The Cast List: Introducing Ailar of Star Trek Online

In the beginning, they were a broken race, thanks to Star Trek Online’s backstory-which tied neatly to the J.J. Abrams backstory of his Star Trek film.  They gained significant focus in a Feature Episode series as their…let’s call them planetary siblings…broke away.  And then it got followed up with a large portion of their species deciding to effectively revolt-and eventually became a sub-faction available in the game.  People love ’em, people hate ’em, but the Romulan Republic arrived and is here to stay.

Obviously, when the Romulans were finally brought in as playable characters, I had to make a few.  Like the major factions, I could choose species.  Unlike them, there were only so many available.  The Romulans.  The generic Aliens (which I never did take as much as advantage of as I could have).  A little later came the Borg-ified Romulans.  I did have Reman access early thanks to having completed the Romulan Republic reputation prior to that period, so I didn’t have to do anything exotic like spend Zen.  And, naturally, true-blue (er, green?) Romulans.

A new hope for the Republic

So.  It felt right that I should have a pure Romulan as my first (and main) Romulan character, so I designed Ailar.  Ailar was a Science captain (another non-tactical!  I’m on a roll!).  Now, as a sub-faction, it was required-after reaching a certain level/point in the STO story-to choose a faction to ally with, the Klingons or the Federation.  Ailar chose to go Federation (although the Klingons had a real good argument at the time.  I remember really wavering with the choice when the time finally came).  This would allow me to make use of Starfleet vessels up to and including Tier-4 ships; Tier-5 ships were not made available to the Romulans from Starfleet, mainly because of an outcry on the forums that it would be insane for Starfleet to make their best ships available to an allied power outside of their control.  Same with the KDF.  I’d agreed with that at the time, but later reflection had me recall that it wouldn’t have been without precedent; in the original Star Trek series, Romulans could be seen flying top-end Klingon battlecruisers.  So its not as if there wasn’t precedent for that sort of thing.

The Romulans had their own set of outfits, and didn’t share much with the other factions-which meant there wasn’t that big a variety of uniforms.  Certainly not as much as, say, Starfleet.  That said, the devs didn’t do too badly here.  There were a couple varieties of Romulan “civilian” outfits, a pair of Republic officer outfits, and even Klingon/Starfleet specific Romulan outfits, depending on who you chose to ally with.  (And for the Romulan purists, a Tal Shiar style outfit.  Because it’s good to be bad.  You got it from going undercover….)  Some of the cross-platform outfits came across too, such as the Intelligence uniforms.  The C-Store eventually got a few more to work with, if you wanted to go classic or real classic.  For the Romulans in the crew, I went with the straight up uniform, although I individualized Ailar’s uniform as she was in charge.  Well, mostly straight-up:  the Reman representative has her own look, and one of them is sort of unable to have any other uniform options.  I figured that was okay, though-given the relative “age” of the Republic, it’s a wonder they have anything resembling a consistent look.

The bridge crew was mostly the default crew; as the first of my Romulans, I didn’t go too crazy on using them.  I had access to Starfleet officers as well, but, well, I was feeling like a purist here.  I’d be willing to have a Starfleet officer help man the ship weapons (I think it was a Ferengi that joined when I declared for Starfleet), but for the longest time, I would only use Romulans and Remans in my away teams.  I eventually picked up a Hierarchy bridge officer during the Delta Rising arc, and I eventually included him in the main group.

I knew from day one that Ailar would be flying a Scimitar-class warbird in the end.  It hadn’t been available at the Romulan launch, but I knew that as sure as Starfleet had Odysseys and the Klingons had Bortasqu’s, the Romulans would get a flagship, and it would be the Scimitar.  I was dead right-and for a while, that was exactly what she flew (using the science variant, naturally).  However, when the Tier-6 ships came rolling around, I saw that while the basic Scimitar skeleton was still being used, the appearance was distinct from that used by the Tier-5s, and I decided that it made sense to have Ailar in command of a brand spanking new Republic-constructed warbird-the RRW Hobus.

Ailar, as my primary Romulan character, has had the benefit of having gone through the vast majority of the episodes of the game, and is at max level; she hasn’t maxed out her primary specialization (Command), though.  In part, this is because it’s tricky enough to get new characters leveled plus keeping my Klingon and Starfleet mains at the latest and greatest.  At some point, I expect I’ll try to locate where I left Ailar and binge from there to the latest episode.  If one is looking to rebuild into galactic power again, it’d behoove one to make sure their best and brightest lead the way.

The Cast List: Introducing K’ratukar of Star Trek Online

This will come as a shock, but the Klingon Empire side of Star Trek Online?  They’re named for the Klingons.  It’s true!

I know that’s a shock-we have all these Orions (and judging from the look of things, most of them are women), Gorn (none of them are women that we can tell; nobody’s been brave enough to check.  O Klingon Warrior!  HERE is a task to get you glory!), Naussicaans, and Letheans, and oh yes-cat men.  Not to mention aliens of even stranger origin that could well be the only ones of their species for all we know!  And then there’s Klingons assimilated by Borg, and this nothing-Delta Quadrant species that have the gall to think they can command Klingon warships!  They’re all crawling over the surface of glorious world of Qo’nos.  How did all these beings become captains in the Klingon Defense Force?

I gave an eye to the Empire, with the promise I would take the eyes of its enemies.

