Eras of Play: Lost Era

Welcome to an Era of Play article, detailing other time periods you can set a Star Trek Adventures campaign. During this era, the Federation experienced a time of relative peace with long term enemies—such as the Klingons and Romulans—but found itself in conflict with a number of new powers.

The term “Lost Era” was coined by the novels and denotes the period falling between 2290 and 2366 (or, phrased different, the years between the opening of Star Trek Generations and the first episode of Star Trek the Next Generation).

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Late 23rd and Early 24th Century

Following two bloody wars with the Klingon Empire and numerous skirmishes, lasting peace between the Federation and Klingons seemed unlikely. Similarly, in the 2260s, the Romulans broke the long silence that had followed the Earth-Romulan war with a surprise attack on several starbases. Throughout the 2280s, hostility between the Klingons and Federation powers only increased, reignited by a controversial terraforming project. The Romulans also remained a regular source of tension in the quadrant, a constant looming threat whose ambitions were unknown.

Despite the constant tension and repeated threats of open war, this strife was largely resolved diplomatically. By 2290, the Klingon’s border with the Federation had not significantly changed in almost fifty years: the two empires had largely grown accustomed to each other’s presence and fewer Klingons believed the Federation would invade or attempt to impose their values on the Empire.
In 2293 the Klingon moon Praxis exploded. As the primary supplier of power to Qo’noS, the accident caused power shortages throughout that system. The Klingons were forced to choose between maintaining their fleet of warships or focusing on recovery. The Federation quickly offered humanitarian aid, which was reluctantly welcomed by the Klingons. Following shortly after was the Tomed Incident in 2311. This resulted in the Romulans breaking off contact with the Federation and withdrawing behind the Neutral Zone.

Despite breaking diplomatic ties with the Federation, the Romulans continued to court an alliance with the Klingons.The Klingons were never comfortable with the treacherous nature of the Romulans, and relations grew strained. In 2344, Romulan forces attacked the Klingon outpost on Narendra III. Responding to distress calls, the U.S.S. Enterprise-C defended the outpost from several Romulan warbirds, and was destroyed in the battle. This sacrifice prompted the Klingons to strengthen their ties with the Federation, forming an alliance that would largely endure for the rest of the century.

Suddenly, the Federation found itself freed from having to maintain a heavy fleet presence on the Klingon border. Starfleet resources were freed for exploration deeper into the Alpha Quadrant. Here the Federation made formal first contact with the Tzenkethi in the 2310s and Cardassians in the 2320s. Meanwhile, the nearby Ferengi actively avoided contact, having decided relations with the Federation would not be profitable. Ferengi operating in the region were ordered by the Ferengi Commerce Authority not to identify themselves by species. The Ferengi even attempted a propaganda campaign to discourage contact, seeding rumours of various acts of cannibalism and violence perpetrated by the Ferengi. While official first contact did not occur between the Ferengi and the Federation until the 2360s, numerous incidents perpetrated by aliens unknown in the preceding decades are now believed to have been performed by the Ferengi, with rumors of incidents going back even further. (However, contact prior to the 23rd Century is regularly dismissed as absurd.)

Stability Yet Rapid Growth

At the close of the 23rd Century, the Federation had over four dozen member worlds. Over the course of this era’s seven decades, this number grew to well over a hundred, more than doubling in number. With the Federation possibly even tripling in geographic size!

Species that joined the Federation in this era include the Trill, Bolians, Zakdorn, Yridians, Betelgeusians, Napeans, and many others. In addition to these new species, many older colonies became full member worlds during this era, including several settlements jointly founded by multiple Federation member species, including New Paris and New Lor’Tan.

Starfleet also dramatically increased in size. Following the Klingon-War of the 2250s and Starfleet’s numerous losses from the tumultuous 2260s, the fleet was stretched thin. During this period, Starfleet was finally restored to its pre-war numbers, and then grew larger than ever before. There were several expansive waves of shipbuilding, rapidly producing new generations of starships, many of which would remain in service for close to a century.

Despite the constant expansion, the Federation was largely seen as stable. It was almost a constant in the galaxy. As the years of peace gave way to a full century without widespread warfare, the Federation became a galactic institution. It was no longer an upstart political power in the region, but a venerable faction.

