An international network of researchers into all aspects of role-playing games
David Millians, Editor
Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA
FROM THE CHAIR
This month’s virtual session was with Robert Adducci, gamer extraordinaire and new CAR-PGA member. Robert was gracious enough to share his time with us about a variety of topics, from how he got into gaming through his community management to becoming a professional game master. Robert works in the tabletop gaming industry full-time—a rare feat!—and he does it with a lot of hustle and a lot of heart. If you missed the session, you can watch the recording on YouTube.
Speaking of community management, Robert discussed how he handles social media for the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Facebook group, Ulisses Spiele, and Fantasy Grounds, where he’s also a professional GM. You can be one too! Click here to sign up at StartPlaying.
Robert mentioned that the RPG Creators Relief Fund actually has more funds than creators to give money to. Please keep this in mind for gamers in need and if you know someone, send them to this application form.
Fan Movies, Fan Stories, Fake Trailers, and TV-Shows, by Carsten Obst
Advice for the Time of the Pandemic
While I am writing this article, a second lockdown has been ordered by the German government to contain the Corona pandemic and to reduce the number of infections, while the vaccinations begin. Surely, we all will remember later the years 2020 and 2021 as great setbacks for our hobby. Conventions and game fairs like the SPIEL ´20 were cancelled, and the possibility to meet personally to play RPGs was restricted. In my opinion it may need a long time before the RPG-community finally overcomes the negative effects of the pandemic.
Boredom is a heavy burden for the morale and the psyche, but it can be counteracted with useful activities as the best countermeasure. In this article I want to compile some RPG-related possibilities to overcome the boredom and to keep your spirit alive.
Since 1972 I am a Star Trek fan, when I watched the first broadcasting of the original series in Germany. Unfortunately, later productions and the movies disappointed me, because for me they lacked the original sense of wonder. Voyager was the exception and brought back the spirit of adventure and excitement. This is my opinion, of course.
Fortunately, enterprising fans use the possibilities of modern technology to produce their own Star Trek movies, often in a nearly professional way and with better ideas than the official authors. One of my favourite groups is Potemkin 1711, a team of fans in the United States. Three of their fan movies are listed here. I hope, and I hope you will find them also amusing and entertaining.
In “The Monsters Are With Us” Captain Walker, commander of the USS Tristan, returns with Lieutenant Privette and Ensign Raven from an away mission, but their crew does not recognize them, instead mistaking them for unknown and appalling looking aliens. While Raven is injured and brought to the ship´s hospital, Walker and Privette find themselves in a holding cell. Here they must endure the intensive attempts of two highly specialized first contact experts, who try to establish a communication with their highly specialized expert knowledge about first contacts with aliens, as the Starfleet´s regulations specify it. This requires lots of patience from the unlucky Walker and Privette.
“Spirit in the Star” shows a mission of the Klingon battle cruiser Kupok, investigating the mysterious loss of five other imperial cruisers. Captain Kesh, the commander, is determined to complete this task successfully despite deep tensions with Kroll, the tactical officer. They have differences about the correct method to accomplish this mission, but the captain also does not trust his subordinate, because Kroll´s family has a reputation for being active in espionage. In the operational area the Kupok encounters a strange object – friend or foe?
In “Children of Eberus” the USS Deimos is ordered to investigate strange incidents on the planet Eberus, where some months ago monsters begun to attack the colonists. The colony´s government has an extremely liberal drug policy, however, which prompts many people with an interest in, well, an expansion of their mental experiences and their sensory perceptions to visit the planet. These so-called “seekers” favour the – ahem – “recreational substances,” which are made from the local mushrooms. In other words: the reports may be just bad hallucinations of totally stoned junkies, who stand and sit around in the landscape, literally. An away team is sent to the planet: a stern tactical officer, a dashing navigator, a lively scientist, and a medical doctor, who studied on Vulcan. They are a real dream team of the Starfleet.
