Memory Alpha is a fantastic Wiki site, has a lot of great information. But make it new, this is after all years after the latest show or movie. (the media most of us are familiar with) Wikipedia is your friend.
What is a neutrino? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutrino
How about a Tachyon? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tachyon
But I’ll let you know, there is so much more out there. Click around, surf the site. I came upon this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_partical
With the information you can gather using the site, plot ideas will literally fly off the page. What is a Neutron Star and what can you do with it? What if your crew ran into a star as large as VY Canis Majoris? CME’s, Gamma Ray Bursts, Micro black holes. Did you know that the sun is orbited by much more that 8 planets (plus pluto)? Eris, Sedna, MakeMake, Orcus, Cerus just to name a few.
As you navigate around the site, brainstorm and soak up what you read. But be prepared to hit the back button more than a few times. during my experience some of the links lead to something way off track. I preferred to stay close to the science section of the site focusing on astronomy, chemistry, and physics. However, do not let that limit you. If your brainstorm leads your finger to click on something far far away from what you started off from, follow.
Lastly, to put the finishing touch on your alien species, introduce some depth. One of the best ways to begun to frustrate expectations and to make alien civilizations more than caricatures is to create some internal divisions. It’s pretty much impossible to pin humanity down to a single essence. Trek has often done so by focusing on the drive to explore, but that’s arguably a very Western view of things and ignores that majority of human civilizations that have been pretty content to stay where they are.
One way of creating variation is what you might call the Xindi approach—that is, by combining different species, each with their own unique points of view. That can certainly work, but doesn’t really overcome the basic problem of tying an individual species to a one-dimensional point of view, which can make things both predictable and boring.
Better yet, you might go back to the single defining characteristic you used to create your aliens and start looking at it from different points of view. I’ll use the Deferi as a one example. Balance is great, but precisely what does it mean? For instance, what about the Borg? What’s the Deferi attitude toward them? It might seem pretty obvious—the Borg disturb the status quo and are therefore a threat to balance. But what if you interpret balance in a more conceptual way. Maybe the joining of biological and mechanical is the ultimate in achieving balance. Maybe some Deferi look up to the Borg.
The great advantage of adding this sort of depth is that it’s often the stuff of interesting stories. I could imagine a mission revolving around a Deferi splinter group trying to make contact with the Borg in the name of balance. Alternatively, maybe that species adapted to environmental extremes that I mention above is considering joining the Federation—some of them might appreciate the diversity of governments and cultures. Others might see the multitonality of Federation languages a sign of serious moral deficiency. That could set up some delicate negotiations for a player to navigate.
I’m sure other people have their own techniques for creating new worlds and new civilizations. It can be a time-consuming task, however you approach it. But, I think, in the end, it’s always worth the trouble to do well—for the sense of accomplishment you can get, for the sense of immersion and engagement that the player/reader can find, and for the creation of stories that are more than just the same old routine.
I know it’s an unfair poll, but I’m curious as to how many players are going to focus on beefing up the Klingons. If you had to choose to make missions for one faction, which faction would you be writing for? Or, put differently, the majority of your missions will be for which faction?
Short skirts, go-go boots, and Vulcans in heat… Star Trek has incorporated sex appeal and downright “T and A” into every series. It’s probably one of the most consistent aspects of Star Trek canon. Canon is sexy.
Sure, it was pretty toned down for TNG, as the series became more politically correct and almost unisex. Nevertheless, with DS9 and especially VOY and ENT, Star Trek returned to its roots, giving us voluptuous women in catsuits and shirtless male bravado. ENT, in particular, pushed the envelope, especially with decon rubdowns and crewmembers running around the corridors of the ship in their skimpies. ENT even brought us back full circle to the alluring women of TOS:
No doubt, some of the “sexy” in canon has become out-dated and sexist by today’s standards. It’s difficult not to cringe when watching Kirk seduce scantily-clad android hotties. It’s also tough to imagine Capt. Picard having his way with an indentured love slave, as Kirk did in “Bread and Circuses.” Most likely, audiences in 2040 will cringe when watching episodes of Enterprise.
It also seems likely that the sexiness of canon will find its way into community-authored missions. We know it’s coming, right? We’ll see seductive Orions, Vulcan love slaves, and “interesting” missions on Risa. What should be seen as offensive? What should we report?
