By Christopher L. Bennett, STA Contributing Writer
Byline Art by Carlos Cabrera
Star Trek: Lower Decks is an odd sort of beast: it’s a parody of the Star Trek universe, but it’s also a canonical part of that universe, as valid within its reality as any other series. That’s part of its charm. Indeed, my favorite parts of the show tend to be the solid Star Trek-worthy stories, action, and worldbuilding, even when I find the humor too broad or too dependent on continuity references.
The challenge in coming up with a Lower Decks story, then, is to find a premise that allows poking fun at elements of Star Trek while still making sense as something that could have happened within its universe. Luckily, Star Trek has always had room for comedy, from “The Trouble with Tribbles” to The Voyage Home to “Take Me Out to the Holosuite.” So you can make humor part of its reality without undermining its reality. This is the approach I take with The Hub, my original series of comedy prose stories, available in the collections Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy and Crimes of the Hub. I wanted it to be a plausible hard science fiction universe where the humor arose believably from the characters and situations, rather than from a nonsensical reality.
“Lurkers” was originally a story pitch for the 2006 Star Trek: Constellations anthology. Aside from the original series setting, the premise was identical: A pre-warp planet has intercepted Starfleet transmissions from a leaky subspace beacon, having a major effect on their culture, so that they’re essentially a planet of Star Trek fans within the Trek universe. It’s a metatextual story that reflects the other side of the fourth wall, but still makes sense within the reality of the franchise. The idea is a natural fit to Lower Decks, in which the main characters geek out over their own Starfleet predecessors the way Trek fans geek out over the shows. It also provides a handy way to sideline the command crew and require the lower deckers to step up.
The adventure format allows exploring the “Planet of the Fans” more extensively than I could have in a short story, touching on their equivalents of a Star Trek convention and a movie. There’s room for gamemasters and players to devise ideas based on their own fan experience as well.
I almost used a variation of the “Lurkers” premise as one of the mission briefs in the Ancient Civilizations packet I wrote for STA several months earlier. I held off on it because STA project manager Jim Johnson had let me know Modiphius was on the verge of getting the Lower Decks license, and I realized that “Lurkers” would be an excellent fit for that series.
The planet in the game, Shawan II, is named for the street address of the hotel where I’ve attended the Shore Leave Convention annually since 2005, and where I first approached Jim about writing for STA. There are a few other in-joke names, which I leave as exercises for the reader to discover.
Grab a copy of “Lurkers” now at www.modiphius.net, www.modiphius.us, or DrivethruRPG!
Thanks for reading this article, and thank you for your interest and support of Star Trek Adventures! Keep frequencies open for news about additional STA products in the coming months. Live long and prosper!