I wrote previously about how you can use holodecks in Star Trek Adventures but I’m about to delve into these photonic realms again! It’s a tricky task, telling a story while you’ve already got a story going on, but these thumbnail tools are my means of keeping it all straight.
Creating a game-within-a-game for the players in your campaign can be a tricky thing. The trick to doing it is to use easily-grasped thumbnails that players can easily refer to.
- Title: The program has a title to it, just like any computer program. This is what you can call it in your notes and what characters will call it when they tell the computer to execute it.
- Genre: Don’t get hung up on particulars, there are tons of genres out there from childrens’ stories to sci-fi adventure to historical depictions. Pick a term to be the very short introduction to the holodeck story.
- Setting: Again, this should be a short introduction to the story that you can tell players. It doesn’t have to be descriptive just evocative. In other words, players don’t need this summary to tell them what sorts of places and characters are around (that comes next) but it will give them touchstones for interacting with the holodeck part of the story.
- Major Characters: In a few sentences, list characters and their relationships. The names of characters can be italicized to make them obvious and make it easier to scan the cast.
- Important Locations: Like characters, this should be just a few sentences in order to give people places to go. The important thing is the relationship between characters and locations and (when possible) connections between locations. This will suggest to the players where they should go and what they might do there, something that might be more or less important depending on how much of a role the actual story of the holodeck program will play in the plot.
In order to let your players jump into a story, give them a character thumbnail with relevant details. To help with the meta-narrative of a holoprogram within a roleplaying game, the player plays a character and the character portrays a persona.
- Name: This is the persona’s name, including any relevant titles.
- Role: This covers the persona’s narrative role such as Protagonist, Foil, Romantic Interest, Antagonist, or Rival. Those are fairly common but pick one that will clue the player in, especially if it is genre-specific.
- Backstory: This should be a short backstory for the player to draw inspiration from. Limit it to two or three sentences, just enough to give them a sense of how to play things.
- Persona’s Traits: This is a list of one to three Traits that the persona possesses. These are in addition to the character’s Traits if those are relevant.
- Persona’s Focuses: This list of two to four Focuses that the persona possesses, which are in addition to the character’s Focuses. Since they are intended only for the holoprogram (and should definitely come up in the story) these Focuses should be very specific and aimed at the genre. Use of genre-specific items (broadswords, galvanic binoculars, etc) or genre-specific topics (magical theory, Roman Senate, etc) are especially appropriate.
- Demeanor: A sentence or two about the persona’s manner and attitude. These are very short directions on how to portray them.
- Goal: What is the persona trying to accomplish in the story? Do they want revenge? Justice? Adventure? This should be limited to a sentence and fleshed out by the character’s choices while portraying that persona. This also serves as a bonus Value for the holoprogram, similar to a mission directive.
- Costume: A short list of what the persona wears in the story. Be specific but leave some items up to the player to describe to give them a bit of ownership.
Example Holodeck Story: The Adventures of Captain Proton
The crew of the U.S.S. Voyager made more use of their holodeck than maybe any other crew seen in Star Trek. This was hardly surprising: I’m actually shocked there weren’t more crew members who snapped and became serial murderers on a hopeless trek through an uncharted and hostile quarter of the galaxy. You can hardly begrudge them a little R&R time in a photonic fantasy land.
One story that the crew often used together for some amazing storylines is The Adventures of Captain Proton, a Tom Paris special. To use this program in your own game, here’s an introduction and a collection of personas ready to go.
- Genre: Adventurous Space Opera
- Setting: In the far future, the only thing standing between the innocents of the universe and the forces of evil are the few heroes of the cosmic spacelanes willing to stand up to these villains.
- Major Characters: Captain Proton and his sidekick Buster Kincaid fight against the machinations of evils like Doctor Chaotica and Queen Arachnia. His love Constance Goodheart sometimes tags along too and the various henchmen of the villains provide unending challenges.
- Important Locations: Captain Proton’s rocket spaceship plies the space between the stars, traveling to Doctor Chaotica’s lair and the black palace of Queen Arachnia.
Captain Proton, Spaceman First Class, Protector of Earth, Scourge of Intergalactic Evil
- Role: Protagonist.
