RPG Reviews – Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook (Star Trek Adventures)

The core rules for this title were previously reviewed here.

This is a copy provided for review purposes. If you like what you read you can purchase it in PDF here and in Print here!

As much as I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine was the first Star Trek series I watched from beginning to end. I remember my friends getting together on a weeknight to watch the premiere. It also changed my perception of Star Trek. While TNG had its darker moments, DS9 was gritty. Things were complicated and an amazing cast brought a whole new area of the Star Trek universe to life. There was an excellent cast of characters from the determined and principled Commander Sisko, battle-hardened and scarred Major Kira, to underhanded Quark and his nemesis Chief Constable Odo.

If you didn’t watch the show, it followed the crew of the space station Deep Space Nine, a former mining station located next to the planet Bajor. Bajor is home to a people who have just cast off the brutal oppression of the Cardassian Empire, and are working with the Federation to rebuild. Immediately it is discovered that Bajor has an active and stable wormhole, which allows travel to the previously unexplored Gamma Quadrant.

It is this exploration that brings the peoples of the Beta and Alpha Quadrants into contact with the Dominion – a domineering, expansionist faction that aims to subjugate all under its fist. The wormhole is also discovered to host beings known to the Bajorans as the Prophets: divine entities that factor strongly into their religion.

This was a different kind of series. Since stories had to either come to the station or be generated on the station, more continuity between plots was necessary. There were fewer fire-and-forget episodes and more that lay the groundwork for plots that stretched over multiple seasons. There was espionage, war, spirituality, and an examination of the moral struggle over what was right and what was necessary.

Star Trek Adventures: Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook is an excellent resource on the area of space where the events of the show occurred.

A brief history is provided, encompassing the previous three years (and seasons) of the region, moving the in-game timeline forward to the withdrawal of the Klingon Empire from the Khitomer Accords after the Federation’s condemnation of the Klingon invasion of Cardassian space. The diplomatic landscape is detailed, as well as the current state of the conflict with the dreaded Dominion of the Gamma Quadrant.

I really like how the writers chose to structure the book. It’s easy with a licensed property to devote much of the content of a sourcebook to a summary of the events of the show. That can be handy, but can also make it difficult to allow your characters to live in it. The writers of this book have started at a point where the players can watch the first few seasons, get a sense for the setting and this version of Star Trek, be teased with upcoming mystery and danger, then have it unleashed upon them by their GameMaster – without restricting them to the official plotline. In essence, it’s been written and designed like a roleplaying game supplement and presented as if this was all the history of the roleplaying game setting.

What’s great about the history section is you can pull multiple mission hooks from it, especially if your crew has already been stationed at Deep Space 9. Maybe they participated in an early exploration of the Gamma Quadrant, have ties to Bajor and it’s various factions, or were involved in the recent attack by the Klingons. If the officers have been on the station they now have a shared history and can write themselves into the events of previous episodes. Because Deep Space Nine is a hub for travelers, merchants, and explorers, and has agents of the Bajoran government, it’s a good location to run a series where not every PC is in Starfleet. Some tweaking of Character Creation would be necessary, but the Lifepath Overview in the Core Rules makes that easy.

The Alpha Quadrant is home to many peoples. The species of the quadrant receive a couple of pages detailing their home planet, physiology, cultural/religious/political structure, and places of interest on their planet(s). Some have already been touched on previously, including Federation members like the:

  • Betazoids: Renowned for “feeling shit”, these natural empaths are a great classic science fiction examination of a society where everyone can sense each other’s emotions.
  • Denobulans: Overly optimistic, they are slow to anger and terrifying once roused. A people who have a very strong sense of community and a great belief in the power of story.
  • Tellarites: One of the founding member species of the Federation, they are dedicated politicians – always aiming to improve anything they can and always ready to complain with friends about the status quo.
  • Trill: A human-like people capable of “joining” with Symbionts – sluglike creatures that retain the memories of all their previous hosts – resulting in an ever-curious society seeking to explore and experience the universe.

Being the “geographic” focal point of the Deep Space Nine series, the planet of Bajor and its people get greater focus. A greatly spiritual people who are rebuilding and refinding themselves after a long and brutal military occupation by the Cardassians, there is much for players to get involved with as Bajor establishes its place in the Quadrant again.

Even though they are on good terms with the Federation, the trauma the Bajorans have undergone has left many with great distrust of anyone “alien”. Bajoran agents still wage a covert war against the Cardassians and vice versa, allowing for many espionage plotlines in your game. Very significantly, the wormhole located near Deep Space 9 hosts beings the Bajorans view as their deities, giving them an even greater stake in controlling their space.

The Cardassian Union is in a state of uncertainty, having lost a great number of its fleet to the Dominion and is now suffering Klingon incursions into their territory. Their insidious and authoritarian intelligence service, the Obsidian Order, is gone, but only visibly – nobody thinks they’ve been entirely destroyed. A civilian government is now in control, leaving the Federation uncertain of how things will progress. The Cardassians still believe in their own inherent superiority and in complete servitude to the State, making them tentative allies at best.

Other peoples and factions are also detailed, including the profit- and commerce-worshipping Ferengi and Ferengi Alliance, the Tzenkethi Coalition, the marauders of the Breen Confederacy, and the xenophobic arachnids of the Tholian Assembly.

All the groups above receive a very detailed writeup, describing their culture, governments, belief systems, and planets – perfect for getting inside their heads and using them in your game. One of the nice things about the writing here is that they all pass the “would I play one?” test (or for a GM, “would I set a story there?”). Enough depth is given to make them enticing, without overwhelming you with a massive infodump.

11 new species are presented for inclusion in character creation, among them the Cardassians, Ferengi, and for fans of the animated series – the bird-like Aurelians and felinoid Caitians.

New starship specifications are provided for a number of the included factions, including the Cardassians, Ferengi, Breen, Tholians, and the sparsely detailed Talarian Republic.

Alpha Quadrant wraps up with an overview of some of the uncontrolled areas of space in the quadrant. Plot hooks and campaign hooks are provided for The Demilitarized Zone between Cardassia and the Federation, The Badlands, and along the Federation border. Statistics are given for a number of notable NPCs like the villainous Gul Dukat, Ro Laren, and Thomas Riker, as well as a wealth of generic NPCs for use in play.

The index looks pretty good, well-organized and including most of what I expect would be necessary.

Overall Alpha Quadrant is a great sourcebook with a lot of very valuable content, bringing the region to life in a very gameable way!

One thought on “RPG Reviews – Alpha Quadrant Sourcebook (Star Trek Adventures)

  1. Pingback: RPG Reviews – Gamma Quadrant Sourcebook (Star Trek Adventures) | The Tabletop Almanac

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