Today we’re joined by GM StephenWollet to talk to him about his extraordinary campaign Star Trek Late Night, which has won the honor to be the first Campaign of the Month for 2012! Read on and discover a Star Trek universe like you’ve never imagined, and a group of truly dedicated gamers!
First off, feel free to tell us about yourself if you want. Family, kids, pets, dayjob, alter ego, etc.
I’m an old guy by gaming standards, having been gaming since the late seventies. Since I am old that means kids and in my case grandkids as well. 3 grandsons, one grand daughter, and another girl on the way. By day I am a business owner, running a natural food store in Towson, Maryland. The Health Concern pays all of my bills and keeps a roof over my head. We have been in business since 1971 and I have been running the place since my father-in-law died in 1997. By night I am home on a small farm in southern PA. We raise chickens and rabbits for meat and grow what crops we need to stay alive. If zombie day came tomorrow, I would survive as we are prepared for that eventual end.
So, Star Trek Late Night is a pretty cool idea. Take Star Trek from the perspective of what HBO might do with a dark, gritty, overtone. Can you tell us more about what that all entails?
The group of us all love shows like Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, The Soprano’s and others that HBO has created. I have always felt that Star Trek is a great setting but due to censorship from the networks, the show has had to dumb down many story lines. We will explore some of those grittier story lines. The campaign will be dark, sometime even evil. Themes like slavery, rape, murder, betrayal, and the utter horrors of war will be a constant reminder of just how terrible the universe can be. I hope we can pull it off. These dark themes are hard to run and sometimes out of game emotions can get in the way. I think my team is up for it and am looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
Language, sex, and violence will explode from our games. One of my players is playing a porn star, another is a Klingon that follows a hard core prison code (“If I knock him out Ima gonna take it”), and another is a slaver who runs a brothel. I imagine things will be quite interesting. Coving these sensitive themes is dangerous territory and my wife is always near to tell us if we are getting too over the top.
What are some of the most major deviations from Star Trek lore that you’ve done with STLN? Give us say…the top 3.
The easiest question yet. 1. The Borg are no more. We ran with the idea that Picard killed them with a virus and was sentenced to a penal colony for genocide. 2. We have introduced elements of Dr Who, Firefly, Farscape, and Babylon 5 to the story. The many races from those stories have been integrated into the Star Trek tapestry and things like the Reavers are quite real. 3. The Trill symbionts are actually Goa’Uld from the Star Gate Series. That alone will alter the way people deal with the Trill.
While we have stayed true to Trek with the races for the most part, and true to the history too. most of the time. We decided to run the campaign over a decade after Nemesis so that we would have a clean slate to work with. It is our world and the sand box is huge. We have also added hundreds of races and worlds from other sci fi series.
Your players, how long have you known them and how long has your group been together. How long has STLN been going on?
As a gaming group we have been together since the mid eighties. As for the campaign we ran our first game session on December 30, 2011. This coming Friday is only our second game session. All the work so far is the back story to the campaign. I am amazed that my team worked so hard to make it possible.
In 2002 we picked up Last Unicorn Game’s Star Trek The Next Generation. At first I bought the game because I wanted it for source material but after looking it over I though the game had promise. It took some of the better elements of the old FASA Star Trek and improved upon them. We ran a campaign in which the players explored the Star Trek universe but the guys where getting bored so I thrust them through a wormhole into Star Wars just prior to the Galactic Civil War. It was a smash hit with my players and when the game eventually died we had many great memories. Once of the regrets I had was that the game never reached to endgame I had hoped to see.
Jump ahead to summer of 2011 and I started working on compiling the mass of information we had from the old Star Trek campaign. I ran the idea of revisiting the campaign to my players and they seemed interested. New to Obsidian Portal, I figured I would try the campaign out here. What I discovered was a database resource that allowed me and my players to work together with creating the world before we every played a single session. I hit upon the idea of having the players write extensive histories for their characters and I rewarded them for designing NPC’s from their pasts. These stories and NPC’s allowed me to bounce from player to player and create a much more comprehensive history.