Players will have different reactions to different missions. Indeed, one player at the STO forums was even offended by Cryptic’s latest featured episode that took place in the TOS era. So, no one is safe from the report button, if the mission resembles what we’ve seen on TV. This could prove unfair, since a mission that gets reported will likely not make it to the “main game.”
Certainly, there is a both a subtle and a tasteless way to incorporate “T and A,” as done by the series over the years. Smart and witty dialogue, like Quark’s dirty bar jokes or Jadzia Dax’s insinuating comments, probably stand a better chance of not being reported. Most likely, there will be some players who even object to those moments.
Where do we draw the line? When has the line been crossed? When has a UGC author gone too far?
How do you, as a Foundry author, achieve a balance? Or, do you plan on avoiding the “sexy” altogether? What should Cryptic’s policy be?
On the STO main forums, dstahl gave us this agonizing update:
The team really wants to get this live today but right now they are tracking down an annoying bug that we want to fix before we turn on the flood gates. If we can get this fixed this a.m. and tested and the issues is resolved, then we’ll turn on the Foundry. If the issue still persists, we may have to wait till Monday to turn things on as our support center will be short staffed over the Holidays (Thursday and Friday are national holidays in the US and most employees will not be working).
So, either today, or we have to wait until Monday. Let’s cross our fingers.
Update: It’s not going to happen, according to Dstahl. Sorry guys and gals.
Once you’ve got a basic idea of your new life form, toss in a surprise or two. If you stop with one or two prominent characteristics that define your alien species, you run the risk of making them one dimensional. Star Trek actually doesn’t have the best track record in this regard. There’s certainly been some attempt to flesh out a few species, such as the Klingons, since the TOS days, but many others have been little more than poorly sketched cartoons.
The trouble is how do you make aliens…well, alien? The quick and easy way out is to take the one attribute you’ve used to define them and push it as far as you can. Klingons aren’t just warriors, they’re Warriors with a capital “W.” The Deferi aren’t just interested in balance, they won’t shut up about it. It’s a trope in the Trek universe that humans are the most versatile and adaptable of species, but that’s not hard when everyone else in the galaxy is pretty much a cardboard cutout.
If you’re not careful, this approach can lead you into a variety of racial and ethnic stereotypes—one of the bases of stereotyping is seeing some other group in terms of one or more grossly exaggerated characteristics. What’s more, the aliens created in this way aren’t really all that alien. They tend to fulfill terrestrial expectations pretty well.
Instead, you might consider including some incongruous element in your alien culture. This is, after all, the definition of alien—something that doesn’t quite make sense. Maybe members of your warrior species love to fight in space, but are pacifists on the ground. Maybe the aliens that spend part of their lives as trees are environmentally conscious—as you’d expect—but also pure carnivores when they don’t have roots because the thought of eating plants disgust them. Maybe the civilization that grew up bouncing between extremes can’t tolerate variation in some areas—their language is in a monotone and if you can’t match the tone, you’re considered a dangerous influence. It’s when expectations get violated that aliens really become alien.
The next and last step is to make certain your new extraterrestrial species is something more than alien—the whole point is to make it part of a compelling and interesting story. And that’ll be the topic of my next and last post.
Greetings, this is Captain Allen of the Federation star ship Andromeda here again to continue my mission to bring technical speaking to every star ship Captain in the galaxy. Last week we got up to speed on our Chief of Medicines’ commonly used phrases, medical conditions, medicine and technology. This week I have a very amibitious goal, to show you how to make your technobabble a solid part of the mission and not just an afterthought. Technobabble must be carefully used, you don’t want to confuse or frustrate your player character Captain, but at the same time technobabble provides a wonderful way to tie your mission to the episodes of Star Trek and provide mystery, intrigue and wonder that captured our hearts when we saw our first episode (or movie) of Star Trek.
Before we get started we need to take a look at our competition, Cryptic’s missions. Let’s consider the average Patrol, Genesis or repeatable Daily mission, Featured Episodes and various Enemy Front Episodes that are played by every star ship Captain in the galaxy.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘get to the point, Allen’. Well here it is: We can do better than 1, 2, 3 but not 4 or 5, at Foundry’s launch. Why do I say this? Cryptic’s well thought out episodes employ tricks we don’t have access to, but that’s okay because we have one advantage over them that they will never have: Time. We can write, rewrite and ponder and wait to release a mission when we feel like it is ready, and Cryptic does not have that luxury. This is why I am so passionate about technobabble and dialog and presentation of the mission, because we can slow down and take our time and not have t0 resort to abbreviations like we see in Genesis. I could do a fantastic mission surrounding a ‘kill 5 things’ objective if I just add a little mystery, a little story, and a little believability with the help of technobabble.
