Welcome to a Star Trek 101 article.
Here is continuation of my in-depth history of the Star Trek universe, and serve as a historical refresher or reference. This is the second blog touching on the major historical events, sticking mostly to canonical sources with some personal extrapolation and gap filling when necessary. The first blog covered the period up to the first couple centuries of the Federation. This second covers the remaining century.
For a more comprehensive history, refer to the timeline on Memory Alpha or the greatly expanded timeline including novels, comics, and video games at Memory Beta.
By the middle of the 24th Century, the Federation had enjoyed generations without open warfare. This eighty-year period of peace was broken by a series of small conflicts occurring in rapid succession, with a new conflict being sparked every five years! While not the only war of the era, the Federation-Cardassian war was by far the longest, and the one with the most dramatic and lasting consequences.
What became known as the Federation-Cardassian War was a prolonged series conflicts between the Federation and the Cardassian Union that began in 2347 and ran until the mid-2360s. Most of the fighting occured in the 2350s, with an armistice negotiated in 2367 that was formalized in 2370. Despite its length and the size of both combatant’s militaries, this war was limited in scope: battles were confined to the border region between the empires, in what would later be designated as a Demilitarized Zone. Within the Zone, neither side was permitted to establish military bases and armed starships were not permitted entry. When the armistice was signed, the official border was redrawn, resulting in the exchange of several systems, including a number of colonies. Many colonists on worlds that changed hands refused to be resettled, which led to the founding of the insurgency group called the Maquis.
In the 2350s, the Federation was involved in the Galen border conflicts, a series of skirmishes with the Talarian Republic over disputed systems. The majority of losses suffered in the war were civilian colonists, as Talarians shiper were significantly less advanced than Starfleet’s. The conflict was resolved diplomatically. This was mirrored by the Federation-Sheliak Conflict, which was also fought over a series of planets claimed by both species, and resolved by a peace treaty in 2355. Meanwhile, there was a brief flare-up of hostility between the Federation and the Tholian Assembly, which included the destruction of a Starbase in 2353.
Later in the era was the brief Tzenkethi War, which occured in the early 2360s. This was series of violent skirmishes between the Federation and the Tzenkethi Coalition, the details of which are largely unknown.
Playing in this Era
After close to eighty years of peace, the sudden conflicts with neighbouring powers would have been a rude awakening to Starfleet. After decades of establishing colonies on worlds well within the borders of the Federation, these conflicts likely began as the Federation began to expand outward and settle new worlds. Having spent much of their time dealing with the Klingons and Romulans for the preceding two centuries, Starfleet and its Diplomatic Corp was likely less experienced in dealing with these new powers. In the case of the Cardassians, some deception was also at work: with Starfleet focused eastward for so long, word of the Federation reached the Cardassians long before first contact, giving the Obsidian Order ample time to initiate a program of misinformation and propaganda.
The war with the Cardassians has the most story potential in this era, being long enough for an extended campaign covering numerous missions, or even the entire junior career of an group of officers from rookie ensings to experienced commanders. The Tzenkethi War could also function as the spine of a campaign, being as long or short as the gamemaster requires, with the player characters being instrumental in starting and/or ending the conflict.
However, despite the continual strife of these decades, there retained a sense of optimism, especially as most of the Federation was unaffected by the conflicts. The dangers were confined to the fringes of the Empire and life and the center of the Federation remained Utopian. There’s plenty of room in this era and after for captains whom are optimistic and untouched by war, bitter and conflicted after years on the front lines, or more determined than ever not to lead the Federation into another war.
Following the peaceful resolution of the prior decade’s wars and skirmishes, the Federation and Starfleet had a sense of optimism, as well as a confidence in their values that bordered on arrogance. There was a widespread opinion that whatever dangers were encountered in the future, Starfleet could handle them. Starfleet finally made contact with the Ferengi in 2364 to discovered the rumours of cannibalism and violence associated with the Ferengi were misinformation, and the species was not a serious threat. Even after the Romulans return to galactic politics at the end of 2364 there remained a cautious optimism.
