Twenty years ago (or thereabouts), a younger version of me found he was missing the RPG fix that weekly gaming nights had provided. He was newly married, had one young son and another on the way. Working a full-time job was new to him, having spent the past six years working part time to pay his way through school. These new challenges, with others too numerous to list, had meant saying “goodbye” to the life of a gaming bachelor, and “hello” to the life of a married father, husband, and breadwinner.
Determined to find some substitution, my younger self began his immersion into the fledgling, online gaming community. Granted, the internet was still mostly an unexplored frontier riddled with hideous background images, gaudy animated gifs, and color combinations that were as unreadable as they were migraine-inducing. Netscape Gold reigned as the eight-hundred pound browser gorilla, and offered an HTML WYSIWYG editor that enabled hungry, young enthusiasts to implement the aforementioned hideous websites.
It was a time before WordPress or Pintrest; Facebook or Twitter. It was even before Myspace. My younger self, looking for RPG fellowship, took to the nubile world-wide-web and scoured the for information using webcrawler, the most reliable means of finding web sites at the time, whereby he discovered PBeM.com. Overjoyed, my younger self joined two email RPG games.
The First was a game based upon Roger Zelazny’s Amber universe using the diceless RPG rules (ADRPG). The Amber group tended to be slow and meandering, with little in the way of activity. The second group, however, was very active. It was a small group of Star Trek fans from all over the world, who had created an imaginary story-line in the TNG-era Star Trek universe. It was called Outpost Liberty, then later Liberty Fleet. It and it’s imaginary fleet of starships was perched on the edge of Federation space, with a mission to tame the great, wild frontier. It was then that Daniel Noah Shays was conceived.
Who was this new Star Fleet officer, Dan Shays? My younger self worked to answer those questions. Since role-playing and Star Trek together have always seemed to be a great combination in my mind, I was able to quickly conceptualize my idea of a compelling character. He’d be equal parts McCoy, Kirk, and Sherriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith), I’d decided. For me, the original series (TOS) was “Gunsmoke” in space. The characters were vivid and brash but congenial, and said what needed saying whether it was diplomatic or not. They were common-sense “doers” tackling pure science-fiction plots. They abode by an unspoken code of honor and chivalry and embodied the idea that an armed society is a very polite society. Whereas, in contrast, the characters in TNG were mealy-mouthed deliberators forced into silly “socially-important” issues of the day.
I wanted Dan to be an ambassador of these fading ideals in a increasingly progressive setting that seemed less interested in telling science-fiction stories than lecturing viewers on politicized, Hollywood talking-points. I also wanted to preserve the use of cultural and ethnic characteristics, which the original Trek had used with such great effectiveness to drive the story. But I did not want to copycat from something that had already been done.
Looking twenty years ahead, to the present, Daniel Shays is a fully formed character. There have been many adventures written about him, some of which still live on in an abandoned Yahoo! group. Sure, he had been neglected for years, but never forgotten. Other games were played, new characters conceived, old characters reborn, and an entire legacy written for a family named Barimen. And still, Daniel Shays was never far from the front of my mind. In a sense, he may be (in my mind at least) the ideal space-man.
These are Dan’s stories. His rich, colorful past has it’s place in my own, personal corner of the Star Trek universe. And while we may visit these stories from time to time, the bulk of what is written here will be his new adventures as imagined while playing Star Trek Online; boldly going where no man has gone before.