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Sunday 18 June 2023

A Gamma Guide

The Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook is the third setting supplement for Modiphius Entertainment’s Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game following on from the Beta Quadrant Sourcebook and the Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook. Effectively, it lies at the far end of the Bajoran Wormhole which connects the Gamma Quadrant to the Alpha Quadrant and it is what comes through the Bajoran Wormhole which is the primary focus of the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook. For the supplement is as much a setting update as much a setting sourcebook and as much a companion to the Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook. What the Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook did was to examine the world of Bajor, and the major polities of the region, including the Cardassian Union, the Ferengi Alliance, the Tzenkethi Coalition, the Breen Confederacy, and the Tholian Assembly. It also looked at the Bajoran Wormhole and explored its ramifications of upon the quadrant, in the process, updating the default starting year for Star Trek Adventures of 2371 to 2372 as the early years of Deep Space 9 was explored. The Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook goes further. Not only does it update the default starting year from 2372 to 2375, but it also examines the whole of the Dominion War, looks at the major factions and events involved, supporting with details of new species, ways to involve the Player Characters and run campaigns set during the war, and more. What this means is that the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook is really only a book for one of the period settings in Star Trek Adventures, that of Star Trek: The Next Generation rather than the earlier Star Trek: The Original Series or Enterprise.

What the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook does not include is a map of the Gamma Quadrant. As with the television series, Deep Space 9, it remains for the most part, a great unknown, its exploration and possible contact with worlds there made all the challenging by the presence—both implied and actually present—of the Dominion. Nevertheless, there is plenty of scope for the crew of a starship to explore beyond the Bajoran Wormhole, make contact with the various species there, begin to learn hints of the Dominion, its masters and subject species, and wonder at its strangeness. In fact, almost a half of the supplement is dedicated to examining the Dominion and the Dominion war itself. The former starts with the history of the Changelings, how they fled, hounded by the ‘solids’—as they call most other species, to eventually find a world where they could be safe their Great Link, the world-spanning gestalt formed of their combined bodies and minds. It examines their politics, best described as a ‘fascist theocracy’ in which they are worshipped by their subjects upon whom they impose a strict order through their agents, the manipulative Vorta and the feared Jem’Hadar. Numerous worlds and species both within Dominion space and adjacent to it, are also detailed, such as the Drai, who serve as the Dominion’s geneticists and are thus regarded as a privileged member of the Dominion, and the T-Rogorans, a warlike species that aggressively expanding from its homeworld before encountering the Jem’Hadar and being almost wiped out… Notable worlds include the Founders’ Homeworld, essentially rock with little more than an atmosphere and the Great Link as a singular ocean; an Hur’q Outpost, an archaeological treasure house for anyone interested in Klingon history, the Hur’q having fled the Klingon homeworld thousands of years ago; and the Cursed Penal Moon, where the incarcerated are forced to fight in an ongoing war between two factions again and again as they find themselves resurrected each time they are killed. None can leave lest they die. All of these worlds and many of the species are ripe for visit by the Player Characters, whether as members of Starfleet or another faction.

Besides examining various species in the Gamma Quadrant, the supplement also looks at the various species in the Alpha Quadrant and their relationship with the Dominion. This includes the Breen, Cardassians, the Son’a, and the Orions, as well as potential allies like the Tholian Assembly, the Gorn, and the Nausicaans. The consequences of these potential alliances are also explored. Perhaps the most interesting inclusion here is that of the Kzin, a species rarely mentioned by Star Trek. Originally appearing in ‘The Slaver Weapon’, an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series adapted by Larry Niven from his Known Space setting stories. However, they have been reintroduced into Star Trek in passing, or at least in mention. No stats are provided for them though in the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook.

A detailed timeline of the Dominion War is also provided. It provides a background to the conflict as well as a look at the Cold War in which the Dominion began to infiltrate the Alpha Quadrant, secure allies, and foment conflict. This would lead to wars between the Klingons and Cardassians and then the Klingons and the Federation. Options are discussed for roleplaying in this Cold War period, before moving on to the loss and recapture of Deep Space 9, and coming to close with the current state of the war in 2374. Fortunately, supplement does not leave it there. Rather, it both gives 2374 as a default starting, ready for the Player Characters and their starship to become involved in the final operations against the Dominion, and then outlines the events of 2375 ready for the Game Master to run a campaign through this period.

