Game

Review: Discover Strange New Worlds with the Second Mission Compendium for Star Trek Adventures Role-Playing Game

 

Image: Modiphius, Strange New Worlds

I love Star Trek Adventures. It’s a tabletop pen and paper role-playing game that takes place in the Star Trek universe of films and TV shows. In it, you can play as a crew from any era—The Original Series, Enterprise, The Next Generation, etc. This isn’t a review of Star Trek Adventures full game and gameplay(though I’ve been meaning to have a proper shake at one), but of the great second volume of pre-made missions for Starfleet crews ready to discover strange new worlds.

Overall, I love the modules released by Modiphius, either through their single adventures, or their mission compendium. I was more than a little hyped waiting for this collection to be released, and after spending some time in these Strange New Worlds, I can say there’s some pretty great stuff here. Strange New Worlds will have your crew matching wits with insane machines, god-like creatures, and beings that are so alien, they appear, at first, to be almost mechanical.

Star Trek canon spans a few hundred years, and between Enterprise, and Voyager there is a lot of variation in what technology was available to Starfleet, and what species you could expect to run into through your adventures. As with any mission released by Modiphius for Star Trek Adventures, you can play in any Star Trek era of play, and Strange New Worlds does a good job of giving suggestions for each mission to adapt them to that era: no encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek required.

Strange New Worlds provides nine unique adventures for your group to play through. Since this is officially Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds, Missions Compendium 2, I should mention that the first compendium seemed to focus on a variety of different mission types, while Strange New Worlds has a focus on alien encounters—and there are some interesting and unique encounters for your crew to test their mettle and their morals, in true Star Trek fashion. And unlike the previous Star Trek Adventures mission compendium, this one seems to be written for specific eras of play—but as I mentioned earlier, easily adaptable to whatever era your crew exists in. For instance, when my group ran Plato’s Cave from Strange New Worlds—a Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) themed adventure—we easily adapted it to the year our campaign takes place.

Image: Modiphius, Strange New Worlds

If you’re not familiar, Star Trek Adventures is a little different than other tabletop role-playing games I’ve played in the past. Each mission you play is set up like an episode, divided between Acts, Scenes and Encounters. And like a television series, the characters you have are expected to return from episode to episode, making Star Trek Adventures extremely narrative driven, and while character death is possible, player characters have a lot of chances to keep their beloved characters alive, even when things go bad.

The story telling is supplemented by rules, of course. And one clever device incorporated into the rules is that of Momentum for player characters and threat for the GM. Momentum allows characters to get items, create advantages, and re-roll where they otherwise couldn’t. Threat works similarly, but it’s the currency the GM uses for similar things—often in conflict with the player actions. This system allows the GM to feel like they’re playing a game, too, not just facilitating one for their players.

Strange New Worlds is gorgeous: the art is great, with many full color illustrations to help add flavor to the stories, and to potentially immerse the players. The layout is thematic, with each era of the series getting its own style that reflects that era. The publication quality, as usual, is top notch. I haven’t gotten ahold of a physical version yet, but my Star Trek Adventures books by Modiphius are always of high quality both in the printing and the binding.

Image: Modiphius, Strange New Worlds

Mild spoiler warning: I’m going to give short thoughts on each episode. And while these thoughts won’t give away every detail, if you’re a player, or potentially see yourself playing through these adventures, you might want to stop reading now. If you’re a GM, feel free to read ahead. And again, while I’m going to mention what era the episode was written for, remember that they are easily adaptable to other eras of play.

As a note: “Enterprise Era” refers to the Star Trek: Enterprise series that takes place before the original 1960s series. “TOS,” as mentioned, is Star Trek, the original 1960’s show. And “TNG” refers to the extremely popular Star Trek: The Next Generation series that ran mostly in the early 90s. Those looking to run stories in Discovery era or even the universe introduced by JJ Abrams’ films can do so, but the book makes no suggestions for those.

 

Image: Modiphius, Strange New Worlds

A Cure Worse Than the Disease (Enterprise era)

The first episode is an interesting dilemma—a plague ravaged planet where the plague is only held at bay by a large orbiting ring. This is the only episode written specifically for the Enterprise era, and while it probably works best in that era (for mostly technology related reasons) your players probably won’t even know.

This orbiting ring is controlled by a corporation that is bent on exploiting the populace for their own gain. It follows similar thems to the Next Generation episode Symbiosis: there’s a group of people willing to exploit a group of sick people for their own gain. It’s up to Starfleet to go in and stop it—or decide whether they should even interfere at all.

 

Plato’s Cave (TOS era)

This was the first module from the group that we ran through as a group, and it’s an interesting scenario that can fit easily into any ongoing campaign (or works great as a one-shot): a Starfleet research outpost needs to be resupplied, but when the crew gets there, it’s discovered that the outpost personnel have disappeared, and the lead researcher murdered by an unseen force.

The researchers, which have been studying a planet that suffered an apocalyptic event 10,000 years prior, found a seed vault containing DNA information to repopulate the planet with flora and fauna—as well as a group of wealth citizens who cryogenically froze themselves, but not before uploading their consciousness into a central computer. The Starfleet crew will have to contend with old-style gunpowder weaponry and technology that, to us, would seem near-future, and controlled by an insane consciousness. Throw in some body horror and mind stealing, and you have a solid episode.

