Babylon 5 (through end of season 4)

This series was so delightful! It had so many delightful things going on – I will try to exalt over them without giving things away to those who may not have had a chance to watch yet.

  1. Pay offs: There were a great many of these. I have two favorites, but I can’t really give either away without a lot of explanation. After all, it took about two seasons to get to them. But really, being able to watch two Centauri’s visions of the future come true in such satisfying ways, ways that were not what you expected but completely fit in and completed story arcs, was amazing.
  2. Character changes: Rather than simply kill characters off, as many shows do now in an attempt to be real and gritty, this show took the hard road. It turned trusted characters into villains. And it did it in completely convincing and realistic ways. The conflicts it produces between characters that used to be friends or allies drives the story forward and still comes to a great conclusion.
  3. The final episode of season 4: Ok, I’m not sure if this was created because JMS knew the network had messed him up or what, but I like to think it is. It’s basically a wide overarching look at what happens after the events of the show, filled with humor, satire, drama, and a great stick it at the end.

Over all this show was a great surprise. Though at first I was worried about having to compare it to Star Trek: DS9, and the not so great CGI graphics, there were many things that were just so unique and good. The aliens, in costume, makeup and acting, were superb. The story branches off so differently that DS9 that I had stopped comparing them after half a season. It holds its own, even twenty years later. So if you haven’t watched Babylon 5, I say you should.

Now I just have to decide if I want to watch the 5th season. JMS had five seasons planned, was forced to squish it into four, and then was given a fifth season anyway. So . . . we shall see.

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Star Trek: Frontlines – Episode 3: Marie Celestial

A Star Trek: Adventures actual play

Today’s Lesson: Give the players what they want. When you don’t, it’s torture. It’s torture for you, torture for them, and people can even start to get upset. Granted, I had a bad day yesterday when we played this mission. I was still bent on doing a string of intrigue stories leading them into the Dominion War. Really, though, it seems they really just wanted to start blowing things up. Sigh. I have a feeling this is going to be very boring for me. Especially since we don’t have stats yet for a lot of the Dominion stuff. Ah well, I will see if they are interested in taking part in the Klingon War that happened before. We have a LOT of stats for Klingons.

We begin with the crew of the USS Kidd on a mission to escort Partha, an Orion informant for Starfleet, back to Libertalia station, an independent, unaligned station between the borders. They are to see she arrives safely, and await the information she is gathering there. The Kidd has no trouble escorting her towards the station, but rather than roll in and scatter the slimy roaches Partha is there to meet, she takes the smuggler’s ship that the Kidd had impounded last time, and they part ways. The smuggling ship carried a tracking device encoded to send messages back to the Kidd.

As they continue along the border to wait from a safe distance, they pick up an uncloaked Romulan Warbird, floating just inside Federation space. As the Neutral Zone has been very quiet lately, this is an odd discovery. The Kidd comes along to investigate.

Romulan D'Deridex warbird

They find the ship is in perfect working order, but there are no life signs on board. Considering a warbird of this size can carry 2,000 people, this is a disturbing discovery. The crew beams over a tricorder to get some more readings at a safe distance. They find that there are plenty of bodies still there, but nothing in the air or wrong with the ship that would cause the deaths of so many. To prevent further trouble from arizing, the Kidd uses its tractor beam to start pushing the ship back into the Neutral Zone.

Just as they begin to do this, another Romulan ship decloaks, demanding to know what the Federation is doing with their ship, and why everyone is dead. Quick and open sharing of the information they had discovered disarms the Romulan Commander, Modex, who requests they be given a moment to assess the situation, if the Kidd is willing to stick around. The Captain agreed, and they allowed the Romulans to study their data as well as scan the ship of dead. In exchange for some more information about the possible desease that killed all the Romulans aboard, the Captain lets the Romulans know about the smuggling ship that it seems met with this derelict ship not long ago. The Kidd then moves away, leaving the Romulans to deal with their dead.