In 2365 the Enterprise-D encountered the Borg, a species that could not be reasoned or negotiated with. But even after this disastrous encounter, many believed the Borg were a distant threat that could either be countered or scared off by the might of Starfleet. This changed in 2367 when a single Borg cube launched an offensive against the Federation, effortlessly destroying an armada of thirty-nine ships during the Battle of Wolf 359. This shocked Starfleet out of its complacency, and launched a wave of innovation in ship design.
Also in 2365, after a hearing, Starfleet recognized the sentience of artificial lifeforms, declaring that an android officer was individual rather than property and capable of self-determination. In subsequent decades, this ruling would be tested with the accidental creation of a number of photonic lifeforms—holograms that gained self awareness.
Meanwhile, the Romulan Star Empire continued its efforts to destabilize the Klingon Empire and sabotage its relationship with the Federation. They saw their chance in 2367, following the appointing of a new Chancellor of the Klingon High Council. Chancellor Gowgron’s appointment had been hotly contested, and he only claimed the role following the death of his chief rival. That, and the involvement of a Starfleet captain as arbiter in the proceedings caused unrest in the Empire. In late 2367 this strife culminated in a civil war among the Klingon houses. Even after it was resolved there was widespread tension and dissent in the empire, as factions among the Klingons pushed for a return to their old ways and a return to open warfare.
In 2369, facing pressure from the Federation, the Cardassian Union ended its occupation of Bajor. The Federation sent humanitarian assistance to the planet to assist with the recovery, with Starfleet operating out of the orbiting mining station Terok Nor, which was renamed “Deep Space 9”. Shortly after claiming the station, Starfleet discovered a stable wormhole, leading over halfway across the galaxy to the distant Gamma Quadrant. This initiated a wave of trade and exploration, turning Bajor into a regional hub. A little over a year later in late 2370, first contact was made with the predominant political power in the Gamma Quadrant, the Dominion.
Meanwhile, the Cardassians continued to built towards war. Many voices in the government and military remained unhappy with the resolution of their war with the Federation. Over the years, numerous schemes to arm fighters in the Demilitarized Zone or discover Federation troop movements had been revealed over the years and showed no signs of abating.
Early in the year 2371, the U.S.S. Voyager vanished on its maiden voyage in the Badlands by Cardassian space. In pursuit of a group of Maquis, the ship was presumed lost with all hands. After a couple years with no sign, the crew was declared dead. While little more than an unremarkable tragedy at the time, this would later prove to be a significant historical event.
Also in 2371, after responding to a distress call from a research station near the Shackleton Expanse, the U.S.S. Enterprise-D was lost in combat with a rogue Klingon bird-of-prey. With the flagship of Starfleet destroyed—the second Galaxy-class starship lost within twelve months— suddenly, much of the Federation found themselves growing nervous for the future.
Playing in this Era
This period covers all of The Next Generation and the first couple seasons of Deep Space Nine.
Like the preceding century, this was largely a time of peace, albeit tinged with more concern over the future and of the unknown. Looking at the entire 24th Century as a whole, this period is a small lull in hostilities between the Federation and Cardassians. At the time, the future wars were unknown, and Starfleet was optimistic because of its past successes and proud of its reputation. But it is also a Federation that is cautious, not wanting to risk more conflict.
In this era, the Federation is not the struggling, fledgling union it is during the 22nd Century, nor is it the “underdog” surrounded by older empires in the wild frontier like in the 23rd Century. By this date, the Federation had been around for two centuries and was seen by many as a venerable institution. Starfleet had become increasingly bureaucratic, more bound by its laws and procedures, and its captains expected to vet plans through the admiralty. There was also an unspoken concern that the Federation had plateaued and could be nearing decline, that its prosperity could not last.
During this period, Starfleet renewed its focus on exploration, venturing into the space between Tzenkethi and Cardassian space, south of Tholian space, and to the far side of the Klingon Empire. But this exploration was sporadic, as its scientific ships were frequently recalled for diplomatic or humanitarian missions. Despite the slower pace of exploration, the Federation continued its rapid expansion, adding new member worlds from both the distant edges of the Federation and newly warp capable species well within its borders. By 2378, the Federation had 154 member worlds in addition to its 7,128 affiliates, which included protectorates, colony worlds, and outposts.
While I classify this period as being post-2360, it can arguably begin a decade or so earlier, as fighting in the Cardassians war was limited to that border region; ships performing missions away from Cardassian space—such as exploring on the far side of the Klingon Empire—would be unaffected by the war.
Hailing from the far side of the galaxy, the Dominion was a union of allied systems. Worlds that willingly joined benefited from the alliance, but those who resisted or opposed the Dominion suffered greatly. From their first contact with the Federation in 2370, conflict seemed inevitable. Initially, the Dominion attempted to destabilize the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, crippling the Romulan Tal Shiar with the Battle of the Omarion Nebula in 2371 before pushing the Klingons to declare war on the Cardassians in 2372. The Founders, the secretive head of the Dominion, also attempted to instigate a coup in Starfleet and drive the Federation to war with the Tzenkethi.
Further causing confusion, in 2373 the Federation came under renewed assault from the Borg, who sent another cube to Earth. The cube was destroyed in orbit of Earth, in what became known as the Battle of Sector 001, but a significant number of Starfleet ships were destroyed or seriously damaged in the conflict.
The Dominion War began in late 2373, shortly after Cardassia joined the Dominion. While little over two years in length, the war involved most of the major powers of the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, including the Romulans who joined the war in 2374 and the Breen who allied with the Dominion in mid-2375. Only the Tholians maintaining their neutrality throughout the war.
Starfleet initially fared poorly in the war. Their aging fleet featured many starships that had been in service almost a century, such as the numerous Excelsior and Miranda-class vessels. The superiour technology of the Dominion and then the Breen inflicted heavy damage. Ironically, the Borg threat proved advantageous: Starfleet had been building new offensive ships to counter that species, and was able to rapidly deploy many in this war.
The Dominion War inflicted heavy military and civilian casualties, easily being the bloodiest and most destructive wars in the history of the Federation. Several Federation worlds were occupied during the war, including Betazed and Benzar. While the Federation had been closer to losing their war with the Klingons in the 23rd Century, the relatively smaller scale meant far fewer lives and ships were lost. Conversely, during a single battle during the Dominion War, over 300 Klingon, Romulan, and Federation ships were lost. By the signing of the Treaty of Bajor—which officially ended the war—the casualties included over one million Starfleet officers and enlisted personnel, 90 million Federation citizens, 200,000 Klingon warriors, 200,000 Romulans, and an unknown number of Jem’Hadar and Breen soldiers. The Cardassians suffered the worst, with losses totally over 900 million, with the majority being civilians on Cardassia Prime.
The Dominion War significantly shifted the power dynamics of local space. The Cardassian Union collapsed as a major power; while the Cardassian Union ostensibly retained its territory, it lacked the infrastructure and ships to maintain control. Meanwhile, the previously reclusive Breen Confederacy had revealed its military power and desire for expansion.
The Klingon Empire suffered heavy casualties in its back-to-back conflicts with the Cardassians, Federation, and Dominion. They would spend the next decade focusing on rebuilding its forces. Additionally, Gowron, the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council was killed in a duel in 2375. Gowron had been most recent in a ling line of corrupt and manipulative chancellors concerned more with power than honour. His replacement was a common general, chosen to hopefully restore honour to the High Council.
Playing in this Era
The default era of Star Trek Adventures is the period around 2371-72, starting when the Klingons withdrew from the Khitomer Accords and began attacking Cardassia, and just prior to the Dominion War itself. It’s a dark time for the Federation, when many analysts predicted the Dominion’s victory was inevitable. And while the Federation did finally win the war, it came at a high cost, being partially the result of ignoble actions from within Starfleet (including biological warfare). Starfleet lost an estimated thousand starships, with many more damaged or disabled.
With widespread warfare and battles taking place across the Alpha Quadrant there is room for lots of stories set during this war. An entire RPG campaign could be set during the couple years of war, stretching time like M*A*S*H (which crammed 11 seasons into three years of war).
Even eschewing direct wartime stories, there’s room for interesting stories to be told during this period. With a large percentage of the fleet on the frontlines, ships on scientific or exploration missions would be on their own and less able to call for assistance. Even after the launch of the Enterprise-E, that starship spent its time conducting diplomatic missions rather than exploring. With the TV series set during this era focused heavily on Bajor and Deep Space 9, events in the larger Federation are open for expansion and extrapolation by GMs.