Drawing Deeply from the Well (TOS era)

A Starfleet crew is tasked to help a group of Federation scientists who are working on a hundreds-year old ramscoop—a gigantic device that takes valuable resources from the atmosphere of a gas giant. This ramscoop is apparaently getting attacked by unknown forces. Your crew will have to devise a way to get into the atmosphere, and essentially figure out where the damage is coming from.

Much like in the TOS-era episode Devil in the Dark it turns out that the ramscoop is actually causing some problems with a local, sentient alien species that lives inside the dense atmosphere of the planet. It’s a great mystery that eschews action for diplomacy.

Image: Modiphius, Strange New Worlds

No Good Deed (TOS era)

This episode is all about what happens when you give a fledgling society technology it might not be ready for. It has some callbacks to Star Trek: Enterprise with a species that that series previously established as extinct: Xindi-Avians.

In No Good Deed your Starfleet crew will come across an ancient disaster. A planet completely devoid of sentient life where there was obviously once sentient life before. It’s a set up that sounds like Plato’s Cave but ends up being wholly unique.

Hundreds of years ago, the Xindi-Avians, fleeing the genocide they faced on Xindus, made a new home on a world populated by intelligent centipedes. To help out their new friends, they gave them technologies that would help their society along—or so the Xindi-Avians thought. Unfortunately, as your crew will discover through the module, this technology lead to all-out war between the natives and the Xindi-Avians, eventually bringing them both to extinction.

 

Whole of the Law (TNG era)

This mission could be so fun, but this is one I’ve had trepidation running with my group. Much like the TOS-episode Shore Leave, your crew is invited onto a pleasure “disc” that boasts a light side for mundane entertainment, and a dark side for entertainment that can result in the loss of life or limb.

Of course, some of your crew members will be stuck into this dark side against their will—and it will be up to the rest of the crew to help them.

This episode has many issues, despite its great premise: first off, the gravity rules for the pleasure disc feel a little overwhelming, and overcomplicates things. The further you move from the center of the disc, the less effect gravity has. It feels like a new premise, but something that would just hinder the flow of the episode.

There is also the potential issue of separating your crew—something that is considered to be a “no-no” in some schools of GM/DM thought. While I don’t adhere to this school myself, it’s worth noting.

Despite my issues with the gravity rules, Whole of the Law seems like it would be a fun episode that mixes action and diplomacy.

 

Footfall (TNG era)

In Footfall, your Starfleet crew will encounter a planet that draws pilgrimages from many different cultures/religions because of the spiritual affirmation you get while being on the planet itself. This turns out to be an alien entity that has been convinced that it is, indeed, a god. But what kind of god, and what philosophy should it follow? These are the questions your crew will need to answer.

This episode relies heavily on role-play, and requires the players to examine their characters in a way that probably haven’t before: spiritually.

Image: Modiphius, Strange New Worlds

A Cry from the Void (TNG era)

A Cry from the Void is great, but it feels like the mash up of two of these episodes: Drawing Deeply from the Well and Footfall.

Like Footfall, A Cry from the Void has to do with an entity on a planetary scale. And like Drawing Deeply from the Well this creature is affected by a mining operation, but this time instead of atmospheric mining, a Ferengi female is extracting Deuterium and Latinum from the ocean of a planet.

Part mystery, and part morality tale, your Starfleet crew will have to decide to help the creature (if they even discover its nature) or decide to help a Ferengi female escape the reality of patriarchal Ferengi culture. Played best in the TNG era, the Ferengi subplot holds less weight past TNG, and is impossible (due to lore/canon) pre-TNG, without some modifications.

 

Darkness (TNG era)

Darkness is one of the episodes in this list I want to run the most, but haven’t had the chance yet.

It’s about a Starfleet crew who is tasked with investigating a missing Vulcan science team. They went missing on a planet whose atmosphere has been replaced with particulates that make visibility almost zero, and the entire planet to be pitch black.

It turns out, the planet is undergoing a type of terraforming for an extremely interesting, but extremely alien race. Tentacled, and massive, these creatures feel like they’re ripped straight from the pages of Lovecraft.

While not exactly horror-themed, you can certainly lean into those themes to make Darkness an extremely scary mystery for your players to solve—if they have the resolve to brave the dark.

Image: Modiphius, Strange New Worlds

 

The Angstrom Operation (TNG era)

Ah, Star Trek loves its neural parasites. If you’re not familiar with the TOS episode Operation, Annihilate! you may not recognize the pancake flat Denevian Parasites. This is another episode that you can lean into with the horror-themes, as the parasites can cause those affected by them to be driven mad with pain, and attack like mindless zombies.

The Angstrom Operation is also a rare module that has the Cardassians as an antagonist, and a constant threat: the entire episode takes place with the knowledge of their imminent arrival. Time is short, and your crew must save the day before more trouble arrives.

Image: Modiphius, Strange New Worlds

 

Strange New Worlds mission compendium is a great investment for those who are already playing Star Trek Adventures, or those who would like to get into it. Of course, you’ll need the Star Trek Adventures core rulebook to get the most out of these adventures, but even if you’re running your own homebrewed Star Trek tabletop role-playing game, you might get some use from this book. Because these great stories transcend any specific ruleset, and are just plaIn good ‘Trek.

 

If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *