FLYING PANCAKES By Jason Bulmahn
RPG writer Jason Bulmahn (Pathfinder) discusses his inspirations for the Star Trek Adventures mission "The Angstrom Operation" which features in the new Strange New Worlds Mission Compendium for Star Trek Adventures.
Growing up I had two passions, roleplaying games and Star Trek, and much of my free time was spent indulging in these hobbies. I eventually turned roleplaying games into my career, working on Pathfinder, but Star Trek remained my favorite retreat, rewatching the previous series or catching up on the latest show. When I heard that the franchise was about to get a new roleplaying game, I jumped at the chance to add to the game.
When thinking about my adventure, I went back to the Original Series, looking to them for inspiration. There were a number of episodes from that series that stick out in my mind, but none more that “Operation–Annihilate!” The episode is a little scary, since these creepy flying pancakes lurk in the dark and attack with a terrifying screech, and a little silly (Vulcans have nictitating membranes?!?), making it much like many of the roleplaying games I like to run. When brainstorming what to write, I thought of the simple question–what if I take these parasites and bring them to The Next Generation era? What if I make them genuinely frightening?
That was the start of “The Angstrom Operation,” the last of nine adventures you will find in Strange New Worlds, Mission Compendium Vol.2.
If you have read this far, you can guess that the neural parasites are back, but I really wanted to turn up the creepy factor on them. To do that, I needed a setting that was isolating and foreboding and I need to showcase the nightmare of having them slowly overrun a location. I came up with the idea for the Angstrom research facility, located on a tidally-locked planet, orbiting a dim star. And while I don’t want to spoil too much about the adventure, I can think of a few tips to help gamemasters running this mission to ensure it has just the right sense of foreboding.
Try to play in a quiet, isolated space, preferably with dim lighting. Too much noise and light can distract from the overall mood the players will encounter when their characters arrive at the Angstrom research facility.
When describing events on the station, you should feel free to include odd noises, strange smells, and signs of battle everywhere. Add details that assault the senses. The floors are sticky, the air stinks of copper, and there is some odd static playing over the intercom intermittently that just vaguely sounds like a voice asking for help. All of this will go a long way to immersing them into the nightmare.
Finally, avoid the temptation to give away too much information too quickly. The night side of the base is in chaos and it is difficult for the players to learn a lot about what happened until they control operations. They can only see the aftermath of events and infer what has happened. Let them. They should feel confused and alone, without all of the modern conveniences and technological advantages they normally have access to. Beaming back to their ship is not an option.
The atmosphere, combined with the true danger that is happening in the base, should make “The Angstrom Operation” a mission your players will not soon forget.
By Jason Bulmahn
Buy Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds, Mission Compendium Vol 2. here.