Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Solo Game: Improvisational World-Building

And once again I'm behind in updating my game log for the Supers campaign.

Setting that aside, tonight's solo game with my wife Lute was interesting. We're running a Star Trek campaign set in the Next Gen era where Lute's character is a civilian xenobiologist serving on a Galaxy-Class starship. She's wound up in a romantic relationship with the ship's Andorian Chief Science Officer, Arushek.

In the previous adventure, the ship had encountered a traveller from an unknown starfaring race, so it seemed logical for them to find out where it came from.

Now here is one of the challenges I have with this campaign. Lute's character is not a member of the bridge crew; she's not even a member of the crew. How do I get her involved with what's going on? In this case, where the ship is involved in a diplomatic First Contact mission, here character would be completely out of the loop.

So to give her something to do, I decided that the aliens, whom I named the Gloorni, had invited the Captain and his command crew to a formal dinner on their ship, and that Arushek would bring Lute's character along as a date. Why would Arushek need a date? Okay... I decided it was a cultural thing with the Gloorni. They have this big cultural ethos that both the male and the female is needed for a balanced whole, and that therefore each of the ships officers would be expected to have an opposite gendered partner.

The Captain is single. I had decided, although I hadn't yet established this in the game, that the Captain has an estranged wife and a college-aged daughter whom he writes to but rarely sees. As his date to the Gloorni dinner, I had him take the ship's Security Chief, T'Sarran. The Gloorni at the dinner commented on the fact that the two of them did not seem very compatible, forcing the Captain to admit his true marital status.

As I role-played out the dinner conversation, I was also sussing out the cultural ramifications of the Gloorni views on marriage. How would they regard divorce? How would they deal with the loss of a partner. (It embarasses me to realize that until I started typing this post, I didn't even think of the question of how the Gloorni handled homosexuality.) Lute and I decided that they probably have people undergo rigorous testing to determine which partners are most compatible.

Well, all this was very interesting, but I didn't have enough conflict to hang a plot on. Then I came up with something.

I had some of the Gloorni visit the Federation ship. One of them was a widow; a young woman whose husband had been killed in an accident. She kept asking questions about the Captain, which at first puzzled Lute. Then later on she learned that when the Gloorni delegation had returned to their own ship, the widow had stayed behind.

She was lonely; she needed a partner to complete her life; and she assumed that the Captain was the same. So, she snuck into the Captain's quarters to express her love...

Well, Lute was able to save the Captain's virtue; but it was interesting.

But the fun part was how the plot grew out of trying to logically work out a planet's culture, which in turn grew out of finding an excuse to involve Lute's character in the story.