Journey of Voyager
The Federation spent the mid-2370s focused on recovery efforts, replenishing their fleet of starships following the Battle of Sector 001 and the Dominion War as well as humanitarian efforts in wartorn systems.
In 2374, Starfleet discovered that the U.S.S. Voyager—long since presumed destroyed—had in fact been lost in the Delta Quadrant. The ship was slowly making the long seventy year journey back home.However, they could offer little assistance at the time.
By 2376, Starfleet’s Pathfinder Project managed to create a micro-wormhole that allowed limited but regular communication with the lost vessel. The ship transmitted back its logs and research, providing Starfleet with information on a multitude of new lifeforms and previously uncharted sectors of the galaxy, along with numerous new technological and scientific discoveries
While Starfleet engaged in several research projects aimed at bringing Voyager home sooner than the predicted thirty years, none of these proved necessary. In 2378, Voyager took advantage of a Borg transwarp hub to return home to Earth. In the process they destroyed the hub—one of only six possessed by the Borg—while also killing all nearby linked Borg via a neurolytic pathogen assimilated by the hub’s Queen. It is unknown how much damage this inflicted upon the Borg Collective.
During its time in the Delta Quadrant, the U.S.S. Voyager had the honour of making first contact with more new alien species than any other starship, breaking the long held record set by Captain Kirk and the original U.S.S. Enterprise.
The Fall of Romulus
Having joined the Dominion War late (in 2374) the Romulan recovery was swifter than other powers in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. During the war, the Romulans conscripted slaves from its sister world of Remus to fill out their armies. One such draftee was the slave Shinzon, who quickly ascended in ranks; by the end of the war Shinzon had commanded a dozen successful operations against the Dominion.
Unhappy by Romulan’s treatment of the Reman slaves, Shinzon struck an alliance with a like-minded Senator and several officers in the military. On a secret base they constructed a massive warbird, the Scimitar, which could emit weaponized thalaron radiation. In 2379, the conspirators deployed a small thalaron projector in the middle of the Romulan Senate, killing everyone in attendance, effectively eliminating the entire imperial government. Shinzon then assumed the rank of Praetor, personally taking command of the Empire. However, before he could enact his planned reforms (which included war on the weakened Federation) Praetor Shinzon was killed when the Scimitar‘s thalaron reactor exploded.
As a result of this coup d’état, the Romulan Star Empire was thrown into chaos. The quickly established provisional government approached the Federation to discuss a more lasting peace. This diplomatic envoy was lead by Captain Riker on the U.S.S. Titan.
The Romulans were never given the time to fully recover from this catastrophe. In the early years of the 2380s scientists determined that the Romulan sun was to become a supernova within the decade. Because of the continued political divisions in the Romulan Star Empire, response to the supernova was slow, and many believed the danger wasn’t real or even a Starfleet ploy. Eventually, the Romulan Star Empire asked the Federation for help evacuating the planet. Meanwhile, many Federation citizens were hesitant to help, viewing the Romulans as the oldest enemy of the Federation. Fourteen worlds went as far as to threaten to leave the Federation if they resettled Romulans within Federation space. Eventually Starfleet offered to provide aid in the form of ten thousand warp capable transports and tugs that could evacuate the estimated 900 million civilians to outside the blast zone. Unfortunately, in 2385, rogue synthetics working at the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards rebelled and destroyed the majority of the evacuation fleet in an attack that set Mars ablaze.
With the evacuation fleet destroyed and not enough time to rebuild, other plans were put into motion. In 2387, the Vulcan Science Council authorized the use of their entire supply of experimental Red Matter, which would theoretically convert the energy of the supernova into matter, forming a quantum singularity. Spock, a former Starfleet captain and Vulcan ambassador, was tasked with the mission and piloted an experimental ship towards Romulus. However, Spock was not able to arrive in time, as the Romulan star exploded faster than anticipated, utterly destroying both Romulus and Remus. In in the hopes of saving any evacuating ships and escape pods, Spock deployed the Red Matter device before he could hope to achieve a safe distance, and was himself pulled into the event horizon of the newly formed black hole and was declared dead.
With the heart of its empire utterly destroyed and its population decimated, the Romulan Star Empire was threatened with total collapse.