For fans of the Star Trek RPG, these fan movies offer interesting ideas for adventures. The first contact with aliens can be a real challenge, but when the aliens try to contact the Federation, the PCs may need a steely will to avoid freaking out. Besides, Starfleet will surely also be interested in who or what was responsible for the fact that the crew of the USS Tristan no longer recognized the away team. At least a defence must be developed against such influences of minds and sensors. A Battle Cruiser Kupok campaign gives also lots of possibilities, because as Klingon warriors, the PCs must follow a very strict code of honour or try to bypass it somehow. Military actions against the enemies of the Empire as well as internal investigations against corruption and rebellions will keep them busy.
The liberal drug policy on Eberus may cause negative long-term effects, especially because according to the governor more than half of its population are already “seekers.” Future away teams, called in by the colony´s government, must then deal with lots of drug-related problems, especially if criminals try to smuggle the drugs to other worlds. Think of a Star Trek-Miami Vice crossover campaign with the PCs as undercover cops from the Eberus Vice department, who fight against the Orion-syndicates.
Another Star Trek-fan movie, which I want to recommend, is “Ghost Ship”, produced by Avalon Universe. It continues the original series episode “Wargames.” An away team of three, well, somehow special Starfleet officers try to recover the heavily damaged USS Excalibur, which is drifting with a dead crew through space. When they enter the ship, they face an unexpected threat, which may be called a funny Star Trek meets The Walking Dead crossover.
Leader of the away team is Commander Derek Mason, whose career was up to now rather uneventful. A successful completion of this mission may also be his promotion to captain. Only two officers accompany him. Lieutenant Amanda Beck is a talented scientist but also a prickly character. Her relation to Mason can be described as that of a scratchy cat to a good-natured dog, but he knows and values her high level of competence. Lieutenant Jane Archer is an engineer, whom a friend of the commander recommended for her excellent technical skills. Her spare time she spends obviously in beauty and fashion salons. She also mentions her great-grandfather, which makes Star Trek fans think.
At first the mission goes as planned, but then Beck registers strange electromagnetic impulses on the dead crew members, while Archer discovers something unknown in the engine room. Soon it gets worse: Mason is attacked by a dead crew member. Has the zombie apocalypse begun? When more of the dead rise, just an away team of a chaotic commander, a scratchy scientist, and a fashion conscious engineer stands between the peaceful Federation and the hordes of hungry undead. At least the team has one advantage: with a phaser you must not hit the head to put a zombie to rest, at least as long as you have energy.
Will Commander Mason, Lieutenant Beck and Lieutenant Archer, our unlikely heroes, be able to stop the zombie-apocalypse, recover the USS Excalibur and put the undead crew to rest forever?
- Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87QaQMyuvYU
- Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vE1WpHqjrp4)? Have a happy horror time …
With the threat of a zombie-apocalypse “Ghost Ship” has an unusual plot, but surely Starfleet will initiate more investigations, so that future encounters with the undead can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, the story can easily be adopted for other RPG-systems, which includes the pseudo-scientific explanation as to why the dead are rising. If the GMs want to confront the players and their PCs with something very special in another SF campaign, they should send in a new kind of monsters: space zombies! An “Aliens against Space-Zombies” campaign would be a fascinating crossover.
Two more Star Trek-fan movies shall be recommended here: “Aurora” and “Aurora: Mudd in Your I”. Both were produced by Auroratrek. These movies tell the adventures of Kara Carpenter, the daring owner and captain of the Aurora, a small merchant spaceship. Kara is not a member of the Starfleet but a free trader, as these characters are called in science fiction novels and RPGs. With T´Ling, a competent and skilled engineer from Vulcan, she has a loyal companion. Both women are also the complete crew of the Aurora.
Once Kara considered joining the Starfleet, but due to a tragic event in her past (all characters need such a setback in their biography), she decided to become a free trader. Her parents had run their own merchant spaceship, the Mercury Rising, until they and her siblings were killed in an accident. Kara, who was a child at that time, survived the catastrophe, but since then she is known as “Crazy Kara,” “Scary Carpenter,” or “Kara the Cannibal.”
