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Sunday 19 November 2023

Your Starship

The starship in Star Trek, and thus Star Trek Adventures—the 2d20 System roleplaying game published by Modiphius Entertainment —has an incredible role to play. She is transport. She is tool. She is protection. She is force projection. She is narrative tool. She is totem. She is home. And of course, she is a character in her own right. A character with history and back story and quirks, one which becomes part of the story as the events of the missions performed by the characters, whether on screen or the page, or in the imagination of the roleplaying game, play out. In Star Trek Adventures, there has always been scope for the players to choose and personalise the Starfleet vessel that their officers serve aboard, starting with the core rulebook and then expanded upon in Star Trek Adventures: The Command Division. After all, a ship whose mission profile is Pathfinder and Reconnaissance Operations means her crew will be undertaking very different assignments to one whose Mission profile is Tactical Operations. However, what players have not been able to do is design a ship from the ground, and that is exactly what the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook does. That though, is not all that there is to the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook.

However, what the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook is not, is a general guide to the starships of the Star Trek setting. Its focus is entirely upon those of Starfleet and that includes not just the basic three eras of play in which Star Trek Adventures can be set, but five! The basic three of Enterprise, Star Trek: The Original Series, and Star Trek: The Next Generation are joined by Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Picard as well as Star Trek Online. In design terms, this means that the authors can draw upon fifty-five years of Star Trek source material and four hundred years in terms of the setting. In doing so, the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook provides a history of Starfleet, an examination of life aboard a Starfleet vessel or space station, rules and guidance creating both starships and space stations—whether that is using a spaceframe from the keel up or adapting them from existing designs, and advice for the Game Master on how to use starships and space stations as a means to tell interesting stories. Half of the book though is dedicated to describing and detailing the background, purpose, design history, notable vessels, and game stats of over seventy Federation and Starfleet starship classes, space stations, and small craft. Many of which are classic designs seen on screen while some are all new, having been specifically designed using the rules in the book. Some have appeared in previous supplements for Star Trek Adventures, but having them all in one place is undoubtedly useful and they really are the highlight of the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook, each accorded enough background information to satisfy the Star Trek fan as well as the Star Trek roleplayer.

The Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook opens with the history of the Federation and Starfleet, really beginning with the events that lead to the founding of both. This includes the founding of the United Earth Space Probe Agency and the Eugenics War and World War III, the hope that space travel and exploration offered seemingly being lost as those still in space looked on as both conflicts broke out. It proceeds from Zefram Cochrane’s launch of the first Warp capable vessel, the Phoenix, and encounter with the Vulcans, through relationships and conflicts with the Andorians, Tellarites, Klingons, Romulans, and more, all the way up to the defence of the Federation from both the Borg and the Dominion. Its emphasis is on how these events change the design philosophy of both the Federation and Starfleet in the starships it fields. Notably, the Battle of Wolf 359 and its destruction of the fleet hurriedly mustered by Starfleet, forced the Federation to evaluate its need for dedicated warships. The chapter sets the context for the rest of the book, including a look at life in Starfleet, which adds an engaging roleplaying exercise in having the player detail the daily life of his Starfleet officer character, which can then be brought into play. There is information too, on downtime activities, whether that is random games in the crew lounge, martial arts being studied in the gym, and of course, the holodeck. The section on the latter is short and it is a subject which deserves a supplement of its own. There is discussion too of various shipboard systems, facilities, procedures such as evacuating a ship, how to use the ‘speed of the plot’ as a narrative device—nicely supported by the Excelsior under Captain Hikaru Sulu racing to save the Enterprise in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and whether to use the transporters, the shuttle, or even land the ship, to go down to the planet. There are rules included for handling the landings by both.

Despite the future of the Federation being a post-scarcity economy, there are still resources, mostly rare minerals and metals, which need to be resourced and mined. The classics are latinum, used by the Ferengi Alliance as a currency and dilithium crystals used in the antimatter warp drives of almost every starship. The Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook presents these as means to drive plots, whether through mining or trading, and then does the same for salvage and retrieval.

Actually designing or adapting a starship means asking a few pertinent questions such how many crew should it have, how specialised should the ship’s role be, what makes it unique, and what is its backstory? Answering these questions will influence both the stats for and the nature of the ship, along with what its character is, and so make it meaningful in play. This is not a character in the traditional roleplaying sense—though that option is available if the ship’s computer is sentient—but it will have an influence upon the narrative as the Player Characters interact with it. All of this is done during session zero, prior to assigning any points. Actually designing a starship consists of assigning a pool of points to the starship’s Systems—modified by the era in which the vessel is going to be designed for and for the scale of its spaceframe; assigning a second, smaller pool of points to the starship’s Departments; and then choosing Spaceframe Talents, assigning weapons, and a trait for the starship. The last thing selected is the Mission Profile, such as Battlecruiser, Scientific and Survey Operations, or Strategic And Diplomatic Operations. The Mission Profile determines the base value for the starship’s Departments and provides a choice of related talents to choose from.

