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Saturday, 16 February 2019

Star Trek X's First Eight

These Are the Voyages: Mission Compendium Vol. 1 is an anthology of eight ready-to-play adventures for use with Modiphius Entertainment’s Star Trek Adventures: The Roleplaying Game. Like the core rules, this octet provides adventures set during the periods of Star Trek:Enterprise, Star Trek: The Original Series, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but which the Game Master can easily adapt to the period she is setting her campaign in. Notes are included exactly for this purpose at the beginning of each scenario, so that with a little bit of effort upon her part, the Game Master can run all of these scenarios without the need to switch time periods. In terms of setting, several of the scenarios involve the Romulans, so they are easy to set in a campaign near or along the Neutral Zone between the United Federation of Planets and the Romulan Star Empire. This includes Modiphius Entertainment’s Star Trek Living Campaign set in the Shackleton Expanse.

The eight scenarios in These Are the Voyages: Mission Compendium Vol. 1 are ‘A World with a Bluer Sun’, ‘Border Dispute’, ‘Entropy’s Demise’, ‘Forests of the Night’, ‘Biological Clock’, ‘Plague of Arias’, ‘That Which is Unknown’, and ‘The Shepherd’. Besides confrontations with the Romulans, they provide encounters with strange anomalies, scientific mysteries, conflicts with the Prime Directive, incomprehensible aliens, distress calls, and more. Each is broken down into three acts, comes with an ongoing captain’s log, a synopsis, suggestions as to which of Starfleet’s directives apply, and advice on running the the scenarios. Every scenario ends in suggestions as how its events might affect an ongoing campaign.

The anthology opens with ‘A World with a Bluer Sun’ by Marco Rafalá in which the player characters’ ship goes to answer an old style distress call and discover an old Starfleet vessel trapped in a wormhole. Aboard, they find many of the crew still alive, desperate to survive, but now divided into factions which fear each other. This has a slightly more muscular feel of a Star Trek: The Original Series episode, and whilst it has an interesting set-up, the motivations of many of the NPCs do feel forced. Andrew Peregrine’s ‘Border Dispute’ sees the player characters come to the rescue of a Federation science vessel which has drifted into the Romulan Neutral Zone, a situation which could lead to a diplomatic incident, or worse, a war with the Romulan Star Empire. There are nice opportunities here for roleplaying, both amongst the crew of the stricken ship and the Romulans in a scenario which focuses on interstellar relations.

Anthony Jennings’ ‘Entropy’s Demise’ takes the crew to Carina VII, a world which highlights the post-scarcity aspect of the Star Trek setting. The colony makes wine, which it successfully exports to the Ferengi. Unfortunately, grapes, the buildings, and some of the inhabitants are aging rapidly, and in the case of the buildings, nearly collapsing. This adventure brings to the fore Starfleet’s duties to the Federation’s colonies and gets to show the player characters a little of the colonists’ lives, but whilst its set-up is intriguing, its follow through is not as much, feeling a bit too similar to that of ‘A World with a Bluer Sun’. It would also have been nice if some of the locations in this scenario had been given maps. In ‘Forests of the Night’ by Darren Watts, the player characters’ ship is exploring a new sector when it encounters a strange ship adrift in space, which the crew will discover is home to a massive forest eco-system. This is an object as mystery adventure and it feels like the sequel to another Science Fiction movie, right down to the little robots (there are big ones too) though not a Star Trek one.

‘Biological Clock’ by Fred Love presents the player characters with a Prime Directive dilemma—should they come to aid of a species which is being exploited by another without revealing themselves and the Federation. This also involves a possible first contact situation with plenty of room for misunderstandings. This scenario also has the best title of the eight in the anthology. Alasdair Stuart’s ‘Plague of Arias’ takes the player characters and their vessel away from the frontier to join a celebration of Starfleet’s medical progress, giving the chance to possibly meet Star Trek canonical characters and solve a medical mystery too. There are possible nods here as well to the Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager’s love of opera. The adventure also nicely brings some minor antagonists in Star Trek into play.

Joe Rixman’s ‘That Which is Unknown’ echoes elements found in earlier scenarios in the anthology—‘Border Dispute’ and ‘Entropy’s Demise’—to not too dissimilar effect. This is a more action-orientated scenario in which the player characters must pursue thieves who have stolen an experimental torpedo and ultimately, work out why. There is also an element of realpolitik to this scenario, one that some players may find at odds with the idealism of both Starfleet and the Federation. Lastly, ‘The Shepherd’ by Oli Palmer sees the player characters come to the rescue of a mining colony in revolt. This has strong echoes of the episode, ‘The Devil in the Dark’ from Star Trek: The Original Series, but takes that set-up in another direction.

Physically, behind the lovely cover, These Are the Voyages: Mission Compendium Vol. 1 has some of the same problems as Star Trek Adventures: The Roleplaying Game core rulebook—the use of the LCARS—Library Computer Access/Retrieval System—operating system as a style template. Again, the mix of white text and pastel colours on black is not easy to read. Nor do the maps look very good on the black background and they not particularly interesting maps at that. The real issue with the look of the supplement is the lack of art. Now there is some good art present, but unfortunately, none of it is used to illustrate a single NPC. This just leaves the Game Master with the unnecessary task of supplying them herself and it really is not necessary.

In general, the adventures are well written and well designed, the various tasks specific to the situations that the player characters will encounter clearly laid out. In places the Game Master will need to pay attention to the connections between various scenes if the scenarios are to flow easily.

These Are the Voyages: Mission Compendium Vol. 1 supports the emphasis of the Star Trek Adventures: The Roleplaying Game core rulebook, that of the player characters as members of Starfleet, and that again, is no bad thing. It is after all, the default setting and set-up in Star Trek. All have a race against time element, reminiscent of television stories, but all should provide at least two, if not more, sessions’ worth of play. The mix is good, although there is at least one case where a plot device is used in more than one scenario. So a Game Master might not want to run those too close together if they are used as part of a campaign. These Are the Voyages: Mission Compendium Vol. 1 is a solid set of scenarios for use with Star Trek Adventures: The Roleplaying Game, especially for the Game Master running a campaign on the final frontier.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review! I haven't been successful in getting a group together yet but it's good to know that I'll have a solid set of initial adventures ready to go if I do.