So, taking back the Empire in the name of the Klingons, I put together a new Klingon:  K’ratukar.

The character is an Engineering captain (YES!  NOT A TACTICAL GUY AGAIN!), and the character came about because I wanted a captain to handle a very special kind of ship.  This requires some backstory, and illuminates another great injustice to the Klingon Empire in STO.

Way back, at the game’s third annivesary, there was a feature episode.  It was called “Temporal Ambassador”, and when it was first released, you got a couple of special rewards for completing it.  First, you get a uniform unlock-it’s not exactly fancy, a sash similar to that used by Starfleet characters in the Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (to which this mission was a sequel).  Then, you got a ship-an Ambassador class ship if you were Starfleet (or Romulan aligned with them) or a Kamarag Battlecruiser if you were with the Klingons (or a Romulan aligned with them).  Both ships were Commander level ships.

BUT…during a limited time, which was “the 3 year celebration” period, you would also get a tier-5 variant of that same ship.  But ONLY for a character that completed that mission.

Now for that injustice part:  a while back, during another celebratory event-according to the Internets, an end-of summer event in ’14-the Ambassador was made available again-the tier 5 one, I mean.  And THIS time, it was as account unlock from the C-Store.  So any Starfleet character could go gallivanting around the top line Ambassador class (well, it was top line until the T6’s came around…).

The Klingons, for the same event, got…well, not the Kamarag.  To date, it has never been made available as a T5 variant beyond that first time.  Cryptic, MAKE THIS RIGHT!

But that’s getting off track.  The point is, I’d made this Klingon character, and I knew the Kamarag’s T5 version was going to be limited time, so I pushed to get him to a level which could run the mission-recall, most Feature Episodes had low requirements until the initial period had passed, and it got put somewhere in the game’s episodic storyline at its “true” level-and got the ship unlocked, where it would wait until he got high enough in level to use it-both the Commander version and the T5 version.  That’s pretty much the only reason this character got run through.

Still, I had to design the character first.  You can’t really see it on this image, but he’s not a bald Klingon-he’s got a long ponytail in the back.  I gave him a “General Chang” eyepatch.  He’s bounced around uniforms over the time I’ve had the character around, but I did eventually start grabbing the Bortasqu’ parts for his primary uniform-well, at least for his crew’s primary.  He often goes around in the outfit shown above, because he was an engineer and he WORKED for a living!

The battlecruiser was named the Vegh’Ka, because of course it is.  As far as I know, it doesn’t translate to anything in the Klingon language, so it’s probably a place name or something like that.  Or a proper name.  This is a hazard of using the randomizer for names.

While the character was backburnered for a long time, he did recently gain spotlights again.  See, a friend had reformed a Klingon fleet after the original one had gotten stolen (this is the kind of thing that can happen when you’re absent for an extended period and have recruited people without knowing them well as officers).  My main Klingon joined that fleet, but he had a minor problem.  He couldn’t do much in the way of helping with building the fleet holdings, because the choke-points involved Dilithium (which, of course, is the currency which can get converted to Zen at the exchange), energy credits (because it adds up)…and duty officers.  Specifically, white/common duty officers.  My main Klingon has a minimum green/uncommon rarity for his people.  So if I wanted to help the fleet out with some rough patches, I had to use a different KDF aligned character.  I chose K’ratukar as my go-to guy here, so I was able to assist in a number of projects by blowing away heaps of commons, and use the fleet credits to buy more commons to throw into the mill.  There were diminishing returns there; the amount of fleet credit gained by donating them isn’t as high as it costs to buy them at the starbase-but then, I could always donate fleet marks or other materials to get the fleet credit numbers up again to start a new round of “Grab the Random Duty Officer and Stuff Him In A Fleet Holding”.  The character hasn’t done much else outside that-he’s holding tight at level 50, and has been for a long, long time.  I like to think that he’s more or less transferred to the fleet starbase and is in charge of its personnel, given how many duty officers he’s stuffed in it so far.  Perhaps occasionally giving glances at a docked battlecruiser that is just waiting for a chance, one day, to go into glorious battle once more.

The Cast List: Introducing Jesken of Star Wars: The Old Republic

Waaaay back during the Closed Beta of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I knew that I wanted to be playing a Smuggler.  So, I made a deliberate choice to test with a character that wasn’t one (although obviously, I did do some testing with the Smuggler just to get familiar with the idea).  I decided to go with a class that wouldn’t interest me all that much:  the Republic Trooper.  That was the design origins of the character of Jesken, who I recreated at Launch.  Boy, did I blow that original analysis:  I wound up having the Trooper be my second Republic character to complete his class story.

For the Republic!

The general concept was simple:  what if you had someone who was a True Believer in the ideals of the Republic serving as a soldier?  What if you had someone who had the right personality to be a Jedi, but had not a lick of Force-sensitivity?  What if my Trooper was, in other words, a knight in shining armor?  This became an even bigger deal for me as I went through the early levels of Coruscant, where the character’s commanding officer was far more of a pragmatist and willing to consider collateral damage to be sure of a successful mission.  I managed to hold true to this, with a single exception where he did the selfish thing-and there were consequences.  (I won’t go into detail since it is POSSIBLE that it could spoil a small part of the Trooper story, but I will say that there were no good endings to that situation-and it impacted my play such that the character would not pursue a romance with any of his companions.)

