The first major sourcebooks for Star Trek Adventures are out! The game has seen a core book, adventures, pregenerated characters, and custom dice but not much in the way of official expansions of mechanics and options. There are two books releasing next month but if you have the PDF Collection then you’ve already gotten links to them. The first one (alphabetically) is a sourcebook outlining the Beta Quadrant, home to the Klingons, Romulans, Orions, and other nasties. What is the book like? Well read on and find out.
This review is republished from my blog Mephit James Blog.
The Beta Quadrant
This chapter is all about the governments and worlds of the quadrant, starting with the United Federation of Planets. A brief overview is provided (though we, of course, have a more detailed version on the Continuing Mission site) and then some very handy details on the political structure of the Federation. The series focus on Starfleet but it’s easy to forget that this is just one small aspect of the Federation and more twists means richer campaigns. Something else that contributes to richer campaigns? Klingons playing hockey against Andorians. No joke.
Part of what makes this treatment of the Federation really great is that it delves into how the thing actually works. What is it like living in a society without money? How do Federation colonies control the weather? If no one uses money, why are there still cargo ships and free trade? The answers to all of this and more lie in wait for you.
With all of this the next obvious step is to go through major worlds to provide backdrops for your campaign, and this is where the book falls a little flat for me. Andoria is covered in fine detail, then Benzar in a little less, then Earth with a concentration on pre-Federation history, and lastly Vulcan with tidbits from all your favorite episodes and movies. Those four worlds get at least a few pages each and Risa, the obscure Coridan, and (for some reason) Nausicaa are given a few paragraphs each. I realize that an exhaustive survey of Federation planets isn’t the best use of space for this book but why this particular list of planets? Why is Benzar given a place of honor? Where are the details for the Suliban homeworld or Sherman’s Planet? Personally, I would have had shorter profiles but more of them.
Next up is the Klingon Empire with a rich overview of the empire’s history, conflicts with the Federation, Klingon social and political systems, cultural, religion, and technologies. The detailed-but-succinct profiles for Qo’noS, Boreth, Khitomer, Narendra III, Rura Penthe, and Ty’Gokor are a great example of what the Federation planet profiles should have been: short but with some juicy details.
From there we move to the Romulan Star Empire which again has excellent information. The origins of the Star Empire, its tumultuous history, the structure and character of Romulan politics, the competing interests of Senate and Tal Shiar and military, and Romulan technologies are all discussed in detail. Two planets are profiled: Romulus and Remus. An unsurprising short list but some brief discussion of the wider Empire might be nice.
Four pages of information on the Orions has a lot of awesome information, though not a lot of new beyond what’s in the shows. Reading this, I’m still no closer to figuring out how to run the Syndicate in a campaign beyond lifting things from Star Trek Online. The four pages on the Gorn Hegemony, on the other hand, has lots of new information and plenty of detail to flesh out the culture and character of Gorns.
All in all, I’d describe this chapter as 30% great information and 70% stuff you can find on Memory Alpha or Star Trek guides. Still, it’s great to have it all in one reference.
Species of the Beta Quadrant
There’s another grab bag here with species picked seemingly at random. Ardanans make an appearance, I think mostly to make Original Series fans happy, as well as Deltans and Efrosians who both have some interesting Talents to showcase their physical abilities. Benzites, Bolians, and Zakdorn are unsurprising choices and it’s great to have them included and the authors included Klingons but, for some reason, not Romulans (or Remans). Risians are not something I expected and their Talents focused on assisting are really good, but the real surprise here are the Xindi. Aroboreals, Primates, Insectoids, and Reptilians are all presented and, while they only get a single species-specific Talent each, I think they’re very well done. Both types of Rigellians (the “Chelons” from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the “Jelna” from Star Trek: Enterprise) round things out.
By itself, this chapter is great and offers a number of new options for characters. The reality, though, is that Star Trek Adventures has inspired homebrew from the very beginning and just on Continuing Mission there already are fan versions of Benzites, Bolians, Deltans, Efrosians, Klingons, Xindi (in two installments), and Zakdorns. So you might already have a version you like and aren’t excited about a new one… but you can have both! Because of how species work in Star Trek Adventures there isn’t much mechanically that is set in stone. You can pick which attribute bonuses you prefer, homebrewed or Modiphius’s, but then after that just pool all the available Talents and let players pick!