I’m so confident that I can create a compelling ‘kill 5 things’ mission, that I’m going to do it, right now. That’s right, I’m going to take my least favorite mission and make it shine like never before. And here it is:
Before I get into the topic of the post, I just wanted to say hi to everyone and express my thanks both for letting me chime in and for creating and maintaining this blog and the associated wiki. I’ve been having a good time reading other people’s ideas and impressions and looking forward to sharing missions. Now, on to aliens…
If my last visit to ESD was any indication, it’s pretty clear that Starfleet isn’t just for humans anymore. It struck me the other day that, in advance of UGC, probably the best area where players could express their creativity was in the design of new species for their characters. I’m guessing that once the Foundry goes live, some of those species and all sorts of other alien civilizations are going to find there way into player created missions.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to design aliens that are something more than generic and that can be central players in engaging and interesting stories. I came up with a number of principles that some of you might find useful. This is hardly a definitive list of considerations or approaches, but they’ve worked for me.
First, start simple. There’s a concept in sci fi lit crit that some of you might have heard of called a “novum.” The idea is that any piece of science fiction contains one or more novel elements that uniquely distinguish it from the present. This might be some major scientific discovery or a frequently apocalyptic historical (from the point of view of the story, at least) event.
Aliens seem to work pretty much the same way. There’s often a singular characteristic that defines them and distinguishes them from supposedly ordinary humanity. These can be matters of attitude or behavior. Klingons are warriors. Romulans are crafty. Vulcans are logical. The Deferi are devoted to balance. They could also be physical attributes. You know a lot about the Gorn by knowing they’re reptiles.
You may also find the basis of a new species in their environment. Maybe they’ve adapted to some unusual circumstances—a world with a highly eccentric orbit and therefore extreme climactic variations—or have a highly unusual life cycle—perhaps they spend a chunk of their lives stationary, with roots like a plant, before growing arms and legs.
Whatever this novel characteristic is, it’s probably the basis from which you’ll start to feel out the alien culture you’re creating. Knowing that Klingons are warriors can tell you a lot about what sort of government they have, what their ships look like, their attitudes toward other civilizations. A species adapted to extreme seasonal variations might be more accepting of change or might see dramatic shifts as part of the natural order. Their governmental systems might alternate from anarchy to totalitarianism in ways that seem perfectly reasonable to them.
Coming up tomorrow, I’ll say something about adding some depth to this basic foundation.
We may be hours or a few days away from seeing the Foundry move into Open Beta, so I’m still bound by the Non-Disclosure Agreement. I really can’t say much, and it’s probably risky to make this post at all. But, I wanted to share a few things with our readers and future UGC authors about my experience as a Closed Beta tester. I do not intend to reveal anything specific, beyond speaking in very vague language in the hope that some of what I say will make you excited about the tools and supportive of the dev team, especially during the next few weeks.
Despite the bugs, despite the initial limitations of the software (as admitted by the devs on the main forums), and despite a few non-intuitive aspects of the toolset (at least for me), the Foundry is fun. The potential is wonderful.
I know that some of you are wondering, “How can I do more than create a kill 5/5 mission without branching dialogue?” Or, “How can I tell the story that I want to tell, given the limitations of the Foundry?” Or, “How is diplomacy possible?”
I cannot answer these questions with specifics, but I will say this: I’ve been pretty impressed with some of the missions made by a small group of players during Closed Beta. If you can believe it, most of the missions that I played had very little combat. They were stories, mini-episodes of Trek, and even a few extensions of fan-fics. Some of the dialogue was quite fascinating, smart, and incredibly original. Overall, I was impressed by the dedication, expertise in Trek lore, and the “thinking-outside-of-box” that other community authors demonstrated. Missions could be unpredictable and fun. They didn’t often feel like exploration grinding.
As we move into Open Beta, I really hope that all of you really give the Foundry an open-minded evaluation, realizing that despite the initial limitations or bugs, the sky is pretty much the limit, especially as the devs squash more bugs, add on more features, and expand the potential of the mechanics.
There is much reason for hope and celebration. Let’s try to be positive during Open Beta, especially when it comes to things that can be fixed or features that could possibly be added.