I chose a Cyborg as the character’s species-something near human.  There’s nothing really special about that-really, character species doesn’t count for much except for certain Imperial storylines and special social moves (Cyborgs scan people).  Since he was leveling up during the first/second year of the game, he didn’t have as much possible armors to choose from as my later characters did, so his armor tended to be a constant work-in-progress.  The color matching to chest armor code wasn’t exactly perfect then, either, so sometimes he and his companions had some hilariously mis-matched armor in terms of coloration.  And this was before the special dyes became available.  Over the years, I’ve stabilized him to most of a single set:  the Yavin reputation armor.  It looked like it could take serious damage and serious abuse; the helmet was the piece I chose to pass on, keeping one I’d gotten while leveling.

In keeping with the personality I molded for him, Jesken would choose the Vanguard advanced class, with the Shield discipline.  I made him as tanky as I could-and he would either use Jorgan for damage dealing or Elara for healing (this was, of course, before Knights of the Fallen Empire allowed any companion to be set to any role).  This has made things a little tricky at times going through some missions, particularly as nerfs came to the damage dealing abilities of the class-and the removal of abilities that had any real range to them.  The Vanguard has become a very up-close-and-personal class, virtually melee with a ranged weapon.  But he’s able to survive, and that’s a good thing except missions where he doesn’t get a companion.  Then it’s a little more of a slog.

Jesken turned out to be the kind of guy you could write a recruitment ad around.  He wasn’t as gung-ho as a certain droid companion of his, but he was definitely all about doing the right thing, even if it damaged future strategic goals.  Saving lives was what the job was about more than killing the enemy (even if killing the enemy might save lives in the future-you can’t live with a hypothetical future when there’s a clear and present danger now!).  This would put him in conflict with his superior officers at times, and he would develop a dislike for politicians-although he certainly answered their questions with respect and honesty.

Recently, he found himself considered KIA by the Republic at the beginning of hostilities with the Eternal Empire.  Cue surprises when he showed back up, and able to claim a posthumous promotion to Colonel (props to the KotFE writers for including that detail-and to the developers for adding Colonel to the list of titles he could use-and of course, it’s the one he’s now using), and heading up an alliance to overthrow the Immortal Emperor.  I recently completed the Knights of the Eternal Throne story with this character, and it’s no surprise that he found it easy to tell his companions, “I’m no emperor”.  With the Iokath world being recently introduced, Jesken becomes the only character of mine to have interacted with all of his former companions from the class story, and has returned four of them into the fold.  (And no, he didn’t kill the fifth on Asylum.)  This makes the Trooper the current leader in the Great Companion Recovery, with all five former companions accounted for.

I had a lot of fun playing Jesken, and I enjoyed running him again through the Eternal Empire stories.  Says a lot about a character who was basically a throwaway character during Beta!

The Cast List: Introducing Chyrim of Star Trek Online

One of the biggest things that Cryptic as a developer has always had going for it is a love of customization.  You can create all kinds of characters with all kinds of appearances.  Star Trek Online is a shining example of it, but not in the way one might think.  After all, even with all the uniforms out there, it’s still a pretty limited selection in comparison with, say, Champions Online.  But that’s not where it truly shines.  No, where STO really earns its reputation is with the alien species, where you can literally design an alien species in almost all aspects-as long as it’s hominid, of course (no Tholians for you!); it’s also notoriously difficult to design a species that appears like some of the major ones in the shows (Jem’Hadar, Cardassians come to mind-and it’s not impossible to get a close facsimile).

Given all of this, you would think I’d have more alien characters; new cultures to work with and conceive of.  And if I were doing more RP in STO or fiction writing in the setting, maybe I would have.  But…nope.  I’ve designed some alien looks for bridge officers, but very few captains.

Why, no, I’m not a standard Star Trek species. Why do you ask?

One such captain is Chyrim, who has the distinction of being the second Klingon Empire aligned character I created.  The character is a (sigh) Tactical captain (I swear, I DO make other types of captains…), and originally my goal was to have him go hard on the assault ships, the “raptors”, which were the functional equivalent of Starfleet’s escort ships-in other words, hit hard, hit fast…with hull like tissue paper.  (It isn’t really that bad.)  I regret to say that I never did come up with a name for his species, but I did envision it as sort of an almost barbarian species; think Cimmerians in Space.  A warlike species is one that would work nice and neat with the Klingon Empire.  It’s worth noting that, when creating a character for the Klingons, I’m always thinking about “why is this person in the Klingon Defense Force?”  Klingons have a very specific code of honor and viewpoint towards warfare-and it’s not really shared by their allied species such as the Naussicans, Letheans, Gorn, or Orions.  So I had to consider why a) Chyrim would join the Klingons, and b) why the Klingons would follow him.  Hence, the idea to go barbarian.

With that in mind, I had a general idea as to his appearance-at least as far as outfits go.  Originally, it was pretty limited-this was early in the game’s life, after all.  But when veteran rewards started coming available, I could slap on fur-lined costume parts, and really play up the barbarian look.  As for the alien look itself, I wanted to give him a long, narrow sort of head, and I wrinkled it up substantially from one of the alien facial options.  His skin is more on the greenish side-something I sort of regret, but at the time, I hadn’t used green skin tones much.

One of the things I had decided to do with my early characters was to plan out their professions and ship types in advance.  For Starfleet, I was going to mix and match captain professions and their ships.  For the Klingons, though, I was going to match the professions to the ship; so my main Klingon, an engineer, got to go with battlecruisers, which were strongly engineering.  Chyrim, being a tactical guy, got to go in a tactical based raptor.  I eventually ended up having him swap over to the veteran Klingon ship, a Duvqu’ class heavy destroyer named the IKS Koloth (I’m a fan of the classic Klingons).

Bridge crew, sad to say, tended to be mostly generic Klingons.  When the Breen episodes first came out, I’d run most of my characters at the time through it, and the result was that I had a Breen bridge officer available for Chyrim.  So I made him a part of this crew, so that Chyrim wouldn’t be so alone in his alienness.  Chyrim, as well, has suffered as other Klingon Empire characters have surpassed him, and he’s been stuck at level 50 for a very, very long time-long enough that he’s never done the Fekl’hri story arc.  That’s a long time!  I guess the barbarian sort of character doesn’t fit me after all.  (Or, if I’m being more honest, I’m just too damned much of an altaholic.)

The Cast List: Introducing Chadam of Star Wars: The Old Republic

I confess, there are certain classes/professions in the Star Wars setting that do not appeal to me at all.  The top of that list is the Bounty Hunter.  Blame it on Boba Fett backlash; I always felt that he was overrated-sure, he had the cool armor, but he needed Vader and a heap of Imperials to get Han Solo (and of course, Solo was my favorite character at the time, so that didn’t help), and then he wound up killed by a blind smuggler with a pike and a Sarlacc.  So it drove me somewhat nuts that the Expanded Universe for Star Wars had to find a way to dig him back out of being digested for a thousand years and overcompensate.  When Star Wars Galaxies was a thing, my opinion didn’t improve when a heap of content was thrown into the whole “Jedi vs Bounty Hunter” thing they had going there, at the expense of other professions; that said, I didn’t really have a big issue with them actually, you know, hunting bounties-it was what they did!  If only the Smugglers in that game had been able to smuggle as THAT was what THEY were supposed to do, but that ship is long, long gone.

So, I have some prejudices against Bounty Hunters as a class.  That’s probably why this class was the next-to-last one I did in my work to level up all eight classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  But hell, I’m a completionist sometimes, and so I put together my future Grand Champion of the Great Hunt.

You can run, but you can’t hide. A job’s a job.

Chadam started out simple enough:  I wasn’t going to go out of my way to have him kill and eat kittens Dark-Side, but at the same time, he wasn’t going to be the nice guy.  I wanted him greedy, but with a code:  he did the job, and he got paid.  He would move heaven and earth to make it happen.  Not an evil character, but not exactly a role model.  Smarter than a thug, but not interested in the bigger picture or deep philosophy.  In other words, someone well suited for the fringe and not comfortable in the halls of Imperial power.  (Boy, did that go south on him…)

In appearance, my first goal was to use a different body type.  For those unfamiliar with the game, there are four body types for each gender.  I tend to use body type 2 for my males; fit, athletic, strong guys.  But I wanted Chadam to have a more imposing presence, so I went up a notch-someone who makes you think of a space marine.  As far as species went, well, I was still going for a wide variety among my characters, so I went with a Chiss, a popular Expanded Universe species who recently got canonized with the on-screen debut of Grand Admiral Thrawn.  His out fit look varied a lot during my gameplay; for a long while, he used a sort of turban-styled headgear and whatever mission-reward armor he could get.  Eventually, I was able to get a damaged set of Triumverate armor off of GTN (damaged in appearance, not in stats).  Later I picked up the restored version of that armor.  The icing on the cake, though, was the final helmet I used.  At one point, I looted a Sith Warrior helmet that was just too good to ignore.  I thought that a mildly terrifying helmet would suit Chadam just fine for his work, so I finally settled on the look shown on this post.

I went with the Mercenary advanced class, and went with the pyrotech discipline.  Because plasma fires are fun.  The Merc was chosen because I didn’t really want him to be the Boba-lite kind of character (well, I sure blew that one, when you look at the image above).  The dual guns made him an amusing mirror for my Smuggler main, who was took the Gunslinger path.

I actually got to like Chadam as I played him.  Sure, he had no problem shooting and executing people he was hired to off, but he wasn’t big on collateral damage.  He was interested in a fast credit-got along great with Gault-but Mako helped keep him more or less ethically honest.  He had no issues taking advantage of advertising-there are two moments in the game where a bounty hunter can effectively advertise himself to the galaxy at large, and man, he did it.  He came to respect the Mandalorian code, though, and his struggles tended to come in when that ideal came into conflict with his desire for ready cash.  The result of this all meant he was mildly Light-Side in nature-there were a heap of Dark-Side choices that kept him fairly balanced, not the least of which involved the reason why we got a Chancellor Saresh in power in the Galactic Republic.

The character completed the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, but I have yet to run him through the Eternal Throne (just like in my leveling work, the BH is near the bottom of the list).  He knelt before Valkorion not for any desire of power, but because he saw what happened to the last guy who didn’t kneel; in other words, sometimes the best thing you can do is lie to the guy with all the power and hope you get another, better opportunity.  Which, honestly, he sort of did, since Arcann chose that moment to go after his father-but as a result, Valkorion keeps harping on that initial kneel-down, and Chadam only wishes he had an option to say to the dead Emperor, “Hey, you know I was only doing that to buy some time, right?”  I think the worst thing for him in his future isn’t the possibility of taking the Eternal Throne-it’s that he’s going through all this and not getting paid.  (I do seem to recall him having Gault funnel some of that loot from that treasure run into profitable enterprises, though.)

