A nice family dinner in the past

Lost Limey Watches Supernatural #63 – “In The Beginning”

A quick note by way of introduction may be required here. For quite some time now, certain members of the Richmond WriMos have been trying to persuade me to watch the CW show Supernatural. I  have relented and am now embarking on watching Supernatural via the wonders of Netflix. This series of posts will simply be my first impressions, almost stream of consciousness style, presented in the form of the time elapsed in the episode and my thoughts expressed as bullet points. It’s effectively live tweeting the episodes except I don’t have to stick to 140 characters or fewer. So without further ado here’s my take on:

Season 4 Episode 03 – “In The Beginning”

  • 00:53 – The episode starts with a THEN montage that highlights the season 1 and 2 story arc with Ol’ Yellow Eyes killing Mommy Winchester, Dead Jessica and all that stuff from the pilot. We see the Colt take care of Ol’ Yellow Eyes. Interleaved with this is Castiel explaining that he’s an angel and that God has plans for Dean. I’m guessing this is going to be an arc heavy episode…
  • 01:47 – In the NOW portion of the episode, Sam abandons a sleeping Dean to go for a car ride with Ruby, who asks him if he’s ready. Sam assents that he is.
  • 01:53 – Dean’s getting disjointed flashbacks to what I assume is his time in Hell. I’m going to go out on a limb with a prediction here: Hell – not a very nice place to spend time.
  • 02:16 – Dean is startled awake either by his nightmare visions, or possibly by Castiel getting his full Edward Cullen on and watching Dean sleep. Our angelic John Constantine cosplayer than tells Dean that Dean has to “stop it” and taps two fingers against the elder Winchester brother’s forehead. He doesn’t clarify what the “it” that needs stopping is. that’s the trouble with heavenly creatures, they’re not good with the clarity thing. Anyway,the lighting changes on Dean’s face, so he’s now sleeping somewhere else. I’m guessing it ain’t a luxury hotel.
  • 03:09 -It’s not a hotel, it’s a park bench outside of a diner, and worse,it’s somewhere outside a diner with no cellphone service. I laugh slightly at Dean’s 2008-vintage flip phone, but that would make sense as a cheap burner. Once Dean vacates the bench to enter the diner we see signage for Tab, which probably implied that Dean was somewhen else when this episode aired, especially given the 70s-tastic typography, but no brand ever dies anymore.
  • 05:21 – Dean enters the diner and Supernatural pays homage to the famous “Mr. Sandman” scene  from Back To The Future with the more 1970’s appropriate “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band replacing the Four Ace/Chordettes tune. We very quickly establish that it’s April 1973 (and the album “Ramblin’ Man” is on didn’t drop until August ’73, but that’s a minor anachronism I can roll with. Dean’s in Lawrence, Kansas and the young man he’s talking to is in fact a 1973-era Daddy Winchester. Got to say the actor in no way resembles a young Jeffrey Dean Morgan in my eyes. Cue opening title.
  • 06:15 – As Dean sort of follows baby Daddy Winchester around the corner, he runs into Castiel, drops a Back To The Future reference of his own with a snarky DeLorean comment. Castiel non-explains that angels can bend time and does the Batman-to-Jim Gordon “hi, bye” thing and disappears.
  •  07:39 – Baby Daaddy Winchester is attempting to buy a pretty groovy VW Camper van (I kind of want one), but Dean, as repayment for his morning coffee upsells him on a certain Impala. Baby Daddy Winchester formally introduces himself to Dean. Dean opts for the alias Dean Van Halen since Winchester might be a little suspect here. I’m choosing to believe it’s Diamond Dave era Van Halen because Van Hagar sucks.
  • 09:19 – After Dean freaks out baby Daddy Winchester by asking about cold spots, sulfur smells and cattle mutilations, baby Daddy drives to meet baby Mommy Winchester. She’s surprised at the van purchase morphing into a badass Chevy Impala.I’m amused that Dean’s (presumably hotwired)stalking vehicle of choice is a nondescript beige thing.
  •  09:34 – Quoth the Dean “Sammy, wherever you are. Mom is a babe. I’m going to hell. again.” – i’m fairly sure that Dean/baby Mommy Winchester isn’t the subject of the allegedly absurd number of “Wincest” fan fictions on the internet, but I’m never gonna read them to find out. Also, why is this such a Sam free episode? Was he injured? Killed by his terrible hair? Was Padalecki filming a movie or something?
  • 10:12 – The baby Winchester parents are enjoying milkshakes at the diner. Apparently baby Mommy Winchester’s father doesn’t approve of baby Daddy Winchester, who describes himself as a mechanic from a family of mechanics. She departs the table to go do something, and baby Daddy Winchster pulls out a ring. Which means that baby Momy Winchester is actually baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester.
  • 10:55 – the thing that baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester has to take care of turns out to be Dean! She’s noticed his stalking, and promptly starts to beat the ever-living crap out of him. After Dean defends himself, he spots a bracelet on baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester’s wrist with sufficient protective charms (I recognized a cross, a pentagram, and something that looked like a hexagram) for him to realize that baby Mommy was a Hunter.
  • 11:49 – Based on the mailbox, baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester is actually baby Mommy Campbell. Dean meets her outside her house after baby Daddy Winchester drop her off. A brief conversation establishes that baby Mommy knows Dean’s name and since they’re both hunters, as Dean says “They’re practically family.” Oh, subtext. baby Mommy doesn’t seem sure that Dean should meet her dad. Dean insists.
  • 11:51 -Said Dad is played by Mitch Pileggi, who I will always see as Assistant FBI Director Walter S. Skinner of The X-Files. A show that Supernatural has heavily baked into its DNA.
  • 12:23 – So Mommy Winchester’s parents were Samuel and Deanna. That would seem to suggest that they’re the inspiration for Sam and Dean’s names. Deanna’s actress is less recognizable to me than Pileggi. Since the Winchester Brothers’ names seem like a tribute to the grandparents, I’m assuming they aren’t going to live to the closing credits of this one,even with the time travel shenanigans. Samuel doesn’t trust other Hunters around his family, which heavily implies that baby Daddy Winchester isn’t yet a Hunter. Both Campbells seem to be, and Deanna invites Dean to dinner overriding Samuel’s objections.
  • 14:00 – The Campbells find the idea of baby Daddy Winchester being involved with spirits to be beyond ludicrous. After a bit of back and forth banter about the nature of Hunters and jobs they’re on, It’s clear that Samuel Campbell’s kind of a prickly guy. He does open up a little about a job, to do with demonic omens on a nearby farm. Dean asks him if he found anything on “the Web” not quite understanding that Tim Berners-Lee hadn’t worked that particular magic back in ’73. He covers. Badly.
  • 15:08 – Samuel Campbell is at the farm in a priest costume. baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester is forced to be a ridealong because it’s the family business. She’s not into it, but dutifully goes off to distract a teenage boy hanging out at the farm. Samuel knocks on the door to the house, where he’s greeted by the widow of the house, and Dean, who is also dressed as a priest. Which is a fantastic little visual gag.
  • 15:56 – Mr. Campbell rolls with it as the senior priest. Apparently the former man of the house was fairly normal until his “guts fertilized the back forty” thanks to an unlikely combine accident.
  • 17:37 – Dean goes over to where baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester is talking to the boy, Charlie. H’s the son of the dead man. It sure sounds like he was tricked into selling his soul to a demon to stop the dead man beating the widow, though Charlie doesn’t realize it. The bill comes due in ten years. After a brief bit of questioning, it turns out that this demon had pale yellow eyes. Since we know that Ol’ Yellow Eyes kills Mommy Winchester ten years from now  in the pilot episode, Dean’s meaningful glance to baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester has a certain amount of resonance.
  • 18:29 – Dean is freaking the hell out now that he knows Ol’ Yellow Eyes is involved. He’s in full on warpath mode to an extent that crusty Samuel seems almost frightened. He non-explains that Ol’ Yellow Eyes killed his entire family and that he’s going to kill it. Samuel asks him how he might achieve that. Dean brings up the Colt, which we (and Dean) know is in Dan Elkins’ possession at this time. The Campbell’s remain skeptical.
  • 19:30 – Dean shows the Campbels Daddy Winchesters journal of everybody he thought interacted with Ol’ Yellow Eyes. Naturally, since Dean brought this with him from 2008, it features sightings from the future. Dean tries to claim that it’s because his father was clairvoyant. The Campbells think he’s crazy. He doesn’t entirely disagree.
  • 23:16 – Dean has a heartfelt conversation with bay Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester, who’s pretty confident that baby Daddy Winchester is going to propose. She sees that as her ticket out of the life of a Hunter, which she hates. She tells Dean that the very worst thing she can imagine would be her children being raised in the Hunter lifestyle. The dramatic irony is thicker than a very thick thing indeed here. Dean attempts to save his other’s life by telling her not to get out of bed on November 2nd, 1983, no matter what she sees or hears. He’s close to manly tears as he does this. Baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester agrees, sayings he’ll remember. I suspect she won’t actually remember because undoing the events of the pilot would kind of wreck this show’s entire premise and it seems too early in the season to do that…
