Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Borg

Yeah, weird title following the previous two posts but I feel like talking about something that relate to this “famous” Star Trek villain. Namely, I feel like talking about how they can be used in a game or in a way in a work of fiction.

One of the main problem with mostly unstoppable villain like the Borg is spikeification, the heroes can only defeat them so many time before they stop being an unstoppable villain and become just another minor threat your hero wipe the floor with. The easy solution to this problem is simply to rarely use them. This raise another problem however, you can’t really use them as the main “villain” or adversary of your work/game. Since you only use your Borgs a few times in your entire campaign they become more like guess stars than the real evil force at work. Another way would be to have then have servant like sub-villain, that the heroes encounter and they get some power and thematic quirks that make them borg-light in a way. I think however that this reduces to the previous problem; your heroes are fighting the Borg impersonators not the Borg themselves. So what to do?

Well, an idea I had (for the Borg themselves, it might not work with other villain or in other universe) is to have them win/ defeat the heroes. Imagine if you will a new Star Trek serie that will feature the Borg as the main villain for a season at least. The first episode of the season would star with the heroes encountering a Borg ship (the smaller the better) around an anomaly (which are so common in Star Trek, it might as well just be an average region of space), as the episode plays out your heroes are soundly and rapidly defeated/assimilated, however before the mid episode commercial break the heroes sent out a distress probe that inexplicably vanish through the previously mentioned anomaly.

Coming back from the commercial break we find ourselves on the bride of our non-assimilated ship, some unspecified time before the Borg encounter. They intercept a distress call from a probe of their own ship and like all good starfleet personnel move to investigate. They as expected find the distress probe from before the break. It is being partially assimilated by the Borg but luckily the recovery team manages to stop process (not without losing a red shirt of course). The probe is being brought on board and the command staff watches the future ship recorder (with the audience). We are treated to a recording of the Borg attack on the ship, however it is different from what we saw in the first part of the episode. The episode ends with the crew starting a deeper analysis of the distress probe to try to find if it is from another universe or the future and the captain hoping that there is enough time to find ways to defeat the Borg before they attack.

Then the next episode goes on at normal, with people occasionnaly speaking about computer problems and malfunction and other talking about how to fight off the Borg. Some ideas sound pretty good and are discussed in more detail as the crew defeates this week problem in “record” time (i.e with more than 5 minutes left to the episode). Than in the last 5-7 minutes the security chief ask to see the capitain, he shows him the video of the Borg attack on the ship in which we see the crew try the tactic they where talking about in the episode and failling to defeat the Borg.

This thread continu in about one episode every three, where at the end of the episode we watch a new idea tried by the crew and the Borg countering it easilly and assimilating everything again. As the season progress the mood between the senior officer becomes ever more grim as it more and more evident that the probe is from their future. The mid season is a bait and swich two parter episode. It’s starts as a story of the week, but the computer problem get increasingly worse until all of the ship’s replicator activate and spew out Borg-like robot. The assimilation of the probe was not just physical but had a software component that failed to be understood or detected by crew. As the first crew member become assimilated by the Borg software robot, the first part of the episode end, clips of senior personels and unnamed crew man are shown fighting the ennemies some failling (including recuring characters) while other reach area of the ship with no replicator.

The second part of the season stars with a fight for the control of the ship, as the virus progress toward communication protocoles. Desperate gambles and heroics save the ship and most of it’s crew from the assimilation, just in time as the virus was second from signaling the Borgs. The mood grows darker as the Borg have struck the first blow and part of each episode (usually before or after the mid commercial break) are reserved to showing the progress of the video, with the crew failing with more or less success. The season ends with the Ship being sent to investigate an anomaly, and the Borg ship arriving and starting the fight. I think I would spend the next half season fighting the Borg, winning but barely in the first part of the mid season two-parter. The next half of the season would be dealing with the wound and pain left by the assault and finding as much as possible about the Borg from the captured hardware. Opening the way for new ennemies or another bigger plot by the Borg.

Well this once again proves that I like to write novel like posts. The whole point of this exemple is that powerfull vilain should require powerful stories and scare the crap out of the heroes. I think that they need to defeat the heroes more often than not to remain scary. It’s very hard to do in most medium (even more so in RPG) so you have to use indirect defeat but still, a badass vilain deserve victories.