Thursday, April 22, 2010

Roleplaying in the Worlds of Star Trek -- Part I

So, the new Star Trek movie was a hit and will probably spawn more sequels that are hopefully of the same caliber or better.

It's only natural that gamers will turn their thoughts to gaming in the Star Trek universe. What games and resources are out there for the gamer seeking to play in the universe of the Federation?

Licensed Star Trek Role-Playing Games

Surely there's been a Star Trek RPG out there? Why not just go out and buy it?

Well, there have been several Star Trek RPGs. The first one was by FASA -- no, wait!

The first Star Trek RPG was published in 1978 by Heritage Models, if Wikipedia is to be believed. It was called Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier and covered under its license the original series and the animated series.

The next Star Trek RPG was FASA's, and it came out between 1982 to 1989. It was based on the Star Trek universe as defined by the original series, the animated series, some fan fiction, and the novels of noted Star Trek novelist John M. Ford (particularly his rationale for the two apparently wildly different looking Klingons in the series). Non-gamers actually welcomed this RPG and assumed that the source material found in it was canon. They were disabused of this notion when Star Trek: The Next Generation came out in 1987 and eliminated the concepts of "Imperial" Klingons, "human-fusion" Klingons, and "Romulan-fusion" klingons, replacing them with the Viking Samurai Klingons who had joined the Federation.

Then came Last Unicorn Games' Star Trek RPG, which was called Star Trek: The Next Generation Role-playing game. It received the 1998 Origins Award for Best Role-playing Game and came out with a lot of source material. In fact, they intended on coming out with a core rulebook for each of the Star Trek TV series, and nearly succeeded (they came out with a Deep Space 9 core book, and an Original Series corebook) but lost the license to Decipher before they could finish. It's rumored that they intended to come out with a Voyager core book, but it's doubtful that they would have ever considered the other, always forgotten Star Trek TV series (Star Trek: the Animated Series).

Decipher's Star Trek RPG came out in 2002. It was called the Star Trek Roleplaying Game. They came out with several books, including:

  • Book 1: Star Trek Roleplaying Game Player's Guide (2002)
  • Book 2: Star Trek Roleplaying Game Narrator's Guide (2002)
  • Book 3: Starfleet Operations Manual (2003)
  • Book 4: Starships (2003)
  • Book 5: Aliens (2003)
  • Book 6: Creatures (2003)

and several others, but ceased publishing and producing the RPG in 2007. And that's where that road ends.

Fortunately, there are alternate roads.

There was an RPG published by Task Force Games in 1993 (!) called Prime Directive. It is set in the Star Fleet Universe - a Paramount-sanctioned spin-off intellectual property that is essentially the original series + the animated series but never mentions certain things, like "Trek" or "Kirk" or "Spock", but does include Klingons, and Romulans, and Constitution-class ships... For old-school wargamers, yes, this is the same universe that the war games Federation Commander and the vernerable Star Fleet Battles are set in. Interestingly enough, that the author of the original Heritage Games Star Trek RPG has a connection to Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc., the long-time publishers of Star Fleet Battles.

When Task Force Games folded, the game was ported into two other systems: GURPS Prime Directive and D20 Prime Directive.

Of course, if neither of these appeal to you, there are non-licensed RPGs that can deliver a similar Star Trek feel...

continued in Part II

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