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GM Eric Campbell Reflects on Shield of Tomorrow
Shield of TomorrowShield of Tomorrow

GM Eric Campbell Reflects on Shield of Tomorrow

It’s a cliché I hear often and now I’m stuck in its truth: “such and such changed my life.” But there’s no other way for me to start an article, reflecting on Shield of Tomorrow. Like most of you, Star Trek has a profound meaning in my life. From the connection to my grandfather who introduced me to it, to the fans of Shield with whom I see myself in. And then, there are my players. I am convinced now, more than ever, that my addiction to storytelling is the harmony of our collaborations. While I may create a blueprint to a world for them to live in, their courage and love bring that world to life and make it a place I too can live in.

For some context, Star Trek has been a part of me since my grandfather handed me that VHS tape when I was a little boy. It drove me to save up my allowance so that I could buy the collectible pewter figures when I was 12, not to put on a shelf but to take a soldering iron to their stands, cutting them off so that I could play with them. It was a part of me in the summer of ‘94, when my friends and I created our own Star Trek rpg and I ran my first Star Trek game. The First CD I ever bought was the “Star Trek Astral Symphony”. The first model I ever built, was the Enterprise A. When I was in my 30’s I grabbed a lifetime sub to Star Trek Online, so that I knew it would always be there waiting for me when I wanted to boldly go. The opportunity to run a Star Trek game on G&S, to speak to CBS and other Star Trek fans, to play on this incredible set, has been a sweet dream come true.

Shield did had its challenges when it first began though. When the show was being developed, I had a  conversation with Matt Colville about the dilemmas I would face as a GM. It was the first time I had ever met Matt. I learned then, to my shock, that he was a designer on the previous edition of the Star Trek RPG by Decipher, now long out of print. Because of course he did.

“You’re going to have some hurdles, GM’ing Trek.” he said with a sympathetic nod.

“Why’s that?”

“Players don’t like being told what to do. In Star Trek you’re going to hit two walls: Players with Rank over each other and if you’re Starfleet, everyone is expected to essentially be ‘Lawful Good’ and not everyone has the same definition of ‘Lawful Good’”.

Being insightful is Colville’s calling card. When the show began, we all learned the truth of his words. But we also learned something else: that when players are committed to each other, trust one another and care for one another, these hurdles make for seriously compelling game sessions and some incredible role play. Shield of Tomorrow crashed headfirst into these challenges. We didn’t just have differing points of view on Lawful Good, we had differing points of view on Star Trek! When we stumbled, we learned to communicate to one another. When we felt uncertain, we reassured each other. Each time we faced these challenges, our bond grew. We became a crew. The Sally Ride was more than just a fictional ship. It became a symbol of our commitment to one another. As Tim Cahill once said, “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles”.

When the end of the campaign was in sight, the level of soul searching I did kept me up at night. This little slice of Star Trek fandom had become something. We had built relationships with Modiphius, the publisher of Star Trek Adventures. We found new friends with Star Trek Online, (a game I have played and loved, since Beta). But even more humbling, was we found the Aux Crew… and the Aux Crew found us. Some were folks who had stepped into the TARDIS with us, back when we were TBD RPG. Most were new. And with each new member, a new friendship formed and I began to realize, that the crew we had become on the show had grown beyond the confines of the Sally Ride. We began to get letters, packages, messages and thank yous. Sitting in the GM chair every Friday, I began to see in my mind’s eye, a ship populated by friends I had never met, but were with us for the journey all the same. And in each game I ran, I could feel their presence on every deck, living their own adventures with us. Outside the game, Aux Crew were meeting, gaming and even falling in love. The Sally Ride has indeed, become a family.

And now it’s TBD RPG all over again, though harder this time by a huge factor. Wrapping up Doctor Who had been so bittersweet, but we knew that, not only was a new adventure waiting for us on the horizon, but that it was the right time. There are always anxieties about what we leave behind. But risk is our business. And so here we are again, with a new adventure on the horizon. And it’s the right time. We joked on TBD RPG, that we were a show about time travel so we could just do it all again. Now with Shield coming to an end, we’re once again measuring our moments, knowing that soon, Sally’s nacelles will flash bright blue and take her off into the stars one final time. There’s a quote that I hold dear and carry with me as a Star Trek fan:

“Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment… because they’ll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.”

Thank you to my grandfather, John Campbell, for introducing me to Star Trek.

Thank you, all of you, for living this adventure with us. Hope to find you all again on the other side of that new horizon.

See you out there.

Tell us about your favorite moment from Shield of Tomorrow in the comments!

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