- Backstory: A spaceman (first class) in the Earth Defense Corps, Proton works hard to defeat the evil villains who end freedom in the galaxy.
- Persona’s Traits: Hero, Spaceman
- Persona’s Focuses: Laser Pistol, Monologuing, Bravery, Witty Quips
- Demeanor: A brash and heroic spaceman who laughs in the face of evil. He’s always ready with a pithy remark and refuses to give up no matter how terrible the situation.
- Goal: To keep the Earth safe from evil.
- Costume: Leather jacket, jetpack, aviator goggles, laser pistol.
- Role: Sidekick
- Backstory: Saved by Captain Proton from the clutches of Doctor Chaotica, Kincaid has been by the hero’s side ever since.
- Persona’s Traits: Sidekick, Plucky
- Persona’s Focuses: Hiding from Danger, Helping Captain Proton, Laser Pistol
- Demeanor: A stalwart companion, looking to help Captain Proton in his fight against evil. Defers to his boss and hero in dire situations but always has ready advice.
- Goal: To help Captain Proton keep the Earth Safe.
- Costume: Blue cotton shirt, white pants, laser pistol.
- Role: Antagonist
- Backstory: A power-hungry villain bent on galactic domination, Doctor Chaotica creates horrific inventions like death rays and a killer automaton called Satan’s Robot. He also is in love with Queen Arachnia.
- Persona’s Traits: Evil Genius, Inventor
- Persona’s Focuses: Intimidating Threats, Evil Inventions, Ray Guns
- Demeanor: Doctor Chaotica is a dramatic, heartless villain who gets cruel pleasure out of bringing pain to others. He genuinely hates Captain Proton and will go out of his way to hurt him, as well as gloat when he gets the upper hand.
- Goal: To dominate the galaxy as its dictator.
- Costume: Shimmering black robes with lightning bolt designs, a black skullcap, a trimmed goatee.
- Role: Love Interest
- Backstory: A sweet, innocent woman from a sheltered background, Constance fell for Captain Proton when he rescued her from Doctor Chaotica. Since joining his mission to protect the galaxy she has shown remarkable courage in the face of evil.
- Persona’s Traits: Ingenue, Beautiful
- Persona’s Focuses: Screaming, Flirting
- Demeanor: Cheerful and generous with a heart that can see the good in anyone. In love with Captain Proton and ready to follow him anywhere.
- Goal: To marry Captain Proton.
- Costume: Silver halter-top dress, high heels, pearl earrings.
Queen Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People
- Role: Antagonist
- Backstory: As the Queen of the Spider People, Arachnia
- Persona’s Traits: Queen, Spider Person, Enticing Pheromones
- Persona’s Focuses: Seduction, Ray Guns, Threatening Violence
- Demeanor: Sinister and calculating with a self-confidence and the tangible expectation that people will worship and obey her.
- Goal: To conquer the galaxy.
- Costume: Sheer black dress with sequins and shoulder pads, black hair in a high pile of braids and curls, sleek ray gun.
- Role: Henchman
- Backstory: The powerful Lonzak serves Doctor Chaotica as his muscle and errand-runner. He is extremely capable, though, and more than able to complete important missions for his master.
- Persona’s Traits: Henchman
- Persona’s Focuses: Feats of Strength, Intimidation, Escaping Captivity
- Demeanor: Perpetually angry and humorless, blunt and simple.
- Goal: To serve Doctor Chaotica faithfully.
- Costume: Square headdress, black robes, metal bracers.
Demonica and Malicia, the Twin Mistresses of Evil
- Role: Antagonists
- Backstory: From birth, the sisters Demonica and Malicia have been evil to their core. They don’t want to conquer and destroy like other villains, but they certainly aren’t afraid to kill or maim in their effort to achieve riches and power.
- Personas’ Traits: Identical Sisters, Heartless
- Personas’ Focuses: Lying, Obscuring Evil Plans, Cruel Punishment
- Demeanor: The Twin Mistresses always do things together, using their identical looks to confuse and obscure their plans. If the participants acting as Demonica and Malicia don’t actually look alike, the holodeck characters will still treat them as if they are identical twins.
- Goal: To gain riches and power.
- Costumes: Purple jumpsuits with deep V-necks and wide, golden lapels. High, winged crowns of gold and purple. Twisted daggers.