With this stability, the the New World Economy fully stabilized, allowing the remaining member worlds to abandon the last vestigial pretences of currency. With cheap and ready access to food synthesizers, food and water were freely available to everyone. Large replimats made simple goods—such as clothing and furniture—freely available. Transporter hubs were constructed on most Federation worlds, allowing quick and instantaneous travel across the planets while civilian transports and freighters ferrieded their cargo without worry of piracy or raiders. While the Federation had long claimed to be almost utopian, in this era it reached new heights of both prosperity and leisure.

With all base needs of the populace freely taken care of, civilians devoted themselves to philosophy, the sciences, and art. A wealth of sculptures, paintings, poetry, and music were created. A high percentage of the populace tried their hand at the performing arts, staging plays and recitals. There was a sudden abundance of new creative works, new genres, and new artistic movements. Trends continually shifted as artists discovered new inspiration from other worlds and distant species. Each new addition to the Federation inspired a wave of new cultural trends. By the mid-24th Century, many people found themselves unable to keep up with the constantly evolving and changing artistic forms. This led to societal shift in focus to classical works, especially those of founding worlds like Earth, Vulcan, and Tellar.

As life in the Federation was so peaceful easy, this era also saw a new wave of colonization efforts. Dozens of small colonies and outposts were established by brave individuals who had grown tired of their lives of leisure and were seeking to challenge themselves, hoping to leave their mark on the galaxy by taming a new world. However, as these colonists independently moved into space, claiming planets as they found them, this caused a number of conflicts with their new neighbours.

Conflicts Large and Small

Despite being seen as an era of peace, the first half of the 24th century was marked with a number of military conflicts. However, because these conflicts were at the distant borders of the Federation, the vast majority of citizens were unaffected by these wars and only a small fraction of Starfleet’s resources was expended.

The largest of these conflicts was the Federation-Cardassian War, which began in 2347. The majority of the fighting occuring in the 2350s, ending with the armistice of 2367 that was formalized in 2370. Despite the war’s length and the size of both militaries, this war was limited in scope: battles were confined to the border region between the empires, in what would later be designated as the Demilitarized Zone. There were few attempts to expand deeper into the other’s territories.

Also in the 2350s, the Federation was involved in the Galen Border Conflicts with the Talarian Republic, as well as the Federation-Sheliak Conflict that was fought over a series of planets claimed by both species. Both were quickly resolved through peace treaties. The brief Tzenkethi War occured in the early 2360s, comprised of a number of skirmishes between the Federation and the Tzenkethi Coalition. This was also quickly concluded via diplomatic means rather than military might.

Technology

During this period, technology was largely refined rather than redesigned. Systems such as sensors, transporters, warp engines, shielding, and phasers grew more efficient, compact, and accurate but largely functioned much the same. Manuals and safety specifications written in the 2250s were often still in use until the end of the 24th Century. Even much of the aesthetics of Starfleet—such as the design of corridors, bulkheads, and Jeffries Tubes—remained unchanged.

Minituraization affected some technologies more than others. Communicators were made much smaller without sacrificing range or battery life. This allowed the widespread replacement of handheld communicators with smaller combages in the 2330s. By assigning each officer a communicator, this not only allowed personnel to be instantly located, but also permitted user identification functions, such as automatically logging the wearer into nearby consoles.

Replicators also greatly improved in the 24th Century. Food synthesizers had been common on starships for years and limited material and tool replicators had been in service since the 2240s, but advancements in computer storage paired with advancements in transporter technology allowed the creation of myriad items from generic matter. Replicators were no longer limited to simple patterns and food synthesizers no longer merely mimicked and imitated foodstuff. Replicators theoretically extended the ability of starships to operate between visits to starbases. In practice, starships still tended to resupply every year or two, but replicators greatly increased the quality of life on starships, their ability to adapt to unforeseen situations, and accommodate species with non-traditional biological needs.