In “Aurora” T´Ling learns about her captain´s tragic past, even as she seems to be a happy woman on the outside. Kara never got over the loss of her family, but after a strange incident, she finds herself suddenly aboard the USS Yorktown, where she faces – Ensign Kara Carpenter. The reaction of the two women, when they see each other for the first time, is understandable: “Who the hell are you?” Soon Kara also learns that her family survived the accident, still travelling with the Mercury Rising as free traders though space. Is our heroine actually aboard of the USS Yorktown, which she knows? Or did the incident send her into a parallel universe, where some events did not happen as she experienced them?
The second movie about the Aurora´s crew begins with a classical bar fight on board of a space station, where Kara and T´Ling must quickly retreat from a superior number of Klingons. After the treatment of an injury, which the engineer suffered, she shows an unexpected side effect: the woman suddenly turns into a man. Now they must find out the reason as well as a solution for this unwanted sex-change. Only the trader, who sold them the medicine, may be able to help in this situation. His name: Harry Mudd, who is well-known for his sense of business and his flexible moral. Unfortunately, more people are looking for Mudd, because they want to submit a complaint to him: the Klingons, with whom Kara and T´Ling fought in the bar. And Klingon warriors have a special way to complain.
Both movies offer lots of ways to expand a Star Trek-RPG. Since the original series episode “Mirror, Mirror,” the existence of parallel universes must be known at least among Starfleet command, important scientists, the Federation´s government, and its intelligence services. In the Next Generation episode “Parallels,” we learn that there exist hundreds or even thousands of other dimensions, which differ only in details. Like Kara in “Aurora,” the PCs may find themselves suddenly in a parallel world, even facing their counterparts, who perhaps chose another way of life. What if the Federations of different universes form an alliance to exchange information and to support each other in a crisis? As scientists or agents of the intelligence services, the PCs may travel routinely into other dimensions.
An encounter with Harry Mudd or a similar rogue may have unexpected consequences for the PCs, as “Aurora: Mudd in Your I” shows. To hunt him down to get your money back or at least a cure against unwanted side effects of his goods can be a long and exciting adventure, especially if other dissatisfied customers want to speak with him, too. A race may begin, where the PCs must compete with angry Klingon warriors, merciless Romulan assassins, or ruthless hitmen of an Orion-syndicate.
Besides “Aurora: Mudd in Your I” gives many little details, which expand the daily life in the Star Trek universe. So, at 00:20 you see in the background a commercial for the Orion Lounge with the slogan, “Resistance is… foolish!” Other details are the space suit for women at 24:40 or Kara´s smartphone at 21:28. T´Ling´s sex change has also funny effects. At 20:12 two cat girls show a deep interest in the male Vulcan, sniffing at him, obviously to check out a potential mate. Have fun!
Auroratrek´s new project shall also be mentioned here: a fantasy movie with the title “Quest of the Key”. First impressions can be seen under these links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBcxpc-IBDg, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-dW9FY7iFM, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whwD0hTlQ54 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K-haAwZtww. These videos promise a well-made movie, while the problem with custom-sized weapons and armour seems familiar to me.
Fans of sitcoms will surely remember “Night Court,” which was broadcast by NBC from 1984 to 1992. Since 1989 it was shown also in Germany with the title “Harrys wundersames Nachtgericht” (“Harry´s Wondrous Night Court”). The series tells stories from a night court in Manhattan, presided over by the unconventional Judge Harry Stone.
One episode is of special interest for Star Trek fans, because it gives unique ideas for a Star Trek-RPG. In this case Harry Stone must deal with a case of “… disturbing the peace at a Star Trek-convention …”, where fans of the original series and the Next Generation got into a brawl during a seminar about “…androids on Starfleet command vehicles…”. The trial takes a surprising turn, when the judge fines everyone $30, recommending that they should stop living with their parents. Then the “new Trekkies” insist that they are only obliged to the laws of the Federation: “Beam us up.”