I see that your wiki is extremely customized, well organized, and you’ve even given credit to the fellow portallers who have helped you put it all together. I must say it looks mighty fine, immaculate even, do you feel there is any room for improvement or things you’ like to see done with your pages?
Thanks for the kind words. I am pleased with the content but not happy with the appearance. I would love to have graphics on every page and buttons for every link but that takes time and finding the right graphic is not always easy. Plus the amount of graphics I would want to use will push the limits of what my membership in OP allows. I am not very good at maps and they seem to be lacking as well. Finally I would love to figure out how to put together trailers for my episodes. I have made one movie and I am not too happy with it but I plan to get better. As for the overall appearance of the site, I could not have done it without my players. They stepped up and helped with content and the back stories they have written spurred me onto create more.
Speaking of your wiki, it is extremely depthy and detailed, about how much time would you estimate you’ve put into it?
95% of the Wiki was done by me and Deykaras. I don’t know how much time he put in but for me I have put in about 20 hours a week every week since July. I imagine he has done at least as much as me. We couldn’t have done all the coding without help from guys like killervp, Duskreign, and others. We have so much data up that I am truly amazed. I printed about 1/3 the data and had it bound. The book is nearly 3″ thick.
Also, speaking of putting time in. Do you find it hard to get your players involved in the wiki for your game? Have any pearls of wisdom for other GM’s out there trying to get their players more involved?
Yes getting players involved is difficult. For the campaign I created a Bennie system. Every game session I expect the players to post an entry into their personal log. This earns them one Bennie. If they do more than that adding character notes for npc’s or wiki entries then they get more bennies. I made bennies game changers. They can buy drama cards, cause another character to fail a skill test, or restore the courage points pool for the player. This amounts to being able to have control over the story to some degree and since the game is so damned gritty, helps with survival.
Our last campaign on OP practically died when the players would not participate. It was me and the GM posting things and the rest of the guys did nothing except for when we yelled alot. My advice for other GM’s is to offer their players something they cant refuse but only when they are active on OP. When they see the active players being the heroes and pulling off over the top theatrics, then they will get on board.
What system modifications are you using to run this, or is a non-customized ruleset for the Star Trek RPG?
We are playing Last Unicorn’s Star Trek ICON System with many modifications. We added Force Powers from Star Wars, a complete magical system, and hundreds of races and new technologies. We also added a comprehensive biomod and cybernetics system. Overall we rewrote the entire game or so it would seem. My actual rule books contain about 1/2 the rules we have written ourselves. I plan to post the books up as free downloadable files at some point in the future. I also created the best damned Drama Deck I have ever seen. It is downloadable for those who might want to use it. I paid a professional printer to make the decks and the cards are beautiful. By far my favorite addition to the game.
What would you say the biggest highlight from the game has been so far? Any particularly exciting battles or other scenes that have popped up?
Well as I mentioned earlier, we only started play last week. When I got your notice was about one hour before our first game. You can imagine how excited we were going in. Our first night was more of a night of teaching the new rulest to the players. They had a few minor fights, made some enemies, made some friends, saved the city from a bomb, got attacked by a school of flying sharks, and went on a picnic with a psychotic girl. Overall a good night.
Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GM’ing pearls of wisdom.
My best pearl of wisdom is simple. Have fun. If you always remember to have fun the rest will fall into place. Don’t sweat the rules if the get in the way then play a more cinematic game and always keep it simple. My best games have been the silliest.
Thanks for your time! You’ve got an awesome game going here and I can’t wait to see more as time goes on! Cheers and happy 2012 good sir!
Thanks for choosing STLN for the COTM. It truly is an honor to be counted in with so many games that I truly admire. Have a great new year and even better gaming.
That’s it for this month guys, you know the drill and if you think there’s a game that deserves recognition be sure to tell everyone about it! Beaming ourselves out until February, see ya!