  •  24:52 – As Dean’s driving to (presumably) recover the Colt, Castiel appears in the passenger seat so that they can exposition at each other. Dean asks why Castiel didn’t send Sam back as well. Castiel’s non-committal. Castiel points out that if Dean does break the family curse by disposing of Ol’ Yellow Eyes than Dean, Sam and Daddy Winchester never become Hunters, dooming all the people they’ve saved. Since last episode kind of showed that they’re not exactly batting a thousand at saving people even in the Hunter lifestyle, I kind of side with Dean here. Dean tearfully admits that he does care about the others, but these are his parents and if he can save them, he will. It’s all very emotional and only slightly undercut by the fact that Castiel’s buggered off back to whence he came already.
  • 26:20 – Dean is stealing the Colt from Elkins’ safe when Elkins confronts him in the traditional Hunter manner – aiming a loaded shotgun at him. Dean manages to persuade Elkins not to kill him by Deansplaining that he’s a Hunter and needs the Colt to save his family. Dean’s basically surrendering, assuming that Elkins can’t go through with killing a normal human. It’s a solid assumption. Now, time to get back to Kansas and nobody clicks their ruby heels together three times to do it. Instead they use the more prosaic option of driving.
  • 27:29 – Baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester realizes that the demon interaction where Dean’s going to attempt to kill Ol’ Yellow Eyes happens tobe where a friend of hers lives. She wants to aid Dean on this job, thoroughly confusing Sammuel Campbell, who wishes his daughter would make her ind up bout whether she wants to hunt or not. We cut over to said friend, Liddy, who is finding out that her father is dying of cancer. The doctor offers a cure in exchange for taking something ten years from now. We can pretty safely conclude that this doctor is Ol’ Yellow Eyes’ current meat suit. Especially since we get the eyes flashing yellow to confirm this as I type this sentence.
  • 27:38 – This negotiation is interrupted by Samuel Campbell bursting in with a shotgun and shooting Ol’ Yellow Eyes in the chest. As you would expect, it has pretty much no effect, and Ol’ Yellow Eyes immediately disarms Samuel.
  • 27:57- While Ol’ Yellow Eyes is taunting Samuel, baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester gets the drop on him briefly and slices Ol’ Yellow eyes with a knife.It has negligible effect. Ol’ Yellow Eyes reacts with interest “Where the Hell have they been hiding you?” And given the nature of the show I’m unsure if the hell reference is literal or metaphorical.
  • 28:32 – As Ol’ Yellow Eyes grabs bay Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester by the throat, Dean bursts in, cocks the Colt and aims it at his demonic nemesis, who reacts with nervous curiosity and then immediately takes a black smoke departure from his meat suit, rather ruining Dean’s “shoot the bastard” plan.
  • 29:15 – Baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester is freaking out about Ol’ Yellow Eyes expressing a like for her and goes to hide in the  vehicle. Samuel takes the opportunity to compliment Dean on a job well done. Dean disagrees since he missed his shot. Samuel i annoyed that Dean appears to reject his olive branch. Dean tells him that they need to talk without baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester being around.
  • 30:26 – Despite knowing that it sounds “massively, massively crazy,” Dean tells the truth to Samuel, about who he is, what his relationship is to baby Mommy-Not-Yet-Winchester and how Mommy Winchester dies at the hands of Ol’ Yellow Eyes in 1983. Samuel pretty much agrees with the massive crazy part.  He doesn’t seem as certain about the rest of it, but he definitely wants to protect his daughter. Dean mentions that tonight put Ol’ Yellow Eyes on baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester’s scent. This makes me wonder if Dean was the one that caused the events if the pilot to happen. Got to love those stable time travel paradoxes, right?
  • 30:48 -Meanwhile, baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester is trying to use baby Daddy Winchester and that sweet Impala to Brave Sir Robin her way out of Ol’ Yellow Eyes’ sights.
  • 31:34 – Samuel admits that he might be crazier than Dean for actually believing his story. He agrees to help Dean kill Ol’ Yellow Eyes. He asks where and how. Dean says they can use Daddy Winchester’s journal to figure out the ‘where’, and the Colt is the ‘how’. Samuel asks to see the Colt, but Dean refuses, moving it further away.
  • 31:58 – Which turns out to be a good instinct, since Samuel has been possessed by Ol’ Yellow Eyes. He waves his hand and traps Dean against the wall. Since Dean has now outlined future events to Ol’ Yellow Eyes, my speculation at 30:26 that Dean caused the events of the pilot seem even more confirmed. I feel like that’s going to lead to some patented Manly Winchester Angst down the line. Not a stretch because just about everything does in this show.
  • 33:28 – Ol’ Yellow Eyes realizes that the only thing powerful enough to send Dean back in time must be Angels. He also figures out that Dean’s presence here means that Ol’ Yellow Eyes’ plan for making psychic children works. Though he seems disappointed that Dean isn’t one of them. He figures there must be a sibling (with terrible hair) that is. Dean realizes that Ol’ Yellow Eyes isn’t bargaining for souls but for the children of his targets. Dean asks what’s so special about this parents-to-be. Ol’ Yellow Eyes gives him some blather about them being his own master race.
  • 35:00 – More demonsplaining from Ol’ Yellow Eyes. apparently he’s making the deals because he needs permission to enter the dwellings and bleed into the children’s mouths (I thought that was more of a vampire thing?). Dean tries toget Ol’ Yellow Eyes to reveal the true extent of his plan, because apparently it was more than just the demonic army we saw in the  season 2 finale. Ol’ Yellow Eyes declines to give Dean and therefore the Heavenly Host that information. Dean doesn’t care because he knows that Ol’ Yellow Eyes will die by Dean’s hand either now,or in the future. Ol’ Yellow Eyes just laughs at this. I’ll note that Deanna Campbell has been eavesdropping on at least some of this conversation.
  • 35:47 – Ol’ Yellow Eyes gloats at Dean that Dean won’t be able to save everybody, with his first failure being Samuel. Ol’ Yellow Eyes produces a knife and stabs his Samuel meat suit pretty deep in what looks like the kidney area. Samuel’s going to bleed out when Ol’ Yellow Eyes is done bodyjacking, y’all. Deanna screams as she sees this and goes crawling for the Colt. Unfortunately, her scream alerted Ol’ Yellow Eyes to her presence and he promptly snaps her neck, killing off  a second of Dean’s grandparents in under a minute. This breaks Ol’ Yellow Eyes hold on Dean. Dean grabs the Colt, discovers dead Deanna and no sign of Ol’ Yellow Eyes. This means that Ol’ Yellow Eyes is probably going to take on baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester next. Dean rushes out.
  • 36:28 – Baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester is with baby Daddy Winchester in the Impala, which is parked by the river. Baby Daddy Winchester is proposing to baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester when they’re interrupted by Ol’  Yellow Eyes, still riding Samuel’s body.He promptly attempts to drag baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester out of the car.
  • 36:39 – Baby Daddy Winchester attempts to defend his girlfriend from her angry father. Ol’ Yellow Eyes responds by snapping baby Daddy Winchester’s neck and killing him. I gotta admit, I didn’t see that coming, though I’m unsure exactly why that blindsided me.
  • 37:24 – Ol’ Yellow Eyes reveals himself to baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester and confirms that he’s killed both of her parents in addition to her boyfriend. Baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester swears to return the favor by killing Ol’ Yellow Eyes. The demon tells her not be too hasty. I sense a deal is in the offing…
  • 38:30 – Yep. Ol’ Yellow Eyes offers to bring baby Daddy Winchester back to life if baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester gives Ol’ Yellow Eyes permission to enter the house in ten years. He claims that it’s fora minor thing, but as long as he’s not interrupted, nobody gets hurt. Since we know he does get interrupted and Mommy Winchester gets killed, I’m glad baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester seems reluctant.
  • 39:06 – I’m considerably less glad that baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester still takes the deal. And I’m majorly squicked out that the deal is sealed with a full on make out kiss between baby Mommy Not-Yet-Winchester and Ol’ Yellow eyes, who’s still wearing her father’s body.
  • 39:27 -Dean’s arrival on the scene, Colt in hand screaming “No!” kind of speaks for me here. It also prompts Ol’ Yellow Eyes to smoke out of Samuel’s dead body and run (float?) away.
  • 40:12 – Baby Daddy Winchester resurrects. Castiel grips Dean’s shoulder and they both disappear. Both baby Winchester parents seem freaked out over Samuel’s dead body, especially baby Daddy Winchester.
  • 41:52 – Dean awakens back in the hotel room, somewhat distraught that he couldn’t stop Mommy Winchester from making the deal and dying in the nursery. Castiel reveals that that was always going to be impossible and that the purpose of the trip was for Dean to gather the same knowledge the Angels have. Dean wants to know where Sam is. Castiel tells him. He also tells Dean that Sam is going down a dangerous path and unless Dean stops him, the Angels will.
  • 41:54 – To be continued…