Meanwhile, in the Federation, sythentic life forms were declared illegal because of the role they played in the destruction of Utopia Planitia and Mars, along with the almost 100,000 Federation citizens killed in that attack. There was much opposition to this law from sources, including Starfleet which had ruled synthetics and life forms and not property. Despite these protests, the Federation council ruled otherwise and established the synthetic ban in 2385: active synthetics were disassembled and further research into sythetic life was halted.
The ban was reversed in 2399, following evidence the Mars attack was initiated by outside forces who cast blame on synthetics to halt research into artificial intelligence.
The still new TV series Picard is set in 2399, but doesn’t detail many of the changes or explicitly clarify the fate of the Romulan State. Supplementing the limited canon, there are a number of Pocket Books novels that take place in this era. With the end of the TV series, the novel team felt empowered to expand and change the galaxy, shifting the various status quos while introducing dramatic new events (such as the return of Ben Sisko, the destruction of Deep Space Nine, and various characters getting married, promoted, reassigned, or killed).
In these books, half of the Romulan state split away following Shinzon’s coup, forming the Imperial Romulan State in 2380. With its capital situated in the Achernar system near the center or Romulan territory, the Imperial Romulan State mostly survived the destruction of Romulus.
The crossover Destiny miniseries takes place in 2381, while the follow-up Typhon Pact crossover novels take place in 2381-84. In the first of these series, the Federation and Klingon empire come under heavy attack from the Borg, with Starfleet in particular suffering heavy losses from the full scale invasion. In the second series, following the Borg’s assault, a new political alliance was formed, consisting of the Bree Confederacy, Gorn Hegemony, Holy Order of Kinshaya, Romulan Star Empire, and Tzenkethi Coalition. This alliance was known as the Typhon Pact, and designed to counter the Federation on both economic and military levels. The Federation and Klingon Empire responded by inviting the Cardassian Union, Ferengi Alliance, Imperial Romulans, and Talarian Republic to sign the Khitomer Accord, an alliance informally called the “Khitomer Powers”.
Using technology discovered in the Delta Quadrant by the U.S.S. Voyager, the Federation began using quantum slipstream drives in a few experimental ships. Much faster than warp, quantum slipstream drives allowed a small fleet of ships to return to the Delta Quadrant and resume contact with species in that region.
The video game Star Trek Online also briefly describes the events of this decade, using events from the novels published prior to the launch of the game, but diverging before the Destiny crossover.
Playing in this Era
During the 2360s, the Federation had become prideful: its mission of peaceful exploration had largely succeeded and its worlds and colonies were almost Utopian. The Maquis terrorists reminded the Federation that not all humans enjoyed the comforts of member worlds, and the Dominion war tested the ideals of the Federation. Despite pressures to turn against its beliefs, the Federation stood fast and emerged into 2380s with renewed faith. They had been tested, and they had emerged victorious.
Apart from the movie Star Trek: Nemesis and a few flashbacks in Picard, this era has only been detailed in novels and Star Trek Online. A gamemaster ignoring this beta canon is largely free to do their own thing, or pull bits a pieces of lore they like from the books & STO while ignoring the rest.
For example, I’m a fan of the idea of the Romulan Empire splitting, as it mirror’s the Roman Empire that inspired so much of that species, while the Typhon Pact interests me less as the various factions seem too spread out to be able to coordinate. (How do the Gorn meet with the others without passing through Federation space?)
Perhaps this era might be the start of a new golden age, with the Romulans joining the Federation and reunifying with Vulcan following the fall of their empire. The resumption of exploration, with Starfleet venturing into the unexplored regions of space beyond the Romulan Empire and Cardassian Union. Maybe Voyager‘s destruction of the transwarp hub and introduction of a pathogen into the Borg Collective has crippled that power, effectively removing them as a threat.
Or this could be the calm before another storm with the Dominion resuming hostilities, or an unexpected assault by the Tholians and/or Breen. Perhaps, like in the Destiny crossover, the Federation might have to contend with a full Borg invasion fleet rather than singular Cubes. Or a heretofore unknown power on the far side of Tholian space emerges to threaten the Federation.
