Submitted by Mark L. Compton
So, it has arrived!
The book so many of us have anxiously been waiting to drop has done so! The Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide is a 320-page hardcover book available for pre-order, and of course, if you do so, With a price point of $61.00 I can tell you after having read it, that it is worth every slip of latinum I paid. The PDF is also available on Drive-Tru RPG for $19.99 as well.
Just a heads up, for those in the European market, the cost of shipping is drastically high due to a mixture of Covid and Brexit, so be prepared to budget accordingly.
For those of you who are familiar, the Shackleton Expanse is the sandbox that Modiphius was given free rein to play in by CBS/Paramount. This is the setting for the Living Campaign, and this book expands on the material already out there exponentially. The mystery that started in the Living Campaign is fleshed out even more, as well as people and places.
With that being said, let’s get into it!
What I Liked
There is a ton to love in this book. I’ve read through it twice already and found things on the second run that I missed on the first run. Needless to say, the list below is far from comprehensive, but are the key highlights that jumped out at me.
I am a huge fan of Easter Eggs, and this book is laced with them. I am pretty sure I have not found all of them, but I will be looking as I read more. From references to the Gold Key comics run to the TOS episode “Space Seed” the avid reader is sure to find an easter egg that just makes their little geek heart swell with love at the amount of dedication the writers have put into hiding these eggs for us to find.
There are various writers in this book, and I wish I knew who wrote each chapter. I have some guesses. But one of the main things that appealed to me was that several chapters are written from the point of view of different personalities stationed on Starbase 364 divergent voices for each chapter. My personal favorite is Chapter 2 from the perspective of Narendra’s Chief Science Officer, Dr. Taliaferro. It is a subtle change, except the Klingon one because Klingons are never subtle, but a nice small change to notice as you read.
Speaking of Klingons, this book also goes to lengths to provide guidance for those wanting to run a Klingon campaign in the Expanse. Sprinkled throughout the book are sidebars, done in the style of the Klingon Core Rulebook, with notes about how to tailor that particular part to a Klingon game. I particularly like the welcome message from General Kargan side by side with the message from Admiral Herbert.
The book provides new Lifepath options for character creation. Most of them are from races encountered in the Expanse. These of course could not be members of Starfleet but could be made as a character in the vein of Neelix or Kes. It gives your players the chance to create a character who may or may not serve as a guide for a player ship within Shackleton.
One life path option stuck out to me the most though. We now have an option for Playable Orions, available for any era of the game. So for those who have wanted to have an Orion Starfleet Officer, particularly after watching Lower Decks, this is the Lifepath option for you.
The wealth of playable missions in this book is expansive. There are a total of ten fully fleshed out three-act Missions and thirty-seven full-on Mission Briefs. Some of these are updated and revised versions of the original Living Campaign material. The rest of these cover other activities in the Expanse and a continuation of the Living Campaign, allowing players to complete the mystery they were exposed to in Living Campaign: Season One.
And even though I mention this last, I can not even go into how amazing the artwork in this book is. The artists who were brought in for this book have done an amazing job just giving us visuals that by themselves fuel the imagination. One of my particular favorites is the image of the ships of the VinShari, a race you and your players will encounter as you explore the region.
What I Would Have Liked to Have Seen
With all of that listed above, there are a few things I would have liked to have seen. Some of this is mainly due to my attention to detail and my OCD for some things when dealing with Trek, and not a negative reflection of the creators of the work.
As previously mentioned, there is a small multitude of missions and mission briefs in the book. However, to me, they seem a bit off balance. I would have liked to have seen a stronger balance between The Original Series and The Next Generation game material. Of the ten full-fledged missions, only two of them are written specifically for the TOS era. Out of the thirty-seven mission briefs, only eleven of those are TOS driven. Now, I do understand why this was done, there is more interest in the TNG era these days, but as an old-school, long-time Star Trek fan, I would have liked to have just a little more balance.
The book goes into detail about various locations and planets located in the Shackleton Expanse. What I feel would have been helpful would be a map of the Expanse. There is a small map that shows the size of the region compared to the Romulan Empire and the Klingon Empire, but I would have liked to see a full-fledged map of the area mentioned.
We get a very nice detailed description of Narendra Station. Several levels are described at a general level. I would have liked just a bit more detail of The Galleria, Narendra’s version of DS9’s Promenade. Now I wouldn’t want a ton of detail, but perhaps a brief description of a few of the businesses in the Galleria. For example, Jaf’s I’d love to know more about Jaf’s
At the end of the day, this book is everything I hoped it would be. This is the book I have been waiting for and it lived up to pretty much every expectation I had and surpassed them. I highly recommend this book. It will make a wonderful addition to your Star Trek Adventures collection.
Thank you for reading. Live Long and Prosper.