Well, that was a very unexpected episode. I have to say that I didn’t see the whole time travel plot coming. It did feel that the entire purpose of this one was to make Dean, who already has something of a death wish feel even worse about himself and his role in the various tragedies to befall the Winchester family. I did enjoy the reversal of it being Mommy Winchester who was the Hunter in the family, and Daddy Winchester having no idea about that life style. I’m a sucker for episodes that primary engage in the mythos and metaplot of the show’s season, and this one certainly did that. It used the “show don’t tell” mantra and time travel to fill in a lot of the gaps in the backstory of how we got to the pilot, and even established Ol’ Yellow Eyes as still being a threat, even posthumously. Not sure what this means for Lilith and the Devil though. Does the show not have enough confidence in them as villains that they needed to re-establish Azazel?

I’m not sure if the Angels not knowing what Ol’ Yellow Eyes had in mind for his plan is deliberate, or if the writers haven’t figured out what that endgame is and are just flying by the seat of their pants a little. I’m guessing the latter,because as I touched on above, this show is heavily influenced by The X-Files, and that  show clearly never had an end game in mind for its recurring arcs and villainy.

I think the casting of the past characters was great, and Pileggi was clearly having a ball playing Ol’ Yellow Eyes. It did feel like young John Winchester and Deanna Campbell were a little underserved by the story, but the focus on Mary and Samuel did make sense here given what they were going for. It’s a pity they killed off Deanna so soon, because it doesn’t feel like she had a character. That’s not an issue for Daddy Winchester who’s had plenty of episodes to establish himself.

The absence of Sam from the story makes me wonder if there are other episodes where basically only one of the brothers appear. It feels a little off without the typical banter/argumentation/angst/tears between the Brothers Winchester being present. It felt odd that this episode ended with a “To be continued…” tag because it didn’t feel more or less serialized than most other episodes. Especially as the title “Metamorphosis” and the Netflix capsule description don’t make it sound like a continuation of this one. I guess we’ll just have to see. I’m hoping that we get a more defined goal for Castiel and the Angels at some point this season since it all feels very nebulous. I guess that’s why there’s still twenty more episodes to come…

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Creating the U.S.S Crumpler In Star Trek Adventures RPG

Earlier this month, I posted the latest in the It Builds Character series on Star Trek Adventures. That game has got its hooks into me quite strongly in that I want to run a campaign. And since I want to theme that campaign loosely around the Viridian Phage from Star Trek Voyager, but in the Alpha Quadrant that means I want the PCs home base to be a hospital or medical ship.

Specifically, I’m basing the ship loosely around the U.S.S. Pasteur, the Olympic class ship we see Captain Beverly Picard (nee Crusher) flying in an alternate timeline in the Star Trek: The Next Generation finalé “All Good Things…

An Olympic-class can apparently be seen during the battle scenes in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Sacrifice of Angels,” which is set in approximately 2374, three years after the RPGs recommended start date of 2371, but close enough that I can fudge it.

Let’s look at the Starship Creation rules in Chapter 9 of Star Trek Adventures, shall we?

There’s 4 major steps in creating a ship as a base in the game

  1. Service
  2. Spacecraft
  3. Mission Profile
  4. Refits

Let’s look at each of them in turn, shall we?

1. Service

We already determined this above, since the ship is first canonically seen in 2374, then that’s the earliest date the campaign can take place in (Approximately Season 6 of DS9, Season 4 of Voyager) and the ship must basically be new, so this would be it’s first mission.

2. Spaceframe

This is a little bit trickier, since the Olympic isn’t one of the classes covered by default in the rulebook, so it’s homebrew time!

Doing some research on Memory Alpha, it appears that the accepted length of the class is approximately 320 meters, which is comparable to that of the Intrepid-class, which is statted in the book, probably because that’s the class Voyager was. From that we can determine than an Olympic-class spaceframe would have a scale value of 4.  That’s not hugely helpful, since it doesn’t cover most of the other Starship stats that we need, Notably the 6 Systems & Departments and other capabilities. (Though using the Intrepid numbers as a baseline might be comparable, since the launch years were so close together.) Since we only have 2 real appearances to pull from, we’ll lean into this on Memory Alpha, as well as using Memory Beta to cover non-Canon appearances in Star Trek novels, older RPGs and the like.

A bit of trawling finds descriptors of the class that include the phrases “limited weaponry,” “defensive systems and sensors that were very limited,” reflecting the role of a non-combat support ship. Since the various systems are rated on a 0-12 scale, I’d call 7 as being average, and translating “limited” and “very limited” into numbers, I’d guess a standard Olympic-class would have the following System stats:

Communications: 9

Computers: 10 (No reason these wouldn’t be state of the art)

Engines: 9 (The Intrepid class has an Engines rating of 11, and a top speed of Warp 9.975 compared to Warp 9.2 for the Olympic class,so scrubbing 2 points seems right to me)

Sensors: 3 (“Very limited”)

Structure: 4 (“Very limited defensive capabilities,” so I halved versus the Intrepid class)

Weapons: 5 (“Limited”)

And I’m hazarding a guess at the following Department stat modifiers based loosely on the Department Rating Table on Page 213 of the Rulebook

Command: –

Conn: –

Engineering: –

Security: –

Science: +1

Medicine: +2

We know that the class has limited weaponry, as well as extra shuttle bays from it’s appearance(s), so let’s translate that into Attacks:

Phaser Arrays

Photon Torpedoes

And the Extensive Shuttlebays Talent.

3. Mission Profile

We already know that this is a hospital ship, so the only mission profile that makes sense is Crisis & Emergency Response, that gives baseline department values like so:

Command: 2

Conn: 2

Engineering: 1

Security: 2

Science: 2

Medicine: 3

We’ll also pick up one of the Talents associated with this profile, in this case, Advanced Sickbay

4. Refits

As mentioned this is basically a new vessel, so wouldn’t be refitted yet.

5. Putting it All Together

So, let’s look at the final stats (including derived stats) for this ship: –

TRAITS

Federation Starship

SYSTEMS

Comms: 9 Engines: 9 Structure: 4

Computers: 10 Sensors: 3 Weapons: 4

DEPARTMENTS

Command: 2 Security: 2 Science: 3

Conn: 2 Engineering: 1 Medicine: 5

TALENTS

Extensive Shuttlebays

Advanced Sickbay

Emergency Medical Hologram

Modular Laboratories

SCALE: 4

RESISTANCE: 4

SHIELDS: 6

POWER: 9

CREW SUPPORT: 4

ATTACKS

Phaser Arrays (Medium Range, Versatile 2, 6 Damage)

Photon Torpedoes (Long Range, High Yield, 5 Damage)

NAME

As given away by the title of this blog entry,  this ship will be the U.S.S. Crumpler, named for Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African-American to become a physician in the United States.