As they start moving off, the signal coming from the smuggling ship changes to the call for help. The Kidd makes an impresive entrance, dropping out of warp as close to the Libertalia Station as they dare, to find a furball of a fight happening around the smuggling vessel. Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi and other ships are buzzing around, trying to win the prize.

The Kidd target locks as many ships as it can, and broadcasts an announcement that it is claiming the ship as its own. Most of the ships scatter. The Romulans try to lay claim, but the Captain quickly shuts them down. Finally, after a discussion with the Klingons, who are fairly civil considering the current tension between the two governments, they let the Captain know that this ship was known to be smuggling weapons from the Romulans into Klingon space. Partha confirms this once they get her back on the ship, and they head back to Starbase 234 with the information.

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Star Trek: Frontlines – Episode 2: Contraband

A Star Trek: Adventures actual play

Today’s lesson: chain of command is hard. Especially for RPGers, who are used to being part of a ragtag bunch of heroes who are allowed to do whatever they want, so long as they don’t get the party killed. My general feeling is that there is no wrong way to play an RPG, so long as you aren’t a jerk. But in Star Trek, there is the added layer of a command structure, and a very defnite set of rules that your character is meant to play by. Also, the missions tend to be not combat heavy. Sure, there are fights, and ship battles, but mostly its about solving problems. Our new player is having trouble adjusting. I hope he is still enjoying the game.

This week found our heros aboard the USS Kidd patrolling the Klingon/Federation/Romulan border in their impressive Akira class starship. They spotted no Romulans so far, but there were several Klingon ships the kept dropping in and out of cloak on their side of the border, just to remind the crew of the Kidd that they were there. With the Klingon Empire having pulled out of the Khitomer Accords, both sides seem to want to make a show of power along the borders.

After a time they caught a distress call from a freighter close to the border. A long range scan relvealed they were being attacked by Orion pirates. As soon as the Akira came within firing range, however, the Orions bolted into Klingon space. Where they were met by a decloaking Vor’cha class ship. The Klingons gave chase to the Orions, while the Kidd stopped to help the freighter.

Right away, Lt. Cmdr. Collins, the by the book XO, knew there was something fishy about Mick, the captain of the small freighter. He had questionable registration, and was less than enthusiastic about discussing his inventory. It was finally revealed that he had quite a bit of hard to get Romulan and Klingon items in the cargo hold. He explained that business used to be fine, there were few patrols in the area, and even a few Feds appreciated his wares. But now, with the war on, no one could get any work done.

An impressive job of scanning was done by Lt. Cmdr. Nos’Grum also revealed a secret compartment underneath the ship. Though Lt. Shawn, a fiesty Andorian security officer, wanted to break into the compartment, they convinced Mick to let them in. It was already empty.

As the crew of the Kidd examined the ship, and locked up Mick, the Klingon ship, one IKS Chal’kul captained by Karuk reappeared nearby, hauling what was left of the Orion ship behind it. Captain Takis hailed the Klingons and basically asked if they were willing to share any information about their prize. Karuk told him to get lost in typical Klingon fashion. So the Kidd began to scan the Orion ship. It still had lifesigns, though it was in bad shape. There was an odd flicker in the Klingon’s shields during the scan. Surprisingly, the Klingons let it go to drift near the Kidd and cloaked.

The Akira class, not necessarily according to the ST:A rule book, but according to this amazing website, has the ability to scan and tell some information about what cloaked ships are up to, particularly if they go to warp. Nos’Grum was able to tell that the Klingons had indeed warped away.

The Orion’s then opened a channel and panicked screaming ensued, and the crew realized that the Orion ship was about to explode. They beamed the Orion aboard and warped away as the ship blew to pieces.

Now, in addition to Mick in the brig, they had three Orion pirates, their captain, and one slave girl.