With the Foundry supposed to hit Tribble on Monday, knock on wood, and still nothing really new to talk about for it this, this week’s topic is going to be once again, looking into the depths of what can be done with telling compelling time travel stories and character designs. But before we get into that, and why I decided to skip over the technobabble lecture, I’ll get to that in a minute, there is one little item on tribble right now that has me jumping for joy.
It won’t be long now. Just looking at this character select screen for the Foundry has me just itching to get to work with the tool set.
Now to answer the question that is on everyone’s mind: “why is the scheduled Technobabble lecture being replaced with this?” Short answer: I changed my mind. Captain’s Prerogative. Long answer: the post would have been the following.
Overall that would have made for three very minor points on a subject that has been covered extensively by USS Andromeda, (Seriously great guides. Remind me to buy you a drink at Quarks one of these days), and would have made whatever I was going to say a moot point.
So what are we going to talk about instead? Fashion! I’m not joking about this, well the delivery kind of was a joke, but I digress this is something important to talk about.
When dealing with most species in the Star Trek Universe, there is usually a certain flare about their clothing that makes them stand out in a crowd. Of course if this were a 21st Century Star Trek convention, everyone would be right at home with their colorful outfits and shiny Klingon Armor. That said, there are a few pointers that need to be talked about when designing the clothing for the NPCs in the mission are going to write, and how to use the clothing to best immerse the player of your mission in the universe of Star Trek.
First point to remember, and I know we’re going to run into a ton of missions where this is going to be forgotten so this shall be addressed first, Starfleet Officers wear Starfleet Uniforms. I know there have been occasions where that hasn’t been the case, Star Trek Insurrection being a nice example, however usually when Starfleet Officers aren’t wearing their uniforms they are in off duty apparel and look like any civilian. In short, don’t put a Klingon Officer wearing a full set of Klingon Defense Force Armor and say he’s a Starfleet admiral. You could probably get away with it, if you were to play this card, if said character were a Lieutenant on undercover assignment from Starfleet Intelligence or Section 31.
On a similar note, Starfleet Officers also wear period specific uniforms when they are on duty. For instance a Starfleet Officer in the 24th Century wouldn’t be wearing Starfleet Uniforms from the 22nd Century for Active Duty wear, they might be wearing it for a holodeck excursion, but not much else.
So in a game where freedom of character creation and design is among one of the highest selling points of the game, what are you going to do to keep players from foaming at the mouth for getting the uniforms wrong? If you don’t believe me, just look at the STO forums, under the heading of Star Trek Online Discussion, and look for any thread that involves Starfleet Uniforms, Period Specific, and No Off Duty. It gets rather heated in those threads.
Now to answer the question, in order to keep track of who is supposed to be wearing what it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding about how the various forms of clothing evolved throughout the series. For instance, the standard mobs in STO are wearing designs for the 25th Century, meaning most missions that are going to be written for the Foundry are going to take place in the 25th century. But let’s say you were writing a Time Travel Mission, not outside the realm of possibility, and you want to send the player to sometime in the 24th Century. Well depending on what year you want to send the player to will greatly affect what uniform Starfleet is wearing.
For example, let’s say you’re sending the player to the year 2338. You do the quick mental math and realize it’s the 24th Century. That supposedly makes the Uniform selection easy, the Next Generation Uniforms from the TNG series fits that date, right? Would you be surprised that that answer is actually incorrect and the Uniform that was worn in 2338 was actually the Wrath of Kahn uniforms? Well the Wrath of Kahn Uniforms are the Uniforms that Starfleet was wearing in 2338. In point of fact the Wrath of Khan Uniforms were worn, with minor variations towards the end of its run, from the later part of the 2270’s to some point estimated at 2353. Those uniforms are the longest serving uniforms in Starfleet history, and you can bet good money that a lot of players are going to know that fact.
Continuing on from that point, there is a part of the 24th century that can’t even be touch in terms of storytelling, with Starfleet involved at any rate, since the Uniforms for that era don’t exist. I’m talking about the 2353 – 2366, which is better known as the point before and during ST:TNG seasons 1&2. The game has all the uniforms for everything after 2366, but nothing before that.
So, if you’re going to do a time travel mission, you’re going to have to do a little bit of research into exactly what was worn during that time period. This applies to the Klingons as well. Shocking I know, but even the Klingon Uniforms have evolved over the past 200 years of Star Trek History.