REGISTRY NUMBER

This is a tiny bit tricky, since the U.S.S Pasteur was given the registry number NCC-58925,which was also the registry number the (real-world) creator of the class assigned to the prototype vessel, the U.S.S Olympic. My head-canon around that is that the Olympic had the number 58925, but as a first f class prototype, had the NX- designation, becoming the NX-58925. I feel like the Crumpler should have a larger registry number, and basing it around Rebecca Lee Crumpler’s date of birth (February 8, 1831) opt for NCC-62831 which means she entered service sometime between the U.S.S. Akagi and the U.S.S. Thunderchild.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean Winchester

Lost Limey Watches Supernatural #62 – “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester”

A quick note by way of introduction may be required here. For quite some time now, certain members of the Richmond WriMos have been trying to persuade me to watch the CW show Supernatural. I  have relented and am now embarking on watching Supernatural via the wonders of Netflix. This series of posts will simply be my first impressions, almost stream of consciousness style, presented in the form of the time elapsed in the episode and my thoughts expressed as bullet points. It’s effectively live tweeting the episodes except I don’t have to stick to 140 characters or fewer. So without further ado here’s my take on:

Season 4 Episode 02 – “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester”

  • 01:43 – The episode starts with a “Then” montage to the tune of Billy Squier’s “Lonely Is the Night.” It seems to focus on people that Sam & Dean failed to save, including Meg, Agent Henriksen, and Ronald Reznick (who I barely remembered either). After that we get a shot of Dean in Hell, plus his Carrie graveyard moment, reunion with Sam, and meeting Castiel from last episode. After that, it’s time for “NOW.”
  • 03:27 – Now is represented by a women in a t-shirt and small shorts being awoken by TV static and radio tuning. It’s also apparentl super cold in her house, since we can see her breath as she exhales. The woman turns out to be a Hunter of some kind, since she has a small arsenal of weaponry,including what looks like a rock salt shotgun. Apparently Bobby knows her, because he leaves a message on her answering machine (remember those? Oh 2008 seems so long ago!) telling her that something big has come up and he needs help. He also names her as “Olivia.” Since she’s showing up in a teaser for Supernatural, I’m not sure the name was worth remembering. Shortly afterwards, she’s killed by a couple of battered-looking ghosts, one of which she apologized to.
  • 03:43 – Dean is refusing to believe that he was “groped by an Angel.” Sam asks why Castiel would lie about that.
  • 03:35 – Dean’s theory: “It was a demon. Demons lie,” which is a pretty reasonable assumption based on their shared experiences until now. Sam points out that Castiel was immune to (among other things) salt, devil’s traps and even Ruby’s Knife of Demon Stabbiness, which even Lilith is scared of.
  • 04:22 – The Brothers Winchester argue about the existence of angels for a bit (Dean’s anti, Sam’s pro) until Bobby interrupts them and tells them to come look at something. I’m guessing it’s the latest Playdemon centerfold.
  • 05:23 – Bobby’s research seems to show that an angel is literally the only thing that could rescue someone from Hell. Naturally, this leads to reasoned theological debate between our siblings. Sam sees this as a good thing (but he also sees his haircut the same way, so judgement impaired there, Sammy?) since it means that something good is on their side. Dena refuses to believe that if their was a God, said deity would give a crap about Dean. I can kind of see both side’s points here.
  • 06:16 – After a bit more back and forth, Dean concedes that Sam and Bobby may have a point. He asks what they know about angels. Bobby produces a metric butt load of lore-type books and tells him to start reading.
  • 06:21 – Dean’s immediate reaction is to grab a book and order Sam to go get some pie. Seems legit.
  • 07:15 – Sam’s pie trip turns into an impromptu rendezvous with Ruby, who’s heard the angel rumors about Dean. Apparently it’s big news among the demon community. She goes to abandon Sam, and seems scared because “they’re angels, I’m a demon. they smite first and ask questions later.” To be honest, based on the first three seasons of this show, I’m 100% down with the smite first agenda.
  • 07:40 – Unlike Ruby, Sam isn’t scared of angels. Of course Sam isn’t a demon or currently possessed by one, which makes a difference.
  • 08:15 – Sam gets back to Bobby’s place. Bobby tells him not to stop, since they’re going to visit Olivia, the Hunter from the teaser and find out why she’snot returning Bobby’s calls. That’s a bad thing. And even worse thing is that Sam forgot the pie,  which was the entire reason for his trip. (Incidentally, as someone who is currently keto dieting, I’m seriously Jonesing for some pie myself.)
  • 09:37 – Our intrepid trio enter Olivia’s place, shotguns at the ready. They spot a line of salt and an EMF meter so they know spirit activity was involved. They also spot Olivia’s rather grisly corpse, which doesn’t bode well. Bobby calls other local hunters on his flip phone. They’re also not answering. Something is clearly up. Bobby seems upset and the brothers seem concerned.
  • 10:00 – Dean calls Jed, another Hunter friend of Bobby’s to see if he’s okay. Jed is about as okay as a mutilated bloody corpse can be. there’s salt and shotgun detritus nearby, so he obviously struggled a bit. Jed’s glassy stare takes us into the fade for the act break.
  • 10:36 – The brothers Winchester confirm Jed’s currently not living status with Bobby, who name checks two other Hunters who are wearing their blood outside their body in the currently fashionable style. Dean is curious as to why ghosts have decided to “gank” off duty Hunters. I’m curious as to whether a Hunter is ever really considered off-duty.
  • 11:37 – While stopped off at a service station to replenish the fuel of this show’s greatest character, the Impala, Sam gets a surprise in the rest room in the form of super cold temperatures and the gh-gh-ghost! of Agent Henriksen.
  • 12:40 – After Henriksen clarifies that 1) he didn’t survive Lilith’s assault on the police station and 2) He blames Sam & Dean, Henriksen and Sam get their Itchy & Scratchy on. They fight, and fight, and fight. It looks like Sam saw something on Henriksen’s hand but it wasn’t clear on my Netflix copy. Sam does get tossed bodily into a few things and have his head slammed into a sink before Dean saves the day by blowing Henriksen’s ghost away with a rock salt shotgun.
  • 14:06-Bobby’s facing a ghostly failure of his own, with twin girls who I think we can charitably say were inspired by Kubrick’s The Shining.
  • 14:33 – Sam and Dean are driving and can’t get hold of Bobby. They pass the time in the traditional Winchester way, by arguing. Sam says that Henriksen wanted revenge because the boys got him killed. Dean doesn’t exactly disagree but snaps at Sam to think of solutions to the situation, not to wallow in it, but less eloquently.
  • 15:39-The boys are back at Bobby’s. There’s no sign of Bobby initially. The boys split the party, with Dean checking upstairs and Sam checking outside in the salvage yard. We see that the Shining girls have Bobby trapped in a car and are stopping him from answering Sam’s  shouts.
  • 16:20 – Back inside and upstairs, the doors around the hallway are going all Scooby-Doo on Dean, rapidly slamming aside from one which creaks open slowly. It’s mostly a distraction so that the ghost of Meg’s meatsuit can sneak up behind him ad complain about what the demon that possessed her did to her hair and outfit. She points out that she’s not  demon, and we fade to act break black.
  • 17:32- We come back to Meg clarifying that she was just a college girl, who was awake and imprisoned within her own body while watching the demon murder people. Dean claims to be sorry. Meg retorts “So sorry you had me thrown off a building.” The woman has a point.
  • 18:33 – She backs up her point by attacking Dean with the old punchy-kicky. She asks if he considers himself a hero. Dean doesn’t As Meg grabs dean, we see some kind of gnarly brand on her hand. I think we were supposed to see the same on Henriksen’s hand back at 12:40…
  • 19:03 -The Shining girls exposit at Bobby with extreme prejudice about his failure to rescue them. They say Bobby’s name so much in 30 seconds that it ceases to hold any meaning.
  • 19:06 -Sam sees his breath become visible, so he knows there’s something ghostly near by.
  • 19:33 – Sam starts searching through the cars in the yard for Bobby and/or ghosts. The Shining girls continue to backstory at Bobby in the form of threats.
  • 20:34 – Meg guilt trips Dean by talking about how her death led to Meg’s little sister committing suicide, and how that blood is on Dean’s hands. Dean having a younger sibling and something of a complex about that seems like it might be relevant here, no?
  • 21:05 – Sam finds Bobby and the Shining girls. There’s a brief confrontation, and then both girls are dispatched by cold iron crowbars (Incidentally “Cold Iron Crowbars” would be a great name for a Bauhaus cover band.)
  • 21:36 – Back in the house, Dean crawls and grabs a gun. Meg points out that regular bullets don’t work on ghosts. Dean responds by saying he wasn’t going to shoot her. Instead he shoot at an iron chandelier, which drops on the ghost of Meg, banishing her.
  • 22:11 – A brief exposition exchange between Bobby and the boys establishes that the ghosts they’ve been seeing are specifically people they couldn’t save, and that they all had the same brand on them. bobby claims to recognize the brand from somewhere. At that point, they get interrupted by the radio static noise of forthcoming ghostly presence.
  • 23:37 – Bobby leads the boys into his insane ghost panic room. It’s built from salt-lined iron, has ventilation fans in the shape of Devil’s traps, and a poster of what I think is Bo Derek in 10. I can’t help but think that it probably still smells like a gym locker room, despite the vents.
  • 24:27 – As the boys start to make bullets, Dean goes on a bit of a rant about the existence of God and the “why does He let bad things happen to good people?” conundrum that’s been discussed for literally centuries. Bobby sagely decides he’s not going to touch that one.
  • 25:48 -He does discover that the brand on the ghosts is something called the Mark of the Witnesses. It’s a brand on the ghosts’ souls that forces them to rise up angry. A very powerful spell that’s mentioned in prophecy as the “rising of the witnesses.” Bobby clarifies that the common version of the prophecy is in Revelations(which bugs me, because that Biblical book isn’t a plural, it’s the Revelation, singular). we fade to commercial break black with Bobby portentously saying that it’s a sign of the Apocalypse.
  • 26:17 – Dean is skeptical about it being the capital-A Apocalypse. Bobby refer to the witnesses as a “mile marker,” which is probably why Dean responds to Sam asking what the should do with “Road trip: Grand Canyon, Star Trek Experience, Bunny Ranch.” I’d like to do two of those three things myself.
  • 27:03 – Bobby thinks he’s found a counter-spell to get rid of the Witnesses that are currently plaguing them. He thinks he has everything they need in the house, but unfortunately, not in the current ghost proof panic room. One of the things needed is to cast the spell over an open fire, and the library apparently has a fireplace. I would think a room that by definition would tend to be full of old, dry books would be the very last place a sane person would ever put a fireplace, but I’m not sure how sane any Hunter can truly be considered.
  • 28:11 – The trio head out of the panic room with salt/iron loaded shotguns. They stumble across Ronald Reznick’s ghost on the stairway. He asks if they remember him. By the power of the flashback they do. Which means they’re doing better than I was, as I don’t recall his episode at all.
  • 28:26 -Ronald and Dean have a brief conversation until Bobby shoots Ronald and recalls the iconic advice of The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly‘s Tuco: “If you’re gonna shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”
  • 29:31 -Bobby begins getting the spell together, dispatching Sam, and after a brief shotgun altercation involving the Shining girls, Dean to get the components. The Shining girls return and exposition-taunt Bobby for a bit. He points his shotgun at them but hesitates to fire. We here the shot as the camera cuts to Sam.
  • 30:26 – Ghost Meg confronts Sam, and guilt trips him about his current relationship with Ruby, asking how many innocent bodies Ruby’s burnt through and tortured. Pointing out that Sam not sending Ruby back to Hell makes Sam a monster. Sam responds in the most emotional mature way possible, he shoots her in the face with a shotgun.
  • 32:02 – Dean is confronted by Henriksen, who clarifies that Lilith tortured the survivors at the police station for over 45 minutes, flaying their skin off piece by piece, starting with the secretary and making the others watch, until Henriksen was the last to die. I’m not sure that tracks with what the episode showed us, but I read enough comics that retcons come naturally to me, so whatever. Henriksen ends his rant by squeezing Dean’s heart and asking why Den deserves another chance, while all Heriksen got to do was die painfully. From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think Dean believe he deserved another chance…
  • 32:28 – Sam ends the impasse by introducing Henriksen to Mr. Shotgun blast. The brothers get all the spell bits they need to Bobby. Ronald shows up again, and he mad.
  • 34:01 -Bobby begins to cast the spell. The windows fly open and wind starts blowing all through the library. The various ghosts we’ve seen throughout the episode keep popping up, and keep getting shot by the Brothers Winchester until they’re both out of shells. Dean swats at Ghost Meg with an iron poker to send her away temporarily, but Henriksen traps Sam against a wall by moving a desk. Sam more or less orders Dean not to worry about him and cover Bobby until the spell is done.
  • 34:53- And Bobby needs that coverage. He’s initially distracted by the Shining girls long enough for Ghost Meg to do some heart juju and cause him to drop the spell bowl. Luckily Dean catches the bowl and throws it into the fire, which creates a blue flame and banishes the Witness ghosts on a slightly more permanent basis. Bobby & Sam free themselves and it looks like our intrepid trio are okay as we go into act break blackness.
  • 36:05 – We return to see sleeping Winchesters. Dean is awoken by the sound of fluttering wings and has a visitor – Castiel. Castiel congratulates Dean n teh job he did with the Witnesses. Dean’s angry at the complete lack of angelic assistance they got if Castiel knew about things. As Dean puts it “I thought angels were supposed to be guardians. Fluffy wings, halos — you know, Michael Landon. Not dicks.”
  • 36:55 – Castiel’s comeback of “read the Bible,” is pretty good. Apparently the angels had larger concerns. this leads into Dean ranting about whether there is a God, and at what point will He lift a finger to help the Earthbound. Never has the line “if you say ‘mysterious ways,’  so help me, I will kick your ass,” made me giggle so hard.
  • 37:51 – It turns out that the Witnesses being risen is one of sixty-six seals that if broken, will lead to the apocalypse. Apparently Lilith was responsible for the rising of the witnesses, which has lead to the death of at least twenty hunters. And the seal still counts as broken, even though Bobby and the Brothers Winchester put the spirits to rest.
  • 38:27 – The seals can be thought of as locks, and apparently once the last lock is opened, then Lucifer can walk free. Dean didn’t think there was such a thing as Lucifer, figuring it was a story made up to scare demons. Castiel reasonably points out that three days ago, Dean didn’t think there was such as thing as Castiel. I’m guessing this being the third day after Dean’s resurrection has some symbolism, but what that might be escapes me.
  • 39:37 -Apparently there’s a lot more going on than just the Witnesses. Other seals are being broken, and at least six angels died this week. Castiel also demands some respect from Dean, pointing out that if he could drag Dean out of Hell, he could also send him back there, and so should be respected.
  • 40:33 – The episode ends with Dean saying that if Sam has no problem believing in God and angles, then does he also believe in the Devil? Sam wants to know why Dean’s asking, and we go to the credits.

