One of the strengths of the Star Trek Adventures line is the robust adventure support. Between the two published episode collections, the short starter box campaign, the individual PDF stories, the one page episode briefs and the living campaign adventures, GMs have enough Star Trek stories to tell that they will be well into the Beard Season of a campaign before having to write their own stuff. The game line released The Shackleton Expanse recently as its first campaign setting book for the line. Modiphius beamed me a review copy to evaluate, so let’s take their latest book for a shakedown cruise.
The setting detailed in the book is built for The Next Generation era, though there are sidebars that offer suggestions for other eras and styles of play. The most prominent of these are for Klingon groups to tie in with the Klingon Empire release from last year. The central base the players call home is Narendra Station, which is co-owned by the Klingon Empire. The base is meant to be a symbol of the newfound cooperation between the Federation and the Klingons, but there are hints of the remaining tensions that suggest some Deep Space Nine style intrigues for GMs that want their campaigns painted in a few shades of grey. The Romulans play the part of hostile neighbors, as the Expanse borders on theirs. Curiously, the Orion Syndicate takes on the role of the local “space scoundrel species that run the local underworld” rather than the Next Generation made Ferengi. Perhaps the writers saw a chance to explore new space with the Orion or perhaps the Ferengi were placed out of bound given their prominence in the new season of Star Trek: Discovery.
There are also local species in the area, though most have only recently developed to the point where the Federation can interact with them without violating the Prime Directive. They are all presented as playable species options in the book with two options that push against the usual “rubber forehead” alien options. The Cal-Mirrans are a crystalline species that float, communicate via flashes of light and have a bit of tachyon-enhanced divination. The Qufuari are four legged sea otter-like people who have the potential to become the galaxy’s greatest engineers. Though their world is still around an Age of Sail tech level, they’ve drawn schematics of working Starfleet level tech and there’s a faction on the world that is ready to build it if someone could show them how.
There’s also plenty of exploration yet to be done in The Shackleton Expanse. A variety of anomalies have kept the space mostly unexplored until recently. This puts the campaign section in a prime spot by allowing for the expected clashes of empire while also still leaving plenty of room for strange space phenomena to solve. My favorite is the “washboard” phenomena that batters ships travelling at high warp to cause them to shake and shimmy. Rough space seas make for an interesting complication for an episode and a long term project for science officers and engineers to take on during downtime.
The book also included a write up on how to make your own worlds in the back of the book. It’s a short section that focuses mostly on the physical information of the planet. While I understand that’s not a lot of space, I was disappointed by the focus on planet types and numbers of moons rather than generating story hooks. Star Trek is science fiction, but that information almost always takes a back seat to current issues, questions of morality and explorations of society. Fans looking for a book that creates fleshed out worlds with a few dice rolls should check out Stars Without Number as a way to generate places ready to explore instead.
The main alien species discussed in the are the Tilikaal, though they exist mostly to drive the included campaign. They are a precursor style mystery alien that has ruins and technology scattered throughout the area and seem to have evolved past this dimension into others. Figuring out what happened to them and keeping their wondrous devices out of enemy hands is the focus of the 10 episode campaign included in the book.
Technically, the campaign is already published material that is available for free from the Modiphius website. However, it’s been remixed and freed from the need to follow the demands of players contributing to a living campaign. The campaign spans the timeline of the Original Series and that of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. The important adventures are revised for the book, while the secondary ones have been reduced to one page briefs along with several new ones that can extend the campaign. This gives The Shackleton Expanse something of a semi-serialized Deep Space Nine feel. There’s the ongoing Tilikaal plot as a general campaign thread with the ability to mix in self-contained episodes in between the main plot.
Star Trek Adventures Game Masters looking for a setting and campaign should check out The Shackleton Expanse. It continues the tradition of excellent adventure support for the line.
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