The Orion captain was angry, and paced most of the way, while the others poked fun at Mick. The slave girl stayed quiet. Even when Lt. jg Mooch arrived to try and talk to her some. He has had a bit of a past with Orion women, and thought he had a chance.

They were all taken to Starbase 234 to be tried for their crimes, and so the Kidd could start cataloging all the contraband they had collected, including Romulan Ale, Klingon Bloodwine, various Klingon weapons, and Romulan eyebrow wax and shoulder pads. Though the Admiral at the starbase was happy to have the criminals in custody, she told the crew that Partha, the Orion woman, was to be liberated, and escorted back to a station known as Libertalia, a nuetral station in an unclaimed part of space.

Join us next week for the next installment of Star Trek: Frontlines, and join us on Patreon for more gaming goodness, or story bites.

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Star Trek: Frontlines – Preparation and Episode 1

A Star Trek: Adventures Actual Play

I have a very . . . ambitious playing group. So for this campaign, I am trying to be more prepared. Think I have enough books?

All the star trek resource books

Star Trek Adventures Books

Core Rulebook

These are the Voyages: Mission Companion, Vol 1

The Command Division: Supplemental Rulebook

Beta Quadrant: Sourcebook

Other Resources

The Star Trek Encycolpedia: A Reference Guide to the Future

The First Line: Starfleet Intelligence Handbook (ST:TNG RPG)

A Fragile Peace: The Romulan Nuetral Zone (ST:TNG RPG)

List basic plot structure, timeline choices

The Crew

Captain Takis (Denobulan) – The crew is his family. Lost a ship to Orion pirates, and then lost the Zephyr to Klingons

First Officer, Lt. Cmmdr. Jackson Collins (Human) – fast tracked lifer in Starfleet, very by the book

Security Chief, The New Guy (Andorian) – the newest crewmember, not afraid of a fight

Chief Science Officer, Lt. Cmmdr. Nos’Grum (Tellarite) – everyone around her is an idiot and she can prove it mathematically

CONN, Lt. jg Mooch (Joined Trill) – likes the thrills of flying and women

Episode 1 – Valhalla

This is the second campaign I have played with this crew. The last campaign ended with their Nova Class ship, the USS Zephyr, facing off against three Berel Class Klingon warbirds. It ended in a stale mate, with all the ships engines being blown to bits. The players had been begging me for an Akira class for ages, and I told them they would just cause trouble. This seemed to prove my point. But I could see they were itching for more action, so we began this season with an Akira.

Akira class starship

The crew is sent on a mission along the Romulan Nuetral Zone, where the Klingon border meets it, to make a show of Federation strength in this rough time. Almost as soon as the USS Kidd leaves Narendra Station, they receive a distress signal from Balduk, a small planet not very far away. They head to the planet, and find a Federation shuttle on the planet, giving off an automated distress signal. There are no life signs. The captain contacted a nearby science outpost, and confirmed that they were missing an officer who took a shuttle to survey nearbay planets. An away team heads down in a shuttle to investigate. Once they hit the atmosphere the shuttle rocked wildly, the engines began to lose energy, and thousands of life signs appeared on the planet.

Thanks to some quick work by the XO and the science officer, they managed to polarize the hull of the shuttle and stop the energy from draining. They then landed easily beside the stranded shuttle. The life signs on the planet were of all kinds of races, Klingons, Romulans, Human and more, all a short distance away and moving in battle line patterns. The security cheif and others made a sweep around the shuttle, and discovered a very frightened science officer, holding on to a type 1 phaser like his life depended on it.

They get Lt. Doleo back onto the shuttle and head back up to the ship. Once clear of the planet’s atmosphere, however, they notice that whatever was draining the shuttle was still there, like a cloud around the ship. After further investigation, they discovered part mechanical part biological microscopic creatures that were feeding on the engines of the shuttle. They were also busy repairing extensive injuries to Lt. Deleo. After looking more closely in sickbay they discovered he had suffered extensive injuries that already only appeared to be superficial because of the creatures.