GMs looking at this era might need to answer some questions about technology. Does Starfleet make use of the future technology employed by Voyager, such as the transphasic torpedoes or mobile holoemiter? Or is that research banned for violating causality? Can Voyager‘s research on quantum slipstream technology be applied to current starships or will it have to built into the next generation of vessels? Or does slipstream tech require resources unavailable in local space? There is also the transwarp transporter Captain Scott was presumed to have invented (and shared with Ambassador Spock) prior to 2387.
The is probably the last era where the math of Star Trek Adventures functions without modification. Starships are meant to to improve every decade, with the maximum System being 12 (so, when paired with a 5 Department, the target number is 17 allowing some chance for failure). When the game hits the 25th Century, the numbers risk get too high and a ship has to have an Attribute of 13 or has very little room for advancement.
In theory, the future is set in Star Trek, with the timeline locked-in and established for centuries to come. It is unknown, but largely immutable. However, a few details have been revealed, and the Federation continues to exist—in one form or another—for centuries to come.
In the 26th Century, the flagship of Starfleet is the Universe-class U.S.S. Enterprise-J. This era was seen briefly with the Battle of Procyon V, the final battle in the war against the transdimensional “Sphere Builders”. The Sphere Builders would retaliate, but not through traditional warfare.
The Temporal Accords were signed in the year 2769. This interstellar treaty prohibited the use of time travel technology for changing history, limiting its use for scientific research (such as anthropology and historical documentation). Included in the Acord were rules and procedures on how to time travel without contaminating the timeline. The signing of the Accords led to the establishment of the Temporal Integrity Commission, the successor of the Federation’s Department of Temporal Investigations. The Commission was responsible for enforcing the accords and preventing paradoxes in the timeline. Their job was to prevent alterations to time, both purposeful and accidental, restoring the flow of time when necessary.
Following the discovery of time travel, a number of species attempted to violate the Temporal Accords, altering history to benefit themselves. This led to the Temporal Cold War, which affected history during the 20th Century and beyond. Species such as the Na’kuhl and the Sphere Builders worked through proxies in other time periods (such as the Suliban, Xindi, and Nazis) to alter the past. Their alterations to history would be stopped or countered by the temporal agents from as far ahead as the 31st Century, who operated through disguises or indigenous agents of their own. As the founding of the Federation was a pivotal historic event, the 22nd Century was a particularly noteworthy front in the Temporal Cold War.
During the 29th Century, temporal agents used specialized spacecraft to travel between eras. The Epoch-class timeship was launched in 2825, and it was one such sip, the U.S.S. Aeon, that was responsible for the computer boom of the mid-20th Century following its crash on Earth in 1967. The larger Wells-class timeship was not only capable of flying through time, but had transporters capable of beaming individuals through time.
In addition to the distant future, the MMORPG Star Trek Online is set in in 2409. This game presents the early 25th Century as time of turmoil. The Romulan Empire split, with one faction becoming the Romulan Republic while the other remains the Romulan Empire. The Klingons once again break from the Khitomer Accords, so they can be a menace to the Federation. And there are invasions by the Borg, returning Dominion ships, Vaadwaur, Undines (aka Species 8472), Iconians, Tzenkethi, and numerous others. There are some interesting conflicts in the game, with many foes returning to menace players, but the heavy combat focus of the game means there continually needs to be new conflicts. This results in an unrealistic number of wars and battles in rapid succession. It’s not a good outline for what the years 2409-10 look like, but it could be used as the basis for 2409-20.
Playing in this Era
As mentioned in the previous article, the Temporal Cold War is an excellent excuse and justification for the shifting of the Third World War and Eugenics Wars from the 1990s to the first half of the 21st Century. Specifically, the interference of time travellers altered history, preventing those wars with the intent of removing Zephram Cochrane’s motivation for space flight (or something), and Time Agents from the Temporal Integrity Commission corrected the damage and restated the wars, albeit a couple decades later.
Time Agents. The Star Trek equivalent of “a wizard did it”.
Setting a campaign entirely in the 26th Century and beyond is tricky, as the technology would have shifted greatly. The galaxy would be smaller and it might be harder to challenge players when they can beam between systems and travel between Quadrants in days. To say nothing of having to consider rules for such things as personal force fields.
Also, as mentioned in the earlier section, starship math gets a little rougher in this era, with ships being unable to fail certain tasks or scoring a success and complication at the same time.