In some episodes of the show we met Bob and June Wheeler, who appeared in court several times after crazy incidents (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NrNlzstKzo or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrLvtoKZfxY). If you give Bob a closer look, then you will notice his resemblance with Mr. Data; both are played by Brent Spiner, of course. Is it possible that the Wheelers are ancestors of Dr. Noonien Soong, Data´s creator?
If you put these episodes in context, then you get lots of ideas, which offer completely new possibilities for funny adventures. “Night Court” may be the past of “Star Trek”, while the “new Trekkies” are actually Starfleet members, arriving via time travel for historical researches like the USS Enterprise in the original series episode “Assignment: Earth”. Perhaps Harry´s court is in a parallel universe, where the temporal development is slowed by several centuries. In this case the apparent Next Generation fans are also members of Starfleet, who crossed the dimensions, perhaps by accident like in “Mirror, Mirror” or for scientific reasons.
The existence of the original series and Next Generation episodes in the “Night Court” universe may be a good reason for a planned dimensional journey, because Starfleet wants to learn how the authors got their knowledge about events, which happened centuries ago in another dimension. An away team visits the convention to meet one of the authors, wearing their uniforms to avoid being noticed. Somehow, they get into a quarrel with original series fans, who mistake them for Next Generation fans. Thus, our brave researchers find themselves finally in front of Harry Stone, who thinks, that they are “Star Trek” nerds, who should get real.
Enterprising GMs can surely develop more ideas for “Night Court/Star Trek”-crossovers. By the way: did the “new Trekkies” violate the Prime Directive, when they fled from the court by beaming up? Just ask Captain Picard … In any case we learn some nice insults for “Star Trek”: “Go suck on a tribble!” and “Go sit on a phaser!”
A humorous depiction of RPGs, GMs, and players is given by Deerstalker Pictures, an Australian group of RPG and cosplay fans. Among other videos, they produce the “1 for All” series about the adventures and misfortunes of a Dungeon & Dragons group. This group consists of three characters: Evandra, a half-elf fighter with a very strong self-confidence, Antrius, a human bard, who is very convinced of his abilities, and finally Nixie, a Tifling fire mage with a pyromaniac predisposition.
“You meet in a Tavern” describes the classical situation, when the group meets with a potential customer in a tavern. The conversation gets difficult, because the players overdo the introduction of their PCs. Adventurers need weapons and equipment, and so the group visits a merchant in “Shopping Episode”. Even a shopping tour can become troublesome, if you overdo the haggling, too. All characters need a tragic past to explain, why they left their home. In “Tragic Backstories” we learn the reasons, why the PCs became adventurers. To find the right place for a safe camp requires a thoroughly check of the site for potential threats. In “Roll for Perception” we see how this is done.
If you try to enter a restricted area monitored by a guard, different methods can be chosen to do that. “Stealthy Approach” shows some of them, as well as possible problems. Encountering an opponent, who blocks the way, you may attack him with swords and magic. But if that fails the “Vicious Mockery” may be successful. Sometimes a situation can escalate, especially if you must get rid off the traces of an illegal act. “Murder Hobo” shows these problems.
When a mission caused unexpected collateral damages, like burning down parts of the city or killing a person before the interrogation, the customer may be disgruntled. A “Roll to Seduce” may be the right way to escape. In “The Party Guest” Antrius´ player cannot join the meeting. So, the wizard Annandale replaces the bard, whose theatrical approach strains the patience of GM as well as that of the other players.
We all know these kinds of players, PCs, methods, and situations, because we all encountered them in play. You can only sympathize with the GM, when he tries to prevent the total chaos at the gaming table. Have fun! By the way, watch out for the cat girl with the white hair, who occasionally joins the group!