To the Doctor, Lt. Deleo went on about how terrifying the planet is, and how the people there do nothing but kill each other, and that there were large winged women that carried off the dead. He also insisted on speaking to the captain alone, and there he revealed that he was in fact an intelligence agent, and that the crew was tasked to look for three known spies in the area. They are sent back down to the planet to retrieve the data from the stranded shuttle, managing to avoid a direct confrontation with either the people there who were now defending the shuttle, or the large winged being that came to retreive a dead Romulan from within the shuttle.

They beamed aboard a Viking long enough to retrieve the data chip, and sent him back quickly. They sent information back to command about the strange planet, and headed on their way.

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Titan Academy: The rest of the story

Sadly I began blogging about this great adventure far to late in playing it to really keep up with things. I can’t continue to do justice to each episode that we played. I’m going to do my best to sum up the ending of this game for those who were following it. My next game, which will be Star Trek: Adventures, I will try to blog as we go, so as not to lose hold of the story.

Ryan was overjoyed to be reunited with his mother, who he had never believed was dead all this time. The group heads over to Ryan’s house to surprise his father, and there is a tearful and happy reunion-for Ryan. Some of the others in the group are still having troubles, and after trying to kiss and being rejected by Liv, Hiro heads out into the city.

While out, an attack beings on the Spire, the headquarters of Aegis. The attackers: Dryad, Becky, and Nexus, friends and trusted teachers from their school. The team eventually meets up to figure out what’s going on, and which side they need to be on. Aegis is up in arms and ready to go full on war against the attacking supers, so the team split up, some to keep Aegis busy, and others to find out why the supers are attacking Aegis. It turns out they are being controlled by extradimensional beings, that Hiro quickly builds a device to detect. Aether creates a bubble around the supers that knocks the beings off, and returns them to their right minds.

In the aftermath, some of the Aegis agents recognize Liv, referring to her as 12, even though she has only ever known herself as 9. They are met by Alcazar, the new president of Aegis, who offers to have a meeting with them. And the gang takes him up on it. In the meeting they find out that Alcazar is hoping to win them and the public over with more humane treatment of supers, and a more open policy. He has released all Level 5 supers that were not criminal, and removed the brain stem controls from the telelpaths. He shows them Firefly as an example. But to Hiro and Liv it is too little too late. Even when Alcazar offers them all the files they have on Project Oblivion and Chimera. The group argues together whether they should be going after Chimera, or bringing down what is left of Aegis.

They decide their first target will be one of the Chimera stronghold/prisons that remain, one of those Aegis hasn’t gotten to cleaning up yet. There they find several supers imprisoned, and in the middle, Carbine, a former Aegis agent, attached to a strange machine. She manages to use the machine to put Takar to sleep, but Liv soon beats her down. Carbine escapes, but not before Liv realizes this is the sort of place where she grew up, inside a Level 5 prison cell. There she finally meets 12, and they fight, almost completely evenly matched. Takar finally recovers and helps Liv defeat 12. A voice tells 12 that she has failed, and that 9 has passed.

Happy with their success in freeing the supers, and having Ryan’s mother back, and having Liv and Hiro become like family, the gang gets ready to attend the event of the year. Titan Academy is reopening its doors, their principle Stewart is marrying Rydel the local Aegis patrol woman, and the city is welcoming back the newly freed supers. All of this will be held in the new Titan Academy gym. Everyone in the city will be there, guarded by Aegis, city officials and supers. Becky and Ryan take charge of the refreshments, and Becky is a bit crazy about it. The others all start finding dates, Liv with Dryad, Takar with the Fates, and Hiro with Hopper. While at the party, a strange song comes over the speakers, and Liv gets a feeling of dread as he hears the words that they discovered activates her. A fight breaks out, many flee, but it is soon discovered that Alcazar’s daughter has been kidnapped.

