Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG

Reviewed by Christian Plante

Design: Christian Moore, Ross Isaacs, Kenneth Hite, Steve Long
Category: Sci-Fi RPG
Company/Publisher:Last Unicorn Games
Style: Hardcover, colour
Cost: $35US (CAN $45 to $55)
Page count: 312 pages
ISBN: 188953300-9

To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before... A famous quote from a famous TV series. Since the end of the original Enterprise's 5-year mission, fans have been asking for more and more... and they got it: Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. To satisfy the needs of the role-playing industry, FASA, among others, created Star Trek: The Role-playing Game but unfortunately for them, the game never really kicked in due to different reasons. In 1998 at GenCon, Last Unicorn Games released their new baby: Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG and almost a year later, the game won the 1998 Origins Award for "Best Role-playing Game".
After all those series and movies set in the Star Trek universe, one would wonder why do a game covering only ST:TNG? The reason is simple. ST:TNG RPG is not only a book but a line of products. Last Unicorn Games actually plans to release a RPG line for each of the TV series. All lines will use the same game mechanics and will be fully compatible.
The ST:TNG RPG core game book in itself is very appealing. There are around 150 colour pictures from the series and movies. The information is divided into three sections (operations, command and sciences) for easy reference and the pictures act as a support to the text most of the time. Unfortunately, there seems to be a bad paper/ink bond, so you can easily get your fingerprints all over the book if you are not careful.

The Operation Section brings you on a tour of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet, teaches you how to build a character from archetypes, for those who want to play immediately, or from templates and overlays for those who prefer a more personalized character. The section concludes with the skill and action resolution rules as well as combat rules for characters.

The UFP and Starfleet info is very interesting to read. From the eugenics war to the battle of Wolf 359, you will find information pertaining to the first contact with the Vulcans, the Romulan War, the founding of the UFP and its internal structure, politics and economy, the Kithomer accords, etc. A small timeline is also provided but real Trekkers will find it annoyingly incomplete.

Character creation is quick and easy:
1- You choose a racial template, complete with starting Attributes, Edges and Skills.
2- You add a profession overlay which will add new skills to your character and improve old ones.
3- You develop your character's background by choosing his Early Life History, Academy Life History, Cadet Cruise History and Tour of Duty History. Each "History" will again add/improve skills, attributes and/or edges. Advantages and disadvantages can also be chosen in order to add colour, spice and uniqueness to your character.

The game mechanics are pretty simple, on the same line as the Star Wars RPG. The d6 is the only dice used in the game. There are 5 attributes: Fitness, Coordination, Intellect, Presence, and Psi and they range from 1 to 6. Each attribute is linked to two Edges, so Fitness breaks into Strength and Vitality, Coordination into Dexterity and Reaction, Intellect into Logic and Perception, Presence into Willpower and Empathy and Psi into Range and Focus. Attributes and Edges determine how many d6s you will roll when using a skill or performing an action.
The skills are also rated from 1 to 6 and most skills also have specializations. Although most of the skills are self-explanatory, some are not and that can cause a problem. Indeed, there is no thorough description of the skills used in the game. The list of skills (and specialization) is there but some skills are obscure and left to speculation, especially for those who are not well versed in Star Trek knowledge.

Difficulty levels (and numbers) are used in order to resolve actions. Each skill is linked to an attribute and, if applicable, an edge. To resolve an action, you roll a number of d6s equal to the action-related attribute, choose the highest roll and add your skill number. If you get a score equal to or higher than the difficulty level, you succeed. For example, firing your phaser at a Romulan at medium range would be considered a moderate difficulty (7). The skill to use would be Energy Weapons, a skill linked to the Coordination attribute. If your Coordination is 3 and your skill in Energy Weapons is 4, that means you would roll 3d6, take the highest number and add 4. A "Drama Die" system is also used to add to the cinematic aspect of the game. This Drama Die can allow your character to succeed or fail spectacularly. Unfortunately, the DD rules are, in my opinion, a bit weak and need some tweaking in order to create a better system but each GameMaster (or Narrator as they are called in the game) can easily adapt the given rules to accommodate his style.

The Command Section provides the Narrators with the basic tools to run scenarios set in the Star Trek universe. Included in this section, you will find info about the role-playing mechanics (as opposed to game mechanics) of ST:TNG RPG , an experience (or reward) system, and a ready-to-run adventure to introduce the new players to the game system and to the Trek universe.

In ST:TNG RPG, the adventures or campaigns are referred to as scenes, episodes, story arcs and epic stories. An episode is a story with a central theme as you can watch on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The scenes are the parts that make up the whole story. When you have 2 or 3 episodes with the same theme, this becomes a story arc and if all your episodes tell a connected story or draws on one main theme, you are then talking about an epic series. Of course, each story, story arc or epic series can have different subplots in order to diversify your story and please all the players. Basically, you just recreate something similar to a TV episode.

