By Joseph Harney
Like any good book review, let’s start by judging the book by its cover. And wow, are these some gorgeous covers! Modiphius has gone the extra mile and included both a TNG and TOS era collector’s edition cover, in addition to their Standard full wrap-around cover featuring a Constitution-class ship undergoing refit at the shipyards. Building on the fantastic Collector’s editions previously produced, the TNG era is a dark blue featuring the iconic Galaxy class ship, while the TOS era is a clean looking white with the Constitution class schematic foil stamped onto the cover. Each will look absolutely amazing on your bookshelf, so you should just save yourself the trouble and buy both!
Opening the cover, you are immediately treated to a rogue’s gallery of top-down views of Federation starships from throughout the era, which continues on the back panel with even more ships to help players and GMs visualize these lesser-known vessels. Opening to the table of contents, I was immediately struck by how much content they managed to put into this 250-page book. In fact, we don’t even see our first space frame until page 95. But don’t let that put you off, the first 3 chapters are packed full of tremendously useful information on how to bring your starships more fully alive in your game, and help bring you one step closer to Roddenbery’s vision that the ship is just as important a character to the story as any other crew member.
Chapter one is a brief history of Starfleet and its legacy from before the Federation was created through the 25th century and beyond. In 12 pages the writers have somehow managed to give a brief history of 300 years of canon history, while still doing justice to each era of play.
Chapter two is all about life aboard a Federation starship. There is a great sidebar giving players a list of questions about their character’s daily schedule to help inject a bit more color into their story. Then the book talks about areas of interest on a starship, and what types of roleplaying scenes can likely take place.
There are several line drawings of bridge configurations that can easily be cropped from the pdf and dropped into a virtual tabletop program, which is a nice touch.
A section on Computers throughout the era of play and how they can be used to add drama to any scene is very much a welcome addition.
A couple of random game and martial arts tables let players come up with a near infinite combination of downtime activities for their character to engage in while not on duty. And no section on downtime would be complete without a random Holodeck Story starter table to allow your players to get up to photonic hijinx.
Two great sidebars on FTL travel and moving at the speed of plot give GMs great advice on how to handle travel in their games without letting it bog down in minutia.
Once done touring the ship, the next section is all about resource collection. Each section of the book starts with a quote from the franchise, and this one is my favorite quote from Janeway about Coffee and Nebulas.
The section starts by listing out 20 different canonically accurate resources and their futuristic uses. Each one is critical to some starship components, and securing these resources, especially in eras before replicator technology, could be the focus of entire stories or campaigns. Included in this section is a Mining and Resource Plot Component table, building on the Red/Blue/Gold plot components from the Core book and Division supplements. Accompanying the tables are some plot seed ideas and a mining hazard random table. The section has tips on how to incorporate a lack of resources as a plot point and suggestions on how to use negotiating for supplies in your game. Salvage and retrieval operations are presented as an extended task, and give some sample encounters any GM can either modify or drop into their existing story framework.
Chapter three moves onto ship design and begins with talking about the ship’s role in the game.
My second favorite table in the entire game appears here. It’s a table with a whole host of ship Idiosyncrasies that you can add to give it more character. There is a great bit on sentient ships and their implications, as well as how to make your ship a main character.
Then we move into the actual nuts and bolts of creating starships for the game mechanics. The book talks about how to create your own ship, echoing the process laid out in the core rules on taking spaceframes, and adding mission profiles and talents to get your final ship version. Then making shuttlecraft is discussed, as well as creating space stations.
Section 3.50 has mission profiles you can select for your ship. In addition to new mission profiles, the design team thankfully included all the existing profiles from the core rulebook as well. This is done with talents, as well as spaceframes later on. This means that Utopia Planitia is a completely self-contained book, and you do not have to flip back and forth between this book and the core rulebook for all the various options for ship design. This is by far the best “quality of life” improvement this book provides to GMs, as I know how difficult the struggle to contain page count in any sourcebook can be.
Section 3.70 goes into starship weapons, again pulling all the information from the core rulebook and other supplements into a single source.
Not much has changed for the weapons themselves, which I found to be slightly unfortunate. I had hoped the design team would have taken the opportunity to tweak some of the weapon types to make them feel more distinctive and address the discrepancy between energy weapons and torpedoes. However, it’s not a big deal, and I will continue to use my house rules of significantly increased torpedo damage to give them the feel I think they have on the screen. This section also talks about mines and tractor beams, as well as a great sidebar on using a warp core as a weapon. Plenty of story ideas abound!
Next, we get to talents, and boy howdy are there a lot of them. 56 new and existing talents are presented, giving players and GMs a near infinite array of options to enhance a starship and make it unique to your group.
There are an incredible 55 spaceframes presented in this chapter, in glorious two-page spreads.
As I said in the beginning, we finally arrive at Chapter 4 and actual spaceframes. There are an incredible 55 spaceframes presented in this chapter, in glorious two-page spreads. Each spaceframe has a writeup on the overview and capabilities, along with the spaceframe stats itself, which is paired with a notable starship of the class that is fully fleshed out mechanically and ready to fly off the page and straight into your game. Not to be outdone, there are 16 small craft and 10 space stations that get similar treatments.
Chapter 5 is all about gamemastering advice, including optional rules for jury-rigging repairs, building shuttles, crazy ship maneuvers, and space hazards. A great section on Diagnostics and Maintenance gives GMs a whole toolbox of ideas to toss complications at their players. As has become the custom, this book concludes with 10 one-page mission briefs, all of which gave me thoughtful pause on how I could include them in my current game.
In conclusion, I would have been quite satisfied with a book that compiled all existing ship information from all currently published materials into a single, easy-to-use, reference book. Instead, what we got was a tour de force on how the starship is a vital thing, the player’s home away from home, and its own character within a Star Trek Adventures story. I could not be more pleased, and I cannot wait until I receive the physical copy that I pre-ordered immediately upon release.
I give Utopia Planitia a rating of Warp Factor 9.95.
Continuing Mission has done so much to support STA that Modiphius wants to give some love back, and so we are pleased to offer this discount code, CMISSION01, which is a 10% off coupon for the STA Starter Set and usable on both the Modiphius UK site and the Modiphius US site.