Takar and the other level 5s get together, and head off with the group, led by Ryan’s dad, to find Dr. Quintessence and bring him to the bridge, as Chimera is demanding. When they arrive they realize they are missing Hiro. They head into the abandoned warehouse to find Dr. Quintessence in an Aether bubble being attacked by those same interdimensional beings, now known as Howlers, riding Aether caterpillers. They rescue Ryan’s grandfather, and emerge from the warehouse to see the city ablaze, and Cosmic Bond arriving to let them know they have to go stop Hiro before this happens. Wait, did he say before? Before the kids can ask any questions, Cosmic Bond rewinds time, helps them save Dr. Q, and they all head over to stop Hiro together.

It turns out that Hiro has been brainwashed as well, in the same way Liv was, by Project Winter, another division of Chimera. They commanded him to come to the bridge warehouse to help them prepare the Sentinal robots to receive their Howler masters. It turns out that though the Howlers like to feed off the energy of supers, and ride along on humans, it is much easier for them to take over a robot body. The Howlers, as explaned by the Dread Queen, are her people, stuck in another dimension alongside Earth, and ready to take over. Hiro is the only one able to hack into the robots and help them build the portal that will bring them into the robots.

All the supers band together in one massive strike against the Chimera team. But just as it seems they are winning, HIro’s old robot, the one that used to house his brother’s memories, arrives. He still is Hiro’s brother, he claims, but so much more, now also the Dread Queen’s brother. He thanks Hiro for providing a body for him, and tries to talk him into joining him in taking over the world. Hiro was ready to die in this fight against his brother, even though is whole family, even his ellusive mother Jishaku, and her long imprisoned brother Atomic Shadow, and his other mother Friction show up to assist him. Hiro uses his moment of truth, reverses the portal to the other dimension, and succeeds in getting rid of all the Howlers, and destroys Count Zero, and all that is left of his brother.

Everything isn’t perfect at the end, but its better than most expected to be. There are a lot of touching moments, as people find new or old loves, new family, and new strengths.

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This isn’t what I expected: Babylon 5 (ep 16-33)

I didn’t think of all characters that Londo (the Centauri Embassador) would be the one seduced by the promise of power enough to start a war. He is such a jolly, simple vices sort of guy. I’m now convinced that the guy who was offering each of the ambassadors exactly what they want, is basically the devil. At least he seems uncomfortable with his new position and is having moral qualms.

I never would have thought of Ambassador Delenn, the mysterious Minbari woman (who by the way I think is one of the best acted characters on this show) would sacrifice her position and go into a chrysilis and become human. Let alone that we would get a episode of her trying to figure out human hair and cramps. But she and Lenier are great, and I love their relationship growing through all of this.

I really never thought that the new captain had an ulterior motive and was gearing up for the coming war. I didn’t want to like the new captain when they switched them for the second season. I really like Sinclair. But Sheridan came aboard, with his love for real oranges and his speech, and endeared himself to the crew and to me. And then to find out he’s a conspirator . . . I’m hoping it’s all for the good.

I suppose however, I should have expected something like this to start up. The main premise of the show is the Babylon 5 was designed to create peace between the aliens, so of course the main conflict should involve a big war. Something larger and darker seems to be coming as well, as certain characters are aware, so I imagine it will be halted or inturrupted by the Darkness. Either way, I am now officially hooked.

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Now we’re getting somewhere – Babylon 5 (s1, ep7-18)

I think I’m finally getting a sense of the beginning of the big story here. But first, some new favorite episodes.

One is Ivanova mourning the death of her father (TKO). The other plot is neat, sort of an alien fight club. But still grieving for the loss of my father a year ago, this one hit me in the feels. It was beautifully done, especially as Ivanova is a no longer practicing Jew, and it is a visit from a Rabbi that is an old family friend that triggers the mourning.