I can safely say that while the Bounty Hunter is still not on my list of favorite character types in the setting, Chadam is still a character I enjoy; sometimes, it’s not about “good” and “evil”; it’s about having credits and not having credits, and the things you will or won’t do to get them.

 

The Cast List: Introducing Bill (of Borg) of Star Trek Online

I promised a non-tactical based captain for the next installment of the Cast List (for the Star Trek Online guys, anyway), and I deliver!

So, who assimilated whom?

Bill was either the second or third character I made for Star Trek Online, and I made him for one reason only (among many others): I had a lifetimer sub from pre-launch, and since I had the ability to create a Borg captain, I was damned well gonna make one!

Bill was my second Starfleet guy, and I was already going with a pattern.  My initial Starfleet captain-Walt-was a Tactical captain flying a cruiser; I was interested in mixing and matching ship types with captains, so I wanted Bill to do that sort of thing as well.  So I made him a Science captain, and I threw him at the Escort class of ships, eventually winding up in a Defiant variant.  Back then, there weren’t nearly as many ships as there are now at the upper levels-and I keep considering finding a new ship for him, but keep deciding against it.  Unlike what you see in the picture to the left, Bill’s ship-the Integral-is loaded with Borg tech; in fact, he was the first guy I went into the effort for to get the three-piece set of Borg technology from the original Special Task Forces related to the Borg, before Reputation became a thing, and I have the visuals enabled, so there’s an awful lot of Borg attached to the hull.

Originally, the character of Bill was designed to wear the old late 23rd century uniforms, as originally seen in The Wrath of Khan.  Thanks to some really stupid moves from Cryptic/Atari in the earliest days of the game, they attached that costume code to retail items to promote the game; not a big deal, honestly, except they had the brilliant idea to just use a single code instead of unique codes.  This meant that it only took one person out there to put the code out into the public domain.  (This is why the devs eventually just made the damned thing free to claim; I’m not sure what the status on it now is, though.)  Full disclosure:  I saw the code out there, and I used it-but I felt guilty and purchased a DVD that had the code in it to salve my conscience.  It was arguably my favorite Star Trek uniform that’s ever been on the screen, so I really wanted a chance to use it.

That made it all the more ironic when, eventually, I decided to update the uniforms to what’s on the picture above.  Of course, that’s sort of hard to tell, since my primary bridge crew is…well, let’s go back and do some story time.  Early on, when those aforementioned Borg task forces came out, word came that you could get a Borg science bridge officer as part of an achievement.  This had me dreaming of one day, perhaps, having an all-Borg away team.  It never happened, but I did the next best thing.  Over time, I got the veteran reward of an android bridge officer, and thanks to some circumstance that I can’t even recall, I got a holographic science officer.  So every member of my team is, in some way, technological and mechanical in nature.  Three Borg, an android and a hologram.  How’s that for a crazy bridge crew?

I didn’t have much in the way of story concept behind the character.  There were a significant number of lifetimers at launch, and so there was a lot of liberated Borg floating around as captains-not to mention the even larger pool of people who had access to the Borg Bridge Officer at the same time.  Fortunately, there were a couple of places where one could locate liberated Borg if you look back at Trek history.  There was the Borg Cooperative, for example, introduced in Star Trek Voyager, and liberated drones from Unimatrix Zero from the same series.  I decided, though, to go with a different branch-one freed by the original liberated Borg, Hugh, introduced during Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I figured that Hugh would have definitely become the Big Deal Leader guy as the first to be freed and returned to thinking as an individual, and wouldn’t have stopped with the ship he wound up on-or simply stayed on that nameless planet that the android Lore manipulated a bunch of liberated drones.  Hugh struck me as the kind of guy who could create a revolution.  (In the Delta Rising expansion, in fact, you can encounter Hugh, who seems to have thrown in with the Cooperative).  Anyway, given Hugh’s simple name, I figured that other liberated Borg who had been freed by Hugh would adopt similar names-thus, Bill.

The other pair Borg on the bridge officer crew don’t have as fancy names, still choosing to use designations like Seven of Nine did.  I named the hologram “Hertz”, a play on words for a doctor for both his holographic nature and a pun on what he treats.  The android has a more normal name, “Jen”.

Bill hangs around in the mid 50s as far as level goes, and represents a different method of leveling.  Back in the day, STO had exploration missions that were performed in star clusters.  They were basically the STO version of City of Heroes’ radio missions (or newpaper missions if you were a villain), a randomly generated mission choosing from a pool of maps, opponents, and goals.  Don’t bother looking for them now; they don’t exist anymore.  I still haven’t forgiven the devs for that stunt.  Anyway, Bill leveled up almost exclusively via exploration missions in the various star clusters; the only exceptions were the tutorial missions and the then-new Feature Episodes.  I haven’t really put much more into Bill since the early days, but I would suspect that if I were to continue to develop him further, I’d be tempted to push exclusively through Foundry missions-the next best thing to the old exploration missions.  The quality might vary on those dramatically, but then, people had no problem using the Mission Architect for their characters in CoH-why should I have a problem doing the same with the Foundry?  (Admittedly, a significant portion of the folks using MA had special “grinding” missions to do nothing but power level themselves, and I’d be shocked if similar didn’t exist in the Foundry….)