Luckily for us, Memory Alpha has a great guide for the evolution of the Starfleet Uniform, found here, which makes figuring out which uniforms your NPCs need to wear relatively easy. The hard part is figuring out what weapons are going to match that era with the given STO weapon set. Thankfully the Klingon Disruptor hasn’t changed it basic design much in the past 200 or so years, so just about any disruptor weapon choice, so long as it is a Klingon Disruptor, is going to work fine. For Starfleet it’s a lot harder since their phaser weapons have changed a lot in just 15 years of air time. The easiest choices for Starfleet Combat would be any point after 2366 for the standard hand phaser designs, both the single hand and phaser rifle, you get in the tutorial. There are no phasers to use from the time period of 2271-2353, and for most of the time period known as the 22nd Century.
It makes combat missions in those time periods very difficult to write, for then you’d have to start explaining why Starfleet is using technology they don’t have access to yet to shoot you. It partially breaks the immersion of the player. What really breaks the immersion of the player is having any uniform from before the 25th Century on a character in a 25th Century facility, so missions that are time travel missions back to every period from the 22nd Century, right up until the 25th Century just aren’t going to work. That is unless your mission takes place on Deep Space Nine after the year 2369, or if your mission is going to take place at any point in between 2265-2270, (please play the Devidian Series to see why). So just about all time travel missions to any of the points mentioned, with the two above exceptions, are going to have to take place outside on a planet’s surface. I can just picture everyone who just read the pervious sentence rolling their eyes at that, but there isn’t too much that can be said about it. The computer interfaces for almost all Starfleet facilities are from a blue update that was implemented during the 25th century, and the interior design of all Starfleet bases, including K7’s interior, reflect 25th Century aesthetics.
Having the time travel mission start in space is a different matter of course, but end result is still the same, once you beam down it’s going to have to be outside otherwise you will break immersion.
Now as for fighting a different species outside of Starfleet and the Klingon Empire in your time travel missions, you still have a decent amount of freedom there. Romulans are basically off limits, ground personnel yes, space, not quite, for even though their interior facilities haven’t changed much, there are no uniforms to reflect any time period for the Romulans outside of the 25th Century. This is also true for the Ferengi, though why one would want to fight a Ferengi is beyond me since they aren’t worth the phaser blasts.
So what races can be used? The Borg, The Cardassians, The Breen, The Dominion, Species 8472, the Orions, the Gorn, The Nausicaans, and that’s really just about it for canon races. The Alien Creator is wonderful for this time travel villains since those races you create in the creator aren’t bound by the canon timeline.
So we have all that for time travel. Now how do we make the Uniforms for the specific eras? If there is one thing that Star Trek fans rage about in particular it’s getting the Uniforms right, so how do you do it? For this next part, I can take no credit. On the STO forums there is a lifetime career officer who goes by the forum name of Blackavaar. What Blackavaar has done is created over 240 color guides to the various Star Trek Uniforms that can be used in game. See here for the index to his many color guides. He has taken out the guess work and put everything into a very easy to use image for selecting colors. He has even gone far enough as to create some patterns for the Off Duty Clothing, which I highly recommend using as a starting point for design your own civilian characters. Make use of his work, for what he has done is incredible, and quite frankly makes our lives a whole lot easier.
That’s it for this week guide. Next time, when the Foundry is in open beta on tribble, we’ll begin to go into the step by step process of building a mission from scratch, one step at a time. Until then remember, “Con permiso, Capitan. The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. It’s now time to see if you can dance.”
There’s been a lot of conversation concerning the sort of rewards that UGC missions might deliver, ways that UGC can be used to earn experience and such, among other things which involve building upon a character’s attributes. For many, this seems to be all that matters, and that’s fine. But…
Well, just for the sake of argument… er… discussion… yeah… let us look at this from a different perspective. Leave aside the fact that there will be rewards and such. Just suppose that content we will be making with the Foundry tools were to exist without yielding any Ding or Bling. What then would motivate anyone to play it? Would it even be viable as a gameplay mechanic.
I think that any Founder (since the tools are called Foundry, I think that name fits better than UGC Author. It’s certainly easier to say) worth his or her salt should write missions as if the story thereof is their soul merrit. And yes, I meant SOUL. What we write should be at the very core of everything that is visually presented to the players. IF the soul of our missions is manifested in that way, then they will matter, regardless of whatever rewards the system doles out in the end.