This felt like a very “meat and potatoes” episode of Supernatural for the majority of the episode being, at its heart, a fairly basic ghost story with angry spirits. the stakes were raised by giving the spirits a personal connection to the Winchesters and a way to connect with longer term viewers (except for Ronald the Forgettable). I was enjoying it as almost a break from the rather metaplot heavy last trio of episodes. Though if you’re going to have metaplot episodes, season premieres and finales are definitely the place for them.

Then the connection to the Witnesses and the Apocalypse emerged in the last quarter of the episode or so, which booted the stakes significantly and tied the threat more firmly into the pre-existing demonology mythos that the show has developed over the last three seasons. I’m still not entirely sure that using Castiel as an exposition drop in in the final act is a structure that can be maintained on a season long basis, but it is a nice way to establish the arc so far and give the more abstract elements a humanoid face, which we didn’t really get with Lilith until fairly late into last season as I recall.

The next episode has a somewhat Biblically loaded title, “In TheBeginning,” so I’m guessing it’s going to lean heavily into whatever the seaosn long plot with Lilith and Lucifer turns out to be, and I am one hundred per cent okay with that, as I think this series so far has shown that I definitely have a preference for mythology arc episodes over the more stand alone ones.

Star Trek Adventures Core Rulebook Cover

It Builds Character #6: Star Trek Adventures

Welcome to the sixth in an occasional series called It Builds Character in which I use the character generation rules of various tabletop role-playing games to create a character and attempt to flesh them out into something distinctive.

It Builds Character #6: Star Trek Adventures

The Game

For the latest entry in the series, I’ll be using the rules of Modiphius Entertainment’s  Star Trek Adventures RPG, which is set in the Star Trek galaxy. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you have at least a passing familiarity with that setting.

This isn’t the first iteration of a Star Trek RPG, and I have fond memories of Last Unicorn Games’ Deep Space Nine RPG from late 1999/Early 2000.