That sort of puts me in mind to consider a new series of posts that center on Foundry missions.  I’d been considering the idea of a new post series on STO from the Klingon side (much like I did with Rick Masters and the Temporal Agent angle), but worried that the experience would have a lot of repetition thanks to the tripling up of Starfleet missions to include Klingon and Romulan sides for the Cardassian/Borg/Undine content, not to mention the shared content for Nimbus and the ramp-up to the Iconian War.  But the Foundry offers some possibilities here.  (The con of this idea is that, well, Klingons don’t get as much nice stuff in anything, and that includes people putting time into developing missions for the Klingons with the Foundry.  Still….)

Anyway.  Bill’s in a state where I’m fairly happy, although there is one area that I sort of keep thinking about developing further.  I don’t do much in the way of crafting in the game, but Bill had been my main crafter in the beginning.  Crafting has gone through various iterations, but when the new system came in-the current system, that is-most of my crafting effort went to my Starfleet main character.  Buuuuut…Bill’s prior experience entitled him to a special crafting duty officer that would allow him to craft AEGIS equipment, one of the early starship sets back in the day.  It seems like it’s a damned shame to not have Bill work up the ability to craft stuff that makes use of that officer-and thus, the AEGIS equipment-for use later on.  Food for thought.

The Cast List: Introducing Zor’venrel of Star Wars: The Old Republic

The Cast List departs the final frontier for a little bit, to take a peek at a galaxy far, far away-particularly since I’ve spent a little time on this character to continue getting my primary characters through the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion.

I’m a dagger in your back/An extra turn on the rack/I’m the quivering of your heart/A stabbing pain, a sudden start! (Lyrics by Voltaire)

I will confess that it’s tricky playing an evil character sometimes in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Some of those dark side choices can be pretty dark sometimes.  But ignoring them just isn’t in me-there are bad people in the galaxy, and the Sith, by and large, are some of the worst.  All the same, if they’re totally evil, they become a bit of a caricature.  Fortunately, the story of the Sith Inquisitor gave me an out:  it allowed me to give a Sith one redeemable trait.  In this case, as a former slave, and an alien, he took serious issue with slavers and anti-alien people.  Of course, since he was a Sith, he tended to be hard on said people….

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Zor’venrel was, honestly, a potential ancestor for one of my Star Wars Galaxies characters, Zhaven Rel.  Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but the possibility meant that the character was going to be a Twi’lek, which was going to do wonders for the character in an Empire that was iffy about aliens in general.  I’d designed the character during closed beta, and even did a good portion of Korriban with the character during testing-and certain conversational choices I made gave him a new nickname in my mind:  “Darth Jerkass”.  (You can thank Overseer Harkun for that one; he more or less provoked the trollish nature of this character.)

When it came to dark/light side choices, I went dark-side hard.  There were a few moments where I took light side choices-he remembers his past as a slave, and wishes his life hadn’t started that way-but for the most part, he was out for himself.  Once he got to the Dark Council, he grasped its power with both hands; he never let go of the bound spirits he took towards his rise to power; he willingly knelt before Emperor Valkorion in the hopes of getting more power (and seeing Darth Marr get curb-stomped probably might have affected that choice); and in the end, he recently completed the Knights of the Eternal Throne storyline to rule the Eternal Alliance as its new Emperor.  He romanced Lana Beniko, who may be the one person he won’t sacrifice for more power, and killed off pretty much everyone who has betrayed him…or even really annoyed him (I cut a swath through the KotET characters; nobody got away with it as far as he was concerned…), and sacrificed the more useless of his companions when he had to make a choice.  No, Zor’venrel was not a nice guy, and it showed.

For his appearance, I went with the red-skinned Twi’lek, as a nod towards my former SWG spy, but I left the option on to show Dark Side Corruption; on this character, in addition to the veins and eyes, it paled the formerly rich red of his skin to a pale appearance, nearly leeching out all of the color.  The robes he got early on in his career looked like they really suited the character, so I maintained that appearance pretty much throughout his career; I’ve mixed and matched gloves and lower robes, and I may still keep doing so-but the chest armor was perfect.  While I’d originally used red crystals for his saber blade, I liked the look of the dark core/violet blade lightsaber crystals I’d gotten from some promotion or other, and used those ever onward.

It isn’t a stretch to say that Zor’venrel is the most evil character I’ve got in the Old Republic.  He’ll troll his enemies before killing them, kick a sick puppy, and drop a moon on a single enemy if he could be sure it would do the job.  His moments of light are few and far between, and I’d hate to meet him in a lighted room, let alone a dark alley.  He’s the villain of his story, and he’d have it no other way!

The Cast List: Introducing Venkoreth th’Reklaw of Star Trek Online

When one looks at the title logo for this blog, one can generally see a pattern in the characters I create-at least in appearance.  It’s also not hard to see that one of those characters doesn’t quite fit.  The story behind that is the story of Venkoreth th’Reklaw.

Speaking of balding, bearded characters….

