Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month November 2021- Star Trek Odyssey: Laurels of Victory

The year is 2375. It is a scant few months since the cessation of hostilities in the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, known as The Dominion War. Many Starfleet personnel lucky enough to have survived and to have even a modicum of command experience have seen their careers and ranks accelerate at a faster rate than would have been possible in peace time. Such are the crew of the USS Odyssey. Check out Mallorylover23 and crew’s adventure into the unknown in our November 2021 COTM: Star Trek Odyssey: Laurels of Victory. Learn more about their tales of boldly going where no man has gone before below!

Tell us a little about the people behind the logs? What’s your group like, how did you all start playing together, and what drew you to ST adventures?

We’re a mix of guys who’ve been playing together for a while and newcomers. Humanoyd and Justins have been playing in “Emerald City:Requiem” for more than a decade and I joined them about 6 years ago. Every now and then we take a break from that setting to run a medium length palate cleanser campaign. “Laurels of Victory” was such a game. We’re all fans to one extent or another except for the newest member; SeanP619, who did some impressive binge-watching to get current with us, and now I believe he’s quite a fan of the franchise.

Humanoyd played as Te’Yanah Shran; the Andorian First Officer with serious war wounds (both physical and emotional), Justins played the young and eager joined Trill Ops Officer; Denba Mox. She became the solid and reliable backbone of the group. The one everyone could rely on to be there to provide advice or help. Hummanoyd’s roommate; Mattcarter1 joined us for the first time on this. He did an amazing job playing the ship’s rescued-borg Doctor; Jesse McClain, and always had a dry quip to get us laughing when the group got in a pinch.

An irl friend of mine, SeanP619, rounded out the group with Forrest Kelly: the fresh-out-of-academy helm officer, with a bigoted streak against Cardassians, who he blames for the loss of his family during the Dominion War. His issues surrounding that became a major emotional fulcrum for the entire campaign and led to one of our best episodes. I was drawn to ST Adventures because the system felt robust enough to tackle the scifi elements but was also loose enough (not unlike Fate, which most of us are used to) to allow seamless cooperative storytelling.

How often do you play and how do you generally do so?

I started the campaign in August 2020, knee deep in quarantine, and it had been months since our group had met in person. Everyone was chomping at the bit to get playing at something
and I was the one person with the most free time to learn how to run a campaign on a VTT, which we did. We used Roll20 and met practically every other Sunday except around the holidays. We concluded Season 1 in June of 2021, so this ended up being a much longer campaign than I had originally planned.

So the primary inspiration for the game might be a bit obvious, but do you have any inspirations that might be harder to see? Themes you and your players like to explore or situations you dream would come about in the world of ST?

Well the initial inspiration was actually pretty concrete. I built the campaign around the established setting and publicly available Living Campaign on Modiphius’ website. This is a collection of 20 modules set in the Shackleton Expanse. 10 of the modules are set in Original Series times and the other 10 are set just before the Dominion War. I chose to adapt the setting heavily, since I wanted to not be too constrained by canon, and adapted the modern time modules to be set just months after the Dominion War. This allowed my players to create more compelling backstories, I believe and also left me with more room to break stuff in the modules to suit my own ideas.

I would say the themes central to this first season were almost completely player driven and centered mostly around the process of healing from trauma. Shran lost her legs in the war and has retreated to procedure and rigorous performance of her duties as a shield from her trauma. Dr. McClain is struggling with a new non-binary identity and the suppressed trauma of being assimilated by the borg, all the while doing his best to administer to the needs of his crewmates, despite some of their open suspicion of him. Forrest is having to deal with letting his crew become his new chosen family and later in the season, crossing lines to reunite with the family he thought lost to war.

OK, now for a hardball. Which series is the best(ToS, TNG, DS9, etc.), and who is your favorite character?

It’s not at all a hard question for me. It’s DS9. I understand why some people disagree and I’ll always have a deep love and affection for TNG, since that’s when I first was exposed to Star Trek and I fondly remember sitting with my father after doing homework, to watch that week’s installment. The draw of a new world each week is strong, but the depth of character and nuance of emotions, motivations and more grounded themes of politics and social strife, set against the hopeful and optimistic Starfleet mission really makes DS9 seem far more relevant and accessible to me these days.

