By Michael Duxbury, STA Contributing Writer
Byline art by Martin Sobr
The years we spend in study correspond to periods of growth and personal discovery. It’s why stories about school, university, and training academies are such a staple of popular culture. There’s something so compelling about characters taking the first step in their careers, making mistakes and learning from them. Star Trek: Lower Decks ably demonstrates novice Starfleet officers having lives just as colorful and exciting as those of their senior bridge officers. The “Starfleet Academy” mission briefs for Star Trek Adventures spotlight an even more embryonic stage of a Starfleet officer’s development. It highlights the lessons a cadet learns before accepting their first posting; not all of which are taught in a classroom.
I had a broad remit for how I interpreted the theme of “Starfleet Academy,” and in the planning stage I considered several missions in which player characters were faculty members or guest speakers. In the end, I decided to narrow my focus, and explore the experience of a Starfleet cadet in detail. With education identified as a key theme, I realized that playing the mission briefs back-to-back as a complete campaign could be a great, alternative model for Starfleet officer character creation. You can have a character ready for the first mission brief with just three steps of lifepath character creation; but by the end of the tenth, they’ll have matured into a complete ensign-level main character.
This is not to say the anthology, like all mission brief packs, can’t be mined for one-shot-friendly adventure hooks. Any of these missions would be a great way to introduce a new supporting character, or flashback to the origin story of a veteran main character.
Every cadet knows to begin a writing assignment by doing their research. For me, working on these mission briefs was a welcome excuse to revisit some classic Star Trek. The episodes I found most useful for depicting the psychology of a young Starfleet cadet were The Next Generation’s “Coming of Age” and “The First Duty,” and Deep Space Nine’s “Valiant” and the spectacular “Homefront/Paradise Lost” two-parter. All these episodes were set during The Next Generation era, so I decided to do the same for my adventures. Like all mission briefs, though, guidance is included for adapting each mission to an alternative era.
Because I wanted to capture the entire cadet experience, from entrance exam to graduation, the mission briefs are spaced over a period of four years. Early missions are relatively low-stakes by Star Trek standards – gamemasters looking for adventures that threaten the existence of whole species should look elsewhere. My hope is that the comparatively grounded tone will leave players plenty of room to explore character relationships and forge friendships, romances, or rivalries with other cadets. No school is complete without plenty of gossip and drama between students!
With the onset of the Dominion War, the later mission briefs are significantly more dangerous. Cadets who signed on in peacetime are now training for combat on the frontlines. Not even the Academy campus on Earth is safe from the Dominion, and die-hard Trekkies might already suspect what dramatic events coincide with the cadets’ graduation…
I should probably set expectations by explaining that the one thing you’re most expecting to see in a Starfleet Academy supplement – the Kobayashi Maru – is not included… but only because Jo Kreil beat me to it. Happily, the adventure is available for free, right here on the Modiphius website. Good luck. You’re going to need it!
As I write this, the long-anticipated “Starfleet Academy” series has only recently been announced, and is due to enter production next year. I can’t wait to watch along with everyone else, and discover how the show’s creators explore the same themes and ideas that have fueled my imagination while working on this project.
In the meantime, I know the players and gamemasters of Star Trek Adventures will keep carrying the torch, putting their own spin on the missions I wrote, and hopefully coming up with their own. Raise a glass to the Class of ’23 – may they live long and prosper!
Download a copy of the “Starfleet Academy” mission briefs now from modiphius.net, modiphius.us, or DTRPG!
Purchase the Star Trek Adventures RPG core rulebook or the starter set and get started right away!
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!