Replicator and transporter advancements were also instrumental in the rise of holosuites. Hologram technology had been used for centuries, but these were typically non-tactile and easily distinguished from reality. Early recreation rooms could simulate simple and largely static landscapes and temperature extremes, but were limited in resolution and the ability to render fine detail, multiple individuals, or fluid terrain. Holosuites greatly improved the realism of environments, adding increased tactile feedback through careful use of force fields. Initially limited to starbases and planetary bases, in the first decades of the 24th Century, small holosuites were added to most Starfleet cruisers. Early work on integrating replicator systems began as well, with the goal of incorporating limited replicated matter, enabling olfactory mimicry.

Campaigns

As a largely undetailed era, campaigns set in this era are free to invent major events and innovations. Entire conflicts could be started, fought, and then resolved before the start of The Next Generation.

With Starfleet supply of ships growing larger than ever before, this era permitted focused exploration and specialized scientific missions: instead of relying on a few key starships for every mission, ships could be focused on a single task, allowing more dedicated and specialized crews. Rather than having a single ship explore for new life, investigate anomalies, chart regions, and perform mineralogical surveys, a half-dozen ships might be assigned to perform each of those tasks in a region.

Following the rapid surges of exploration and charting in the 23rd Century, much of this era was “filling in the gaps”. Expeditions focused on studying areas that had been previously ignored, fullying charting and examining spatial phenomena, classifying anomalies and interstellar features, and establishing lasting contact with species who had only briefly been encountered.

With the Federation potentially tripling in size over this era, the diplomatic corp would have been stretched thing, taxed by the addition of a new species almost every year. It would also have put great strain on the medical and engineering wings of Starfleet as new subspace communication relays needed to be built, technology needed to be shared, and infrastructure constructed. Meanwhile, the new populations would introduce innumerable new diseases while potentially being vulnerable to existing contagions.

One of the strengths of this era is actually its length. Time can rapidly pass without worrying about bumping into major historical events or having to skirt around canon incidents.

More than any other era, this is a good period to begin with the entire group as newly graduated ensigns and junior lieutenants, slowly showing their entire careers as they advance to command their own ships. There’s no need to have missions take place in rapid succession or feel tied to the weekly adventure format of past TV series, and months or even years could pass between stories.

For example, a campaign that begins early in this era could slowly chart relations between the Federation and a newly discovered power, showing them slowly change over the course of an entire generation. It could beginning with an awkward first contact resulting in firefights and a small border war before leading to a ceasefire and peace. And over subsequent decades, relations improve until the faction applies for membership in the Federation. Or a campaign could focus on a newly warp capable society’s slow introduction into the Federation and the galaxy at large, highlighting how a planet deals with becoming a Federation member over the course of several decades, with anti-alien paranoia giving way to acceptance then friendship.

Because there’s so much less canon occuring, this is also an ideal era for players only casually familiar with Star Trek. Rather than having to absorb multiple seasons, they only need watch a movie or two (such as Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) to understand what’s going on and the feel of the series.

There’s also much more room to play with famous named ships, such as the Excelsior, at first serving under Captain Sulu and then taking over when he retires, or commanding the early adventures of the Stargazer before it‘s passes to Captain Picard in 2333. The players could even be the crew of the Enterprise-B or C, perhaps commanding the former’s final mission as it meets its unknown fate, or being the unknown first captain of the C before passing over the chair to Rachel Garrett. Or, with the Enterprise-C lost, the players could be the crew of the replacement flagship of the Federation, boldly going in a time where there is no U.S.S. Enterprise.

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6 comments

  1. This is really going to help out since this is the era I just recently decided to place my game in, thanks!

  2. Thanks for this article. I had just decided earlier this week to base my campaign in this era, but i can’t decide if i want to start at 2281, 4 years before Wrath of Khan, or 2295, a couple of years after the beginning of Generations. Either way, I think it should prove to be interesting.

  3. I am curious as to how the author arrived at the dates for First Contact with the Tzenkethi and the Cardassians? I have been unable to locate any dates tied to these events previously.

    1. If I recall correctly, I drifted into Beta Canon for those, looking for dates from novels or video games. I try to avoid using too much that isn’t mentioned on screen, but given this era is void of most details, some extrapolation was needed in order to provide gamemasters workable information.

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