In Grail, David Warner plays a very interesting character, a person actually on the search for the Holy Grail. I love how this show continues things from earth into the future that I would not have thought of continuing. The Minbari honor this gent greatly, and he really does act like a chivalrous knight of the round table.

But I think my favorite, and the best promise of things to come, is from Signs and Portents, which introduces a mysterious character who keeps asking the major players on the station what they really want. And manages to fulfill some of those desires. Also, there are some big things going on behind the scenes with the raiders, and Sinclair, the tough but fair commander of the station (with the sexiest voice ever!) was chosen to be commander, not because Earth thought he would be good for the job, but because the Minbari requested it. I am looking forward to seeing where this goes.

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Not Sensing an Arc (Babylon 5, s 1, ep 2-6)

I am enjoying watching Babylon 5. It reminds me of a time when sci-fi was a lot less grim dark, so it is a welcome break between episodes of The Expanse or Colony. But I had been under the impression that this show was written intensionally to be only five seasons long, and that this structure afforded it the chance to have a very particular arc to it. So far, I’m not seeing it, or the setup for one. But I don’t wish to judge it too quickly. Most shows don’t kick into their major arcs this early, or at least, they didn’t used to. Nowadays, with the speed at which cable channels cancel them, most shows have to perform insanely well from the beginning. Really, I appreciate the chance to just get to know the characters in the show, and find out about their backstories without some huge disaster hanging over them.

The Psi Core story continues to satisfy, and the last episode, Mind War, actually had Walter Koenig (aka Chekov from the original Star Trek) as one of the Psi Cops there in pursuit of a renegade telepath. There was an episode (The Parliament of Dreams) about cultural exchange, the main mission of the station, touching the main religious beliefs of each culture. Interestingly, though they had a similar issue that many sci-fi shows are accused of, that of presenting an alien race as a monolithic culture, they made it purposeful. Rather than presenting one main belief to represent humanity as the other alien races did, they had a chain of people representing as many beliefs as possible.

There were soul eating aliens, a creature that was a cross between a Dalek and a Cyberman from a long dead civilization, and a slave girl plot that felt like it should have involved Orions.

So far, the show feels very much to me like the original seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And I’m not seeing anything insanely original that makes it stand out above other sci-fi shows. Its interesting, so I mean to watch all of it. But so far it’s not hitting me as anything amazing.

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Marvelous Realism neé Magical (ft. MARVELS and A.D.)

Next episode is up – what is magical realism, and can things like graphic novels be considered part of the genre?

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Finally Watching: Babylon 5 (ep. 1)

Babylon 5 came out in 1994, about the same time as my favorite sci-fi show, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Which is probably why I haven’t seen much of it. I have always heard great things about it from friends with similar tastes, so now that it is available on Amazon Prime, I’m finally watching it. I will try to post my thoughts as I go.

My first reaction was – wow, I remember how terrible CGI used to be. The space scenes and ship graphics aren’t that great. Certainly not as good as Star Trek was by that time. The aliens were colorful, though, as was the setting inside the station, so I stayed interested.

The story, though, the idea, is pretty cool. The last space station dedicated to keeping peace between various alien cultures, along with strong, moral leaders who really want to see that happen, and a fun somewhat snarky sense of humor is a combination I enjoy. I like the space travel through warp points kind of thing, something different than the warp drive or hysperspace from other shows and movies.

But the thing I like most? Well, actually a few things. Telepaths – telepaths being treated the way humans really would treat them – as dangerous beings that need to be controlled, registered, and watched for their whole lives. The other thing, was the first officer. Through the whole first episode she is straigh laced, hard, competant and respected in her position. But at the end they show her relaxing at the bar, with her hair down, looking beautiful. And no one thinks anything of it. Usually someone would comment on one side or the other, but the fact that this lady can be both and not get teased or hit on or have her authority questioned is awesome.

Having the fighter pilot introduce aliens to Duck Rogers was just sugar on top of a good first episode. Can’t wait to delve into the series even more.

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