Back in the year 2000, I played a Star Trek RPG event at GenCon that was fantastic. It used the Last Unicorn Games rules (also fantastic), and featured multiple simultaneous groups, each playing their own scenario in a different Trek setting/era, which then converged for the latter half of the event, becoming a 30-person semi-LARP for the finale — something not spoiled in the event description. It was awesome.
So awesome, in fact, that I went home and started stocking up on Star Trek RPG books so that I could run the game myself. I jotted down ideas, came up with a series framework I liked, devoured books at a breakneck pace, and was in that fun, exciting zone all GMs know so well: when you’ve discovered something new and amazing and ideas are flowing fast and furious.
Except that after a few weeks, something funny happened: I started intimidating myself out of running the game. First I realized that while I was a Trek fan, there was a lot I didn’t know — so I bought the Star Trek Encyclopedia and Star Trek Chronology…and then felt like I had to read both of them before I’d have a prayer of doing justice to Star Trek or to the GenCon event I’d played, or even just of making this a good game.
You see where this is headed, right?
I had forgotten one of the key tenets of good GMing: In order to run a fun game, you need confidence in yourself and your ability to run a fun game.
Six years later, I wrote about that on Treasure Tables — and six years later, I still hadn’t run my Star Trek game.
Fast forward to 2010, and I decided “Fuck it, I want to run this game whether it’s perfect or not.” This despite the fact that my group (all Star Trek fans) includes one of the authors of the excellent Decipher edition of the Star Trek RPG, Don Mappin, a Trek superfan who puts me to shame — and if that’s not intimidating as a GM, I don’t know what is!
Have I read the Chronology or the Encyclopedia? Nope. They’ve both come in handy as prep and table reference books, though. Have I read all of the rulebooks cover to cover? Nope, just the Player’s Guide and Narrator’s Guide. Do I always know what I’m doing? Hell, no!
But, and this is a big “but,” this is the best game I’ve ever run.
Unless they’re lying, my players love it. I love running it. I even enjoy prepping for it, which isn’t something I’m known for enjoying.
It’s not the best game I’ve ever run because I’m an amazing GM. I’m a good GM, and I have moments where I cross into amazing, but I wouldn’t characterize myself as an amazing GM.
It’s the best for two reasons: my players are jazzed about it, and were excited to play it, and on my side of the screen I said “Fuck it, let’s just have fun and not worry if it’s perfect.” It’s not perfect, but it’s a blast.
I have exactly two barometers for this game: 1) Are my players having fun? (and on the prep side, “Will this be fun for my players?”), and 2) Does it feel like Star Trek? If the answer to both of those questions is “Yes,” I’m doing it right.
So if you’ve been sitting on a homebrewed world, a super-campaign, a favorite RPG, a grand idea, or even just a game you don’t think you’re up to the challenge of running, the time has come to say (altogether now):
You may just find yourself running the best game of your life.