Since the canon Star Trek  universe covers the year’s from the launch of the NX-01 Enterprise in 2151 in the Enterprise episode “Broken Bow” through to the end of Star Trek Nemesis in 2379 in the ‘Prime’ timeline as well as alternative versions of the years 2233-2263 in the ‘Kelvin’ timeline reboot movies, then Star Trek Adventures has to zero in on a specific time period for simplicity’s sake (I’m sure other time periods will be covered in supplements, etc.) and it does so, Opting to take place in the year 2371 in the ‘Prime’ timeline, roughly contemporaneous with Season 3 of Deep Space Nine and the first season of Voyager. The game does include suggestions on how to adapt to earlier time periods, though.

The Character

I have an approximate idea for a character, and since that character would fit nicely into Starfleet, I have to assume that the character creation process should be able to spit out that character fairly easily. There are two methods for generating characters introduced in the fifth chapter of the rule, either using a “Lifepath” methodology or generating them during play. While the latter sounds intriguing, I don’t have a local group to play yet,so the former method will work better with this article. So let’s take a look at our character’s Lifepath.

Step 0: Default Scores

The first step isn’t really a step at all, but each character starts with 6 Attributes each starting at 7. Those attributes are: Control, Fitness, Presence, Daring, Insight, and Reason. I’d say this are mostly self-explanatory,but that’s never stopped me before. Control covers self-control, precision and discipline type situations. Fitness covers physical conditioning including endurance and general strength. Presence is basically force of personality or how persuasive/diplomatic the character is. Daring represents bravery and gut instinct type situations. Insight covers a character’s empathy, wisdom and experience of situations. Reason covers a character’s analytical abilities. In addition to the 6 Attributes, each character starts with 1 point in each of 6 Disciplines. The disciplines are roughly equivalent to Federation training tracks and are Command, Security, Science, Conn, Engineering, and Medicine. So that’s our base, and now it’s time to start applying our Lifepath to these defaults to form a a character around them.

Step 1: Species

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first step that we apply is figuring out what species the character is, since the galaxy of Star Trek has an awful lot of aliens in it. Since the game kind of assumes that the characters are part of a Starfleet crew, we only have Federation or Federation-adjacent races to choose from. There are 8 races in total, but I’ve decided that my character is going to be a Trill, so that’s the species I choose.

This gives various benefits and drawbacks. The first benefit is +1 to my Control, Presence and Reason attributes, bringing all of those to 8.

Being a Trill also gives me a species Trait. Since my Trill will not be a joined Trill (see a little bit later), they gain improved resistance to parasitic infection but suffer from stronger allergic reactions to insect bites and venom, a consequence of them being adapted for symbiosis.

Additionally, at this stage, the character gains a Talent. There are a lot to choose from, but there are two that are only available to Trill at the character creation stage, and I opt for one of those. Specifically, I opt for the Former Initiate challenge, which means that this Trill went through the process to be selected as part of the Symbiosis program, but wasn’t able to complete that program. This manifests as a slight benefit for certain Control or Reason tasks.

Step 2: Environment.

The next step for our Star Trek Adventures character is to determine how they have been affected by the environment they were raised in. Since I didn’t have a concrete idea of the type of environment I wanted my Trill to have in their background, I opted to roll a D6 on the environment table rather than just choose the most appealing option as I had for the species. A roll of  ‘4’ and this Trill grew up o a Frontier Colony. The game suggests that makes my character a little more hardy, and perhaps a touch more stubborn. This is represented in the game by a Value which is a credo, motto, or personal value that the character lives by,and is clearly used as a role-playing aid. Values are very free form, and I decide that this experience has made the Trill very aware of the importance of co-operation so give them a value of “None can stand alone.” As part of this background, I can increase either Control or Fitness. I opt for Fitness, bringing that to 8. I’m also able to increase one of the Conn, Security or Medicine disciplines. I opt for Medicine, so the Trill now has 2.

Step 3: Upbringing

Similar to the character’s environment, how they were raised within that environment affects their Lifepath. Again, there’s an option to roll for the upbrigning, but this time I choose it. This Trill was brought up in a Science and Technology path on their Frontier Colony. They didn’t rebel against such an upbringing, which means that they gained 2 points to their Control attribute (bringing it up to 10) and 1 point to their Reason attribute (bringing that up to 9). Because of that Science focus, I can raise one of the Trill’s disciplines, either Conn, Engineering, Science or Medicine. I decided that the Frontier Colony this Trill was raised on was used as an observation post for monitoring a pre-Warp species, and so a lot of maintenance had to be done to keep the facilities hidden from the native planet life, so that manifests as a point of Engineering discipline, bringing that to 2 points. It also means that the character gains a Focus on Xenobiology. The character also gains a further Talent as part of this upbringing. Looking through the ones that make the most sense, I opt for Constantly Watching, since the character would have to always be vigilant to make sure they’re not observed by the pre-Warp species. In game terms, this gives the Trill a slight advantage in detecting danger or hidden enemies.

 

Step 4: Starfleet Academy

Now we know what the character went through before the Federation/Starfleet got their grubby little mitts on them, it’s time to see what happened to them at Starfleet Academy. Again, you can roll to decide what track the character ends up on, but given what I’ve established about this Trill thus far, it made more sense to just choose the right track, and so we opted for the Operations track. This first manifests itself as a Value. I actually like one of the sample ones suggested: “Exploring to Test New Theories,” and go with that. It also gives 3 points to spend on any attributes I choose, but no more than 2 can be spent on a single attribute. I spend 2 on Reason (bringing that to 11) and 1 on Insight (which is now 8).

The character also increase their Disciplines here. First they need to choose either Security or Engineering as their major, which results in a +2 increase. Given my character’s background so far, I go for Engineering (which now has a score of 4, the Maximum any discipline can have at this stage). I can select 2 other Disciplines as minors and increase those by 1 each. Given his previously established Xenobiology interest, 1 of those minors is Medicine (bringing that score upto 3) and the other ends up being Science (bringing that up to 2). The character also gains 3 Focuses, one of which should be related to Operations on some level. For that one, I opt for Infiltration. For the two other focuses, I go for Emergency Medicine and Computers. The character also gains another Talent. In this case, that Talent is Intense Scrutiny, which helps with extended tasks that rely on Reason or Control.

 

Step 5: Career

So, how long ago was the character at Starfleet Academy? There’s no rolling here, the game gives you three choices to choose from: Young Officer, Experienced Officer, or Veteran Officer. I plump for the middle option, feeling like the colony backstory doesn’t give the character enough time to have been a true Starfleet lifer, and that the character has too many hard edges to be truly a Young officer. So this Trill is an Experienced Officer. This provides one Value, which I decide is “Friend to all Cadets,” the character also gets a Talent, which in this case is Field Medicine.

Step 6: Career Events

In contrast to the prior step, the game recommends rolling for this step, presenting a D20 table that characters should roll on twice, and then apply the effects of those rolls. I roll an 18 – Solved An Engineering Crisis and a 5 – Required To Take Command.

Solved an Engineering Crisis asks “What technology malfunctioned and why was it dangerous?” I decide that it was some kind of camouflage or cloaking technological failure which could lead to a disastrous violation of the Prime Directive, and the question “How did the character solve the problem?” was answered by jury-rigging the transporters to supplement the camo with transportation patterns of organic matter to act as visual shielding. It’s pretty basic, but could be elaborated into something more interesting either later, or while interacting with a Game Master and talented crew mates. This increases the characters Control attribute to 11, and their Engineering discipline to 5. This also grants the character another Focus, which really should be Transporters based on this history.

Required to Take Command asks “What was the mission? What went wrong?” I decide it was a routine mineral survey/sensor sweep mission, that resulted in a parasitic infection taking hold among the crew of the vessel, something that the character’s Trill biology allowed them to not succumb to, making the character the highest ranking non-incapacitated crew. It also asks “Was the mission successful despite the loss of the leader?” I decide it wasn’t, as the character more or less immediately abandoned the mission to return their craft to the nearest Starbase for medical and hospital treatments. This increases the character’s Daring attribute to 8, and his Command discipline to 2. The character gains another Focus, in this case Compusure.

 

Step 7: Finishing Touches

The first finishing touch is to add another Value. this time I go with “Death is the easy option. Really living, that’s the hard way.”

The second of the Finishing Touches is to make sure that no Attributes are above 12 only one can be 12. So far, the character’s attributes are

Control: 11, Fitness: 8, Presence: 8, Daring: 8, Insight: 8, Reason: 11

Which are within the limits. Next I get to increase any 2 of those Attributes by 1 point, still adhering to only one can be 12 rule. I opt o boost Insight & Presence both to 9.