FROM BILL BRIDGES
Palmer, Ada (2021 May 13) Online talks: Apocalyptic Renaissance, Teaching Power in History, Inquisition, Rare Books. https://www.exurbe.com/5546-2. .
FROM DAVID MILLIANS
Appelcline, Shannon (2021 May 4) A Look at Dave Arneson’s True Genius. https://www.rpg.net/columns/advanced-designers-and-dragons/advanced-designers-and-dragons49.phtml. Research, revisionism, and review of Rob Kuntz’s Dave Arneson’s True Genius.
Dix, Ellie (2021 May 20) Master the Metagame. https://www.thedarkimp.com/blog/2021/05/20/master-the-metagame. Thoughts on playing well together, excerpted from her book The Board Game Family.
Enser, Mark (2018 Jul 7) Preparing to slay the dragon. https://teachreal.wordpress.com/2018/07/07/preparing-to-slay-the-dragon. How running games prepares someone to be a teacher.
Maliszewski, James (2021 May 3) Fantasy Not a Threat. http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2021/05/fantasy-not-threat.html. 1979 Letter to the editor of Battle for wargamers magazine from Steve Jackson (UK) about the shifting play of the times and the challenge of finding fellow players.
Meng, Siyuan (2021 May 10) How LARPing Became the Hottest Entertainment Trend in China. https://radiichina.com/larp-china. Growing out of digital games and flourishing.
Morrissey, Russ (2021 May 20) Benedict Cumberbatch Narrates a Drizzt Short. https://www.enworld.org/threads/benedict-cumberbatch-narrates-a-drizzt-short-updated.680172. Wizards of the Coast is hiring some top-end voice talent.
Original Oldhammer Artwork (2021 May 2) Games Workshop featured on TV in 1984 oldhammer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKZuafM-bwg&t=14s. Author and comedian Ben Elton interviews Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson and games with them too in 1984.
Peterson, Jon (2021 May 3) The Edmund Scientific Polyhedron Set (1966). http://playingattheworld.blogspot.com/2021/05/the-edmund-scientific-polyhedron-set.html. Possible source or inspiration of early dice.
Role Play Chat (2021 May 5) Role Playing Games As A Teaching Tool. https://open.spotify.com/episode/0PnsJZugk30VE3p8GqqgoV?si=F-q7ZurrQP6Vcqomt3XPvA&fbclid=IwAR3uQAPKU3XkgNr7djBqCm2YCTwSg7wL1RBixO6YSe5Z3q2TO1-lX7TU2dM&nd=1. Interview with Rich, creator of Inspirisles TTRPG that teaches sign language through play.
Thorne, Scott (2021 May 16) Why Plastic Game Accessories Are Scarce. https://icv2.com/articles/columns/view/48348/rolling-initiative-why-plastic-game-accessories-are-scarce. Factors affecting game components in 2021.
Wieland, Rob (2021 May 19) 20 Was The Best Year Ever For Dungeons & Dragons. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robwieland/2021/05/19/2020-was-the-best-year-ever-for-dungeons–dragons/?sh=65a0b6374f37. Continued growth and expansion.
FROM MICHAEL TRESCA
Tresca, Michael (2021 May 3) D&D as Therapy for Kids. https://www.enworld.org/threads/d-d-as-therapy-for-kids.679797. Behavior activation, projective techniques, and growing places for children to imagine and heal.
© Copyright 2021 by the Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games (CAR-PGa), ISSN 1071 7129. The CAR-PGa Newsletter is a monthly publication. For more information contact David Millians, Editor, Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA, phone (404) 808-1070, fax (404) 377-3491, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Back issues are available. Contributions of material from the membership are urged, and the byline is responsible for content. Deadline is the last weekday of the month, email preferred. Permission is granted to copy anything in the Newsletter, provided we get a credit line in the publication copying it, and it doesn’t have someone else’s copyright on it. Information, including details on joining CAR-PGa, can be obtained on the Internet at car-pga.org.