Although there is an experience system in ST:TNG RPG, there are no levels. The experience you are awarded during an episode will allow your character to improve skills and attributes. Courage and renown are also two other aspects your character will want to improve and this can have consequences on his/her career. Courage can help when performing difficult actions and renown will help you get that promotion you've been dreaming of.

The little ready-to-run adventure included in the section is also quite nice and will help beginning players to familiarize themselves with the game and the setting. Characters usually start as ensigns or lieutenants but are given plenty of opportunities to prove themselves. It's not the best adventure ever made but it serves its purpose as an introduction to the game.

The Sciences Section covers starships, equipment and technology, the galaxy, and the Star Trek species and creatures. Some of the information given in this section will eventually be the subject of other supplements but, in the meanwhile, enough is given to start playing immediately.

What would be a sci-fi RPG without a good starship combat system. The system given in the ST:TNG RPG Core Game Book is quite simplistic and shallow but, again, the emphasis of the game is definitely not to be put on starship combats. The system is enough to run some combats but those who enjoy strategy and tactics will have to wait for the Spacedock: The Starfleet Starship Construction supplement in order to have a full-blown system and there is also another supplement for using miniatures in starship combat that should be available late 1999.
In order to run a starship combat, you will need, of course, a starship. The Core Game Book also includes descriptions of a dozen starships as seen on Star Trek: TNG. For those looking for a description of the original Enterprise, the starship Voyager or DS9's Defiant, you will have to refer to the relevant Game Line (TOS, DS9, Voyager).

Wonder what a neutrino conversion catalyst or a ionic gradient inhibitor is? Well, you'll probably still wonder after reading the equipment and technology section but at least, you'll be able to come up with similar interesting technobabble by using the technobabble chart provided. Seriously, the equipment and technology section, although limited, is quite informative. Again, basic info is given so the players will know what to expect (technologically speaking) from the Trek universe. More equipment and technology can be found in various other supplements.

Since the galaxy is a big place, ST:TNG RPG provides a simple but efficient system to create star systems. This is very useful, considering that one of the purposes of the game is to bring you where no one has gone before... Information is given on stars, planets, and other stellar phenomena and, in addition to creating star systems, you are also given the tools to create planets (with accompanying cultures). A small list of notable worlds is also provided but, again, more can be found in other supplements.

Finally, a description of various Trek species (accompanied with colour pictures) and creatures ends this section. The species are those seen in Star Trek: TNG, so don't look for a description of the Jem'Haddar. Once more, other supplement will cover the main allied and threat species of the Trek universe. A book on the Vulcans and a boxed set on the Romulans are already available, and other supplements on the Klingons, Andorians, Bajorans, Cardassians, and the Borg are already scheduled for a near-future release.

If you are a Star Trek fan and you're dying to play in the star Trek universe, this game is for you. If you are craving for realism in game rules, don't buy this. This game gives potential Narrators the basic tools needed to run scenarios set in the Trek future. I believe it is important for the Narrators to have a very good knowledge of Star Trek in order for him/her to preserve the feel during a game.
The supplements are very important to the game. In fact, a game run only with the Core Rule Book could eventually become boring, repetitive and limited (unless you have an incredibly imaginative Narrator). Most of the info that is covered basically in the Core Book will eventually be covered in details in a supplement. That's a lot of money to spend in order to have all the material you want but, in my opinion, it's well worth the price. The amount of info given in books like The Way of Kolinahr: the Vulcans and The Way of Dera: the Romulans, to name only these two, is just incredibly amazing. Never, in my 15 or so years of gaming experience, have I seen supplements of this quality. Know that all the information given in the Core Game Book and the supplements has to go through Paramount Pictures for approval so that the information given in the books will be as accurate, as complete, and as close to canon as possible.
Last Unicorn Games is also supporting their products through their website. Additional information and erratas are available online and products previews (with cover pictures) as well as release dates are constantly updated. Talk about customer service! There is also a mail list where LUG's staff answers questions and takes suggestions for eventual products from the fans. The guys are cool and very helpful.
Now, I just can't wait to see what Star Trek: Deep Space NineRPG, Star Trek: The Original Series RPG and Star Trek: Voyager RPG will be like when they are released...

Editor's Note

Star Trek : The Next Generation is published by Last Unicorn Games. Their contact details are:
Last Unicorn Games
9520 Jefferson Blvd, Suite C
Culver City, CA. 90232-2918
Email (Star Trek)

You can buy Star Trek : The Next Generation through our affiliate GreatGames in the UK. Click here or on the logo for direct access to their catalogue.

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