You then do something similar with the Disciplines, but there can be none higher than 5, and only one 5. The character has the following disciplines

Command: 2, Security: 1, Science: 2, Conn: 1, Engineering: 5, Medicine: 3

I only have one at 5, and I can raise any two of the others by a point each. I decide to increase Medicine to 4 and Science to 3.

 

Now it’s time for some final checks.

Apparently the sum of the Attributes should be 56. Let’s see (11+8+9+8+9+11) = 56, so that’s good.

The sum of the Disciplines should be 16. Let’s see (2+1+3+1+5+4) =  16, also good.

Supposed to have 4 Values:

  1. “None Can Stand Alone”
  2. “Exploring To Test New Theories”
  3. “Friend To All Cadets”
  4. “Death is the easy option. Really living, that’s the hard way.”

That’s 4.

Supposed to have 4 Talents:

  1. Former Inititiate
  2. Constantly Watching
  3. Intense Scrutiny
  4. Field Medicine

Also 4

Apparently, I should have picked up 6 different Focuses:

  1. Xenobiology
  2. Infiltration
  3. Emergency Medicine
  4. Computers
  5. Transporters
  6. Composure

That would be 6.

Apparently there are some derived scores, including Stress, which is (Fitness + Security) or in this character’s case: 9 My damage bonus is apparently 1 Starfleet logo.Now, time to figure out a few personal details. I decide that this Trill is male, and his name will be Malko Inazin (though I’m always open to better alternatives that still sound Trill-like) and is roughly equivalent to 40 human years old. (I see no evidence that unjoined Trill hosts live any longer than humans, but I’m hedging my bets with that description). He’s kind of a gruff guy, but is always willing to lend a hand to anyone, especially those personnel found among the lower decks or among the wet-behind-the ears new recruits. He sports a fiercely disciplined crew cut, with slight sideburns fading into his Trill spots, which do indeed continue all the way down.

Based on his Discipline and his role as a main character within the story, Malko is clearly the Chief Engineer among the crew of his ship, and has enough medical training he can sub in for ahead nurse or deputize a Chief Medical officer where necessary, avoiding the need for his ship to have an Emergency Medical Hologram installed. Malko Inazin has never particular sought promotions or advancement, and so is more than content to rank as a Lieutenant.

For starting equipment, Lieutenant Malko Inazin has his uniform (Early Deep Space Nine/Voyager style black jumpsuit with gold divisional shoulders version), Communicator, Tricorder, a Type-1 Phaser for a sidearm (he just prefers the way it feels to the Type-2) and an Engineer’s toolkit.

 

The Ship

It strikes me that you can’t have a true Star Trek RPG without either a ship, starbase or space station, and Star Trek Adventures provides a creation guide for those. So consider this an It Builds Character bonus section as we create the ship that Lieutenant Malko Inazin serves as the Chief Engineer aboard. Chapter 9 of the Core Rules provides a multi-step process for creating the vessel. There’s only five steps here, so we’ll go through them now.

Step 1: Service

Since we’re assuming the default setting of 2371, we only want ships that could conceivably be in service that year. Since the ship class I’m going to be selecting in the next step entered Starfleet service in 2368, I can just about fudge that. The three-year time span means that the ship is probably still on its first major mission, so we’ll keep in mind that it’s almost fresh from the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards.

Step 2: Spaceframe

Their are several example ship classes in the Core Rulebook to choose from, including just about all the “hero” ships from the preexisting Star Trek series (which doesn’t include Star Trek Discovery, likely due to publishing and production lead times). I opt for one of my favorite under-rated little ships, the Nova-class, as seen in the pilot episode of Voyager.  In game terms, the default Nova-class has the following stats:

SYSTEMS

Comms: 10, Engines: 9, Structure: 8, Computers: 10, Sensors: 10, Weapons: 8

DEPARTMENTS

Command: -, Security: -, Science: +2, Conn: -, Engineering: +1, Medicine: –

Scale: 3

Phaser Arrays, Photon Torpedoes, Tractor Beam (Strength 2)

Talent: Advanced Sensors

Step 3: Mission Profile

Each of the Federation’s ships have different types of missions assigned to them, and that mission heavily influences some of the design considerations for the ships in question. In the case of this particular vessel, it’s mission profile is to take part in Pathfinder and Reconnaissance Operations, assigned as it is to map making and fact finding in various solar systems near the Federation side of the infamous Romulan Neutral Zone. This results in the following Department statistics, incorporating the Spaceframe modifiers above:

Command: 2, Security: 2, Science: 4, Conn: 3, Engineering: 3, Medicine: 1

The ship also receives the Improved Reaction Control System talent.

Step 4: Refits

This vessel hasn’t been in service long enough to get any refits, so nothing changes here.

Step 5: Putting It All Together

Let’ see what we have. first of all the ship has a single Trait: Federation Starship, which it kind of, y’know, is. Systems and Departments stats are already shown above in the earlier steps, so I won’t regurgitate them here. Apparently, the ship should have Talents equal to its scale. Since the Nova-class is scale 3, but only has two Talents (Advanced Sensors & Improved Reaction Control System) currently, I guess we’d better add one more: Improved Hull Integrity.

Other statistics –

Resistance: 4 (Baseline 3 +1 for Improved Hull Integrity), Shields: 10, Power: 9, Crew Support: 3

Weapons: Phaser Arrays (5 Damage, Medium Range, Versatile 2), Photon Torpedoes (5 Damage, Long Range, High Yield

Doesn’t feel like the ship has been in service long enough to pick up any other Traits yet.

I feel like the layout of the ship’s bridge closely matches that of the U.S.S. Voyager from the eponymous series.

Now, let’s get down to the last two fun details of the ship. Its named the U.S.S. M’Clintock after Thomas M’Clintock and sports the registry number NCC-72758.

 


What do you think, loyal blog followers? Is this a series worth continuing? If so, are there any particular games and editions you’d like me to use to create characters?

Please leave some comments and let me know!

Crusader Kings 2 King Estercél

Let’s Play Crusader Kings 2 – Part 2: King Eterscél “The Just” of Mumu, 1094 – 1149

Previously on Crusader Kings 2, we were introduced to the Petty Kingdom of Mumu, and lived through the mostly uneventful 31-year reign of King Murchad “The Gouty,” who died of old age after losing one minor war early in his reign and then never expanding his territory again. Now his heir, Eterscél sits on Mumu’s throne. Here’s a very quick look at Eterscél:

Eterscél is something of an interesting monarch. Firstly, he ascended to the throne very young, being a mere 16 years old. This is because he was a younger child of King Murchad. The original heir, Brian, didn’t outlive their father, so Eterscél kind of fell into kingship. This is reflected in his stats, where he was being groomed as a potential Marshall and Battle Commander, with most of his guardians growing up being soldiers. This is reflected in his high Martial score of 11. Unfortunately his Diplomacy and Intrigue scores suffer because of this, being a mere 2 and 4 respectively. He’s clearly self-conscious about his lack of diplomatic skill as his ambition is to change that. Fortunately, it looks like he’ll be a good steward of Mumu’s gold, and he’s an average learner. As we can see, he currently has no children, so his heir is his nephew Brian. Our young King does have a Queen, though. Let’s take a look at Adelia

Adelia di Cervia, our teenage queen is apparently completely hopeless with money, and as dumb as a box of rocks. She would be a pretty terrible soldier as well. Unlike her husband, she has a modicum of diplomatic ability, but only a modicum. She’s mildly more aware of deceit and skulduggery than her husband as well.  Looking at her traits, we discover that she’s humble, deceitful and slothful which is an interesting combination. It seems unlikely she’ll be plotting against Eterscél any time soon despite being something of an underhanded rogue. Really her biggest benefit to the kingdom is being young enough to bear lots of heirs. Which she wastes absolutely no time doing.

Given the setting, we get the best news of all, a male Heir. He also gets a fraternal twin sister we can marry off later.

The first thing Eterscél does upon the birth of his heirs is publicly proclaim Abél as his heir, which helps boost his confidence a little bit when it comes to being diplomatic.

After that, he throws away this benefit by following in Murchad’s footsteps and attempting to press his de Jure claim on the county of Deshaimhum as part of the kingdom of Mumu. Unfortunately, he follows in those footsteps a little bit too well and three years into his reign, Eterscél has lost his very first war.

