Star Trek Adventures: Ethics and Fisticuffs

By Piers Beckley, STA Contributing Writer


What was it that made Star Trek so exciting when it first came out in 1966? And how can we make our own Star Trek Adventures games capture that lightning?

It wasn’t only that each episode had great characters, empathy for the other, strange and outlandish science fiction concepts, moral dilemmas, and reflections upon humanity and our place in the universe – even though it did have all of these things, and more. But the original Star Trek was also deliberately created in the mold of an action-adventure western. Sure, the revolvers were replaced with phasers, but there were still regular shootouts with them, and a fistfight almost every week. Even the opening narration made clear that we were on the frontier.

The original pilot for Star Trek was rejected by NBC. It was judged too cerebral, and Gene Roddenberry was asked to make a new pilot. He later said “I wrote and produced what I thought was a highly imaginative idea, and I realized I had gone too far. I should actually have ended it with a fistfight between the hero and the villain if I wanted it on television.” 

But with the knowledge of what had been done right and what needed tweaking, the second pilot – “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, written by Samuel A. Peeples –  delivered action thrills as well as a reflection on the ultimate corruption that ultimate power brings. And knowing what to do on this second go-round, the hero and villain end up in a fistfight at the end.

From that second pilot onwards, Star Trek has always delivered a balance between head and heart, between intellect and emotion. Between contemplating the nature of evil, and taking it down with a signature Kirk move.

This duality of reflection and action is just what we do with our own tabletop games. We introduce great characters into an exciting setting packed with thrilling ideas and moral dilemmas, and make sure that our own heroes also have the opportunity to punch a bad guy every so often.

An exploration of morality and ethics on its own is dry; an adventure featuring nothing but combat is empty. But combine the two and then you have an opportunity for something special.

In the newly-released original series-era standalone adventure for Star Trek Adventures, “The Burning,” you’ll find first contact with alien species, ethical dilemmas, and tough decisions. But mixed in with those are cat-and-mouse starship combat, a boarding action on an enemy ship, and a point where the most sensible decision for player characters to make is to forget about their phasers and move in for hand-to-hand combat.

Because all the way back in 1966, Star Trek got it right, creating and delivering stories that can appeal to both our intellectual and emotional sides. A recipe that still endures today.

That’s why “The Burning” brings you an exploration into the nature of ethics and morality.

And a fistfight.

 (Star Trek Adventures "The Burning" can be found here!)

Thanks for reading this article, and thank you for your interest and support of Star Trek Adventures! Keep hailing frequencies open for the release of additional standalone adventures and more products in the coming months. Live long and prosper!

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