Last game session, our GM was away. Rather than do a ‘traditional’ one shot, I loosely penned up an experiment and gave it a whirl.
A bit of backstory: When we were creating the secondary/additional crewmembers for our ship, I gave our pilot a focus (which, in Star Trek Adventures game terms, is best thought as “Areas of Expertise”) of “Shore Leave”. This proved to be an amazing RP boon, for it has given incredible personality to the character, and we’ve derived a huge amount of background info and lore from it. For example, we have a converted cargo bay that serves as our unofficial ship’s lounge, created by said pilot and named after him: “Gavin’s Quarters.”
And so, for this experimental one shot, I envisioned, in the best mid-season “fluff-episode” TV series tradition, taking the crew in for some starbase R&R. My plan was to hew to the meta pretty strong, and fully embrace the episodic nature of the episode with a ‘forced’ split of the party into three groups (of both primary PCs and the secondary/additional crewmbers) between which we would rotate with the full intention they would each get into hijinks that, inevitably, would combine in unexpected ways. All the while, Gavin would flit in and out of the scenes, elevating the humour and excitement in all his masterful shore leave ways.
I wrote down and solicited from the greater interwebs a list of potential events, mischiefs, and troubles that I could spring on the players. But I didn’t want this to follow the traditional format with the GM laying out scenarios and guiding things – I wanted the players to be as involved as possible as well so that the story we wove together would be remembered for (game) years to come.
To that end, I set up two things. First, I explicitly mentioned to them at the start of the session the intent of the episode and its 3 narrative structure, and, more importantly, mentioned that there was no losing or danger here. Like all fluff episodes the lasting recourses would be nil. Secondly, I invoked the spirit of Mouse Guard-style play, both in the idea of “Player Turn” in having the players inject as much into the narrative as the GM, and secondly in terms of the more overall-story-thinking method of play rather than immediacy and first-person play. In other words, more “what would make for a great story, let’s write it out” and less direct-RP (though we still had plenty of that).
It went splendidly. I began the session with a set of scripted scenes to set the stage of a crew reaching the ends of their ropes in various ways (and with each scene ending with a character saying “I need a break/vacation/downtime/drink”) followed by the Captain announcing the upcoming resupply at the starbase. Then the players each chose a character from the pool of main/secondary characters, and we started the first thread. I let them take the scene for a bit and then injected one of the hijinks. Let that run a bit more, then switch to the second thread, with three more main/secondary characters, and so on. Accidentally entering a bat’leth tournament, dealing with a propelled surf board stuck on full throttle, high-stakes poker games leading to forced karaoke, finding strange alien devices left on their restaurant table, mistaken celebrity identity… just some of the all sorts of hilariousness that ensued. All the while, Gavin would dance through the scenes at poignant points, tying everything together until the very end when he managed to turn the entire concourse into a giant music party complete with fireworks.
A completely great night of gaming. We didn’t touch the dice once; everyone was generating and adding to the storylines and having a good laugh while also developing deeper understanding of the characters, both their own and the secondary crewmembers. Lots of creative fun. As a single-shot fluff episode it worked perfectly, a nice break before we get back to the serious business of being Starfleet officers.