This leaves Eterscél in something of a bind,since he’s lost a considerable amount of prestige, and is having to pay reparations to Deashumhain as part of the humiliating surrender. Using what remains in his treasury, he begins to reinforce his current holdings by upgrading the fortifications of his capital’s castle. After three years of infrastructure improvements, collecting taxes and trying to rebuild his lost reputation, there’s cause for celebration, as Queen Adelia gives birth to a second daughter:

The presence of  young children must have had a positive effect on King Eterscél, because over the next six years of peace, he both acquires the sobriquet “the Just” and achieves one of his major life goals:

After a few years in which Eterscél continues to upgrade the fortifications at his various holdings,as well as having his Marshal hold several military recruitment drives to bring up the numbers, he once again declares war on a severely weakened Deashumhaininorder topress the Petty Kingdom of Mumu’s de Jure claim on that title.  During this, Queen Adelia blesses the family with a second son, Éogan.

Not long after Éogan’s birth, Estercél is able to accomplish something his father couldn’t and add Deshumhain to to his realm.

The Petty Kingdom of Mumu is finally restored to it’s de Jure borders. This is a cause for celebration within Mumu, and is soon followed by yet another one. Queen Adelia is once more with child (a third daughter).

Estercél, flush with happiness and success decides to strike out further to the north of his realm, and presses a minor claim to the independent County of Osraige. A brave warrior, Estercél leads from the front, which is to his detriment

However, this proves only to be a minor setback, and soon Osraige is in the possession of one of Estercél’s vassals.

The realm is expanding. Though the court of Mumu starts to dwindle as Estercél starts marrying off his daughters, or at least betrothing them to different nobles. I think all six of the King’s children now either have a spouse or an intended one when they come of age. The nation is prosperous and the future of the dynasty seems assured for a generation or two. So naturally, after thirty three years on the throne, Estercél succumbs to the black dog of depression

The morose monarch clearly needed something to distract him from his own dark moods, and fortunately, the self-same vassal who had a claim to the County of Osraige also has a claim to the independent Earldom of Cill Dara. Once more, Estercél gears up for war.

It ends almost immediately with Cill Dara being another expansion of the Petty Kingdom of Mumu. That means that in his reign, Estercél the Just has thus far expanded Mumu from a mere two counties to five. Apparently, this enflamed Queen Adelia into the throes of passion as she threw herself upon the King

 

Estercél survived his wife’s attentions. He also managed to fight off illness over the next three years of his reign, and dispense wisdom and justce throughout the realm, garnering the approval of the smallfolk

Life was good in Mumu, so much so, that King Estercél the Just ordered an event in the capital county of Tuadhumhain to keepthe people happy.

It went down a treat, with the King particularly enjoying the Mummery (aside from one Jester who crossed the line and was introduced to the dungeons as a result). eventually, the fair ended, as did the summer itself. The King was content to act as a guardian for his newest granddaughter.

This pleased the heir to the throne, who named his newest son for the King

The King wasn’t through trying to expand the Kingdom just yet, and after a considerable amount of cajoling, outright skulduggery and perhaps a little creative interpretation of family tress, he was able to work with the Chancellor of the realm to fabricate a claim to the independent county of Connachta

Definitely a ripe target. Unfortunately for Mumu,before we can begin our hitherto-fore successful siege tactics upon Connachta’s holdings, we’re met in open battle and this happens:

Fortunately, my nephew, the Chancellor is able to act as my regent and sue for my release as part of a humiliating peace accord. Perhaps a sixty year old king shouldn’t be leading forces on the battlefield, but soldiering is in King Estercél’s blood…

After his freedom, Estercél’s Queen of the last forty-six years, and mother to his six children finally passes.

Which in a bit of irony,causes King Estercél the Just to no longer consider himself “Just.”

The King remarries, his second Queen being a Saxon woman, Anna Haraldsdatter. she makes her impact known imediately by quarreling with one of my more powerful vassals. The Earl who’s claims on Osraige and Cill Dara brought them into my realm.

Estercél is far more loyal to his vassals than to his still new spouse, of course. And apparently asserting those bonds ofloyalty made him feel much better than before, since his depression lifted.

Political intrigue is never too far away, and after a period of marrying off all the grandchildren, Mumu receives the offer of an alliance from the Queen of Scotland.

We take it, since the Duchys on mainland Britain seem to be growing more powerful and friends are a useful resource. I’m sure there won’t be any unforeseen consequences of such a thing after all.

There are almost immediately unforeseen consequences. The Kingdom of Mumu lends their manpower and siege expertise to one of the two Scottish counties that follow Dolfin the Usurper and are almost immediately rewarded with success.

There’s still one county in revolt against the Queen of Scotland, but Estercél calls his forces back to the capital in order to replenish them rather than join that fray. It’s a move that seems  wiser in retrospect, as measles starts sweeping through many of the nobles in the area, including my heir, Abél.

This is truly unfortunate, since not long after this, King Estercél finally shuffled off his mortal coil after seventy-one years, fifty-five of them as King.

Now Abél takes over the reign. Will he finish prosecuting the war against the Scottish Revolt? Will he do what his father was unable to do and bring Connachta to heel? One thing’s for certain, though. His reign will be a shorter one, considering that he’s already in his fifties. Find out in Part 3 of this Let’s Play.

 

Frustrated woman lies next to her laptop

Frustrations and #NaNoWriMo – It’s that time again

Four days. One thousand, one hundred and eighty one words. In the grand scheme of things it’s not very much, coming out at less than three hundred words a day. Unfortunately, that’s all that my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) efforts for 2017 have been able to yield so far, and I think I’m going to have to junk them. So I’m now on day five (Or at least will be after I publish this blog entry and get some sleep) and have to either write a consistent two thousand words a day for the rest of November or somehow write eight thousand, three hundred and thirty-three words tomorrow, as well as a plot or novel outline so that those words have some kind of propulsive direction to them. Then I can return to the accepted NaNoWriMo pace of one thousand six hundred and sixty-seven words a day. Since both of those figures are rather  larger than three hundred daily words, I am understandably a little skeptical and nervous about them.

What makes this frustrating is that I’ve hit the dreaded block much earlier than I typically do during NaNoWriMo. It’s usually well into the second week, where I’ve slipped a little behind pace but still have round ten thousand words written. I’ve always had at least one thousand, five hundred written on day one, and frequently more thanks to all the resources at my fingertips, especially word sprints from either the nanowrimo.org forums or the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter feed.

Another frustration is that it feels like I have a genuinely good hook here, even if it is a bit pulpy. The idea started out (almost in fun) as “Knights Templars vs. Vampires,” with the Templars as the good guys, since they so often get pegged into the historical villain slot in fiction and popular culture. Though I can only currently recall that being the case in Raymond Khoury’s novel The Last Templar and of course the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise at the moment, I know it’s a pretty common trope across media. That log line evolved, as these things are wont to do, into the current short synopsis I have for my 2017 NaNoWriMo entry:

“In 14th century France, the Knights Templar stand accused of heresy, treason and demon worship. It’s seen as a ploy by the King of France to discredit them.

In reality, the order’s secret rites are there to bound the demon Baphomet in the catacombs beneath Limassol, Cyprus having moved it there from beneath the Temple at Jerusalem. Whatever the creature was, it now bears the Mark of Cain, making it essentially untouchable by Men of God. The Mark afflicts the creature with an aversion to sunlight and an unquenchable thirst for blood. And if it ever escapes the Templars, it can pass Cain’s Mark to any creature it drinks from.”

Which at least contains the germ of an idea. There’s stakes there, an antagonist and perhaps even a whiff of conspiracy, something that’s never too far away when you invoke the Knight’s Templar. Do you know what’s not there? Any sense of a plot, compelling characters or a reason to want to read the entire boondoggle. It doesn’t even have a protagonist! Since I’ve also found that the most readable and important part of any novel (at least any novel not written by H P Lovecraft) is definitely dialogue (It’s also the fastest to write , and boost word count, never a bad thing considering the insanity that is NaNoWriMo), the lack of any characters to have that dialogue is something of a problem.

What I currently have in my head, and in those ill-fated one thousand, one hundred and eighty one words are a series of cool vignettes, maybe even scenes, but with no connective tissue between them. It’s all visual niceties with incoherence and no underlying skeleton to bind it. That’s less of a novel and more of a lesser Michael Bay movie, and the world definitely doesn’t need more of those.

It probably doesn’t need my latest attempt at a NaNoWriMo novel either, but at lest I’m putting in effort to have something that might be confused for almost being good on a cloudy day.

That said, does anyone have any outlining or structure tips that could turn that skein of a synopsis into something resembling a plot skeleton? Please, please let me know in the comments. You may be my only hope.

Computer Frustration stock photo by channah.