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The Past (and Future?) of Open Rules

by James Heaney, Rules Manager (1E)

16th May 2023

Prologue: Lackey Break Reminder

Let me start with the actual reason for this article: On Monday, June 5th, 2023, as previously announced, there is going to be an update to the Lackey plugin for the Star Trek CCG (First Edition).The update will change the card pool column on most existing cards. All decks saved in Lackey's .dek format will break. Files saved as .txt will be fine.

To avoid disruption, you must go into Lackey, select "Deck Editor," load a .dek file, and press the "Export as txt" button. This will save your deck in .txt format. It will therefore be protected. Repeat these steps for all your .dek files.

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These "Lackey breaks" happen occasionally (about once a year since 2020) because Lackey is a fusty old hunk of code owned by a third party who won't allow us to update it. In general, you should save decks that you want to keep for a long time as .txt files.

Because the June 5th Lackey break is coming up fast, The Powers That Be asked me to write a couple of articles this month about the recent transition from "OTF" to "Modern" rules, and to insert reminders about the Lackey break at the beginning and end of the article. More reminders are coming!

My excuse for an article this time is sort of an extended Rules Soapbox, something suggested by Daniel Matteson, about the past (and future) of Open rules.

A Brief History of Open

The Big Picture

There are a lot of different rule sets for this game, from Warp Speed to X-List to Klingon Warlords. But there are three "mainline" rulesets, each of which have some claim to being the "normal" way of playing Star Trek Cards. Those rulesets are Modern, Traditional, and Open.

In the beginning, there was only one set of rules. It had no name, at least to start; it was simplythe rules oftheStar Trek CCG. When Decipher ended things in July 2006, that's when things started to get interesting.

In 2009, the Continuing Committee made the first post-Decipher rule change: henceforth, special downloads would be allowed during the seed phases. This created a division among players. Players who accepted that the Continuing Committee could make rule changes were playing one version of the game. Players who rejected the Continuing Committee's meddling were playing another. These two flavors were later dubbed "Open" and "Traditional." At first, the only real difference between them was whether you could special download during the seed phases.

Those days were fervid with competing rule sets. As the game emerged from its "Dark Age," many local playgroups had developed their own local variants for dealing with perceived brokenness in the "mainline" game. Some of these variants (like X-List) focused on banning problem cards. Others (like Revised) changed the rules but maintained Decipher's no-ban-list policy. Finally, in 2010, the Continuing Committee announced a set of dramatic rule changes and a ban list. The Referee cards Fair Play, Intermix Ratio, and The Big Picture were all turned into rules, dilemmas were limited to two copies, batch seeding officially, and certain new cards were declared to be "conversions" (errata) for certain Second Edition backwards-compatible cards. This was a compromise between the "rule changes" and "ban list" factions: the ban list was much shorter than X-List, and the rule changes (though dramatic) were far less sweeping than Revised.

Thus was born the second division among players. If you play with these rule changes (and the ban list), you're playing "Modern." (Until recently, this was called "OTF".) The CC continued to officially support Open rules for players who wanted to play with all their 2E backwards-compatible cards, or who didn't want to play with a ban list.

Both rule sets continued to evolve. Modern eventually added new Referee cards to its rulebook: General Quarters and You Are A Monument were both created as cards in 2012, and became Modern rules in 2016. But Open was not frozen in amber, either. Remember, Traditional was the rule set for players who reject all Continuing Committee changes. Open was the rule set for players whoacceptedthe CC's changes -- just not the handful of specific changes that were labeled "OTF."

So, over time, Open drifted farther and farther away from the Traditional rules of Decipher times. First, in 2009, there was the change to allow special downloads in the seed phase. In 2013-14, Open saw a rule change affecting how dual personnel are downloaded, welcomed "mission personas" into the game (different missions at the same location, like Study Rare Phenomenon / Attack at Rare Phenomenon), followed by major overhauls in how the game determines species and matching commander.

Later, Open and Modern together experienced the end of the "Frool Rule", the end-of-support for 2E backwards compatible cards, the change allowing mission attempts to continue even if all matching personnel died, and disguises counting for characteristics. If you play Open today, Miracle Worker is not a loaded skill, ANIMALs can attempt missions, you seed regions differently from Traditional, and all the 2021 rule changes for Nors apply. All of these changes are documented in the Rule Changes Tool (changes marked "Revised" and "OTF" apply only to Modern; all others apply to Open as well).

Open Today

The CC's support of Open is earnest and continuing. I can't tell you the number of times I've been in a Design meeting where someone suggested errata to (say) Writ of Accountability, but the decision was that it couldn't be done, "because Open still needs that function." Indeed, Writ's 15-point limit on dilemma scoring played a huge role in shaping Obsession and the Borg Ship errata, and made both a little more convoluted than they might otherwise have been. That kind of thing happens routinely.

Meanwhile, Open is supported in our deck-building and card-database software. (The Traditional rule set is not explicitly supported in that software, although the Traditional card pool is.)The Rulebook dutifully reports the differences between Open and Modern. The CC's support for Open continues apace.

At the same time, actual Open play has seemingly dwindled to near non-existence. Open is commonly played in sealed-deck events, especially OTSD, but even these ignore CC errata (which Open otherwise accepts). Outside sealed, I am genuinely unsure whether anyone has played an Open Constructed game in the past five years. (Write me if you have!)

There are definitely plenty of players out there who play Traditional, using the official Decipher Glossary and ignoring all CC rules and rulings. Many of them commiserate on Facebook, Discord, and other channels, because of a (hopefully misplaced) feeling that the CC isn't "for" them. (The CC wants to provide useful resources for all players, including those who reject CC changes.)

But is there a player base for Open's hybrid rule set, where some CC rule changes count but not the full Modern rule set? I don't know. Again: write to me if you are such a player.

Open Tomorrow

I'm not sure what the future looks like for the Open rules. What follows are just my ruminations and not the official opinion of the Rules Committee, much less the overall Department of First Edition.

One possibility is that, after I make this post, a bunch of people will come forward and say they're playing Open. We might learn that there is a thriving Open community, and they're having a great time. They love the fact that ANIMALs can attempt missions now, but they also love using Rogue Borg Mercenaries (which aren't banned in Open), so we shouldn't change a thing about how we support Open rules.

On the other hand, if nobody's playing Open outside Sealed, it might make sense to merge Open into Traditional, then add more support for Traditional. (Did you know you can't find a Decipher Glossary on the CC website right now?)This would do more to support our actual players (as opposed to hypothetical ones), and it would free up some of the constraints Open places on Modern Design. That does leave the question of how Open Sealed tournaments should be handled -- and it would probably be worth talking to a number of OTSD directors around the world to find out what rules they're actually using on the ground before making any kind of decision.

Alternatively, it could make sense to make Open feel more "Decipher-ish" by excluding more CC changes from it. Perhaps people would play Open instead of Traditional if Open included the Frool Rule fix but not the 2021 Nor overhaul?

I dunno! It's something I've been thinking about! This whole article is just an excuse to remind you to update your Lackey decklists! But I'm curious to hear your thoughts, if you have any.

Update Your Lackey Decklists

Anyway, make sure to open up Lackey .dek decklists and press the "Export as txt" button for each and every one of them before Monday, June 5th, 2023! Otherwise you will be as sad as I was a couple years ago, the last time this happened, and all my Lackey decklists went belly up. See you on the spaceline!

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