Troupe Play Has Gone Before

We decided to run the campaign troupe-style, like Ars Magica: we all had our own player characters, and anyone who wanted to run an “episode” (a full adventure which usually took some 2-4 sessions) could step up and do so. This is an approach which early editions of Ars Magica proposed; 5th edition still presents it as a viable option for play, but no longer assumes it as a default.

This actually ended up being a good fit. Because of the supporting character rules, you can quickly roll up an Ensign or other minor character to play when your bridge crew character isn’t present, and the bridge crew/supporting character dichotomy there ends up paralleling the magi-and-companions/grogs split in Ars Magica. It’s often the case in Star Trek that some characters will be more present in some episodes than others, so having the bridge crew PCs active vary a little from mission to mission was, if anything, appropriate to the genre.

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Boldly Going Where Many Systems Have Gone Before…

Star Trek vs. Star Wars might not be the iconic Coke vs. Pepsi/Sega vs. Nintendo-style franchise rivalry it was once back in the day – the proliferation of franchises and continued diversification of fandom has largely seen to that – but given their prominence in science fiction over the past few decades, it’s interesting to note how they’ve been differently handled when it comes to the tabletop RPG licence.

In particular, when it comes to the Star Wars licence, Lucasfilm and Disney after them haven’t exactly been reluctant to parcel out third party rights to spin-off products – as the masses of Star Wars spinoff products testify – but they’ve always been at least somewhat careful as to who gets to play in their playground. West End Games were only able to land the licence for their much loved-version in 1987, a time when the series was generally considered to be almost ready for mothballing by the powers that be at Lucasfilm. That might sound absurd, but it’s worth remembering that by that point Return of the Jedi had been out for some 4 years, both the Ewok Adventure TV movies and the Ewoks and Droids cartoons had come and gone, and the Star Wars well seemed to have run dry.

It’s now a matter of record that both the success of the RPG itself and the wealth of material it produced as an aid to referees was instrumental in kicking off the Expanded Universe, injecting a new dose of life into the franchise until George Lucas ensured it would live on in flamewars forever by making the prequels. West End Games kept the RPG going for 12 years, with the licence only pulled by Lucasfilm in 1999 after West End Games got into financial difficulties. From there, it didn’t take much time at all for Wizards of the Coast to pick up the licence and produce the D20 Star Wars line in various editions from 2000 to 2010, at which point they surrendered the licence voluntarily; a year later, Fantasy Flight Games picked up the licence, and in 2012 they’d bring out their new Star Wars RPG line, which has remained current despite the shift to Disney (and indeed has engaged with the Disney line constructively, with a starter set coming out based on The Force Awakens).

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