When Star Trek Online was first announced, back before the day when Cryptic took over development, there was a lot of speculation as to just what the game was going to be like.  I kept saying that my plan was to create an Andorian redshirt (eg. Security); redshirts, of course, were infamous in the Original Series for being killed, often before the first commercial-indeed, sometimes before the opening credits!  It was to these unsung heroes that I decided I’d dedicate my character in the game to, instead of being a captain or one of those other big positions.  Well, time passed, new developers came on board, and what we got was very different than what I had envisioned.  I had a character in mind for the game as Cryptic revealed it, but since I was thinking of captains, I put the Andorian concept aside.

Almost.

What I did instead was take advantage of one of the shining details of the game:  the ability to create your bridge officers.  And that was the beginnings of this character.

Of course, developers being developers, they promised the moon on any number of occasions, and one of those was that they wanted to eventually allow max level captains to “spin off” characters from their bridge crew, promote them to captains of their own ships.  How they could have gotten this to work would possibly have been a coding nightmare, and in the end, it never happened.  When I figured that detail out (it didn’t take as long as you’d think), I decided that, “Gee, since I can save the appearance of the character on a file, why don’t I just make a new captain based on that?”  It wouldn’t allow the character to jump right into a higher tier ship right away, but I was certain I could push him to significant levels in a reasonable amount of time.  The final push that convinced me to make that move was the release of Andorian starships on the C-Store; who better to command one such ship than an Andorian captain?  And since I had an Andorian concept already just sitting there, well…!

The story of the character was tied to that of my primary character, Walter Frost.  Venkoreth-or Koreth for short (aren’t I clever?)-was Walt’s earliest friend in the Academy; during his cadet cruise, the Klingons (who were still at war with the Federation at the start of the game’s episodic timeline) managed to blow up the ship he was on, and he was one of the lucky few to be in an escape pod before it went up.  Damaged, he was still asked to serve with the newly put-in-command Lieutenant Frost.  If I had gone on to write any other fiction on this beyond what I’d done prior to the game’s launch, I’d have had him get his confidence back-a definite swagger-and eventually be promoted off of Frost’s chain of command and onto a new ship-a retrofitted Andorian Kumari-class starship called the Zihl.  I figured that since these archaic ships were in the game, and since the devs pointed out they were updated versions of these archaic ships, I’d run with it:  the Andorian Imperial Guard kept old shipyards with the specs dormant just in case the Federation fell.  But wiser heads realized, “Why don’t we just crank out these ships, since we seem to be losing ships by the dozens?”  The ship makes use of higher end Andorian phasers/torpedoes, and I felt that Koreth’s command would be a sort of cavalry ship-the kind that you see that shows up “just in time” when other ships are at their direst need.  Koreth himself was a tactical captain as well-yes, I’m aware that thus far, all three of my Cast List captains are tactical.  I promise my next one will be a science or engineering captain.

The uniforms, I’d decided early on, would be more of a darker coloration, reflecting a more military posture for this ship and crew.  I did maintain the traditional three-color set for Starfleet branches, with red showing command/tactical, gold for engineering/operations, and blue for sciences/medical.  The difference was that instead of being the primary colors, I used the colors only on the trim of the outfits.  I wanted a couple of “outsiders” for the main crew, too, so I used my pre-order Borg officer as one, and a Jem’Hadar from the Dominion arc as another.  This helped confirm for me the “rough and ready” nature of this crew.  I didn’t get exotic with the weapons on the Zihl:  I saved up Dilithium and grabbed upgraded Andorian phasers (mostly cannons, but I slapped a turret in as well) to stick with the whole Andorian warship theme.

Koreth got his push, and I managed to get him to max level in the game-and while he’s not a main character of mine, he IS pretty much the same sort of guy as most of the balding, bearded guys in my blog logo, because heaven forbid I play an MMO where I don’t have a character with that sort of appearance.  I even got clever with the name:  go ahead and spell out the last part of his name in reverse.  Sometimes I can’t help myself.

The Cast List: Introducing General Fralex of Star Trek Online

Let’s stick with the Star Trek Online theme for a moment, but shift over to the other big faction of the game:  the Klingon Empire.

Badass. Nobody can tell me otherwise.

The Klingons are a pretty interesting faction, if you ignore the fact that the game dialogue assumes that all of their captains are dyed-in-the-wool Klingons.  In fact, you can’t assume that:  you’ve got Orions, Naussicaans, Gorn, Ferasan, and others-not to mention the generic “Alien” which can be anything you can possibly conceive of.  And you aren’t limited to Klingon ships, either; before we even get into the C-Store ships, you have the potential of Orion and Gorn ships.  Indeed, a lot of the non-Starfleet sort of lockbox ships work very well in this hodge-podge of a fleet.  By opening up the Klingon Empire to such, the Klingons have managed to, in a weird way, become just as inclusive as the Federation.

Well, as long as you follow their code of honor (or at least can fake it).

All of which leads to this character.  The Talaxians have a bad rap in Star Trek, as their primary representative, Neelix, is viewed as “the Scrappy” (don’t believe me?  Here we are!).  So the species is looked at in a “planet of hats” sort of way (I’m horrible-two TV trope references in one paragraph) as being cheerful to a fault, interested in good food and good company.  But what a lot of people overlook is that their species took a massive hit in population, thanks to a war they fought.  So one might presume that there might be in their collective character an ability to be truly dangerous.