I submit that even with the limited nature of the Foundry in its first release, creative and intuitive work within those limits should be able to turn out some awesome material. The official mission, City on the Edge of Never, has been lauded by many as one of the best missions in the game. And yet it was written using the same resources as the many official missions that have been condemned as the worst missions in the game. The difference? The person writing the episode and how he used the resources at his disposal to pull the player into the moment. To make the mission about having an experience rather than earnign experience.
That’s how we can make UGC missions that matter… By drawing the participant into an experience he or she will remember long after any new shiny piece of reward loot is rendered obsolete.
The newest Priority One podcast includes an interview with Cryptic’s TauNeutrino, as well as some nice discussion of our website and community. Please give it a listen!
This is the episode you have all been waiting for! TauNeutrino (Tom) from STO’s Foundry team joins us to answer your questions! We keep the theme with this week’s “Blank of the Week,” introducing Starbase UGC, a fan-site dedicated to Foundry fanatics. After hanging out with Tom, we share the latest news, including the upcoming ”Design the Next Enterprise” contest Cryptic will be holding, an “unofficial” Ask Cryptic dStahl gave us and the latest Engineering Report.
Check it out HERE.
Andreia has come up with a few ideas for how we can work in a Federation and Klingon mission showcase. Basically, we want to use the blog and wiki to showcase some of the best missions out there, with a “prize” of exposure on the blog sidebar and the wiki frontpage for a few weeks.
We want to be as fair as possible, but we’re struggling with how to do these contests or showdowns. Here are some of Andreia’s ideas for how it might work on a monthly or weekly basis. Please leave some feedback or give us your own ideas.
Pre-event – A panel of 5 players is chosen at random from the active SBUGC community. These players are disqualified from having their missions in the showcase for the week they are judges.
Week A – A topic is started on the blog announcing the judges and asking for mission submittal’s. Any mission that is not one of the judges is eligible, however it must be submitted by someone other than the author (judges can submit missions).
Note: It may be required to limit submissions to 2 missions per author.
Week B – The missions are collated and a pole is started that the player base can vote on what they feel is the best mission out of the ones submitted. At the end of this week the top five are picked from the group and handed over to the judges. This is to allow the general public to have a say in what goes into the showcase and mitigate any issues with judges favoritism or accusations of rigging.
Week C – The pannel of 5 players now plays through the 5 picked missions and give various points (playability, immersion etc etc) a meta score. As they have a week to do this that means they only need to play one mission a day and still have plenty of time. These meta scores are submitted and the averages are used to determine which one of the five is “Best”. Having the pannel of judges ensures that popularity will have a lessened role as the judging is a fixed number of people (50 people voting vs. 2 people voting).
Post-Event – A new pannel of 5 players is chosen and the cycle starts again.
As you can see this is a three week cycle, so every 3 weeks 5 new missions will be added to the showcase. This should help limit that amount of work that must be done on everyone’s part, also the fact that much of the process is distributed among the general population. Both the publics opinion and something more regulated is in place to maximize fairness and equality. Think of this like the House of Representatives and the Senate, a balanced whole.
Retrieved from “http://starbaseugc.com/wiki/index.php/Template_talk:Showcase”
While I like this system, I wonder if there is a something simpler, and if anyone has other ideas. Personally, I like the idea of letting everyone vote on nominated missions, rather than letting a panel of 5 judges decide. But, that type of system could easily be abused, since the poll can be manipulated pretty easily.
Any ideas out there?
This is intended as a guidline only to help one become better acqainted with tips on writing KDF oriented mission storylines.
Klingons and the Klingon Empire can be involved in your Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG series in several ways, from their traditional role as uneasy allies or open adversaries to the unique challenge and excitement of a Klingons-Only campaign, where the pursuit of glory and honor for the Empire, not the goals of the United Federation of Planets, shape the stories that are told. With the information provided in this boxed set, the Narrator can also build a series around non-Klingon infiltration into the empire (perhaps to control the potential ravages of the Klingon/Cardassian war) or even Klingon infiltration into the Federation, from the perspective of Klingon Intelligence agents. The possibilities are many.
Regardless of whether you make the Klingons the focus of the series, or simply of an interesting arc or subplot, this chapter may be of value to you. In addition to its role as a Narrator’s tool, this chapter will also be useful to players; the themes discussed here are meant to inspire character ideas as well as stories!
To these ends, we examine what makes an episode of the Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG “feel Klingon.” Klingons have an aesthetic, outlook, and a strongly-held code of ethics that is markedly different from that of the UFP or Starfleet, and episodes or series featuring them are richer and more engaging if those differences are highlighted and explored. The exploring we leave to you; the highlighting starts here.