Favorite character is a lot harder for me. If I had to choose (and I hate doing that), I would have to say Quark, followed closely by Odo. It’s really their antagonistic relationship that drives so much of what I love in that show that I can’t really disentangle them.

Your LCARS style is phenomenal. How long did you spend building all of the various static and moving bits?

I absolutely cannot take credit for this. It completely lies with Hummanoyd. He does all the layouts and art for all the campaigns we put on OP. He said that this style was by far the most challenging he’s ever done and he wanted me to let you know that it wouldn’t have been remotely possible without the amazing help he got from the OP community.

I love your adventure logs, do you create them yourself, or do you share the load in recording your narrative?

Generally the GM doesn’t write the logs in our games, though that’s not always the case in the Dresden Files game or when I ran Pendragon. For “LoV” One player volunteers to take notes and then the log gets written based off those notes and is usually completed by one of the players, though there are a few logs in this one that are written by all of them, each taking on the log of their own character. I awarded momentum points the beginning of play to each player who contributed to the log, to encourage participation.

As you’ve been on Obsidian Portal for a while, what is your favorite feature for helping to manage your campaign?

For me, it’s definitely the character page. I cannot do without it. It keeps everyone clear on who everyone is and helps me keep my rogue’s gallery organized.

Back to your game, what would you say has been the best moment your table has had thus far in your game?

I actually polled my players as to what stuck out to them most during the season and it was split down the middle; between the two emotional arcs that I think embodied the heart of the season. The first was Dr. McClain agreeing to perform in an impromptu modern Klingon Opera celebrating the exploits of Worf (referencing the excellent DS9 two-part episode; “In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light”) and consequently meeting and starting a love interest with the quirky Klingon engineer; Lt. Olok. Their romance became a pretty hotly anticipated side drama of crossed signals and missed opportunities that everyone got pretty invested in.

Secondly, Ensign Forrest’s breaking of the Prime Directive in Episode 6 came back to bite him in Episode 13. The emotional fallout from his betrayal and then their investigation, and legal defense run by Shran, for this young man’s career helped gel them all together. It all came down to Shran’s closing arguments and it was so close that I had to ask the group if it was alright if I left it to chance and made a roll instead of just deciding his fate. Even though he was unfortunately stripped of his commission in the end, he did avoid being completely drummed out of Starfleet and I’m keeping him in my back pocket for when we come back to this setting. SeanP619 was in the navy irl, and he said it was an amazing experience to play out something he never would have come close to in his career. He was such a good sport in following my hooks and playing the secret betrayer; covering his tracks during the campaign. And he was even more good natured and helpful when rolling up his replacement.

Let’s round this out with one of our favorite questions for our featured GMs! If you haad a secret sauce for running a great game, what would be the most important ingredients?

It’s different for everyone. Some Gms run completely homebrewed settings and I admire them for that. I cannot do that. I become paralyzed with the possibilities and nothing is more frightening to me than a blank page. I pick established settings and in this case very firmly established modules and I take them apart. I use what works and discard what doesn’t and I thread the emotional stories that I insist my players provide me with during session 0 through at least the first several modules. Then I see what happens. I continually adapt and re-break and re-write. All within some boundaries provided by the established setting and the eventual end point the last module suggests.

It is gratifying to hear that the moments that stuck out to my players was what was created from whole cloth by our combined storytelling, rather than any encounter or challenge that I copy and pasted into the adventure. You need to look at that stuff as scaffolding and the emotions and motivations of your PCs and NPCs as the brick and mortar of your campaign, if you want it to be memorable.

Finally, that brick and mortar will not hold if you don’t give your players agency. You might be plugging away at putting up challenges and obstacles, suggesting hooks and strategies or delivering a carefully prepared description or monologue and then a player will come out of left field with something you would never think of. It might feel like a threat to your established tone or how you thought things would play out. Don’t let that feeling make you say the dreaded word “no”. You need to let them guide you. If they throw something silly your way; like “genetically modified space cbd” that’s them telling you that you need to lighten the mood and you should incorporate that silly thing. I know it’s said often, but “yes, and…” is the most important tool in a GMs bag. If there is something that you cannot bring yourself to say yes to, then at least consider saying “no, but…” Avoid saying no to anything but the most obviously disruptive or harmful choices. It kills the mood and shuts down players and makes them feel like they can’t experiment.

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'

Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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