Instead of being set in the future, campaigns could focus on elements of this era like the Temporal Cold War or other missions of Time Agents. The player characters could be individuals from the future sent back in time to correct paradoxes or counter malicious temporal activities of other factions, or fix errors from accidental time travel. (Which has the advantage of allowing stories set in various classical eras of the series.) As an alternative, instead of being people from the future, the PCs could also be individuals rescued from various eras: pulled out of time prior to their death and given a chance to continue serving the Federation.
This is less a history of the Federation, and more of a list of military conflicts. This jumped out at me most while looking at the 2360s, the decade that belongs mainly to TNG, easily the least war-obsessed of the Trek series. I struggled to recognise this article’s interpretation of the 2360s. There was so little violent conflict during TNG, and instead so much major, continuing effort to build peace diplomatically, that it really sticks out that this article is looking for examples of warfare and little else. For example, the first Federation-Cardassian War was so minor that it was seldom mentioned anywhere other than Bajor or Cardassia Prime, and had no noticeable effect on normal Starfleet exploration operations elsewhere in the galaxy. The major exceptions (the Borg attacks and the Dominion War) are notable because they were huge exceptions, not just continuations of the normal state of affairs.
If a GM wants to run a war campaign, it’s doable, though Star Trek tends to prefer to avoid war, even after fighting has begun. Perhaps a war-driven setting like 40K or Star Wars might be more suitable for that sort of GM.
If the goal of this article is to give people new to Trek an overview of Federation history, then I would suggest that it’s more important to cover the events that affect the average citizen and the average Starfleet officer most. What technological changes happened? (If nothing else, replicators!) What new scientific discoveries reshaped the path of Federation history? How did the UFP expand, and what new members did it gain? Does industry and trade still function the same way? The Ferengi are hugely important to trade, so how did their contact with the Federation affect that (beyond merely noting that they aren’t cannibals)? How is life in the 24th century supposed to be different from life in the 22nd or 23rd centuries? What progress has been made towards a utopian future, and what remains to be improved? Picard’s Federation isn’t just the modern world, but at a later date and with different wars – a lot has changed!
That’s a harsh but fair assessment.
In general, Western history is preoccupied with war, which is a hard preconception to shake. They do tend to be major events that alter the world(s).
When writing I tried to look at the events from a historical perspective; a more realistic A led to B let to C rather than just a series of isolated events happening. With that “big picture” in mind, the 2360s seemed a little like the 1920s: a time of frenzied optimism sandwiched between twin wars. Where lingering resentment from the unsatisfying resolution of first war leads to a second conflict.
The other reason is that dates tend to be readily given, which isn’t the case for many of Trek’s scientific discoveries. I.e. in what historical era would the replicator go? Similarly, in what era does money go away and the post-scarcity economy begin? Similarly, there’s not a lot of canon dates for first contacts
(It does show the need for a “Life in the 24th Century” article, which I was considering writing next.)
While I love The Next Generation, its episodic nature doesn’t lend itself to writing a history. There’s a lot of small footnote events and small discoveries, but few with lasting effect. Such as the idea warp drives are damaging subspace which appears once and isn’t mentioned again, and then immediately “solved” by the next generation of starship.
“The other reason is that dates tend to be readily given”
In all seriousness, so what? Exact dates are nice to have, but neither academic history nor fictional story-telling are particularly dependent on them. What’s much more important than knowing that something happened on a Tuesday is knowing the general context that led to it, and the later impact it had. “Before” and “after” are sufficient to draw a useful chronology.
Few roleplaying games are going to be set specifically during the exact week that the replicator was invented, when it will be impossible to have one on Monday, and then possible on Wednesday. So there’s little reason for most GMs to worry about the exact date. Either their game doesn’t have replicators, with all the consequences that brings, or their game does, with all the consequences of that. Much more useful than a specific boundary date to cling to, would be an overview of what all those consequences can include.
We see the same thing on screen. The Trek writers seldom bother to restrict themselves with exact timelines, and instead give us the historical context with a general “once upon a time…”. If you’ve ever tried to dig deep into Trek history, you’ll notice there are plenty of vague patches and uncertainties, resulting from that sort of writing.