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG rulebook, we described four axioms, fundamental ideas that sit at the core of Star Trek, that must be present for your series to reflect the ethos of the TV show. Things change, however, when examined from the Klingon viewpoint! While each of the Next Generation axioms apply to Klingon stories to some degree (especially “Cinematic Action!”), there are two fundamental Klingon axioms that should sing through the blood of any episode or series in which the sons and daughters of Quo’noS take part:
Honor is Everything!
And honorable behavior in the game should be rewarded. By the same token, dishonorable behavior should never go unpunished. While Klingons, like humans and others, may certainly find redemption for their dishonors, a tale can not be truly Klingon if dishonor has no price.
What is “honorable” behavior, then, in terms that apply to writing and narrating good Klingon episodes? Honor doesn’t exist in a vacuum; there must be something to be honored. The most vital forms of honor among the Klingons can be lumped into four broad categories, each of which overlaps. A particularly rich and exciting Klingon series is one that reflects the value of each of them from time to time.
- Personal Honor: Klingons have no patience for liars, cowards and weaklings. They have a strong sense of virtuous responsibility, and personal honor is about standing up and accepting the negative consequences of personal action (if the consequences are deserved), demanding the recognition for personal triumph when it is due, and defending choices that the Klingon knows to have been the right ones, even in the face of adverse opinion or mortal danger.
- Ties of Blood: Honor does not stop at a Klingon’s skin; it extends to his brethren, his trusted companions, and most especially to his name and his blood. A dishonored Klingon dishonors every Klingon that will be descended from him, for many generations to come. And any threat to the honor of a Klingon who’s name you bear – even if that Klingon is long free from the confines of mortal life – is a serious attack on your personal honor. Familial honor is personal honor, extended to an entire bloodline.
- Duty to Superiors: It is honorable – in fact, commendable – for a Klingon to advance in rank by killing a weak or ineffectual superior. Such an act strengthens the chain of command by culling out the weak links in the chain. But a worthy superior is to be respected and obeyed, and this form of honor extends from a warrior’s immediate commander all the way up the ladder to the leadership of the Klingon Empire. Honoring the Empire and the will of those who rule it is vital to the survival of the species, the glory of all worthy warriors, and the personal honor of any who benefit from the Imperial might and prestige.
- Ancient Tradition: Honor of self, family and Empire are in many ways facets of a much larger concept, that of honoring the many traditions that have built the Empire and made it thrive. This is why honor is such a vital axiom in Klingon stories: Klingons are as they are for reasons – ancient reasons, tested by time and blood and fire and proven in expansion and prosperity. Klingon stories should recognize this and sing with the truth of it. Klingons aren’t just “hung up” on honor, honor is an essential part of being Klingon, and something to be celebrated.
When devising episodes, it’s often handy to remember that honor is often best defined in negative terms. That is, it’s often easier to see what’s honorable by defining what’s dishonorable. Nearly any ordinary, productive life can be said to be “honorable,” but that’s not of much use when you’re scratching your head with your pencil, trying to come up with an interesting story to challenge your Klingon Crew!
Some more definitive news on when the Foundry is hitting Tribble for open beta testing. From the today’s Engineering Report, executive producer Dan Stahl had this to say:
Our immediate attention is on getting the Foundry available on TRIBBLE possibly as early as next Monday so that we could enter Open Beta with the tools. That is our next hurdle with the Foundry and one the software team is working feverishly to hit.
Even if the Foundry is not made available on Holodeck at the release of Season 3, we will absolutely have it turned on in an Open Beta on TRIBBLE so that everyone can begin to learn the tools and begin play testing missions created by others. So no matter what, the Foundry is only a few weeks away for you.