Now, I’ve been a lifetime subscriber to STO since the very beginning-literally a purchase on the first day they became available, before launch.  As such, I had the ability to create a Borg captain-which I did (I may speak of him in a future post).  But when the Delta Rising expansion rolled out, the developers added a little bit of extra spice to the stew of lifetimer benefits.  (Now a cooking allusion; what am I doing with this post!?)  Now, lifetimers could make a Talaxian captain.  Note that both of these species were available to both Starfleet and the Klingon Empire.  I’m sure a lot of players looked at that and went, “Really?  THIS is the species you give us to work with?  Why couldn’t it be a cooler one, like a Vaadwaur?”  (That was never going to happen; “cool” races are more likely to be in the C-Store than just given for free to Lifetimers; actually, I suspect it would be more likely to be a lockbox grand prize, these days.)

Obviously, I had a different reaction.  Along the lines of, “Okay, if this is the hand I’m dealt, how do I make it a hand worth holding?”  So what if they were Talaxians?  I was bound and determined to make a character that gave this species some respect back.

Enter General Fralex.  My first task was to work on the appearance of the character; most of the time, the default look of a Talaxian was…sort of dumpy.  I added a bit of height (not horribly much, but enough), got rid of the stomach fat, shaved the top of his head and gave him a beard-hey, it worked for the guys in the blog logo image, right?  I stayed away from the traditional KDF options for uniforms and went with the Intelligence uniforms that were non-faction specific.  (There really aren’t enough outfit options for the Klingons.)

Keeping him with the badass attitude I wanted to generate, I made him a tactical captain, although the ships he flew were wide and varied until he got high enough of a level to use the Kobali cruiser, called the Concord; I definitely didn’t want his final ship to be a standard Klingon starship, even though I’d used mostly Birds-of-Prey up to that point.  I’m still not completely wed to it, but it’ll do unless I come upon a different sort of ship that has Delta origins.  (I’d grab a Vaadwaur ship for the irony value, but those are lockbox ships, and tend to be expensive on the Exchange.)  Until then, he flies Concord.

His story is pretty much one a Klingon could get behind.  His father was in the Talaxian military.  During Fralex’s life, he bounced around mercenary crews, and eventually wound up in the Klingon Empire (how he got there from the Delta Quadrant is something I never really worked out, but it wouldn’t be hard to think of something-Iconian gateways, unstable wormholes, Q…), where he imposed his brand of disciplined tactics upon his Klingon crew.  He embraced a saying of Kahless, “In war, there is nothing more honorable than victory”, and backed it up with getting victories in a calculated, tactical manner, as opposed to zerg rushing enemy ships.  The crew caught on, and are behind him 100 percent.  It helps that he might have dispatched a few challengers to his command with the same ruthless efficiency he demonstrates in his approach to war.

The character is around level 55-ish in order for him to officially use the title of “General”, because it felt right that he be considered so.  Since then, he’s been more or less held in stasis-he’s at the first quarter of the Delta Rising expansion, and I’ve mentioned before how much of a slog that feels-and this has held up his forward motion.  This may change with the recent updates to the Delta missions.  But for now, I’m happy that I managed to advance a Talaxian captain to my upper ranks, and defy stereotypes in doing so; Fralex’s cooking prowess only extends to opening a can of whoop-ass!

The Cast List: Introducing Jenled Lar of Star Trek Online

Here we go-the first of my Cast List, one of my captains in the Star Trek Online MMO.

My attempt to redeem Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s uniforms.

The character’s name is Jenled Lar, and his creation came about for two reasons.  The first was that I wanted to use some of those uniforms I’d purchased in the C-Store over time; the uniforms from Star Trek: The Motion Picture get a lot of grief, and I wanted to see if I could do something with them that made them look a little less…bad.  The second was that this was during a period of time when I wanted to see about the RP scene in STO, and most of my other characters were committed to my main Fleet.

Right off the bat, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I’d purchased the Joined Trill species for this captain.  With some thought, I figured I’d make him a Tactical captain flying tactical escorts-my usual methodology was to mix and match ship and captain types (my main Starfleet guy, for example, is a Tactical captain who flies cruisers).  He’s not the first Tactical/Tactical character I’ve made (and I’m likely to come back to that in a future post)  The character’s appearance is a bit swarthier than my norm, but I figured it would make him stand out a bit more-as if the uniform wasn’t enough.

I managed to get Jenled up to level 50-ish.  That would allow me to put him into a Sao Paulo class escort, which is a Defiant variant-which includes a phaser quad-cannon.  I made sure to add photon torpedoes as the weapon of choice, as I wanted something that had a faster recharge time than my usual quantum torpedoes.  I didn’t go all out with gear-after all, the good stuff tends to go with my primary guys, the ones I’ve spent the most time with, and Jenled wasn’t one of them.

The final bit for the character was story.  If this was going to be a character to RP with, I wanted to have something to hang on him.  I didn’t write up any big fiction for him (as I’m wont to do), but I did at least give him a background where he rose to command after decking his Commanding Officer; there were extenuating circumstances, such as that she was currently mentally impaired at the time.  That got him a transfer off that ship-with his former CO’s blessing-and into the center-seat of a new one:  the Gullwind (named after a ship from an old RPG I’d played long, long ago).

I actually did manage briefly to join an RP fleet in the game for a couple of weeks; but it didn’t really wind up being a good fit for me, and other fleets I’d looked over in that time really didn’t seem like they would be good fits either.  So Jenled stopped advancing, and he got put into the cooler.  I still enjoyed putting this character together, and remains a character I’ll occasionally play when I just want to mess around.