Starships, Encounters, and Adversaries of the Beta Quadrant
Of course, for the GM there are plenty of new toys too! New NPC spaceships are presented such as the D5 battle cruiser, Raptor-class scout, and the 22nd Century Romulan bird-of-prey all seen in Star Trek: Enterprise. There is also a full write-up for the K’t’inga-class battle cruiser (covered in the core book as a refit of the D7 class) and the Negh’var class seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is also presented. For the Romulans, the scout ship very briefly seen in The Next Generation gives them a smaller vessel to work with.
It should be noted that all of the 22nd century ships (including the Romulan bird-of-prey and the Klingon Raptor-class) lack deflector shields. Like “Jester” Dave’s design for Enterprise-era games, the basic ship mechanics are maintained and adjusted: 22nd century hull plating works like Shields but you get a Breach if there’s four points of damage all at once.
The next couple of sections have some completely new options. Orions get some ships with a scout ship, interceptor, blackguard (based on Harrad-Sar‘s marauder), and pleasure barge (Harrad-Sar again). The Gorn get a raider and a “Varanus” battleship. They’re clearly dipping into Star Trek Online here. Both of these groups get some “updates” letting you know what they’ve been up to between the 23rd and 24th centuries… although the updates sort of boil down to “more of the same.” Several civilian ships also appear (again, something that you can find on Continuing Mission if you like), but after the generic freighter, transport, colony ship, and survey ship there is a nice entry for the classic Vulcan Science Academy vessel with that cool ring design.
The last chapter covers tools for the GM and has NPCs and encounter seeds for the Romulan Neutral Zone, Briar Patch, the Klingon Border, and (surprise!) the Shackleton Expanse from STA’s living campaign. The number of NPCs in these sections is really amazing: over a dozen for the first two! Plus there are stats for making Reman, Orion, and Gorn characters which can help a lot. In the section on the Expanse, the top personnel for Narendra Station (your mileage may vary, of course). Having played through several living campaign adventures at this point I can say that there are some slight spoilers in the background section but nothing really shocking. The Plot Components for the Shackleton Expanse (plot mini-hooks broken down by Department) are also a good model and one that I wish was maintained through the rest of this chapter.
Update: Tribble Rating
How does this book rate on the Tribble scale? The Beta Quadrant Sourcebook is firmly steeped in Star Trek canon but is not the most relatable since it picks and chooses where it will expand options. There is a workmanlike manner to the material so it isn’t that likable while it definitely remains accessible to fans at all levels and is certainly a high-quality product.
My opinion of this book depends on a few things: do you already have some Star Trek RPG sourcebooks and are you comfortable with using homebrew materials? The Beta Quadrant Sourcebook has a lot of background info and a good synthesis of information about the quadrant from the TV series and movies, but not more than the Star Trek Encyclopedia or Memory Alpha. There’s actually somewhat less here than sourcebooks from previous RPG sourcebooks (like Worlds or Planets of the UFP). If you find versions of these online, you can use that info and have all the fluff in Beta Quadrant and more.
Of course, there’s also the crunchy details… but there’s all that homebrew already. Checking out Continuing Mission should give you tons of Beta Quadrant species (again, more than in this book) and starships. The NPCs here are pretty awesome and definitely a giddy amount of options for any GM, but if you have the other stuff already then buying the book just for these might not seem worth it.
My conclusion then? If this is your first Star Trek RPG, definitely get this book to give you a guide to the Beta Quadrant. There’s lots in here to get you going and it should provide an exciting shot in the arm for any campaign that wants Romulans and Klingons but no repeat plot lines. On the other hand, if you have other sourcebooks and you’re alright relying on Continuing Mission for a bit, knock this one down your list a little bit. Check out These Are the Voyages Vol. 1 or (the other big release) the Command Division Supplement for some more densely-packed options. This should stay on there, of course, but I wouldn’t prioritize it unless you’re desperate for more NPCs or you don’t have other options.