PRIMARY SHIPYARDS: Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, Mars; Baikonur Orbital Complex, Earth
OVERVIEW: The expansion of Federation influence into the Alpha Quadrant and Deep Space 9 and the Shackleton Expanse led to a stretching of Starfleet’s resources and ability to support both regions. The initial solution was a courier model, designed to transport personnel and cargo at high speed, but this deemed to be too specialised and changes were called for to give the spaceframe greater flexibility beyond its core role. This was done with the addition of the capacity to carry a mission pod.
CAPABILITIES: The Packet entered service in 2375 and proved to be as fast as the designers intended. The standard Mission Pod is a Warp Propulsion pod increasing the class’ range and speed even further. However, the combination of high speed and the mission pod capacity often sees the Warp Propulsion Pod swapped out for an Emergency Recovery pod or a Field Hospital pod. Even with the time necessary to swap a pod out, the Packet Class Courier can often reach the scene of an emergency faster than a more dedicated ship. Consequently, there have been calls for the class to used in a permanent Crisis and Emergency Response role. One pod has been specifically designed for the Packet Class, the Diplomatic Support pod, intended to be used where emergency diplomatic missions need to be performed or summits conducted. To date, the Diplomatic Support pod has not been used in the field.
REFITS AND VARIANTS: Plans for the Packet Class include an upgrade to the tractor beams.
NAMING CONVENTIONS: Packet class vessels are named after famous messengers or points of call for courier vessels. Examples include Falmouth, the Paul Revere, Mercury, and Hikyaku.

Comms 8 Engines 9 Structure 8
Computers 7 Sensors 8 Weapons 7

Command 3 Security 1 Science 1
Conn 3 Engineering 4 Medicine 2

Scale: 3 Resistance: 3
Power: 4 Shields: 9

Phaser Arrays (Energy, Medium Range, 6, Versatile 2, Area or Spread)
Tractor Beam (Strength 2)

Advanced Shields
Extensive Shuttle Bays
Improved Warp Drive

MISSION PROFILE: Logistical/Quartermaster

Federation Starship

The Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook then repeats this for small craft and space stations. The process is not difficult, but it is not as clearly explained as it could have been, as it is not initially clear that the Mission Profile provides the base values for a ship’s Departments. Once this is realised, starship and space station design becomes relatively easy.

Half of Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook is dedicated to describing Federation and Starfleet spaceframes. This includes the base values for each spaceframe so that a group can modify version of their own. These start with the J-Class/Y-class freighter (Travis Mayweather’s family vessel as seen in Enterprise) in 2102 and proceed chronologically to the Pathfinder class in 2410. Along the way, there are classics such as the NX, Constitution, Miranda, Excelsior, Defiant, and Intrepid class vessels. The inclusion of the Crossfield class allows the inclusion of the U.S.S. Discovery. Not only content with drawing upon the many ships seen on screen, the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook also draws from Star Trek Online for the Reliant, Sutherland, Gagarin, and Odyssey class vessels. Plus, there are numerous small craft given similar treatment, such as the Danube-class runabout, and space stations like the K-Class Border Outpost and DS9.

For the Game Master, optional rules expand the Jury-rig Talent, primarily through the Player Characters having to cannibalising a working system to make the temporary fixes, give guidelines on modifying shuttlecraft, expand the rules for manoeuvring ships, and adds zone hazards, like dense debris or asteroid fields, ion storms, nebulas of various classes, and so on to make space travel that bit more dangerous and challenging. Lastly there are guidelines for making maintenance an important factor in ship’s life and using it to present challenges to the Player Characters.

Rounding out the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook is a set of ten mission briefs. These are one-page affairs, which include having to solve the problem of a macrogelatinous lifeform filling a ship and trapping everyone one in it except for those stuck in the Jefferies Tube who have to solve the problem, stopping the memetic spread of a dead civilisation’s technology, being cast into another dimension where the starship becomes an exhibit in an alien zoo, and being trapped outside on a spacewalk when everything goes wrong. There is a nice variety of ideas here, some of them a little weird and so perhaps suited to Star Trek: The Original Series which was weird in its stories.

Physically, the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook is not only a great looking book, but it also probably has the most art of any book for Star Trek Adventures. The writing is good and the illustrations are excellent—especially if you like starships! The most notable feature of the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook’s presentation is that it does not use the LCARs background with its white text on black, instead opting for standard back text on white. It is thus most readable.

The only downside to its publication is that similar books are going to be needed for the Klingons, Romulans, and innumerable other species found in Star Trek, but otherwise, the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook is the sourcebook that Star Trek Adventures needed. The Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook successfully throws a spotlight upon the role of the starship in Star Trek Adventures, whilst also showcasing over seventy different models and classes that will be enjoyed by the Star Trek gamer and fan alike. What impresses most of all is that the Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook lets player and Game Master together take the conn to create and then bring their own starship to life and make it a part of their Star Trek Adventures campaign.

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