To go with the numerous species discussed earlier, some twelve new species are given stats and details to make playable as both NPCs and Player Characters. This includes the Changelings! Their inclusion, of course, allows a player to roleplay a character similar to Constable Odo from Deep Space 9, and to that end, there is a discussion of how to include ‘Non-Starfleet, Unusual, Or Unique Characters’ in a Star Trek Adventures campaign. This is not confined to Changelings, of course, and there are plenty of species in the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook, such as Lurians, Rakhari, or Wadi, which could be added as an unusual character to a campaign, let alone those in other supplements. A campaign based in a starbase, whether on a planet or in space, would more readily support this option than perhaps aboard a starship, but there are plenty of examples of such characters aboard a starship seen in Star Trek. Another option for a Changeling Player Character is to have them as infiltrators, undermining the efforts of Starfleet, the Federation, and its allies from within. Such an option does need careful handling, by both player and Game Master, with potential for redemption once the Changeling has been revealed and perhaps the person it was impersonating rescued from imprisonment. Notably, neither the Vorta nor the Jem’Hadar are included here. Instead, they remain adversaries, and are fully detailed in the core rulebook for Star Trek Adventures.

Numerous starships of the Gamma Quadrant are also described. These start with those vessels of the Dominion and its allies. Thus, the Jem’Hadar battleship and the Vorta Explorer, and the Son’a flagship and battlecruiser. The majority of the vessels are those of the Dominion War, all of them notable vessels. Amongst them are the U.S.S. Prometheus, the first vessel capable of Multi-Vector Assault Mode and the U.S.S. Valiant, the Defiant Class operated by members of Red Squadron from Starfleet Academy. An interesting option given is the vessels from the so-called ‘Frankenstein Fleet’, which saw starship frames previously mothballed by Starfleet upgraded with more advanced equipment and technologies. This would result in a radically different and genuinely unique vessel, a mixture of the old with the new.

Lastly, the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook includes a wide selection of encounters and adversaries. Alongside a handful of encounter seeds for the Gamma Quadrant, there is a discussion of the Bajoran Wormhole and the role of the Prophets, and the nature of exploring the Gamma Quadrant. There is discussion too, of the types of campaigns that can be played throughout the period of the Dominion War, accompanied by several mission seeds and encounter types. Major NPCs given include General Martok of the Klingon Empire, Kai Winna Bajoran Vedek, the Cardassian leader, Gul Dukat, and the leading member of the Vorta species, Weyoun. Their inclusion enables the Player Characters to encounter and interact with some of the major adversaries of the Dominion War.

Physically, the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook is a decent looking book. There are some inconsistencies in the layout, but otherwise the book is generally well-written and decently illustrated—though not always effectively—with a fully painted images. It does need a slight edit in places. The layout is done in the style of the LCARS—Library Computer Access/Retrieval System—operating system used by Starfleet. So, everything is laid out over a rich black background with the text done in soft colours. This is very in keeping with the theme and period setting of Star Trek Adventures, but it is imposing, even intimidating in its look, and it is not always easy to find things on the page because of the book’s look. The other issue is that the none-more black pages are easy to mark with fingerprints.

Throughout the supplement, the descriptions and game content are supported by a series of in-game documents, reports, diary excerpts, and the like. These typically reflect the mysterious nature of the Dominion and then the fraught nature of facing them and their agents in war, adding a sense of desperation in terms of its flavour and feel.

The Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook is three books in one, covering the Dominion, the worlds in and around Dominion space, and the Dominion War. It is also a companion volume, that to the Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook, which will provide the setting material for the Bajoran end of the Wormhole—Bajor, the Cardassian Union, the Ferengi Alliance, the Badlands, and the Demilitarised Zone. Like the Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook, the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook sort of tiptoes around the subject of Deep Space 9. Yet despite this omission, the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook is actually the most enjoyable and the most useful of the three sourcebooks dedicated to Star Trek’s quadrants to date. This is because it does not spread itself as thin as they do, its focus being firmly on the Dominion and their allies, the Dominion War, the consequences of the war, and involving the Player Characters. All of which is backed up by solid advice on running a campaign during just four or five years of Star Trek’s history.

To get the best out of the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook, the Game Master will want access to the Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook, as that will anchor one end of the Bajoran Wormhole and Dominion War. Nevertheless, the Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook is the definite guide to the Dominion and the Dominion War for Star Trek Adventures, as well as the other end of the Bajoran Wormhole.

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