Inspired by this blog...what if Star Trek had been run as a long-running role-playing campaign....
Never has a campaign gone through more turmoil than Gene's. When he first read Starships & Spacemen, it was love at first sight; it almost felt as if he had written it himself, and he was desperately eager to get another campaign going. His only previous experience was with a single Recon campaign, and that had only managed two players – Gary and Robert, probably because instead of Vietnam, he'd decided to set his campaign in a military base, dealing with intrigue and scandal. He'd managed to cycle through a few other players, though, and made contact with a lot of potential players for a new campaign. His first thought was that he needed to make it more exciting – so a Space Western was his pitch. Lots of action, shooting, swordplay, intrigue. At that, his initial search for players was something of a failure.
His first session – despite advertising all over LA for people – only attracted four people. Jeff was a pretty seasoned player, who was interested in playing a 'dark, moody Captain', Len's only thought was 'I want to play an alien! Like, from Mars, or with pointed ears, or something'. Then came the women; his girlfriend Majel had been wanting to get into his campaign for ages, so he let her join the campaign – despite the fact that she really didn't seem to get how to role-play – and then was Laurel, a girl he'd met in a gaming store that he was trying to chat up. (Yeah, Gene was that sort of guy, but if you think having one GM's girlfriend at the table was bad enough...)
For the first adventure, which he called 'The Cage', he drew from a lot of old pulp fiction. There were weird telepathic mind-warping aliens, swordfights with big growling giants (statistics poached from Ray's Labyrinth Lord campaign), and lots of green dancing girls. Lots of green dancing girls. In a desperate attempt to keep Jeff in the campaign, he hit upon the idea of having pretty much every female character want to seduce him – something which backfired rather badly. Majel thought 'oh, that's what we're supposed to do' and played along, and so did Laurel. Len at least had a lot of fun playing his alien, but spent most of the episode stuck on the spaceship in orbit when Jeff decided to split the party. Which was never a good idea. After his original 'blast them out of there' ending went wrong with a catastrophic series of dice rolls by Majel, he ended up having to resort to a lousy 'deus ex machina' ending where the bad guys decided to...let the PCs go.
End of session. And almost end of campaign; it would be a month before he had another go. Attempts to contact Jeff failed when his wife intercepted the first phone call, and based on Jeff's descriptions of the first game, the wife put her foot down, and insisted that 'Jeff goes to the Bible Study with me instead to learn about Jesus'. O-kay. Majel had been a bit confused by the session but was pushing to play again...but given that one of Gene's ideas was to use the game to meet girls, he considered this a bit of a non-started. Laurel just wasn't returning phone calls or emails at all. The one up-side – despite everything, Len enjoyed playing his alien, and even came up with a load of new ideas for the character. Gene would spend the next few years regretting that he'd stopped reading at page ten – as page eleven was 'Vulcanian Psychic Powers'. Not that it seemed to matter.
Still – he'd put in a hell of a lot of work, and figured he'd have another go at the campaign, pretty much from scratch. Len was 'in', and said he'd talk to his friend Bill – and Gary said that he would 'have a go', but wasn't sure if he would stay in for the course. Gene ran into a rather odd girl at the game store called Sally, but she seemed interested as well, so...he had a group again! A month later, he sat down to 'Where No Man Has Gone Before', and they had a blast this time. Lots of fistfights, psychic powers, and when it turned out that Bill and Gary were old friends, they threw that in as well for fun. And then...it went wrong. Gene had expected they would work out that all they had to do was go back through the Barrier to reverse the effect – he'd thought it was pretty obvious. It wasn't. Instead – they decided to 'go home the slow way'. Rather, Bill did, and everyone else said 'meh'. Lots more rolls on the 'Random Psychic Powers' roll for Gary, and Sally insisted on joining in that fun as well, sending everything spiralling out of control. To try and rescue the game – and the campaign – Gene rolled a random encounter, an abandoned desert planet named (roll) Delta (roll) Vega. Sigh. A big fistfight, and Bill managed to defeat Gary and Sally, leaving their bodies in the dust. Understandably, they stopped returning Gene's emails when he suggested having another session. On the up side – Bill was hooked, and so was Len.
New players. God, not again – but this time Bill and Len were helping out as well. An old friend of Gene was back in town again, and so De joined the campaign as the 'crusty doctor', and Bill found two more players – Jimmy and George, who played a Scottish engineer (despite everyone groaning at the cliché) and a swashbuckling helmsman. (George had heard Len talking about the swordfight in the first session, and spent some points on swordfighting. Which he used once in the whole campaign, and then a tad gratuitously.) Another two of Gene's 'interests', Nicky and Grace, also joined in. From having too few players he now had too many – but only Bill, Len and De could guarantee coming to every session, so he figured that was OK.
The third session was 'The Man Trap' – only Jimmy couldn't make it for that one. Gene put together a planet-side adventure to introduce De's character, with an old girlfriend that had turned into a shapeshifting monster! Bill and Len got to fight it on the planet, while the rest of the PCs spent most of their time interacting with it, and the first of the problems emerged, as it became clear that Gene couldn't handle more than three or four PCs in an adventure. George spent some time chatting up Grace (well, she thought so at the time) so he was happy enough, but that wouldn't necessarily last.
Then came session four, 'Charlie X', where Gene made it up to Grace and Nicky; the former had the whole episode based around her dealing with a love-sick teenager (and god did Gene enjoy playing that character) and Nicky got to practice a song that she was about to post on Youtube. George and Jimmy both missed that one, but Jimmy promised that he would make the next one. At this point, everything seemed to be going pretty well – everyone was happy with their 'air time' in each session, and he'd decided to focus something always on the three people he knew would be at each session, and told the others that 'as long as I know you are coming, you'll get something fun to do'.
Session five, 'The Naked Time', was in retrospect probably what Gene had hoped would happen when he brought acid to the game. No-one could remember much about what had happened in that session, only that Jimmy had been the only one not to drop (I came here to game, damnit) and that at one point George messed around with Gene's fencing swords doing a bit of improvised LARPing. There were vague memories of Len wailing about 'loving his mother', but no-one could work out whether or not he was in character. Also – Majel came home about half-way through the session from her acting class, and insisted on joining in – and by then, Gene was too far gone to either notice or to complain when she started hitting on Len.
By some miracle, the group would stagger to session six the next week.