“In general, Western history is preoccupied with war”
This is a fairly old-fashioned view, which tends to overlook the lives of most people, most of the time. Wars are dramatic, but almost always involve only a minority of the populations concerned, and are seldom actually revolutionary. Usually, wars just lead to a shift in the status quo (a different group of rich guys get to be in charge for a while), not a total upending of the status quo. Exceptions to that pattern are interesting, because they are unusual exceptions. In reality, what mostly tends to shape most people’s lives far more significantly are the slower, but persistent social changes that gradually undermine and replace old orders with new ones, sometimes over centuries or longer. (Faster exceptions, like the Industrial Revolution, are exciting and scary, because the change is sudden and huge and obvious, which is not what most people are prepared for.)
This incremental view of societal history is harder to label and categorise than the listing of various wars, but it’s much more interesting and meaningful. And, luckily, fiction is already much better at it than real academic history. Because writers get to focus on only the characters and events that they want to, they’re always only showing us how people’s lives are changed by their circumstances, and how they change their communities in return. For example, Kira Nerys does some war fighting, but much more important than that is how we see her developing from a character who simply hates all Cardassians, to one who can learn from her new Starfleet colleagues to sympathise with people outside of her own group, and utlimately even to help her former enemies. This reflects the gradual change in Bajoran society from reactionary survivors of occupation, to tentative participants in local interstellar affairs, to open-minded Federation membership candidates. DS9 does similar things with Ferengi and Cardassian culture too, and all the while, we see Human/Federation society reshaped by all of these interactions too.
And in defence of TNG’s history, they did it first: TNG’s writers were responsible for showing us the first indications of Klingons being deeper than generic Flash Gordon-style space baddies, merely dumb and violent, into something richer and also something changing with time. TNG introduced us to internal Klingon politics. TNG also fleshed out the UFP as a real place where real people live, and thus where their society is able to change. TOS occasionally showed us a Starbase or a remote research outpost, but very seldom did they visit the Federation’s core worlds and do some serious world-building there (though the excellent “Journey to Babel” is a great example of how to show world-building without ever having to actually visit a world). TNG was episodic, but it takes the time to show us more enduring things in the 24th century, like life on Betazed or rural France, or Federation citizens’ rights as expressed in “The Drumhead” or “The Measure of a Man”. These episodes might focus on single characters, and they might not be explicitly refered to again in future episodes, but they still paint a view of 24th century as a place that is different from our 21st century, and whose inhabitants continue to change their own world. Even ENT (less elegantly) manages to show us how Human and Vulcan views on space, exploration, and cooperation changed over time, to the point that the foundation of the UFP became feasible.
Real (and fictional) historians can certainly borrow this perspective from the fiction writers’ toolkit. It becomes much more interesting and useful to narrate a story of how things changed and/or stayed the same in all sorts of ways, than to simply list a number of violent clashes.
That may all be a lot for an introductory article to convey, and even I skimmed past a lot of detail to condense things here (and I apologise for not condensing a whole lot more). But I hope I’ve at least pointed out a few things that are worth introducing new GMs to that aren’t just shooty pew pew.
It’s one thing to know if they had a replicator on a Tuesday, it’s another to know they had them in 2325s. Were food replicators installed on the Enterprise-B? The C? New with the D?
The exact decade replicators came into use is vague, and has been contradicted slightly with Discovery showing one in use.
The intent of these articles is to give a concise history of noteworthy historical events for context in the game. So GMs wouldn’t need to go though pages on Memory Alpha and Beta to figure out what is happening when. To give them a tool that did not exist for the Trek writer’s room. GMs are totally free to ignore this and do their own thing, but at least they have this if they desire to know the canon dates. (And to fill in some of the vague patches as best I could with some extrapolation.)
For what it’s worth, before you replied I went back and edited in a reference to Measure of a Man as synthetic life-form rights would be a historical event. If I think of more events I’ll probably add them. But I am basically summarising the events of a couple decades into a page of text. Only pretty dramatic events make the cut.
But I am brainstorming a “Life in the Future” article for a future Trek 101 blog, with detail on daily life, economics, trade, and the like. It’s a few weeks out though.
A life in the 24th century article from you would be so illuminating. Please do
Another well written history!