Greetings, this is Captain Allen of the Federation star ship Andromeda here again to continue my mission to bring technical speaking to every star ship Captain in the galaxy. Last week we looked at some technology related technobabble that should give your science and engineering bridge officers something to talk about. This week we’re going to get you up to speed on your Chief of Medicine’s commonly used phrases. Medical technobabble is a very strange animal indeed and very difficult to master because you really can’t do surgery or bio scans or tricorder scans in the same way that you can shoot bad guys with a phaser. Hopefully this will give you a good starting point for a hook or complication for the player of your mission to solve.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when writing medical hooks, complications and plot points, and I need to bring them into the spotlight before we move on to the terminology because we take a lot of these things for granted. The first is that most alien civilizations look a lot like humans, but their insides may vary wildly. You will want to research the Biology portal on Memory Alpha to see if the NPC’s race has any physiology that works or doesn’t work with the plot line you have in mind. The second thing to keep in mind is that the player will often wonder “Shouldn’t I be concerned about exposing myself to unknown possibly deadly pathogens?” The answer is somewhat complicated, but generally “no.” While the Enterprise series required gel and a short quarantine of away team members before re-integration with the crew, in The Next Generation the transporter was regularly used as a Deus Ex Machina that would cure almost anything. The third thing to keep in mind is that pathogens, poisons, and injuries are relatively easy to fix in most situations but surgery, diseases and healing after a lost limb is not always guaranteed. Simply getting rid of a pathogen or treating a genetic disease is only the first step, often times a patient will need a lot more help to get their body functioning normally again, and that’s where a player character Captain or a doctor or an Emergency Medical Hologram’s purpose becomes clear: to diagnose the problem, apply the treatment, and balance side effects and symptoms until the patient is healthy again.
Well, most of Season three has hit Tribble, there are still a number of features missing chief among them the new crafting recipes and… the Foundry. However Sector Space looks fantastic.
Well in keeping with my promise from last week, I’m counting every day that the Foundry doesn’t enter open beta, I shall now delve into this week’s surprise guide, implementing what is known as Easter Eggs into your stories. It should also be noted that due to the nature of this topic this week’s update is going to be shorter than last week’s novel.
So, what is an Easter Egg? Well aside from a color dyed hardboiled egg an Easter Egg is a little unexpected pleasant surprise hidden in various media. On DVD’s those are usually un announced bonus features, interviews, gag reels, etc. In a story, or mission as the case is in STO, an Easter Egg is a little nod to something that exists in the real world, usually it is something from another franchise, in a mission that you write.
For example, does everyone remember Doctor Tran from the third mission in the Breen Series? For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, what are you waiting for go out and play the excellent series already. For those of you who do know what I’m talking about, well Doctor Tran is a actually a character from several short animated films by Lone Sausage Productions. Everyone who has seen those shorts recognized that fact the second they saw the name and where it is being used.
So how does that help the average foundry writer? Realistically it doesn’t, but this is more for fun than anything else. Say you’re writing a mission that involves a character who is a Starfleet Admiral, who also happens to be a Benzite. Now if you wanted to be a clever little writer what name would you give this character? If you wanted to be obvious about the reference, Ackbar wouldn’t be a bad name now would it?
There is a danger though with the Easter Eggs, if you end up going too far along the lines of characterizing a character, location, ship, etc, you start entering into the realm of copyright infringement. To be safe, go with the name drops only for the characters and when it makes sense.
If it seems like I’m being somewhat vague on this issue, that’s because I am. Half the fun in Easter Eggs are in hiding them and figuring out ways to hid them within the system the Foundry will create. If I were to tell you exactly how to go about hiding the eggs… well that would take away the fun now wouldn’t it.
Aside from be creative and have fun when writing the Easter Eggs, I don’t have too much more advice on the subject. Just have fun with this.
Next week, see I told you this was going to be short, assuming the Foundry goes to Open Beta on schedule, fingers crossed, we’ll be delving into that subject. If not we’ll dive into Scotty’s domain and talk briefly about the usage of Technobabble. Till next time guys, Live Long and Prosper.
In this thread at the official STO forums, the following was revealed:
We are putting a cap on the number of mission slots you will have for storage, to limit the amount of data we have to maintain on our servers.
We don’t know what the limit will be. Maybe it’s 5 or maybe it’s 50. Still, if you were planning on creating an extensive story arc, or if you were planning on publishing an extensive list of UGC missions, you may have to rethink your goals.
It is possible that we may see the availability of additional slots for purchase in the C-Store, but that is pure speculation.
Personally, I find it pretty disheartening. I can certainly understand Cryptic limiting the spam. But it seems unfair to limit our story-telling capabilities so much, especially if the number is around 10ish. It will be quite disappointing to see some of you reach those limits, especially those who’ve spent a tremendous amount of time and energy learning the toolset, perfecting your missions, and giving all of us good content to play.
Anyways, please leave your reactions in this thread. Perhaps if enough of you voice your preferences, then Cryptic will respond appropriately.